We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize ... Read More
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize luxury with Regent. I liked the all inclusive idea.
We added a 5 day land tour also booked with Regent which subsequently we regretted as it would have been better to do land tour first and end on a high of luxury cruise ship, rather than be disappointed even by 5 star hotels. and a bus with guide and others was not what we wanted. Next time we would still cruise with Regent but hire a car and do our own tour.
Regent booked and included flights from Orlando, met us in the Vancouver air baggage claim and that was last we saw of our bags until we reached our suite onboard. A private car took us from air to ship terminal.
The TSA were still there but were not as annoying as usual.
Champagne welcomed us on board, and as it is my favourite drink when mixed with cassis, Kir Royale,we started as it continued for 7 days, free booze throughout trip including wine with all meals.
The room was big with a balcony, I would not travel without one.
The service was exquisite.
We breakfasted in bed every day, and it was about 3 days before we got hang of order card so we ended up with 4 breakfasts every day for the 2 of us.
Scenery is fantastic on Inside Passage, and we saw whales, dolphins,seals, and went on some excursions which took us even closer to blue glaciers. All well organised, no queues as we were about 500 folk on a 700 ship. Read Less
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.)
We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things!
As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time).
I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :)))))
All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :)
Looking back now that I am older and wiser now Read Less
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara.
Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ... Read More
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara.
Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ourselves mid 50s, we are British so we do not cope with change too well so were stressing ourselves pre cruise - after ten trips with Celebrity why had we allowed a lovely future cruise consultant to convince us to try Azamara?
Pre cruise and embarkation
As always we did our own pre cruise arrangements so we flew out via Paris with Air France and enjoyed an excellent two days at The Fullerton in Singapore, right beside Merlion. Singapore is a very organized city, some might say antiseptic - it certainly was going to be our last port where we would see this type of environment for a while.
It was very easy embarking at Singapore (even if it did look like we were coming through a workman's hut to get there), our cases were immediately looked after by porters and the whole process was very straightforward. As we were in a suite it also included making arrangements for dining in Prime C on the first night. Non suite passengers were being given "timeslots" for the Main Dining Room.
Immediately on boarding it was clear that the smaller ship was going to have advantages - not sure if this was an advantage but I made a pledge to always use the stairs as it was only a maximum of 4 floors for us. Our Sky Suite was spotlessly clean, we did see our Butler aka Stateroom Attendant (whom we never saw again until the night he was hoping for an extra tip - we had prepaid our service charge in the holiday cost) and later the Senior Butler introduced himself. Two nice guys but both struggled to hit the standards we had enjoyed in Celebrity, but no big deal.
Nice touch on Azamara is the night time treats made by the pastry chefs left in the room for you and the afternoon canapEs had been replaced by lovely "tapas type" selections from Mosaic Cafe (Cova to those used to X!)
We quickly settled into a routine, we were sailing with friends - it was clear if we wanted to eat together and enjoy the Speciality Restaurant some planning was required so we made all our reservations (8 in total) for the whole trip. You need to make plans quickly if you want your chosen days so be warned, don't get into relaxed shipboard life until you get your plans made. Which restaurant was my favorite - that's an unfair question because they are both wonderful - excuse me drooling again I remember the Black Angus Steak in Prime C and the Sea Bass in Aqualina and the bad girls dessert - the Chocolate Fondue. Recommended service charge $5 per person is very fair. We did however notice when we ate as a group of 6 in Aqualina the service was slow, however when it was just two of us it was very slick.
The main dining room had a couple of bad days not in terms of food but very shamolic service, not in getting seated but after then. There were a lot of crew off sick and I think the others were just so stretched. The senior managers recognized the problems so no big issue - the bottle they sent over was very appreciated so I forget how long we waited each night but it was about 4 wine glasses long. Again we found eating as a 2 was handled far better than when we were a 6. That said, the quality of the food and presentation was very good indeed and we did feel it was lighter. The range of choices was very good with a whole page of staple choices available very night (steak; salmon; prawn cocktail; Caesar salad etc) as well as a menu that changed nightly
I am a sloth in the morning - sorry others say a Grouch, so we enjoyed breakfast in the room most days. We did venture to Windows Cafe a couple of times at breakfast, it was a bit crowded but there was a lovely lady making fab English muffins and I loved the granola yogurt and fresh fruit mmm
So overall I gorged my way round Asia and dreaded my home appointment with Mr Scales.
Activities and Entertainment
Shipboard activities were the usual, trivia, dance classes, bingo - what was a notch up was the enrichment series; it is an absolute must. Jonathon Fleming's introduction to each country - culture, history, key sights etc - was wonderful and as it was replayed on the stateroom tv you could fit in listening to him at a time to suit yourself.
Evening activities did not work for us as we tend to eat at around 8pm. With the slow service in the dining room (and our deliberate decision to enjoy the slower pace in the Speciality Restaurants) we never made the shows which tended to have 2130-2200 starts. There is everything of a large ship - just on a smaller scale, casino, bands in lounges, a disco and smaller revue shows.
Our ports of call
As we were overnighting in Singapore before an early afternoon sailaway we had the chance to do a trip on the morning of Day 2. The must do is take the Sentosa Skytrain (cablecar) the station is in the tower block beside the Cruise terminal. Sentosa Island is OK, but the big thing is you glide about 200 feet above your new home - and can get amazing aerial photos of the ship. Cost was about $30 (Singapore dollars) for the two of us and they took credit cards.
Anyway, the ever informative Captain Carl "I've doubled up and come down to two and one" Smith - that's the ropes he is talking about by the way, had us set sail and our adventure began. Immediately he was challenged by strong currents so it became a flat out run slightly bumpy at times to reach Laem Chabang (for Bangkok) in time.
So what of our excursions - on this trip when we had excursions we arranged them all through the cruiseline, we were not adventurous enough to go it alone as we usually do. Some of the guides were very good the others, particularly those in Hanoi and Hoi An were not well organized so time was wasted and we became self managing tours.
Bangkok - We did the Treasures of Bangkok trip. The journey into Bangkok took about 2 hours each way and the coach was very comfortable. We went to Happy Rooms - yes a new name for the holiday vocabulary - at very clean service stations. We had an excellent guide and were taken to Wat Trimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha, known for its famous Golden Buddha which is 3m high and then on to Wat Po, the most extensive temple in Bangkok with its 15 meter long reclining Buddha. Thank goodness it was lunchtime, I had been exercising all morning take your left shoe off put your left shoe on take your other shoe off - you know the no shoe rule so do not wear lovely new white socks as dear husband did - no amount of power powder will clean them! Lunch was excellent, with a Thai buffet served on a converted rice barge as we cruised along the Chao Phraya River - this was a really good use of time. Later we visited King Rama V's favorite place, Vimanmek Palace. Unfortunately shopping was at a "jewelry store" - the cruise line had warned us about this in advance it seems it something they have no control of for this year but have made it known that this is not what is wanted.
Day 2 we went to the amazing Sanctuary of Truth, a wooded temple that has given employment for over 25 years to local crafts people but is still 15 years away from completion. It is hard to describe this place - but you can also leave your own bit of carving, so up top beam front building left you will find my scratch. On the way back out of Pattaya (seedy and not nice) we stopped at - you've guessed it - another branch of the jewelry store. If you want to shop in Thailand it is going to be tricky as the port is not near any shopping and the excursions do not give you any opportunity. Pattaya on your own does not really help as Pattaya is not a good place to find any shopping.
Sihanoukville - Many went on the long trip to Pnomh Penn and came back with good stories. We knew that we could not do too many long trips and decided to have a local day which gave us a good chance to explore locally. We took the ships shuttle (free) into town and then negotiated a Tuc Tuc for $5 to get to Sokhu Beach which has a good hotel. For $8 we were able to enjoy all the facilities including their private beach (no hawkers etc), nice loungers. It must be the best place to go as we met the Captain, Hotel Director and four other senior officers on the beach during our day there. Cambodia is a poor country, you will see sights that are not what westerners are used to and you probably will not want to eat much ashore. But it is worth every minute ashore
Ho Chi Minh City - We did the highlights tour and it was a really good value 5 hour trip with a good guide in which we saw all the main highlights. Although you will see lots of lovely buildings etc the fun of this place is the sights and sounds. Just count how many are on the motorbikes and see what is the most eccentric thing you see being carried on the back of the bikes - you will have dinner conversation material for the rest of the trip and beyond!!
Hoi An - Here it was Chinese New Years day. Again, the port in Da Nang has nothing near so we opted to see if we could find anything open further afield. We went on the Hoi An on your own trip. This is the best way to do Hoi An you have the advantage of the transport (local taxis are very scarce indeed) and a little input from the guide but then you are free to see all the sights on your own and all the places are well signed and have explanatory plaques. This is also an excellent shopping stop - mind you the lantern is going to be bigger than your case but that's another story and it is home ok honest!!
Hanoi - Again a 2 hour bus run from Halong Bay took us on the Hanoi Past and Present trip. This is another day when the shopping is not good - whilst it states shopping opportunities this is at the Service Station (overpriced) you stop at both ways for a rather long time. Good news - absolutely spotless Happy Rooms. Past and Present gives a really good overview of Hanoi including a visit to the "Hanoi Hilton" and a fun rickshaw/cyclo ride - individual seats and shut your eyes at the junction; remember red lights are only suggestions in Vietnam. Seriously though you really get the feel for the city in this half hour ride right at street level.
We had an overnight stop and the must do was the Day one trip we did to Halong Bay by boat. You can see why the Bay is being considered as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It is a very pleasant cruise around though be prepared for traders who rope up and hop onto the boats. The first words the little children learn there is not Mum or Dad but "One dollar". Just remember to have plenty one dollar bills with you (Guest Relations have loads as they know everyone will need them all this cruise) and the traders do give up quite quickly and move on to another boat.
Hong Kong - We were berthed on Hong Kong Island away from the centre so a free shuttle was put on to the ICF which was ideal as that was right by the subway and bus station. It is also by the 3 mile elevated walkway where you walk through office buildings and malls above street level - very pleasant. We did our own thing, took a bus to Aberdeen Hong Kong - the Aberdeen Scotland graduate had to see the other Aberdeen - and then we went up on the Peak Tram as the weather was clear. In Hong Kong you need to have flexible plans as there is no point going up the Peak unless it is clear - then you just have to go for it!! Getting around is so easy HK$50 for a 24 hour subway pass, great value and it is so efficient, clean and easy to get around. Ending the trip
Disembarkation was so easy - you stay in the comfort of your room until your code is called - you can listen via the ship TV - you go down, the officers shake hands with you and off you go. For us, it was 7 minutes from the code being called until we were in our taxi with our luggage where we were off to the Peninsula Hotel, a grand dame, bit expensive but an experience.
Well we don't do change, but we did and we enjoyed it. Azamara Quest is a good product, its got glitches, its report card against Celebrity does have some areas where it can improve particularly around the dining room and butler service but it is a great experience. We ventured to countries we would never have gone to without the comfort of our ship and we had our eyes opened. It was fun and we will be back on Azamara Quest in August - decision has been confirmed!
Oh and PS - the use the stairs only rule was met and with the healthier food served onboard the weight gain after two weeks of the feeding frenzy was ZERO!!! Read Less
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking.
Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal.
Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry).
Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire.
The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots.
Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside.
The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok."
Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family.
Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental.
News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package.
Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room.
Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line.
Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at
Fred Groth Read Less
"Emphasis on providing a delightful experience" "The Regent Experience" "Unsurpassed levels of luxury define the Regent Experience" "Your every desire and wildest dreams fulfilled" ... Read More
"Emphasis on providing a delightful experience" "The Regent Experience" "Unsurpassed levels of luxury define the Regent Experience" "Your every desire and wildest dreams fulfilled" "Uncompromising excellence" "Unparalleled service and attention"
Just some of the claims made by Regent Seven Seas Cruises in their promotional material.
As a special celebration for our silver wedding anniversary in March 2008, my husband and I, together with two friends, booked a seven-day cruise on Seven Seas Navigator, sailing in July. Regent's ships are advertised as being six-star and they frequently mention in their advertising material, "the Regent Experience", "The ultra luxury world of Regent Seven Seas Cruises". These are the reasons we decided to book with Regent, as we wanted a very special occasion. How we were disappointed!
Within two days of boarding, three of our party went down with diarrhea and loss of appetite, which lasted several days. Consequently, not much food was eaten. There were several other passengers on board suffering the same complaint. We decided to treat ourselves with medication, as the cost for seeking the advice and help of the onboard doctor was very expensive. We brought our problem to the notice of the Cruise Director, but he made it clear he did not want to know.
There were poor hygiene standards on board. The use of antibacterial gel was not compulsory, either when boarding the ship or when entering a dining area. It was available, but not in a prominent position and many passengers did not bother to use it. During our time aboard, there were two instances when we were given dirty glassware and crockery and we witnessed a waiter carrying a cream jug, to our table, with his hand clasped over the top, instead of carrying it by the handle. Definitely not six-star!
There was poor service on the pool deck, tables left uncleared and no towels for the sunbeds. Again, not what one would expect from a 6-star ship. In the main dining room, on two occasions when a large party of Colombian people arrived, service at our table and others was extremely poor, with most of the waiters fawning over this family and we were left with empty wine glasses and long waits. Presumably the Colombians tipped well!
The Asian staff on board worked extremely hard, were very pleasant and aimed to please, but they were under pressure and it showed. Some of the older Italian staff, we found to be arrogant.
A passenger we spoke to also complained about lipstick on a glass she was given. The waitress asked her if it was her own lipstick!
Our suite was very nice and we have no complaints there. However, suffering from diarrhea, we spent rather longer in our rooms than we would have liked!
On our return home we wrote a very fair letter of complaint to Regent. Their reply was purely and simply a big brush-off. They don't want to know. They suggested we caught a bug from the airport and have told us that they meet the highest standards set by the US Public Health Authorities. What we experienced and witnessed could never be classed as high standards.
We have sailed with other lines in the past such as Swan Hellenic and Seabourn and found both to be excellent.
I would have far rather been writing a rave review and have wonderful memories of a special celebration. Unfortunately, we were very disappointed. We definitely did not get what we had paid for and will not be sailing with Regent in the future. The 'Regent Experience' we experienced, is not one we wish to remember! Read Less
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a ... Read More
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a "country club casual" ambience. No need to pack all that formal wear.
Although staterooms are known to be on the smallish side, they are very well laid out and comfortable. In 2005 we had Concierge Level balcony Stateroom which was very nice, however on this cruise opted for the somewhat larger penthouse suite which had a bathtub and came with butler service. Our butler was extremely pleasant and efficient but did not find having a butler significantly contributed to our enjoyment of the cruise. Although I was completely satisfied with the concierge level stateroom, my husband enjoyed the extra space of the penthouse suite especially as was 14 day cruise.
Dining on Oceania was wonderful experience. Maybe not quite ***** but certainly much better than many of the larger cruise lines. We generally dined in the main Dining Room - no set seatings so could dine when you pleased. Had the option of dining alone, with group or to be placed at an open table. Many of the tables were for 2 but well positioned so could have a private meal but were at the same time conducive to meeting others. Particularly enjoyed the speciality Italian restaurant Toscana and dined there on a number of occasions. Polo Grill was also nice but menu limited to fairly standard steaks & chops. For breakfast we generally ordered room service & ate on our balcony or had croissants & coffee up in the Horizon Lounge (very quiet). We are not buffet type people and generally avoided the buffet except to pick up a few appies to enjoy in our stateroom. Unlike other cruise lines, Oceania do allow you bring your own liquor aboard to consume in your stateroom. Can also bring your own wine to dining room but charged a corkage charge so not worth extra cost. Normally we would order bottles of wine with dinner, and what was not finished was stored by the wine steward for the next day.
Without set seating, you did not always have the same service staff. However being a smaller ship and longer cruise we did get to know a number of the staff. Service was exceptional and friendly.
Where Oceania falls down is on entertainment and shore excursions.
Entertainment - The house orchestras were OK but the headlined acts were so so bad. I generally would walk out but my husband would stay because they were not only bad but they were terrible! One of the entertainers on our Baltic cruise was the same as on our Mediterranean cruise in 2005.
Oceania is adult oriented and do not have children's/teen programs. Not a "party boat".
Shore excursions: Grossly overpriced and Oceania have the habit of canceling excursions at the last minute if they don't have enough people signed up. Excursion desk staff, although pleasant, were unable/unwilling to provide port information other than related to their tour. Generally a local tourist official would board when we got into port but a bit late for advance planning. For St. Petersburg , Oceania gave us the impression that it was very difficult to get a visitors Visa for Russia and it would not be possible to get off the boat without taking one of their excursions. Fortunately at the last minute we learnt this was not the case & booked 3 day tour with Alla Tours which was fabulous. Best advice is to try and pre-arrange own tours or get a good guide and do it on your own.
With this last cruise, had a few problems pre-cruise with our flight deviations. Our itineraries were different as husband was returning a week later from UK. We received our flight confirmations from Oceania and all seemed OK as we had requested until we called the airlines to book our seat assignments. Evidently my husband's reservation had been changed & he was scheduled to fly out to Stockholm a day later than me. Took over a week to rectify.
Would I sail again with Oceania - probably yes but am a bit hesitant because I enjoy going to the evening show as part of the cruising experience. Read Less
First lets get the nearly obvious out of the way. The really all inclusive is the only way to go! The crew really get to know you, the service, the wine, the food, the decor, all top notch as I'm sure you assume. The line has a great ... Read More
First lets get the nearly obvious out of the way. The really all inclusive is the only way to go! The crew really get to know you, the service, the wine, the food, the decor, all top notch as I'm sure you assume. The line has a great Crew to passenger ratio, with tons of empty space all over the place. Our cruise was 100% booked and with a long waiting list and yet we could take a walk around at night and not see a single other couple on the deck. Our Cruise was from Athens Greece to Dubai UAE. This was the trip of a lifetime, and the very first time this ship was in the middle east. For being the first time at all these ports every kink was well worked out ahead of time, and the middle east is no easy place to have everything go so smooth. With the extreme Volatility in the region, we still felt very safe and secure. The boat had several different defenses against modern pirates and we received a military escort that was never more than 20mins away at all times. The safety and well being of each and every passenger really is the ships #1 concern and it shows. The Cabins were spacious and they nearly all have a balcony. The beds were a great vacation for my back as well! Now on to the few things I was not so impressed about, and yes, it took me quite a while to think of anything to even speak of. As nearly every reviewer already stated, yes, there is quite a bit of vibration on the ship. This didn't effect us while sleeping though, but was a little annoying at times when eating on the higher decks. So to start off, the pool and Jacuzzis closed much too early each night. There really is no reason to close them at 7 or 8 pm. Most nights they even drained them and put nets over them. This not only took away from the aesthetics of the pool deck area but we heard several people say that they missed being able to take an after dinner dip in the pool or relax in the Jacuzzi, not in the heat of the mid day sun. I'm sure there's some insurance reason behind closing them, but it was very disappointing to see that the passengers were not trusted to swim once the sun went down. Now onto the TVs. All rooms have Movies on demand at no charge. Slightly tricky at first to figure out, I don't think we realized we even had this feature until about the 10th day! The quality of the movies was all DVD quality. BUT and this is a big but... whoever handles the Audio/Video on the boat should be at the very least, made to take some sort of course to learn what they are doing. Any special recordings or video interviews on the boat were just plain laughably horrible. Most of the color was green. For example, I watched the presidential debate live via satellite in the lounge and in my room. Than for the next day it was played back to back on one of the channels, but now in absolutely horrible quality. It was like watching a copy of a copy of a copy of someone who recorded the debate with a camcorder pointed at a TV. and than add some bright green and now you've got what it looks like. I have no idea why no one that works on the ship let this go on like this. We poked fun about this with several other passengers several times on our voyage. And this can't be blamed on the Satellite, because it came in perfect the first time. While we were in our mid to late 40's we felt like the real youngins on the ship. I'd have to say that on our voyage the average passenger age was 70. which was just plain higher than what we were led to believe. This is no cruise for a family with children, or for that newlywed couple... well unless your on say your 3rd marriage that is! But truth be told we met some amazing other couples on the boat. We enjoyed the company of so many people. We were just shocked by how friendly everyone was. As you talk to everyone throughout your stay you start to find out that nearly everyone on the boat this is now on average there 5th, 6th, even 8th time back with Regent. That alone speaks all for itself! There is certainly a reason why once you go Regent you never go back! I like to keep a healthy lifestyle and the ship had an excellent fitness center, stocked with 4 or 5 treadmills, cycling machines, all with flat screen TVs, free weights, and many machines. Also both a walking and a running path on the decks. Shuffleboard, golf, and a pool you can swim laps in. The menus each night also featured low carb, vegetarian, low salt, and simple dishes in addition to the regular menu, so staying healthy was easy to do thankfully. The Compass Rose was actually so much better than The Portofino. But that was mostly due to the Portofino having a authentic middle Eastern menu since that was where we were. But whatever restaurant you choose there is no waiting, a table is always free just for you. The music on board was just a 6 out of 10. It's all a little Corny and you can tell everyone singing just couldn't cut in in the industry and just settled on a cruise ship. I would've rather heard some violins, than heard the almost Disney like music acts that were there. We also would've like to have heard a little more Sinatra songs. Shore excursions were all decent. We set up many of our own things since we could set up some of the same exact excursions at 1/2 the price. This was our first cruise with Regent and we have certainly found our cruise line to call our own. We look forward to our next cruise in the near future. Read Less
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra ... Read More
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra days in HKG at the new W Hotel and it is high tech in everyway. In fact we had some problem figuring out how to operate room amenities. The view was partial harbor view, since there are couple of luxury condos in front. The hotel with the best view is the Intercontinental bar none. One unique feature of this cruise was that Mariner made 1 1/2 day ports of call at major destinations. HKG, Hong Gai Vietnam, Hue, Saigon, BKK and overnight in Singapore where we disembarked. This allowed us to participate more in depth excursions. Cruise provided one complimentary 4 hours cruise of Halong Bay onboard typical Junk which was very relaxing and beautiful. I arranged my Vietnam tours with local agency and it worked out fine, plus 50% saving compared to what was offered by the cruiseline. Our tours were private with driver and an English speaking guides. Transaction involving fees for the tours went without a hitch. Deposit and balance paid on arrival. What was most important was that dockside meet was arranged in advance by obtaining permit from the government which is included in the price. This was part of their Asia Golden Circle Cruise for the total of 102 days, but you can cruise on various segments you found interesting. The crew was very attentive as usual, good room service menu and best of all it is all inclusive. There is absolutely nothing to pay, unless you purchase premium beverages or make other onboard purchases(photos,boutique). Cabin is spacious and all have balcony, no inside cabins, free do it yourself laundry facility with ironing board, automatic detergent injection system. Our cabin was close to 400SQ, walk-in closet, mini bar provisioned with mixes, soft drinks and beer. You can also request 2 bottles of liquor for your room per cabin and bottle of champaign during embarkation. Tray of fruits always replenished daily, nightly turn-down service. I also would like to mention that under your bed has enough space to store 4-5 various size empty bags which really helps out. The ship departed HKG at 11PM on the second day and I must say the departure from HKG at night is spectacular. Most beautiful second to none, maybe Sydney? Our first ports of call was Hong Gai which is the closest port to Hanoi, very interesting city, if you can master navigating massive traffic congestion. It is most difficult to cross those street with hundreds of scooters and aiming right at you. The secret, our guide showed us, is stepping off the curb(not many traffic lights)maintaining steady pace(not slowing down or speeding up) which gives drivers to anticipate your movement which prevents surprises and prevents hitting you. Trick is to do it, but its hard stepping off the curb into on coming traffic. But it works and we did fine with no injuries(I'm 69 and my wife 59). Hue was very interesting, you have a choice of visiting Citadels and Temples in Hue or head out to HoiAn UNESCO Heritage Site. We went to HoiAn combined with Marble Mountain and Da Nang. Good choice, we thought. Onboard you have a choice of dinning venues, Signature, CompassRose, La Veranda and Latitude. We were not disappointed with any of them with few exceptions. Latitude menu was OK, but not thrilled with it(Indian, then Thai), I think many felt that way. We loved CompassRose, food was consistently good with variety, Signature over-rated, La Veranda(always casual)always had interesting menu selection. In defense of Latitude, they are replacing it with a Steak House, when the ship enters dry-dock at the end of this cruise cycle. We took breakfasts and one dinner in our cabin and both were on time, good presentation and full table cloth service. We ordered dinner with wine selection and two bottles were delivered with dinner. Breakfast was buffet, but you could request items at your table without serving yourself, same for Lunch. There were several poolside dinning with extravagant offering of lobsters, premium meats and numerous other premium seafoods, Mexican menu and even pizza. Absolutely no complaint with their foods and quality. Todays restaurant prices would command $50 per plate easily for what they were offering. The entertainment was fine, very quaint venue with variety of entertainment, nothing outstanding , since I'm very critical. But it is what is expected of cruiseship entertainment. Variety shows, singer, solo pianist accompanied by Regent's own band, small trio and solo instrumentalists at lounges. Done in good taste. We had 3 formal nights which I'm not too thrilled about, but ship of this class, you can always expect it. I prefer all country casual type of dress code for every functions, but the I feel that type of passengers this class of ship caters to demands it which is part in parcel of traveling on luxury liners. We participated on 2 nights, but decided on La Veranda instead on the last one which was fine. The ship enforces dress code for the evening very close. HCMC was very orderly compared to Hanoi, ship provided free shuttle service to Rex Hotel(one of the finest in Saigon with history). Because of our size we were able to navigate up the Saigon River for 4 hours to be much closer to city center. Mega cruise-ships on the other hand had to dock nearly 3 hours away, because of much deeper draft. This prevented excursions of any meaning, especially if they were scheduled for one day call at Saigon. Thailand was just as chaotic, but very interesting place to visit. Called on Ko Samui and BKK, spent one night BKK, because the drive into BKK was 2 1/2 hours again. Finally two days at see and arrived in Singapore on Nov 1 and disembarked on the morning of Nov 2. We stayed in Singapore for additional 2 days. Very clean and organized city, we can all learn from them. But the laws they enforce on their citizens can not be imposed in this country, because of ACLU and other organization. However, there are no homeless on the streets, no beggars, trash or graffiti and crimes are virtually none. If you are going to do some shopping get them done in Vietnam or Thailand, because Singapore is expensive and they don't bargain as much. Read Less
As mentioned in the introduction, we are both seniors and this was our first cruise. We read every cruise review we could find and found the Cruise Critic site to be extremely helpful.
Before selecting a cruise, we developed a ... Read More
As mentioned in the introduction, we are both seniors and this was our first cruise. We read every cruise review we could find and found the Cruise Critic site to be extremely helpful.
Before selecting a cruise, we developed a "wish list" of expectations. First, we wanted to see as much of Europe as possible. We were interested in a relaxing atmosphere which ruled out children of all ages. (We're not anti-children, but there's a time and a place). We didn't want Las Vegas type glitz, but we also didn't want a strictly "seniors cruise." We wanted to avoid having to mingle with huge gaggles of humanity, and while we preferred to avoid the rigidity of a very formal atmosphere, we did not want to go too far in the direction of "casual" which all-to-frequently degenerates to "grungy." Finally, we hoped for some interesting dining experiences.
We are very pleased to say that the Azamara Journey fulfilled all our expectations. The ship's capacity was 700 passengers which was perfect in every way. We never felt crowded, never had to wait to be seated in a restaurant, nor when leaving or returning to the ship. This cruise did not offer babysitting services nor did it have a "game room." Combine that with the time of year, and it was an all-adult passenger list. We experienced 10 ports with one day at sea. Because we were not familiar with any of the ports and did not feel comfortable touring on our own, we availed ourselves of many of the ship excursions. We were not disappointed.
We were very pleased with the food preparation and choices as well as the wide selection of beverages. We had a choice of restaurants ranging from a casual buffet and pool-side grill to a main restaurant and two specialty restaurants. We also used room service on occasion. We were amazed at the quick response time for room service. We frequented the main restaurant for dinner. We always asked to be seated in an area served by one head waiter and his assistant. They were a real "dynamic duo" who not only provided excellent service, but entertainment as well. The ship's staff and crew were very friendly and helpful. We had arranged for a room with a balcony which was well worth the additional cost. We used the balcony frequently when we were arriving at or departing from ports, and occasionally we ate breakfast there as well. Since this was our first cruise we were fascinated watching the pilot boat bring the harbor master out to the ship at each port to guide the ship into port. We were able to view this process each morning from our balcony.
The ship was maintained beautifully. It was clean, neat, and nicely appointed. The service staff was excellent and made your comfort their priority. The entertainment was good and varied. The variety of excursions offered at each port was more than adequate. They ranged from mild to strenuous, and on two occasions we selected "strenuous" excursions which were still manageble for us. On a scale of 1 to 10, our tour guides ranked between 7 and 10 with a preponderence falling in the range of 9 and 10. We were able to tune to video introductions to each excursion from our rooms each evening so we had some idea of what to expect during the tour. We pre-arranged with private car services for tours of Rome and Sorrento and we were very pleased with our choices. In Rome we used Fabrizio Melaragno's "All Around Italy" car service that can be accessed at allarounditaly.net. Fabrizio was extremely animated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. We saw more of Rome than we had ever imagined possible in one day. He also arranged for us a to have a personal guided tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica and Square.
In Sorrento we used Renato Cuomo's Limousine Service which can be accessed at www.carsorrento.it. Our driver, Paolo, was wonderful. He knew everyone everywhere we went. We learned a great deal of information about Sorrento, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast that he shared with us from his personal knowledgebase. He made us feel very comfortable and welcome.
We would strongly recommend both of these car services.
We had such a wonderful experience on this cruise that we are already starting to plan our next one. Read Less
Solstice Cruise Review - Trip - 11/30/2008 through 12/7/2008 By Thomas Treimel
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent called me and said ... Read More
Solstice Cruise Review - Trip - 11/30/2008 through 12/7/2008 By Thomas Treimel
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent called me and said Celebrity allocated her about twelve cabins for this selective week. I quickly suggested some of my friends to book it and they did. We hammered out the details for all of our group. I booked my daughter Jenna and I on the trip. I started looking into air travel at this time. One of the Continental airlines hubs is my home airport - Newark. They fly directly to Ft. Lauderdale the embarkation port for this trip. The airfares were a bit higher than I have paid in the past but we were still in a gas high price time but by cruise time the gas prices had tumbled from over $3 per gallon at the booking time to only $1.50 or so when we flew out of Newark. A nice thing to do is fly into the home port area a day before to get adjusted and see the town. This also reduces the stress levels as you are there and ready to go so you will see no delays in getting to the ship on time. I had originally booked an 8AM flight out of Newark to land at about 11AM in Ft. Lauderdale. Then a few weeks later re-checked the flight on the Continental sight to see where the seating capacity was. Hmmmmmmmm.... Flight was not there. I then went back to my reservation number and checked to see that the flight had been removed and we were now scheduled on the 6:35AM flight out of Newark on the same day. So I then went back in and re-set my seats and called my friends, Karen and Tim, who were traveling on the cruise and sir with us. They also had to reset the air portion of the trip. The same thing happened with our return flight home. Originally set for a noon departure out of Newark but the flight was cancelled in advance and we were shifted to the 10:40AM flight home. Same thing again - switch the seats. Since I am on vacation as soon as the work day ends before we actually go. I am very detail oriented to relax and enjoy the trip. I had packed a 4 oz. bottle of rum in one of the small NTSB approved carry containers. When we went through the check point and down to the plane I purchased a 20oz. bottle of Pepsi for the plane. Also we had a very quick breakfast there McDonald's - hey it was all that was there. The plane was on time to board. We taxied away but were de-iced and did not take off till 6:50AM. I had my first drink of Rum and Coke at 6:53AM. Vacation started. My friend Hank in North Carolina will be happy to read this line. Finished the drink about the time we crossed over North Carolina. We encountered no problems getting there as we landed right on time. Right off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale and off to find the luggage pick up. We picked up our luggage and put on our Celebrity bag tags. Then found a taxi to the pier. We stepped out of the taxi and stowed the ship luggage at the port by 10AM. While they had not started the check in process yet. Karen, Tim, Jenna and I checked our bags and went through the port security process. Then settled in for the time to check in. When the check in process started we got onto the line for the Elite and checked in to board the ship. The actual check-in process took about 10 minutes for the express pass and check the passport information against the cruise tickets along with the credit card registration for on-board ship payments. Off we went up the escalator to the ship and this adventure begins.
They had the ships photographers there to get your entry pictures. Upstairs you had your security picture taken to match it to your sea pass. This is used to log you on and off the ship and to record what you look like. The ships security knows who is on and off the ship at all times. This helps in ports as they want to make sure all are there. Then up the slanted gangway to the entry deck on level 5. As short left and a right and you are in the entry area where they are offering you a welcome and a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Always my favorite way to be greeted. When we entered we were informed the rooms were not quite ready. We walked to the room and dropped off our carry on luggage in the room and found out room steward Jose from India. He greeted us warmly and after explaining the room quickly let us store the luggage and we went exploring the ship.
Cabin: #6257, cat. 2C, Continental Deck. This is one of the regular sized cabins on the new class of ship. Slightly larger than the traditional 170 sq. ft. There is an additional balcony on this cabin level. Very nice fit for two deck chairs and a table. I have always found the Celebrity cabins to be a perfect fit. They are slightly larger than some of the other industry standard cabins at this level. We had enough room for storage in the room as they have raised the bed level about four inches and even the large sized suit cases can fit nicely right under the bed. They moved the live vests from the storage area above the closet to a nice wire basket under the bed. Easy to slide out to get at the live vests for the boat drill. They do have a third sleeper bed - trundle bed that comes out from under the couch. But they also have a bed that swings down out of the ceiling and is hidden from vies during the day. So fitting two - would be very roomy and three is not a problem. Even though there is less closet space as you may read on the boards. There is plenty of space in the drawers and storage areas in the room. The large double closet has a hanging bar all the way across and about thirty wooden hangers for using to hang the formal wear along with the day to day things as needed. The area under where the Flat screen TV is located has 5 nice and large drawers. To the side of this area is a storage area where you wifi keyboard is hidden. This can also double as a large storage area and did for us on this trip. Under that is the mini bar and your cabin steward will open it for your use if you request it. I think there is also a small pull out drawer in the front of the sit down make up area. There is also an additional light switch and two plug outlets here for your use. Just above the bed are two large cabinets that are used for pillow storage and whatever you would like to put up there. We stored my carry on there the whole trip. The TV has a nice swing arm behind it that you can pivot off the wall for watching in bed. They can go interactive, do movies on demand (which are all free), and music of different types. Here is my problem with the music and how it is set up. They have no menu selection to bring in a large type and shuffle it from song to song mixing up the order. Something I would have liked to do. Additionally there are some nook areas with bars across to hold in things that you want to store there. It held our bottles of wine and soda we had brought on in Ft. Lauderdale. Our steward kept the small ice holder filled and brought a clear plastic wine cooler / ice cooler when we requested it. To re-state on bringing alcohol on board with you as you board the ship - Celebrity will allow two bottles of wine and maybe a few champagne. They are not strict in this policy but if you are a good passenger and do not try to bring on an excessive amount they are understanding on this issue. Your cabin steward will bring you ice as requested. Now there has been much discussion on the bathrooms on the ship and how they have changed. Yes they are a bit smaller. The counter space is not what your are used to. The shower stall area is now covered by a plastic enclosure. Very nice in my opinion. The shower head has a few adjustable settings but is locked in place and will pivot to direct the water. There are two handles to turn here - one for water pressure and one for temperature. Both work perfectly to all out satisfaction. They have a step up bar inside for the ladies to shave their legs on if needed. But the drying line I loved to use is now gone. Replaced by two cloths hooks. They have small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer along with the standard soap and never ending supply of clean fresh white towels.
We headed out to explore the ship now. From walking into the lobby area on deck 5 I was already in WOW mode. I have been on the Horizon, Zenith, the Century class all ships and the Millie class two ships. Generally speaking from my cruises on older ships in the late 70's and early 80's. Then jumping back into cruising on Celebrity in the early 90's. So I have a view from a lot of angles. With this class of ship Celebrity has stepped up beyond the normal ship out there. I have felt that Celebrity set the standard and then other followed it. This ship build and launch proves that they are still way ahead and setting the pace for cruising elegance and ship board comforts into the next ten years. I walk about the ship almost all the time now using the elevators much at all this trip. I think about 6 times in all - a bit above my average of two. Walking down the passage way and out to the stairwell area on deck 6 overlooking into the atrium and the tree there. What a nice touch. We walked forward on the port side into the Online@Celebrity area. Nice area with many computers set up. During the week I went and used the computers and the response time was very fast compared to the last time I tried a few years back. Nice soft earth / wood tones here. Very quiet area. Then back down to deck 4 to the main restaurant.
Dining Room: The Grand Epernay Dining Room was just like the Millie series ships in size. This was wonderfully laid out. Same soft lines but the stair case was different. The stairs were frosted glass as were the stairwell separators. It split into two sections at the middle one each flowing to the side. We did notice one of the steps was already cracked but they will replace that soon. At night the stairs were back lit with a light green coloring. As usual there is a lot of space between tables to move. The wait stations were enlarged to hold two groups of wait staff at a time. They also had frosted glass a bit higher up that other wait stations to cut the view into them. We were at table 226 right next to the wait staff entrance and exit. There was not much noise at all sitting here. We were also within viewing distance of the well thought out wine cellar in the dining area. There were about 1800 bottles stored there as we were told. You could catch a look at the Sommelier's working in their area and picking up bottles and moving about with various glasses for each wine's use. Bob was our wine expert as always when I travel with him. We were at second seating dinner which is what I like on the ship. To relax a lot and take my time getting to dinner. My daughter Jenna and our friends Bob and Eileen were seated at our table. A lot of nice people to share a weeks worth if dinners with. We also invited Kim from the ships special events staff to dinner the last night. I had brought a coconut back on the ship, as a bet you can't get this on the ship, and tried to get it carved into a Maple leaf for our Canadian guest. But the nut was too green and it did not work out. But they drew a maple leaf on it and it worked out just the same. I would say I was not disappointed with any of the food offerings presented at dinner that week. We did go to the brunch offered one day here. It was very good. Some different offerings than upstairs as it is brunch a lot of cross over. It would have been very special to have an omelet station but I do not think they are set up for that. For the dinners everything was fantastic from the presentation to the sauces and taste. The wine parings were excellent for each night's meal. We also went into the restaurant at lunch and breakfast two times to see what other offerings we were missing out on. As with dinner everything was great. Service right there with breads or rolls and a good selection on the menu's each time. We sat next to the windows three of the times we went into breakfast or lunch the other at the rail overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. Nice view each night from up there. Although there were a lot of people missing from our section of the dining room the first night they did appear throughout the cruise. They must have been in some of the specialty restaurants enjoying their tasty offerings.
I will say one thing for the complete Celebrity staff on the ship. They are wonderfully pleasant and gracious. They are always trying to please you with a special request or menu selection. I like Ice tea at dinner and it was there right after we sat down every night. I will repeat myself here and say that I have found being an Elite member does have a big plus side to it. The part of being able to invite ships officers to dinner and making new friends on the ship. This is the time to relax and enjoy your dining experience. Try something different as if it done not meet your taste buds in the right way you can re-order. And as always you are on vacation have fun with this.
After this we headed forward out of the restaurant on deck 3 past Guest Relations and the bottom of the central lobby which is the Grand Foyer. I had to stop into guest relations a few times. The first to pick up a band aid as I had cut my finger. The even helped my put on the antiseptic and then the band aid the first time. All with a wonderful smile. They also supplied me with a few extra band aid's in case I needed to change them. The other times I stopped by were to drop off a nice Ipod I had found on deck 15 at the basketball court. This was a nice slim line one that the owner forgot to pick up when they left the area. I turned it over to the Concierge who took my cabin number and thanked me. The other times I was just stopping by to pick up a bill for my ship charges that I had incurred to date. Each time met with a smile and friendly hello. And as I tried to make a joke about me being a complaining passenger and where I should go for that. They politely pointed me across the foyer to the Shore excursions desk and we had a good laugh at that. The last time I was there some passenger was screaming at our Hotel Manager about something. It was nice to see him calm the passenger down and get him to quietly talk through his concerns. Another reason why I like Celebrity. They will not brush you off and will try to address all passenger concerns as they can. Simon Weir handled it in an excellent fashion. It's a good thing I was on his good side. As with every interaction all the staff are being judged by everyone on the ship including me at all times. And as usual they come through with very high marks for their manners and how the conduct themselves while on company business. This area also had the Passport bar which was colored in a soft honey gold and the shore excursions desk area. I never had the chance to stop at the passport bar area or shore excursions but notice they were always people working or using the services during the normal hours for these places.
Moving up to deck 4 from the Grand Foyer area from the nice flowing stairwell. There were two decorated Christmas trees here at the base of the stairwell that magically appeared on December 1st. As you walked up the staircase to the port side is the most exciting place for a lot of people on the ship. The Martini Bar and Crush. The Martini bar was a frozen bar during the dinner hours which was two sided and had an extensive menu of Martini's and regular drinks. My friend Bob is the expert in this department and would stop by each night to see what new delights were coming out of the skillful staff's mixers. Part of the entertainment is the bartending staff. Tossing the cubes all about followed by the mixing and pouring out of three drinks at a time. They were the pros in this department and had great fun in doing so. This area was always busy before, during and after the dinner hours. It is a great place to meet up before dinner to review the days events with all the new cruise friends. Or use it as a jumping off spot for the evening. The areas surrounding the Martini bar and Crush were large seating areas with see through curtains to make small privacy areas for your group. Across from this area was Cellar Masters the wine bar on the ship. This was partitioned away with solid dark wooden walls and gates that remained open and inviting. They also had an extensive wine list available here. There was something novel about this area as hey had a pour your own glass area. This was all electronic so you could purchase a glass of wine at anytime of the day or night. Just put the sea pass into the slot - make your selection and use your wine glass of choice - it poured it out for you. The bottles were shown off behind a glass partition to show the vintage and keep the wine at it's best serving temperature. We walked into this area a few times and saw a few people relaxing reading or quietly conversing. During the afternoon a string quartet would play music here with the sound cascading upwards throughout the whole open area. The open area stretched from the grand Foyer to level 15 at the lawn club. So if you were in the stairwell connected to this or an elevator area you would hear the music. Moving forward from the Martini bar are the Shops on the Boulevard and the Casino. The pictures shown by many people can't do the actual sight of this justice. The boulevard area curves nicely around the casino. So you can walk around it if you like. The items in the shop area were very nice. Although they did not have in stock a ship Christmas ornament. In the most forward end of the shop area is the liquor sales area for taking home. They carried all the market named brands at great prices. Sometimes it is easier to just buy on the ship and leave it to them to deliver. Better than on shore purchase and store it. The Casino has a wide variety of slot machine and the standard game tables. All of the slots now operate on a coin less system. Put your dollars in and play away. When finished just cash out and a slip of paper is printed. Either cash it in to use it next time. They have added a Texas hold'em playing table and I stopped by to look at it but the rules escaped me and I moved on. They also had two Texas Hold'em tables for heads up play. I think the minimum to sit down and play was $50. Then it was straight up against all table opponents. The rake was 10% of each hand from what I was told. They did have a lot of tournaments for Hold'em and black jack during the cruise but I never got to them. There was always a lot of people in the hold'em table area and in the casino in general on the trip. If you are captains club you also get some $5 match play coupons to play with to double your even money bets at the tables. So you could pick up an extra $5 on your bets. But alas they only gave you a limited number. A nice incentive to try a game of chance. There was also a wide screen TV in here for sports viewing. As you moved even more forward you would run into The Entertainment Court. This was a large open area with tables and chairs. There was a large marble clock face in the floor here. They held the shop sales here for watches and jewelry. To the port side is the Quasar disco which did not get going till later at night. And going it did. JR and BK had a lot of friends in here dancing well into the wee hours. To the starboard side of the ship is a new type of addition to Celebrity - Celebrity Central. This is a small about 100 seat intimate theatre that was used for movies and the comedians on the boat. Well laid out and nice comfortable seats. The one night I was here the area was full up for the late night comedy show. As you move forward past the elevator banks there is the Solstice Theatre. Here the pictures do tell just about the whole story. But it is still a beauty to behold in person. There are a lot of new innovations for this floating theatre. They had the ability to soar over the audience areas while performing some parts of the show. I was in one night for the Broadway review and the show was well attended and singing, dancing, props and costumes matched everything perfectly. In talking to some of the actors and singers this theatre allowed them to stretch their medium to a higher level and I will agree.
If you exited the theatre on level 5 and walked to the aft end of the ship this is what you would you would run into. The port side held the Photography gallery. Many pictures were taken and printed for you to see here. I am sorry to say that the Galleria Boutiques on the starboard side did not catch my attention enough to go in and look about. I will say the areas were well dressed out for the window displays. This was where the perfumes and high end jewelry shops were. I do remember looking at some of the art work in the Gallery here amid ship and like it a lot. Across from the Art Gallery is the Galleria Tasting area. Sorry again as I went right by this area without looking into it. But... Moving further aft on the port side is the Bistro on Five. This had an upscale breakfast and lunch service for a $5 entry fee. Jenna went here one night and said the desert crapes were of the first order. Now across from this area on the starboard side is the Cafe Al Bacio & Gelateria. This was the specialty coffee and espresso area. They had some nice bakery presentations here for your consumption with your drink selections. Just past here walking still to the Aft is the large bank of elevators. As you enter the stairwell lobby area take a right and just before the exit to the outside to the left is the Celebrity Destinations area. This is where you would find the Captains club desk and the Future cruise sales area. You could use this area to sign up for the Elite tours and to make a reservation to talk to Natalie who is currently future Cruise sales hostess. I talked to Natalie a few times and used the future cruise deposit booking for no trip for the $100 deposit for the $100 on board credit. Not a bad idea at this point and knowing I will cruise again. The girls in this area were nice to talk to and I left them a plate of my home made cookies. So if you leave this area and make a right then down to the passageway past the stairs and make a right you would enter the ant hallway. Just look down on the floor and you will see that the tile looks like ants in a trail to the wall paintings. Very beautiful flowers painted here on the wall and ceiling. This leads down to the specialty restaurants. You would first enter the Ensemble lounge. To the immediate right is the Michael's club. We played a lot of the trivia games here. Battle of the sexes, which the men won and I got to be team Captain. Then the daily trivia challenge with our team of four which we won for the week. They also had some name that tune and other games here. As nice as any other Michael's club on any other ship. I do not think this area got a lot of traffic at night and there were a few blemishes in the area already. But nothing that could not be fixed right away. The Ensemble lounge is a large stop off bar area before going to the specialty restaurants. Murano is the best of the specialty restaurants here. Much like the one's on the Millie class ships. Just past the end of the lounge area to the left is Silk harvest. This is the Far East restaurant. Across from this is Blu. This is the Aqua class eatery with healthy choices on the menu. You could only get into this area if you are booked into an Aqua class suite or there was an opening. The aft end of the ship had the Tuscan Grille. Our friends and Jenna dined here one night and thought the presentations were excellent. The Tuscan Grille occupies the back of the ship. So you get to watch the wake and the back area of the ship as it is moving. The colors were deep burgundy and dark wood. I did not go into any of these areas as I wanted to save something for another cruise on the Solstice class ships. And I know I will be back. But in talking to anyone who did go into any of the specialty restaurants the food was exquisite and presentations spectacular. Well worth the cover charge for any of the venues.
So as the tour continues and we walk about we skip past Continental deck 6, Sunrise deck 7 and Vista deck 8 which are all decks with cabins in them. Did I mention that I walk just about everywhere I go on the ship. Lots of steps help burn off the calories from the extra stops on deck 14. But someone told me there were no calories at sea. I'll have to test that out one time. More on that later in the review. On the Panorama deck 9 across from the central elevators is the card room. Every time day or night, well not late night, there were people playing on the tables. It seemed like there were enough bridge players to get a good game going from the number of the people and how well occupied this area was at all times. As we move onward and upward to deck 10 the Sky deck. And near the rear elevator bank area is the Library. This is a nice two level area with books to borrow. There are built in shelves. Be sure to return the book before you leave. Nice comfy chairs to sit in. You could get the daily crossword and Suduko games here. They finally listened to me on this. The second tier of the Library is on the Penthouse deck number 11. This deck holds the Aqua class suites and all the larger suites. On the forward section of the ship on this deck is the Relaxation lounge for suite holders. I don't remember even stopping here at all. But there are supporting pictures on the internet that show this area. Up one level now to the Resort deck 12. Dam. I'm tired now and I walked those steps every day at least ten times, from our room on deck 6 to deck 12 or 14 or 15.
The Resort deck holds the pools, Spa and fitness areas. I can easily say this is the most impressive area on the ship as I walked upward. The pools are set up a little differently than before. They sit down a little giving you a place to cool your feet in ankle deep water to get an idea of the water temperature before you go in. Starting from the aft end of this area to forward. The Wet Zone is first. This area doubled as a dance area at night for the ship deck parties. The girls from the cruise staff danced up here on Caribbean night in flame red dresses. The wet zone is turned on in the afternoon and it sprays water up into the air at various heights and intervals. Nice to splash around in on a hot afternoon. Just behind the wet zone was the stage area for the band to play on when leaving port and for the deck parties. Great music to listen to when you want to get your cruise spirit going on sail away day. The next area forward is the Family pool. This is a shallow pool for our younger cruisers and those just wanting to get wet to their waste. The depth varies from about three feet to four feet. A fun time for me was watching a young mom blow up a small kiddies pool while dad watched. I then helped dad, borrowing two plastic buckets from the bar area, fill the small pool up with about 6 inches of water. The two young ladies with mom and dad, who looked like they were 3 and 4 years old, loved it. You would have thought this was the greatest water park in the world encased in a four foot blow up pool. They had a great time of it. Simple ingredients. Pool; add water and imagination and anything is possible. These girls were great fun to see about the ship which I did just about every day. The next area in the pools was the Sports pool. This was separated by a walk across bridge but the pools were completely separated. The sports pool was about 4 foot deep to six foot deep. Same type of skirt area with shallow water. You could sit just above or in the water on the skirt and you're your book without full immersion. Staying cool by the pool. There were four hot tubs near the pools here and the water temperature was just a nice very warm. Not hot enough to turn you pink quickly but the level that warmed you up and made you relax a lot. We used this area the first day as I brought my swim suite in my carry on and switched so we could do this. It did rain a bit while we were in port in Ft. Lauderdale and while we were in the hot tub. Could have been a problem. But I was wet already and I had on my hat so no problem. The pool bar is just in front of here. They had a great daily special I saw the first day. A large mug of beer, they sold large size mugs that looked over a pint in size of Amstel for about $4.50 or so with the tip. Celebrity has all the nice things to keep you cooled down on this deck. As just to the starboard side of the pool area as you move forward was the Sundries shop. The t shirt, flip flop and sun tan lotion area. Great location. One thing I will say before we walk through the sliding glass doors was there were plenty of chairs about the pool area and the nice couches for two they built into the decor of the ship. This was a new innovation for me to see. And the last thing you see before the sliding glass doors to the outside area of the ship here is a hanging netted hammock bed with pillows that you could fit a few into. Two was the perfect number for me here. You could get very comfortable here anytime and nap the afternoon worries away. Who needs to worry about those extra calories. That's coming up soon. Stay tuned. When you move through the sliding glass doors you are going forward into the Solarium area. This is a pool covered area with the wooden loungers and very thick and very soft mattresses next to the pool. The mattresses were covered in Celebrity blue and every morning had a fresh pool towel rolled up on them. This was the same for all lounges on the pool deck area. Every morning a fresh rolled towel. The area covering the pool had photo electric cells to capture the sun and provide some electricity for the ship. Not a lot from what I have read but some to start with. There were also the capture the sun areas off the bow suites at about deck level seven. In this Solarium pool area is a nice pool for swimming laps or staying cool. The forward area of the pool has a trellis of red flowers and green vines. They are artificial. It is nice to look up while swimming and see the flowers. Behind this is the fountain area where they flow water out at intervals with color being sent from below in red, blue, green spot lights. Nice to see at night. There are two hot tubs in this area also so if it rains out in the uncovered pool area then just move inside. Another new innovation for relaxation in the area are very large wicker basket chairs. They will fit two or more and have moveable pillows and a wicket backing with materiel covering it to offer some privacy. So you can get in there and stretch out with moving the pillows about. The basket / chair / lounger spins around so you can look out to sea and kick back. On the port side of the ship in the early AM is the Aqua Spa Cafe. This area offered healthy breakfast choices in the mornings when I walked by the area. As you pass forward from the Solarium area you will enter the Spa area. This area has the Aquaspa, Persian Gardens, Acupuncture, Massage, Hair Salon, Retail outlet and Fitness center. There were always people about this area in the early morning when I made my way here from the early workout on the ship. This is the pampering zone for all. There were different scents in the air each morning for relaxation therapy. I can only speak for the fitness center as this is all I used while on this trip. My daily time in here consisted of using the Nautilus equipment, stretching, doing some sit ups and walking about. The area is well laid out with a separate area for small aerobics and spinning classes. There are about 20 or so Nautilus machines in the forward section and fourteen walker / running machines in front of the starboard windows to look out to sea with. In the past I think they used to have the running machine looking forward and the weight machines behind them. I like the running machines in front as when I work out on the weight machines I am only on each for a few minutes and do not care about a view. I did try out one of the elliptical machines and they had a lot of pre-programmed work outs available to use to help you keep your fitness level. Every morning about 7:30AM the running and elliptical machines were all being used. There was a whole wall to pick a gym towel from and these were always well supplied. There is a small area in front of the fitness area outside. The Spa Veranda if you just want to walk outside for a breath of the fresh sea air. The one thing I did notice was there was a lot of spa staff about and someone always manning their welcome desk. This concludes this decks description.
I searched all about the ship for deck 13. Forward, aft, port, starboard, above the pool deck and below lido deck but could not find it. I'll have to bring this to Celebrity's attention that a deck was missing.
Well not to skip a beat and moving upward to deck 14 the Lido deck. If you walk from the Aqua spa area to the stairs in the forward section and go up.... There you are. Right outside the Sky observation lounge. If you come up the stairs you would enter this most expansive lounge area on the starboard side of the ship. It has a long entry path till you actually get there. Again screening is done by light white blinds you can see through. This is where they held the Cruise Critic and other major parties. They have an expansive bar area to sit at and to the Port side the raised stage area for the live band to perform at. The furniture here is some large loungers up near the windows along with nice comfortable chairs. There were also three semi circular alcove large enough to walk into and store about ten of your friends in. Nice small privacy areas to accommodate small and large groups. This area with over 200 people in on the cruise critic and again on the Elite member gatherings did not look crowded in the least. Plenty of room to move around and find a place to sit. They held Karaoke up here at night and if you were unlucky enough to be there I am sorry for my poor vocal ability attempting to sing "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. I did hear some other excellent singers who were passengers singing in the lounge area. There are always good singers and dancers among the people on the trip with you. There were dance request numbers played by the DJ every night here. This is just so large and expansive area and the glass windows seemed at least twenty feet high. They had a very good band playing here for the Elite party and the dance floor is huge. Here the wait and bar service was excellent. I gave away bottles of Champagne to our two cruise super stars, in my opinion. One who arranged the rum factory tour for about thirty people of the group. The second set up the meet and greet on line bulletin board for all the connections people to send in their pictures and other information to share in advance. Well walking back outside and going to the aft end of the ship you are at the top of the pool well looking down into the pool area. Again there are those comfy lounge chairs with the Celebrity Blue coverings on each one. And the jogging track. I will say one thing on the jogging track. It is nice but the person who laid it out never ran much. The corners near the aft end of the track are too sharp. I had to move the lounge chairs each AM to round off the sharp corners. This was so I would not to tear my knees up while trying to get my running workout in. The surface was new and gripped my shoes even when a bit wet. So no slip sliding off the ship for me. At the aft end of the track area were two large stair cases, one on each side of the ship, that led down into the pool area. At the forward section of the pool well on deck 14 are the Mast bar and the Mast Grill. So if you need a drink why go far when there is this bar. And when you need a quick bit this area will suffice. They had hot dogs, hamburgers and fries here about lunch time and in the afternoon. The large area above the pool had lounge chairs for the sun worshipers. If you needed to be ten feet closer to the sun to get that perfect tan this was you place to be. It is a little quieter here than on the pool deck level and not a lot of traffic about the area. Walking aft again around the large glass expanse that housed the elevators you go through two sliding glass doors. Then making a bee line to the back of the boat you arrive in the Oceanview Cafe area. If you entered through the port side you would see a regular bar for drinks area. On the starboard side was the scoop ice cream bar area. This is the food court area. And it is where the Solstice shines long into the day. There are no more trays in this area. Just plates and bowls of various sizes. The silverware is sitting on the tables now and there are people who will help you with your plates to a table. I would get a plate then a drink and it was nice not having to worry about the silverware at all till I sat down. As you enter on each end they had cooking stations for the morning breakfast. The ice cream bar area doubled as the waffle station in the AM for the light crispy waffles that Celebrity is known for. Nothing has changed here. The one grill area next to the waffle station made eggs to order and here is where you can get the omelet made to order. They had about 15 different things you could add in. We came up here almost every morning at least to look about. There are five central stations that I remember. One in the middle was set for the breads and muffins. I like the, what I call a Celebrity pop over, brioche. I had them every day on the cruise. Mostly with nothing or split in the middle with honey. The roll was already tasting like fresh butter. I can still taste it now. And see it. Nothing better. Two of the stations were set for fruit, cereal, milks, yogurt and other lit fare. Another has bacon, sausage (two types) and fresh scrambled eggs. In addition the one station had a toaster person. So some days it was get an English Muffin in addition to the other things. They also had a station for English breakfast selections. Everything look nice and fresh every AM. They had four drink stations for juices, tea and coffee. Then find a seat in the expansive seating area and look out to sea as the waves break far away from the ship. I made it a plan and carried it out to get coffee for my travel companions after I finished my morning workout. Carry it down to the cabin for them to enjoy as they woke up. I was told the coffee was very good as I do not drink it. One funny thing that happened in the early AM when I was picking up the coffee was an older gentleman took one of the over sized trays that the crew uses to transport clean coffee cups. He placed his coffee cup on it along with a small plate and walked away. As I watched along with the semi stunned crew. We just smiled and moved along. Lunch selections up here were just as good and tasty. The five stations were always brimming with great choices and many - many selections. There was a salad bar area and as someone put it the dressing were at the start not the end of the line. There was always a fresh fish selection prepared and ready to go. The one grill area doubled as the pasta and pizza bar area. This area never seemed to shut down at all after lunch. Every time I walked by there were at least three different types of pizza selections. What was nice about the pasta bar also was there were multiple pasta types to go along with the multiple sauces you could choose from. There were also add in fixings for your specialty pasta. Great range and great selections. In the late afternoon about 4PM was tea time and you could get some light sandwiches here. Then starting about 5PM the Sushi bar opened off I went there just about every night. They would usually have three or four selections along with the added extras that are in the area. They would open for just about full service at 6PM for alternative dining and when I walked through there was always traffic from that time on till about 10PM every night. The last place on the Lido deck was at the far aft end of the ship. Outside through the sliding glass doors to the Ocean View Bar area. This area was partially covered by the deck above and you could also get a table at the rail over looking the wake of the boat to sit and make memories while enjoying you breakfast or lunch. The interior area here had soft chairs. You could sink into and veg. out after enjoying some thing or event on the ship. In the later evening there was a singer here under the overhang. I think I only caught him one night singing a Jason Martz song. Very good. There is also a small bar tucked into this area under the stairs. Then we will walk upwards to the next level. When does this ship ever end????
Going up to Deck 15 at the aft end. You would walk right into the Lawn Club deck. Right here is the Sunset bar. Across the full back of the ship with very nice wicker chairs to plush yourself down into the watch the sun set from. The chairs extended around each side of the ship so there were more unique seating places for you and anyone with you. There are two separate lawn areas here. On the starboard side of the ship was the Golf putting area. They held the Ryder cup putting challenge here every morning at 9:30AM. I had to run up the stairs from Michaels club where the AM trivia was held. Andrea hosted this event on sea days. The grass is very nice but a bit irregular and not a putting green like quality. More like a fairway level grass. There was also a lot of traffic across the area and it was very soft. There were always at least twenty people in the putting events each day. The Port side of the ship was a true grass Bocce ball court set up. But this area was closed most of the week for repairs or to rest the lawn. Some people did use the area and a young couple had their toddler out her to crawl about so it was used a bit. Moving forward from these areas is the Patio on the Lawn. This was a huge expanse of lawn right on the top of the ship decks. They gave bocce lessons here most of the cruise and did a few tourneys. Mike from the cruise staff hosted some of these events. A lot of people showed up and the rules were modified to let everyone play. I think we had about fifty people one afternoon out there. The best time to be there was late afternoon before dinner with friends to use the lawn area and play your own bocce game with everyone. We did this a few times and Linda led the way with her group up here. A lot of people getting together having fun, drinks and some lawn bowling in the middle of the ocean. Some people who did not know would toss the heavy bocce balls high in the air and dent the lawn. Not good. They may have some trouble here in later cruises as the dents mount up. But I will give Celebrity an A plus for this venue. Well used and very much appreciated. There is a nice walk around area so as not to cut across the grass and thread it down. Connected to this area is the Hot Glass Show area. Every time we were up here playing there seemed to be something in the oven and being sculpted. There were three professionals doing the shaping, molding, creating and talking about it. The only problem being that there is a limited viewing area and the excess spilled on to the lawn area next to this and killed a lot of the grass. I would have to say that the seating was not adequate to the Hot Glass area. If they solve that and the walk around problem to stop the lawn trampling then they have a winner in both directions. Like I saw that the Hot glass shows were over flow attended every day in the afternoon. I don't remember if they did a morning show but those would have been well attended also. One feature here I did like a lot was the cameras they provided inside the ovens while working the glass. It does give a unique perspective and the people working the glass were always using them to monitor the creation in the works. The show seemed to be very long, about two hours each time. There was a small shop to show off some of the glass creations on the port side but nothing was for sale. They did offer to give away some of the pieces in a raffle each day as they were not allowed to sell them at sea. The starboard side of the ship had a small Lawn Club shop for souvenirs and Lawn Club wear. Jumping across the chasm to the forward side of the lawn club deck. Here was the younger cruisers hide out. This area was mostly dedicated to the teen and below age cruisers. We walked up here on the quiet day in St. Kitts. Around to the basketball court which while netted is not protected from the wind. I bet playing here would be a challenge to sink a shot from more the ten feet while the shop was in motion. Inside from the elevator area on the starboard side was the Fun Factory. An it was large - open and well constructed. I think there were two young ladies working here on the day we walked through and looked. They had a lot of new learning innovations, such as an interactive globe get information from. Also large screen TV's and covered blocks and painting areas and each cruiser would have their own storage nook. Walking back out to the port side was the video arcade. The games were nice and new but the prices a little steep as I thought. Forward of here was the Xclub for the teen cruisers to use whenever they would have liked. No one was about the area this day. This was a school in week cruise and I did not expect to see many teen's on the boat and did not.
Well walking outside and going forward you would see a stairwell up. This would have led you to the Solstice Deck. A large area for sun bathing and from the looks of it two hot tubs there. We did not venture up here as we had an event to attend. Well that sort of sums up the walk about the ship and what a ship.
I will say this is not your Grandmother's cruise ship. Celebrity has packed in a lot of extras like the hot glass, lawn club, a lot of specialty restaurants and bars and again so much more. We did get off the ship in Puerto Rico and my friends went to the Run Factory tour while Jenna and I walked up the hill to the fort and along the roadway along the ocean wall to fort del Morro. They had a small stand on the expansively large lawn area here. We stopped and bought two kites. One I gave to the ladies working the young cruisers and the other I flew off the ship in St. Kitts - a first for the ship. After I was done with it I presented it to Nick and Simon Weir to take out back and go to it. We got off the next day in St. Maarten and went to Dove Bay. I had thought this beach was still under repair. It was all there ready to go and the waves were nice to get in and swim about. The water was deep, warm and refreshing. You could rent chairs and umbrellas for $5 each. I did find one of if not the best value on the island. 75 cent Caribe beer. This was just like Carona and with a slice of lime in it cut the heat just right. These were their 1PM to 4PM happy hour prices. I was very happy I found this deal. We sat under the large palm and shaded area and watched the waves crash here for about an hour. I think the taxi ride was $6 each way per person. The roads are a bit winding here but offered a look into where the people on the island lived. We did get off in St. Kitts to go on a hunting expedition for Vanilla as I use a lot of it in backing cookies. We walked down the road to a local supermarket and found it. Labeled $9.95 per bottle. But that was the local currency prices. It ended up we got four bottles for twenty US dollars and got ten dollars back in local currency which we gave to the table wait staff. I don't think I had been to St. Kitts every 5 years or so. There were some kiddies on the ship but you never seemed to see them. We did run into them as a group in the Ocean View restaurant one afternoon. They were all dressed up as pirates and looked like they could take over the ship. It was their ice cream time and they were enjoying it. We ran into our two young cruisers from the small pool again here and they were just adorable. Parents should have pictures taken here as they may have missed out. One of the things I did try this time was to get something for every crew member on the ship. And I succeeded with another ship first. At the awards ceremony I presented the cruise staff with a 5 lb bag on M&M's for all the crew to share. Enough for them to all have one. ? I also brought about 20 bags of Skittles and 10 packs of Starburst. These I gave away to just about anyone on the ship. From Simon Weir to our bus boy. And speaking of Simon - I saw him about the ship every day. Checking into things and picking up discarded towels on the pool deck late one afternoon. This is a tireless job and Celebrity has chosen the right person to debut their new entry. Always in work mode and fun mode when it cam to the passengers and their comforts. A few other things before I close. The plastic wear / glasses they used looked like real glass. It was not till the third day I realized the blue glasses the bar staff were using were indeed - plastic. I then borrowed them every day to carry about my Rum and Coke - well in this case Pepsi. Walking about the ship all the time and into the bathrooms in just about every area one thing. They were always clean and tidy. The places where they had their small rolled towels to dry your hands is something very nice. The food and service was as always at the high Celebrity standards and I do not think I was ever disappointed with an offering. From my embarkation day seafood salad to the last days sit down breakfast of French toast. Excellent from start to Finish. Great service to go along with it in whatever venue we were in. I will say the first night I did freeze my hand to the Martini bar. And was lucky enough to get free before the end of the night. The redness from the hot water they had to pour on my hand to set me free has just about faded.
Disembarkation: The Solstice docked very early in Ft. Lauderdale. We were catching an early flight home and did the express checkout. This is where you hold your luggage and carry it all off on your own. We walked off the ship about 8am. The ship security staff check you off the ship as you leave with your sea pass. Then it's down the escalator or elevator with the luggage and over to customs. I don't think we bought more than $60 on the islands or the ship that we brought home. Out to the Taxi's and at the airport by about 8:30AM. Checked in the luggage and were ready to go before 9AM. I was wondering if we could have caught the earlier flight home that boarded about 9:20AM. Our flight was at 10:40AM. We were called right on time and away we went. My last bit of good luck was on the way home when the stewardess needed change for $100 and offered a free drink for the person who supplied it. Well one free rum and coke, Hank will be proud again, later I was doing real fine. The vacation ended just as it had started having a good time.
Ship Impressions: This ship is new and beautiful. They have packed a lot into this new entry and people seemed to not be able to take everything in. Well that means a repeat trip or two is in order. The public areas never seemed to be crowded even the pool well area on sea days. I would like to see when they hit summer what the crowd looks like - but I think not much different.
Trip: This was just a seven day cruise but you would need at least ten to really get to everything the ship had to offer. Maybe the new entry Equinox will handle the longer trips. There were four sea days and three island days. This is the mix I like. We had been to all the stops before but found something new to do at each place.
I hope I cover just about everything on the trip. I would like to thank everyone who was on the trip with me. Jenna, Eileen and Bob, Karen and Tim, Deb and Bill, Kathy and all the other cruise critic and friends I made along the way. I did blind deposit two more trips for ship board credit. So there is a lot of thinking going on for the next trip to sea. At this point I have cruised 30 weeks at sea and 24 cruises in all. Most of them with Celebrity. They seem to fit my likes with food and service. Keep planning - Keep Cruising. Maybe I will see you out there. Longboysfan Thomas Treimel Read Less
October 31st through November 4, 2008
We packed up and left the Mystique hotel (Santorini) on Halloween and flew from Santorini to Athens to stay at the Intercontinental hotel. The intercontinental hotel was Seabourn's cruise ... Read More
October 31st through November 4, 2008
We packed up and left the Mystique hotel (Santorini) on Halloween and flew from Santorini to Athens to stay at the Intercontinental hotel. The intercontinental hotel was Seabourn's cruise line's pre-cruise hotel and they had representatives there to answer questions and shepherd us through the sequence of boarding.
We decided that this hotel was too "5 star" to have authentic Greek food. I was dispatched in search of a Gyro. A plate of crackers in the hotel restaurant was on the menu for several hundred dollars - (let's not forget that they will deliver those crackers to your room for a 20% surcharge PLUS tip) Fairly typical for high end hotels.
Seabourn's rep called us that evening to let us know they were taking a bus tour prior to the ship to the Corinth canal and the ancient city of Corinth. At first this sounded like something that might be interesting, however I did a little research and found the Corinth Canal - which I always thought was built by the ancient Corinthians, was constructed by the FRENCH less than a hundred years ago. Therefore, the use of modern explosives to create a canal through solid rock is NOT as impressive as if they had done it by scratching it out with their hands, or banging stone aged instruments into the mountain until it was five hundred feet deep and miles long. We didn't go.
Next morning we got up early. Did a little sightseeing and then promptly at 11:30 am we stood in front of the hotel awaiting transport to the ship. A GINORMOUS (bigger than huge) Bus arrived to take us. There were only 8 of us who hadn't taken the tour to Corinth, therefore this bus was a bit of overkill for our small group. As this bus attempted to leave and maneuver down these small streets, a car was parked and the bus was unable to get through, The driver backed up for two blocks onto a busy highway to extricate us. A true feat of amazing prowess.
Moving between hotels and airplanes is an exhausting task, even if well organized. Seabourn, is unlike any of the other Cruise lines that we've been on and there have been many. There are no long lines to board. You arrive at the side of the ship, a staff member dressed in black waistcoat, and white gloves takes your bag and they lead you into an air-conditioned comfortable lounge aboard the ship. They bring refreshments to you and when they are ready for you they call your name, you walk to the front of the lounge, are greeted cordially (drink in your hand) and photographed for your onboard ID. Once registered you are escorted by another white gloved attendant to your suite.
We got into our suite and our stewardess immediately arrived with a silver tray, two glasses of champagne and hors d'oeuvres. You just want to melt into a comfortable puddle, it feels so good.
You are also given a choice of soaps and shampoos (all very upscale brands) for your suite's bathroom and a selection of pillows (foam, feather, formed etc.).
By the end of the first day every staff member aboard knows your name and greets you by name. THAT is an amazing feat and one which I have never seen on any other cruise line.
The feeling you get once aboard is that you are safe, can relax and someone will take care of everything for you. Kind of like that feeling you have (and don't realize you have it) when living with your parents as a child - before moving out on your own. No worries, someone else will do it or take care of it for you, your sole job is to go out and play.
We went to the top of the ship to enjoy the sail off from Athens harbor. They circulated with beverages for everyone at the rail, a small musical group sang a sophisticated brazilian bossa nova music. It was a beautiful experience.
Formal dinner this evening, with fantastic. Great food, tuxedos evening dresses and most everyone on their best behavior. We were invited to join the table of one of the ship's officers. We met new people, had great conversation and even better food. Upon returning to our cabin we found two glasses of brandi, a rose and strawberries and whipped cream waiting for us.
Seabourn has had a reputation since they were founded that whatever a guest wants, the crew will deliver. As the economy has taken a downturn and everyone is searching for ways to save money and still turn a profit, it has effected this cruise line. One of the staff told me that some of the passengers were making requests that were increasingly difficult to fulfill. "I'd like truffles that were gathered from a Patagonian swamp". They used to go to the Patagonian swam and GET those truffles and have them aboard by the time you arrives.
While the chef was personable and prepared his cuisine superlatively, a lack of proper provisioning (supply) became obvious. As an example; we were traveling through the Greek islands and I wished to have a traditional Greek/Turkish breakfast daily. That consists of a hardboiled egg, some crusty bread with butter and fresh olives. On our second day the normal olives disappeared and I got a dish of olives that were pitted along with some martini olives (complete with pimento). When I asked about it I started an escalating Olive fiasco culminating with a volunteered "olive tasting" organized by the chef. Unfortunately, there appeared not to be a single olive aboard the ship except those used in martinis and black pitted olives (all directly from a can).
One of my favorite dishes aboard a cruise or in an upscale restaurant is an Escargot appetizer. Two weeks aboard and they were unable to produce escargot (none aboard). Towards the end of the cruise my wife ordered cream of wheat for breakfast - they were out and had none. I can understand not having escargot, but cream of wheat is a staple of breakfast like eggs. In fact, I find it interesting that one of the other reviews at this site from the same ship but nearly a year ago made the same comment about lack of proper provisioning. I've been told that Seabourn's management reads these reviews, so hopefully they'll see a trend here and hire more forward thinking chefs who can provision properly for a luxury crowd.
Our visit today was our personal re-entry into Turkey. Fethiye, A seaside yachting town with a population of a few hundred thousand. We walked ashore and after twenty plus years. Some of our Turkish language came back to us. We had lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant, sitting out on the covered outside tables, with Ekmek (bread) and delicious dishes made with vegetables and lamb. It was wonderful. My wife has a three piece "puzzle"ring that we bought when we lived in Ismir. We went into a gold shop and saw one similar but larger on display, heavier and even more beautiful. Buying gold in Turkey is traditional. They don't charge for the craftsmanship, they weigh the piece and you pay for the weight of the gold and it's value.
Much has been said and written about Seabourn's complimentary shore excursion at Ephesus. Very probably the finest shore excursion experience to be found aboard any cruise line at any site in the world. A private, torch-lit evening in the ancient ruins of Ephesus. They close the entire ancient ruin site for Seabourn and it's two hundred guests, who are escorted into the ancient site along the road from the port where Anthony and Cleopatra once walked into Ephesus.
Ephesus, is of course, many miles from any city and therefore is mostly deserted except by tourists visiting the site. The first time we visited Ephesus (I was stationed as a military pilot with NATO nearby at Ismir, Turkey at the time) was to attend the "camel fights" taking place on the hills adjacent. The hills were covered by spectators dressed in a myriad of ways from full arab regalia to western wear - down at the bottom they turned two camels loose on each other and they fought. It was quite a sight. .
In my estimation, this was one of the most memorable experience we've ever had. At 8pm in the evening, everyone boarded buses and were driven to the ruins of Ephesus - 30 minutes from the port city of Kusadasi.
The ruins were lit by floodlights from horizon to horizon were pillars and remnants of ancient buildings many reconstructed to the point where it was easy to imagine walking down the street of this ancient city as a Roman or Ephesian. Without a doubt one of the finest archeological sites in the world.
Most sites of this sort, are so demolished that it is difficult to imagine what it looked like before its destruction. Dominating the scene as we walked into the city on this ancient main road (paved with huge rocks worn flat by thousands of years of traffic, chariot wheels etc.) Was a Roman Amphitheater. The Amphitheater was huge, an oval open on one side, surrounding a stage and rising up from around the stage to roughly 10 stories high. It was bathed in beautiful yellow light. We passed it and continued walking along the darkened main street for about half a mile through pools of light placed every so often to illuminate the road, as well as the buildings on both sides. As we approached a crossroad, "Roman Citizens" appeared standing on either side of the road, dressed in togas and other roman period dress down to the headgear, holding torches to illuminate our way.
Following the torch lit guides stationed on either side of the road; we finally reached the world famous Ephesus library façade. It was like you were Roman Royalty being escorted to the performance. We walked down some gently sloping stairs to about fifty tables each set with hors d'oeuvres and wine glasses. As we walked down the steps to the tables, young women Romans stood on either side with baskets of grapes, tangerines and other fruits offering them to us as we descended.
We took our seats (there was room for two couples at each table); a Gentleman walked out onto the steps of the library in front of us and introduced himself as the Mayor of Ephesus (a role, of course, since Ephesus now has no population). He spoke for several minutes discussing the politics of the Gods, which was essentially a soap opera styled introduction to Greek/Roman mythology. He concluded and a five piece chamber orchestra came out and performed for about an hour playing classical chamber music. It was a beautiful experience.
When the concert finished, we slowly walked the half mile or so back to the bus. There were four large buses waiting for us, each one filled and left as it filled. Well, being the photographer that I am, I was among the last few people returning to the sole remaining bus.
Adjacent to the parking lot where the bus was waiting was a short string of shops. Of course it was late, near 10pm, and all were closed except one. This shop had done a brisk business selling wraps to the unprepared ladies on the way in - the evening was crisply cool.
So as I walked down the final few hundred feet to the bus, I came up to this shop. The owner was standing in the middle of the street entreating people to enter and make one last purchase. He came up to me, entreating me in broken English. I told him in my very poor Turkish, "good evening, thanks for asking but sorry I can't stop the bus is waiting". He looked at me astounded, grabbed me in a big bear hug (he was a foot shorter than me, - a big barrel chested bearded Turkish man) kissed me on the cheek and began dragging me into his store. My wife, meanwhile, was about fifty yards further down and looking at me like "come on the bus is leaving, you idiot".
I couldn't get free without actually WRESTLING this guy to the ground (I'm six foot one and 235 pounds). He was apparently so impressed that ANYONE would actually attempt to speak to him in Turkish that he insisted on giving me a wrap (kind of like a pashmina) for my wife. As he drug me through the door of his shop, he asked me what color my wife's hair was. I said black, and he selected a beautiful wrap pressed it into my hands insisting it was a gift.
I was the last one onto the bus, but what a wonderful feeling.
We returned to the ship arriving at nearly 11pm. The ships crew was waiting on the dock with a giant banner reading "WELCOME HOME" A small musical group was cranking out some loud, very festive music, the crew was dancing around (kind of doing it in place because they were all holding the giant banner. A tuxedoed waiter had a silver platter full of drinks he was handing to each of us as we returned. Not wine but warm apple tea (a turkish specialty).
This would have capped a wonderful evening and experience, but it wasn't over YET.
We boarded to find (few had eaten dinner before we left) a barbeque on deck. Fantastic food, a superb band on stage (they have a stage set up on top of the hot tubs) playing rock and roll music that was incredibly good. People started dancing and eating, it was magnificent. The ONLY thing that could have made this evening better is if we had more family with us to share it. We didn't get to bed until after 1am.
Everyone stopped dancing and eating long enough to watch as we sailed out of Kusadasi to the sight of a castle lit up by flood lights and (not joking) a clear sky and beautiful moon over the vista.
Seabourn has one of these excursions aboard each cruise. It's free and everyone is invited. Frankly, I don't know why we even bother with any other cruise line. A vacation is supposed to allow you not only to relax, but also to provide memorable experiences. Seabourn has it down to a science and there's not a staff member aboard who doesn't make you feel like you are royalty and they have nothing better to do but wait on you hand and foot (and they appear to love doing it).
We arrived at Istanbul and it was the disembarkation point for those who were only aboard for 7 days (we have two back to back). It was a bit sad to see most of the people we'd gotten to know get off. We are now two of only sixty Americans among 200 passengers, roughly about 25%. The majority of the rest of the passengers are now European, French, Dutch, German and South African (which at one time was a Dutch colony in Africa).
Disembarkation: Alexandria, Egypt - our last day aboard the ship. We are supposed to vacate our cabins by 8 am to allow the stewardess to prepare it for the next guests. After two weeks it feels like we're leaving home. I awoke at 5:30 am (nautical twilight) just as the sky was brightening. A look out our window told me we were almost there. I didn't want to miss seeing the sail into this ancient and very famous harbor. What I saw out the window was miles and miles of lights on the horizon. Alexandria is flat and narrowly situated along the ocean with a relatively short depth inland. I also saw about five cruise ships abreast of us sailing in the same direction. the ancient capitol of Cleopatra's Egypt is now fully gone and replaced with ramshackle apartment buildings. It's the end of the tourist season with bad weather descending across Europe and nearly everyone is headed either directly across the Atlantic to the Caribbean or through the Suez Canal to the Orient, Australia, India and Indonesia. Our ship will continue on the later itinerary. We said goodbye to all of our newly acquired friends yesterday, dispensed a few gratuities to particularly worthy staff (Seabourn, by the way, is one of the few cruise lines where gratuities are not part of the equation, i.e, they are neither required or expected - however, they were certainly DESERVED so we violated their policy and rewarded some of the particularly excellent staffers)
Evening prior to departure is always difficult, because all of a sudden you have things you MUST do. We packed our bags had a very nice dinner, a couple of drinks and proceeded up to the night club. The night club is where a tiny, tiny casino is located. We've avoided all gambling while aboard not wishing to spoil our vacation by losing the amount of cash we brought along to buy junk food while ashore. My wife wanted to play the slot machines. She took $20 and disappeared into a small backroom which held all of the slots (about four machines) leaving me standing next to the card tables. There were only two tables - one was blackjack and the other was five-card poker, you play against the dealer and whoever has the best hand wins. Sounds simple, but if the dealer doesn't get at least an ace and a king, then they don't have to pay you your full bet. There was one man sitting dead center of the five chairs facing the dealer, all by himself. He didn't look happy. So I walked up and asked him if he cared which side I sat at, on his left or right. Some people who gamble are superstitious about that. He said he didn't care. Based upon that I seated myself on his left, which effectively caused me to begin receiving the hands that the dealer would have been getting if he continued to play alone. I judged from his sour demeanor that he was losing to the dealer. Turned out to be right. I started winning and in several hands lost only one. My wife came out of the slots after depositing her funds into the chute while listing to banging, whistling and chiming (something hypnotic about that garbage). She'd lost her twenty. I, however, had won a total of $375 while she was feeding her money into the slots. I offered to give her another twenty to take back into the pit but she declined. AND....... she hates standing around watching me gamble and won't even blow on the dice. So, we walked away winners (using the royal "we"). My winnings more than paid all the gratuities and left us in plenty of money for snickers bars. Arriving in Alexandria, I went up to the top deck where the view is the best. A magnificent sunrise, one like I haven't seen in a long time. The sun rose in the east (as usual- I thought we were headed south, but somehow the ship was sailing into the harbor to the north (I still can't figure out how that was possible, but it was). The sun came up a flaming red ball and was obscured so much you could actually look right at it as it rose over the buildings.
We got off the ship and boarded a beautiful 50-passenger bus for transfer to the hotel in Cairo. Leaving a cruise ship is a catharsis. You walk out of an environment where dozens of people are standing around just waiting to rush off and bring you a drink, or a snack and are plunged into the ice water of the real world where you are once again responsible for doing everything yourself. It's a shock.
Once again, everyone (all the other disembarking passengers) had opted to go on some sort of marathon tours and were hustled into little VW buses.
We, however, along with only three other couples had declined and opted for direct transportation to the arranged hotel. We had the entire bus to ourselves and they put a tour guide aboard who spoke English and gave us a running dissertation of everything we saw as we proceeded to the hotel. It was as good as any tour we could have paid for aboard the ship.
The bus dropped us off at the four seasons Cairo, Seabourn's post cruise hotel, which is directly on the Nile River in the center of Cairo. They gave us a beautiful room (this hotel reminds me of Las Vegas, all marble, flowers and well dressed employees everywhere). Our room was near the top of the hotel and overlooked the Cairo zoo and the Pyramids. This is the first time we've utilized Seabourn's pre-cruise and post-cruise hotels and transfers. It couldn't have been better.
In a nutshell, Seabourn is unparalleled in my experience (we do one or two cruises a year and have been doing so since the early nineties). Where other lines have gotten more and more crowded, Seabourn caters to a smaller crowd. Boarding on Holland America as an example entails lines and much waiting (even if you've booked their top suites). Seabourn is like arriving at a private residence where you are the only guest.
While the ships are relatively small, all of the amenities are there. One notable exception is their on board store which is poorly equipped. The only two things I can fault are the lack of provisioning (running out of cream of wheat/no olives or escargot) and that I haven't been able to buy a simple T-shirt that says Seabourn on it on either of our last two cruises. It's impossible to buy a traditional t shirt, but if you want upscale merchandise, it's there (a Ralph Lauren golf shirt or a hermes scarf or a very expensive watch). All of that is a minor distraction among the nearly perfect experience that Seabourn provides. Read Less
Let me open with a brief comment on why we took this trip. We completed a Regent cruise in April '08 with considerably less than positive results:
After ... Read More
Let me open with a brief comment on why we took this trip. We completed a Regent cruise in April '08 with considerably less than positive results:
After addressing this with Regent Corporate and receiving what we believed was a concerted effort to deny the existence of our issues, we began to believe it may really be our perception of what cruising should be. On a lark we went back to a Crystal Cruise to see if we were so hardened on this cruse thing our expectations were totally out of line. We discovered they were not. Crystal is truly luxury, and Regent might as well be a very expensive Princess Cruise.
As an example, on the very first day of our Crystal cruise, my i-pod/ MP3 player froze and would not operate. Believing it to be a battery issue I went to the front desk to ask if they had a charger. The desk person, Anna Marie pulled one out, player still didn't work. She then went to her own cabin to use hers, it still didn't work, she called the ship's IT to help, it still didn't work. She then went on the Internet for a resolution, and fixed it. A small thing, but a huge indication of the efforts of the crew to make things right. We were home again at Crystal.
Crew: Typical Crystal attention to the customer with greetings in the passageway by officers all the way to hull painters. You are treated as a guest, not a number. I believe this is what may set Crystal apart from all other lines. The sense is we are a welcome addition, not an intrusion like we felt on Regent. What a delight.
Food: All in all, very good. Only one marginal night, and all of our dishes were not up to par, must have been the chef's night off. The rest was terrific and I can't figure out how all the fish dishes always came out perfectly, wow. Service was superb, all special orders handled quickly and were delicious. Silk Road (Specialty Nobu restaurant) is great. Service, while good, is not up to par with the main dining room, but food was over the top delicious. Mornings on the Lido deck was consistently good and the deck grill put our some wonderful burgers and steak sandwiches. As always, the crew did anything they could to please. You asked, they provided.
Room: Think we did like Regent's better, a bit more room and the bath more conventional. We believed Crystal made a mistake with the new glass vessel bath sinks, intrusive and difficult to keep clean. Turn the water on full, and you'll only do that once as it blew over the edges. All else nice. Two robes, one light cotton and one plush for each room guest was grand. Room service was typically Crystal extraordinary.
Entertainment: Mixed feelings about this one. Previous Crystal cruises the entertainers were spot on and well rehearsed. Not this time. "The Envelop Please" was very poor with one of the front line entertainers unable to get his lines straight the entire performance. Not sure what happened here, so we just passed to the rest of the shows and entertained ourselves, so can't comment if this was poor through all the shows.
Ports: Cabo OK, Mazablan, probably wouldn't get off the ship to see it again, Puerto Viarta, very nice. Clean, old Mexico. The City has obviously put a great deal of effort in to make things right. That stop was worth the trip.
All in all, a wonderfully positive experience back on Crystal. It's by far our favorite line . . . this is what cruising is all about. No more experiments, we're back. Read Less
I flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on November 28, 2008 and stayed at the beautiful Marriott in San Jose. After one night there, I left the bulk of my luggage in storage and took a very small plane to Punta Islita, a small, beautiful resort on ... Read More
I flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on November 28, 2008 and stayed at the beautiful Marriott in San Jose. After one night there, I left the bulk of my luggage in storage and took a very small plane to Punta Islita, a small, beautiful resort on the coast in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Here I spent five nights in a deluxe casita, enjoying their awesome views, two gorgeous pools, and a variety of flora and fauna. Taking the tiny plane back to San Jose, I once again checked into the Marriott San Jose and reclaimed my luggage (Nature Air, the planes that fly to the smaller resorts in Costa Rica, only allow 30 lbs of luggage onboard!). Thanks to CruiseCritic.com's message boards, I had "met" two gentlemen who were also on my Seabourn Legend Panama Canal cruise, December 5-19, that were staying at the Marriott San Jose. We shared a ride to the port (Caldera) and ended up seeing each other, and sharing dinner and/or drinks on the ship, several times during the entire sailing. A very wonderful feature of CruiseCritic.com's boards!
Embarkation was very easy on the Legend, as always. We handed over our luggage and went up the walkway into the King Olav lounge, where the usual took place (handing over your passport, getting your security and cabin cards, etc.). Didn't have to hang around too long until they whisked me off to my cabin (131) and my luggage arrived in short order. I had shipped ahead one very large bag via Seabourn's Valet Service, and Seabourn had cleverly put the bag onboard in Fort Lauderdale two weeks' prior, so it sailed to me and met me in Caldera. Smart! I was very happy with my cabin; deck 4 and midship. We did have a couple of rough sailing days, so the location was very excellent.
Cabins: In other reviews of Seabourn ships, I do carry on about the cabins. The reason is that they are beautiful. I love the huge picture windows with the tiny "window seat". On sea days, or in the early morning or late evening, I will perch there and stare dreamily out at the ocean. The bathrooms are functional and roomy, with lots of towels, cleaned twice a day by a hard working stewardess. Moulton Brown lotions, etc., replenished as you need them. Walk in closet. Very fast laundry and pressing services (you do pay a premium for same day). After a particularly adventuresome excursion later in the trip (white water rafting), I even asked them to wash my tennis shoes, they were horribly grungy. Have never seen them cleaner!
We had three formal nights on this itinerary, two casual nights, and every other night was elegant casual. Seabourn tends to be a dressy ship and this suits me fine; one of the reasons I ship a bag ahead is that I love to "dress" for the occasion of the day; tea at four? Formal Night? Rock the Boat? Whatever it is, I have an outfit for it. If this isn't your thing, don't worry. You can relax and wear whatever you want and you'll fit in just fine. For me, it's just part of the fun.
Food: One of the highlights of any Seabourn trip. At one evening meal, there was a young lady who told us she was on the ship "changing over" the menus. Seabourn's food is not only delicious (and varied), but each plate is a work of art. I snapped several pictures of said food before it vanished (the most beautiful usually being their desserts). Very good, in fact this is my fourth Seabourn cruise and I think it was the best food-wise. One night I actually had dinner in "2", the Veranda restaurant on deck 7 that becomes a tasting menu at night. Excellent! And very personal attention there, too. They also had a galley brunch, where you went through their galley and there were different stations of food: sushi, meats, breads, cheeses, desserts, salads; fun to see where everything was prepared and quite a spread. We especially appreciate being introduced to the many chefs who prepared our food and how many different specialty cooks there are!
Gym: Small but has everything you need. And I was on that treadmill EVERY single day!
Entertainment: On this cruise we had a variety of fun entertainment. There was a lady magician who was truly brilliant. I will be honest with you and say that her humor was a little off-color for me. But she was extremely good at magic and everyone seemed to like her very much. We also had a classical guitarist and a piano player. The cruise directors on Seabourn double as the talent. Matt and Rachel had fantastic voices and not only helped you out around the ship during the day, but sang wonderful songs for you at night. Two exceptional singers, Speedy and Christina, were up at the Midnight Lounge late in the evening. I can honestly tell you I've never heard a ballad sung more beautifully than Speedy (a young man from the Philippines) sang them. He was very special! Then they all made us laugh and dance at Rock the Boat, a special evening out on the decks singing 60's, 70's, 80's, etc. music. And what a beautiful night we had for it. On this itinerary through Central America, the humidity made the days a bit steamy, but the nights balmy and gorgeous. That was a fun night! Also of course are the trivia teams (my team ended up with zero. Yes, zero, after four days...oh well we had fun)...and Liar's Club, where you have to guess the meaning of some obscure word you've never heard of. More fun!
Ports of Call: On my prior Seabourn trips, I have sailed to the Caribbean, where I usually scuba dive in every port. I arrange all those trips myself, so I never went on any Seabourn excursions before this Panama Canal cruise. What a great time I had! Some of them you had to travel quite a distance, and once (the river rafting trip) was over very, very bumpy roads, but the excursions themselves were great. Zip lining in San Juan Del Sur was a blast. Don't be scared to do it; they are so safety conscious, give you good instructions, and it's really very easy! In Puerto Moin I went to a sloth sanctuary. I've never seen these animals before and I loved them to pieces. We even saw baby sloths! Adorable! Bless these people for caring for these little creatures. The one excursion I didn't really care for all that much was a little boat trip out to Monkey Island (Panama City), which was right in the canal itself. Hot, humid day and we saw I think two monkeys, that was it. But we also went through a butterfly house and saw some interesting snakes (and one snakeskin about 13 feet long after it had been shed!), which was educational! Of course Seabourn does their fantastic beach barbeque, and on this itinerary it was on Hunting Caye in Belize. They start early in the morning carting over the linen and silver and china, and set up a spectacular day for their guests. They take out their water toys and you spend the day eating, sunning, playing, and generally having a blast. Oh, and don't forget caviar in the surf, one of Seabourn's signature feasts!
Service: As usual, Seabourn tops the charts with their service. The crew is friendly and professional and know your name and greet you warmly every time they see you! It's such a lovely feeling. Seabourn's small size (208 maximum guests; we had 194 on this sailing) makes it easier to get to know others for the time you're on board. Since all passengers were on for 14 days (I usually do two back to back Caribbean cruises; passengers come and go after 7 days), I got to know alot of very nice people and enjoyed my time with them. Sailing as a solo, Seabourn will give you a printed invitation to a hosted table every night in the restaurant for dinner. I accepted almost every evening, and got to know alot of my fellow passengers that way, too. Really a delightful feature of this exceptional line.
Extras: As I was in Costa Rica a week before I ever boarded Seabourn, I somehow managed to run out of my migraine medicine, and Excedrin, both of which keep me from having horrid migraines. I talked to the doctor on board and he found Relpax for me in Panama City, but Excedrin is not to be found in Central America. Was I in trouble! A couple of days later, my doorbell rings (yes, the cabins have doorbells on Seabourn!). I opened my door and there was the doctor with a bottle of Excedrin in his hand. Where on earth did he get it? Well some executives from Seabourn Miami had come on board in Honduras, and apparently it had been communicated that a passenger on the Legend needed Excedrin. So someone brought it, just for me. That to me is an example of why Seabourn has taken over the number one spot with Conde Nast's Traveler this year in small ship ratings. They will go to any length to give their passengers the best service they possibly can. Thank you Seabourn!
In Honduras and in Belize I made my own arrangements to dive. I wasn't that impressed with the diving, to be quite honest! I wish I'd done the dolphin swim in Honduras, as that was something I really had wanted to try. I heard good things about it. I also heard that Belize was a very depressing city to go into (many of them were, as was Grenada in Nicaragua), but at least I got in a couple of days of scuba.
The canal transit was wonderful, and seeing it on Seabourn of course was terrific. They had a lecturer aboard that talked about everywhere we were sailing, and gave information about the canal as well. If you do consider doing this itinerary, I would suggest the fascinating book "Path Between the Seas", a history of the building of the Panama Canal. I had read the book before I sailed on the Legend and it enriched the experience for me.
After two sea days we reached Ft. Lauderdale and of course, had to leave. The only part of any Seabourn cruise that I dislike. Somehow Seabourn brought us into a section of the port where we were absolutely the only ship disembarking, and the hall we used had only Seabourn passengers in it. It was a snap to pick up your luggage, go through customs, and get a car to the airport. Once again, a privileged position since you are sailing with this line!
I tell myself this on every sailing: at any given time, only about six hundred people on earth are sailing on a Seabourn ship. I consider myself very fortunate to ever be one of them. I do hope I will sail with them again, sooner rather than later! Read Less
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful ... Read More
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful and had not only a lovely dining area overlooking the ocean and pool, but great food. I was pleasantly surprised. Santa left us cookies and candies and a lovely passport folder. Many suite doors were decorated. One suite was apparently done to the hilt.
Having never sailed on Regent, Voyager, just out of a major dry dock work was to be under my scrutiny. Because I am so 'wedded' to Seabourn, I couldn't imagine that it could be as nice. Different and good, but not as nice. Well it was.
Embarkation was a breeze and I was given a wheelchair assist through the process. I did not need one once onboard. Disembarkation was a mess attributed to the slowness of the luggage handlers off-loading. We got off early, but later, I understand it was a zoo as all colors were called at once.
The decor and layout of the ship was very good, lots of nooks and crannies for reading, napping, and card playing. We did all three a lot. The top deck with the pool, jacuzzis and Veranda Cafe and Pool Grill were very crowded on sea days and to be avoided. However, on the port days, I didn't get off (except for a brief trolley tour in Curacao and it was ok.) The 'show theater' had a balcony and i even watched 'Mama Mia' in it. Always cold, the best entertainment was the Crew Capers the last night. The crew is mostly from the Philippines and performed folk dances and singing. I found out my favorite crew member (Manny of Room Service) was the star and choreographer. Otherwise, the entertainment was pretty poor and to be avoided. Christmas Eve there was carol singing in the atrium and a holiday show that was ok, including the numerous children on board who sang carols. Actually the many children had onboard programs and were not annoying to me at all. I even found the team in the scavenger hunt trying to find 4 crew to pose for the YMCA logo quite amusing.The dumb parents who took toddlers in diapers in the hot tubs were just that, dumb. I did see cool towels being passed about in the afternoon.
There were lots of activities, always a tea time with music and a 'quiet tea' in another spot. Nice idea. I played Trivia once. It was difficult and the first day, came in second with a score of 6. the winners got 7/15. I mean, who knew that Melanie of the Spice Girls was the first to put out a single record? Besides, the afternoon time, 4:00 was inconvenient to my nap times. I am looking to the blood sport of Trivia on the Legend Crossing in November. The library was very good and belatedly I found out I could have gotten the NY Times delivered daily (for a fee, of course). There was a huge computer room and a coffee nook as well. While there were DVDs available, there was a large on-demand selection of movies of which to avail. Loved the 'Bee Movie', great humor for adults. The TV channels left much to be desired. FNN, CNN, ESPN, and TNT. Never set foot in the spa, gym, casino, or boutiques. Listened to one of the enrichment lecturers on TV replay, interesting about Obama and the challenges he faces nationally; missed part II of the international dilemmas. Smokers seemed rare and there was a cigar room. Never went in there, either.
The food was very good, varied with lovely presentations. The main dining venue is the Compass Rose, large and serving all 3 meals. Two specialty restaurants, Signatures which is to be 'cordon bleu' and Prime 7, a steak house. Both were smaller and more intimate. We ate at both twice and were pleased. On time we joined a table of 6 others and that was fun. Room service is always my favorite, breakfast with a great omelet was the treat. Bar service at the pool was fine, but they can't make a BBC like Nelson on Seabourn. I switched to the Blue Hawaii, a drink from my past, and a virgin Madras, which I learned was cranberry and grapefruit juice without the vodka.
The weather was lovely, soft bouncing on some nights. People complained, but I had two balsa angels on a narrow shelf and they never moved, nor did the apple perched atop a narrow dresser top. Speaking of the dresser, the layout of the suite with a balcony was delightful. Bigger than Seabourn (not including the balcony) and with a huge walk-in closet and bathroom with both shower and tub. And, the sofa was large enough to stretch out and actually nap comfortably. It did, however, lack a comfy throw to ward off the a/c chill. The table was enlarged with a plastic top for dining. That was a bit wobbly, but we managed. The bed was great, with a comfy duvet and I actually had real 'Turkish' towels! The itinerary was ok, because I have been to most of the islands and to me they are all alike and with not much to buy. My partner wandered off in most ports and in Aruba found a grocery store and we had good Edam cheese on which to nibble. He found St Lucia grim and the others fair to poor. Many of the tours were more vigorous than I could do or care to. The one trip, deep sea fishing, was closed before the cruise started. Embarkation was a breeze as was disembarkation, after the hour wait because of slow teamsters unloading the luggage. We had a car waiting, and were charged some extra time, but it helped to make our early flights. From checking out of the ship (9:40) to my gate at FLL was 40 minutes. But we were off in the first crush.
I did not book another cruise onboard, but with the right itinerary, would certainly go again.
ABOVE ALL, WE FOUND THE COURTESY AND FRIENDLINESS OF THE STAFF TO BE 5***** Read Less
Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized ... Read More
Nothing in the last thirty years of cruising could have prepared me for the let down of this 16 night Panama Canal Cruise. Celebrity Cruise line should refund every passenger on this trip, their money, immediately. This trip was organized by my friends for my 50th Birthday, and was researched very carefully... what follows will make you think twice about boarding either of the Azamara ships. What you are about to read has not been embellished one iota, and can all be substantiated by other guests.
The good news is... the boarding process was seamless. We went directly to our "Sky Suite" to unpack. The press on this ship had stated the Azamara Journey had undergone a major remodel eighteen months previously. There was no indication of this upon entering our suite. Yes, the suite was rather small, and the bathroom miniscule, but it did appear to be clean, although extremely dated. There was no way this room had been fully remodeled eighteen months ago. Immediately the "Butler" (he is nothing more than a housekeeper with a bowtie) showed up introduced himself, and told us that if we needed anything, to just pick up the phone. He had a smile on his face throughout the entire cruise and did a great job keeping our room clean. After unpacking we caught up with our friends and we did a tour of the ship. We were expecting the five- star ship the Celebrity Cruise line was touting. We expected the ship to look just as it did in the advertising photos. Even an untrained eye could see the rust, the cracks, the dirt, the scratches, drapery rods with no draperies, lounge chairs that desperately needed to be varnished, I could go on, but why bother, we have bigger fish to fry. No one could explain why, but we set sail almost an hour and a half late. We missed the sunset and the fanfare that one normally looks forward to when you set sail. We should have known this was the start of a very long "Journey" to say the least. The open seating in the Discovery Dining Room is a great idea, and the fact that you do not have to dress up if you do not want to is an added bonus. However, do not expect dinner to take anything less than two-and- a- half hours in any restaurant on this ship. That is unless you have a desire to eat average cafeteria food, if so you can eat the buffet dinner in the "Windows Cafe". The menus in the Discovery restaurant create such mouth watering expectations that when you taste the food, you are in shock. What happened to the savory food that was described so elegantly in the menu? Why was it taking so long between courses? Why when we specifically told our waiter that one of our guests was deathly allergic to Bell Pepper would he continue to put dishes that contained bell pepper in front of her? The food was so bad in this restaurant that after four days of torture we made contact with the Food and Beverage Manager who kindly and graciously arranged for all of our meals to be upstairs in the two "Specialty Restaurants." More on this later. The first day, we were at sea, and we went to the gym. It was very clean, a great view of the water, and had all the right equipment one would expect. After about fifteen minutes on the treadmill we kept hearing some loud screaming coming from down a hallway and figured there was an aerobic class in progress. The screaming became more piercing and desperate to the point that many of us got off the lifecycle and went towards the door to see what the commotion was, but before we could get to the door a security guard closed the door. We were a bit confused as to what was going on, so we went through the spa and came out the other side of the hallway to an encounter that do not think any of us shall soon forget. It was almost as if we had stepped into a CSI crime scene. A security guard was telling us to "be careful" as we passed. There were bloody handprints and blood splattering on the outside of the first white paneled elevator doors. As we moved further along we could see that four or five other security guards had what sounded like two maniacs trapped in the other open elevator. It was totally surreal. Whoever was trapped in the elevator was screaming inappropriate racial remarks against the security guards who were from varying nations. In all the years we have travelled on ships we have never seen anything like this. We found it all deeply disturbing and went down to our rooms. Later we discovered that it was a father and son who had been drinking, and the son, who supposedly had never had any alcohol before, reacted badly to drinking and temporarily lost his mind. Everyone was expecting these two to be thrown off the ship at the first port, but surprisingly, they remained. And no surprise to any of us, a few ports later the drunken father was screaming at the drunken son outside of the ship, "I don't care if you walk home!" And with that he got on the boat leaving his intoxicated son to figure out what to do next. Passengers should not be subjected to this kind of behavior. Ever. There is no excuse for this. What more could I say about the itinerary except that on Christmas the cruise line had us in Costa Rica, and on and New Year's eve had us in Cabo San Lucas. All of the shopping was closed in Costa Rica. Whereas we were in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, on December 26th, where there is absolutely nothing to buy, and truly no reason to ever visit. This port should be taken off the itinerary, but is probably much cheaper for the cruise line to land in, because you end up staying there longer than you do when you dock in Acapulco, which is a shame, because in Acapulco you truly could use two days to see the scenery. None of the itinerary makes any sense, except maybe to the corporate office. As the cruise wore on, so did everyone's nerves. People were complaining left and right about the food, the accommodations, and the horrific third rate vaudeville performers. It appeared to everyone on the ship that one hand did not know what the other hand was doing. It was quite confusing, because all in all the staff was wonderful in their attitude. It was not until later in the cruise that we discovered that over fifty percent of the staff had never been on this ship before we sailed out of Miami. Most of them had never been on a cruise ship before. What was the head office of Celebrity thinking? The two high end restaurants "Prime C" and "Aqualina" did deliver better food than the other sources on the ship. However, this quality of food is what should have been delivered in the Dining Room to all of the guests on a daily basis. The high end restaurants on the "Journey" should be providing a higher quality product than what they have presented here. The staff was much more knowledgeable and attentive in these venues. It was a consensus on the ship that the Head Chef should be fired. In the daily activity program that is slipped under your door every night there was an article about the new head chef that had decided to change all of the round plates to square plates, and in doing so, Azamara was happy to announce they were incurring a major extra expense because square covers did not exist! Who is this chef? We have a news flash for you. How about keeping the round plates; and with the money you are saving hire proper chefs and purchase better quality food. In all of the years we have cruised, everyone in our party agreed, none of us could remember having such horrific food. If Azamara is going to advertise the "Journey" and the "Quest" as "Five Star" ships then they should hire someone to walk stern to bow and point out the obvious issues. Why are the coffee machines breaking down? Why are the Juice machines malfunctioning? Why are the water machines not working? Why is there not a menu on the wall at the Pool Side Grill? Why is the staff allowing glass items to be served anywhere around the pool area? Why have you run out of honey? Why have you run out of Butter? Why have you run out of Peanut Butter? Why did you run out of steaks, and why would you purchase them from Panama? Why have you run out of vegetables? Why are running out of desserts? Why would you leave port without all of the obvious provisions necessary? You want to know why? We will tell you what the cruise ship employees told us. The reason we were late leaving Miami was because the provisions were late being boarded and the Captain finally said, "Enough is Enough!" And off we went in the dark without enough provisions. You are kidding us right? This is a joke, right? Sadly it was not. We were asked to fill out response cards at the end of cruise and to drop them personally in the boxes located on the fourth floor @ "Guest Relations" Everyone we spoke to yesterday said they marked their response card saying they would never take another cruise on Azamara, and they would definitely never recommend Azamara to anyone in the future. It will be very interesting to see how many of those response cards end up in corporate hands. I can honestly say our party was never so happy to see land, as it was today when we finished my 50th birthday party cruise!
PS... As other reviews have pointed out... This ship is not handicap friendly. Read Less
Background Information: I flew to Singapore and spent 2 nights there before embarking on the Silver Whisper (voyage 4838) to travel back to Sydney (my home).
Hotel Information: My first night in Singapore was at the Swissotel and the ... Read More
Background Information: I flew to Singapore and spent 2 nights there before embarking on the Silver Whisper (voyage 4838) to travel back to Sydney (my home).
Hotel Information: My first night in Singapore was at the Swissotel and the second night, which was part of my package deal, was at the Fairmont. Both hotels are part of the one complex with a giant shopping centre underneath. I have been to Singapore many times so I spent these 2 days shopping and relaxing. I also went on the Singapore Flyer which is a short walk from the hotel. Both of these hotels are very nice and I can definitely recommend them for their location. The MRT train station is located underneath the shopping centre and it is extremely easy and cheap to travel around on this train.
Embarkation: I was driven to the cruise terminal during a heavy monsoonal rain shower - this storm lasted several hours. When we got to the cruise terminal my driver was able to drive right up to the waiting Silversea staff, easily identifiable with their umbrellas. I was escorted straight to the baggage drop off point and then directed to the boarding area. Boarding was to commence at 3pm and I was an hour early. Around 240pm boarding commenced and after a short walk to the ship I was met by some of the crew standing in line (all wearing white gloves), smiling and welcoming everyone on board. I was ushered into the Viennese Lounge where a photo was taken and I was given my access card in a vinyl wallet. Then it was around to the Bar, where a glass of champagne or a fruit cocktail and some huge king prawns and canapEs were offered. It was here that I met a very nice couple from Glasgow, Scotland.
Cabin: A member of the staff then accompanied me to my Vista suite, 411, on Deck 4. I was pleased to see my luggage was already in the walk-in wardrobe. My room was an absolute delight, queen size bed and down pillows that were a dream to sleep on, sitting area, marble bathroom with double vanity and a bath. A bowl of fresh fruit and my pre-ordered alcohol was sitting on the desk and I packed it into my fridge. I might add here that I never saw my cabin stewardess until the 2nd week of the cruise. I thought that this was a bit odd since others were talking about how friendly and helpful their steward/stewardess was. Therefore I wasn't offered a choice of toiletries, I just accepted the Bulgari that were sitting on the bathroom vanity. I love Bulgari so I was very happy with it. I'm a very low maintenance solo cruiser so meeting my stewardess late into the cruise was not a problem for me. For anyone interested, suite 411 is at the front of the ship and is quite noisy due to the anchor and all the other mechanical devices that are at work when arriving/departing ports. Also when the swells are high, the waves and wind pound into the window. I got used to these noises pretty quickly as I'm used to noise, living on a busy street however if you need quiet, I would suggest a suite midship.
Silversea really look after their solo women cruisers. I found an invitation to a solo cocktail reception after sailing and I met a lot of solo ladies who cruise only with Silversea. A few of them have over 350 days. I was very impressed with the way I received dinner invitations on the formal nights to sit at an officer's table. During one of these evenings, I met a couple who invited me for champagne and canapEs, served by their butler, in the Royal Suite. It was so spacious and beautifully decorated however it was on Deck 7 and had too much movement for my liking. I also had the opportunity to view the Owner's suite - it was divine.
Activities: There was something for everyone, for example, aqua aerobics, pilates, yoga, aerobics, stretch and relax classes, table tennis, golf putting, dancing classes with the gentlemen hosts (who were charming), bridge classes, needlepoint, water volleyball, shuffleboard, fitness seminars (more about those later), team trivia, daily crossword and Sudoku puzzles, the daily Silver Quiz (which was really difficult however I managed to win one!), culinary demonstration from the Viking Cooking School. This was very interesting as we had a chocolate tasting and learnt how to make chocolate truffles as well as porcini mushroom, goat cheese and walnut truffles. There was a galley tour and a navigational tour, enrichment lectures by various people and language lessons in Italian and Spanish.
The fitness area is small but I never found it over crowded. I was always able to get a piece of equipment and it's very pleasant walking on a treadmill and looking out to sea.
Port & Shore Excursions: There was a change in our itinerary and we anchored and overnighted in Padang Bay (Bali). I booked the elephant safari and after a long drive in a mini van (nearly 2 hours) and with a police escort, we arrived. This was great and such a lovely environment for the elephants. They put on a show for us and then they painted pictures using their trunks. These "paintings" are available for sale and as I understand it, the proceeds go towards the upkeep of the park. We then had a ride on an elephant for about 30 minutes, ending up in a big pool for them to wander around in. When we approached the pool, there were handlers nearby to take your camera and take lots of photos of you in the pool. We then had a buffet lunch then drove back to the ship with the police escort, stopping at a Balinese handicraft shop with very expensive carvings etc for sale. This elephant safari was a great experience - a definite must-do.
About two hours after leaving Padang Bay, we had a medical emergency and the captain advised us during dinner that we would have to turn around and go back to Bali to evacuate the passenger. I did not find out any more information about this incident.
Next port was Darwin, where I did the Lichfield National Park tour. This was another long drive on an extremely hot and humid day. We stopped to see the giant termite mounds, a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole, then an Aussie barbeque lunch (barramundi or beef). This lunch ended up being rushed because the restaurant wasn't ready for our group when we arrived and then we had to hurry to get on the bus to get back to the ship in time. I didn't think that this trip was worth the US$199 (a lot more when converted to A$).
Thursday Island was the next port of call. We tendered into town. It was extremely hot and like a ghost town, nothing was open. I managed to buy a fridge magnet and was so bored that I went back to the ship. One passenger did the helicopter tour and said it was great so if you get the chance to go to this little island at the top of Australia, put the helicopter tour on your must-do list.
Cairns was next. I've been to Cairns several times so I just got off the ship and walked around the city and the shops. Other passengers loved the Kuranda Skyrail and train tour (it is fantastic) and of course, the visit to the reef and snorkel - Silversea charter a boat and provide a wonderful lunch on board whilst you swim and snorkel. Another must-do if you are in this part of the world.
We anchored at Hamilton Island next. A catamaran had been organized to ferry us all into the marina. There were several tours available however having been to this area before and having not seen the reef from the sky, I did the scenic seaplane tour. This was a 1 hour flight and was an awesome experience. We flew over the islands, out to Hardy Reef and the Heart Reef, landed in the sea at Whitehaven Beach and then took off and flew back to Hamilton Island. This was fantastic and a must-do. I would definitely do it again. The view of the Great Barrier Reef from the air is amazing and at the end of the trip we were all given a DVD as a souvenir. The little seaplane held 14 passengers but there was only 8 of us on board so most of us had a window seat.
Brisbane was our last port of call. I visited friends so didn't do any tours there.
Arrival in Sydney, my home town. It was very disappointing because our last night was extremely rough (we'd had perfect weather the whole way up to then) and Sydney was overcast, windy and quite awful for the middle of December. I had hoped for a lovely sunny morning but alas, crap weather. We managed to rock and roll excessively through the Sydney heads and into the harbor where we cruised down towards the harbor Bridge and Opera House. I guess I'm biased but Sydney has got to be the most beautiful harbor in the world!
Entertainment: I went to a few shows, but generally I dined late and I preferred to sit and chat with my fellow diners who happened to be great people all from Scotland. Sometimes we got to the shows and sometimes we didn't. I did see Jane Rutter, the Australian flautist who was very entertaining. There was a virtuoso pianist, Tian Jiang, who was supposed to be very good. Unfortunately I missed his performance. Our cruise director, Helga, was also a singer/performer and she put on a show for us. Donald Cant, the Australian baritone, who had also performed in Phantom of the Opera, had a couple of shows. I heard a number of people claiming that he was terrible but I thought he was ok. There was "Dancing through the Waves" which was all the Silversea dancers. It was ok. I did enjoy an afternoon classical concert by Australian pianist, Robert Keane. He was quite amusing and very talented, playing various pieces by Chopin and Schubert. I'm not a big classical lover but I thought he was great. I also went to the Variety Show Extravaganza on our last night which was all the Silversea dancers and all the onboard entertainers. This was quite a good show.
Dining: Many people have complained about the Whisper's food in previous reviews, however everything that I ate was delicious and perfectly prepared for my pallet. For me, dining was a highlight of the trip and every meal that I had was superb. I had room service breakfast most mornings. The waiter would set up a special table in the middle of your suite and set it with silver service. I think I managed to try everything on the breakfast menu. I also ate in the La Terrazza cafe, which was a buffet at breakfast and lunch and intimate Italian restaurant by night. I ate there at night several times - I neglected to say that this cruise was not full, only 290 passengers and 292 crew! So it was easy to get a reservation at La Terrazza. The dining room was also excellent and I had some nice casual quick meals at the pool. I also had dinner a couple of nights in my suite. I must say I really enjoyed room service, it was such a novelty to me. Everything was beautifully prepared, hot and delivered so quickly with a huge smile.
With respect to dining, the must-dos are the Barbeque dinner on the pool deck, the International Restaurant lunch and the Galley lunch. These were all amazing buffets with a huge range of food to choose from.
Servings in the dining room were not large so if you had 4 courses, you didn't waddle out totally stuffed. On a couple of occasions, I even had double dessert. "Death by Chocolate" was amazing! Despite all that I ate and drank, I got on the ship as a passenger and didn't get off as cargo!
Service: I've left my comments about service to the end. It was totally brilliant and as my title suggests, how many superlatives can I use. I cannot praise the crew enough and I won't mention any names because everyone was superb. From the bartenders who knew I wanted an apple martini every night, to the wonderful waiters in the dining room where nothing was too much trouble, to the pool waiters who offered sorbet and fruit kebabs at the pool, everyone calling you by name. The crew were wonderful and a credit to Silversea. They made every guest feel special. I thought it was really nice to be escorted to my dinner table every night and at the buffet, staff would take your plate back to your table. One night, my dinner companions had left their glasses in their cabin and couldn't read the menu. Our waiter went away and brought back a box of various types of glasses - we all cracked up laughing, but we were all pretty impressed.
Disembarkation: This was a dream. It took me 5 minutes to get off the ship, 2 minutes to collect my luggage and 30 seconds to go through immigration. I've never had a disembarkation like it.
Now for the only irritation on my cruise: I attended a fitness seminar on the second day of the cruise and it was simply a hard sell to do a session called a body composition analysis. I figured it would be a good idea so signed up for it with another friend. The next day I had the test, the Fitness Director asked me what I weighed (she should have weighed me) and then I had the test and we discussed the results. She then proceeded to hard sell me with a cellulite treatment and various expensive Elemis lotions. My friend also got the same treatment and was not overly impressed either. We both went to another seminar about detox and it was just a hard sell for the Fitness Director's personal nutrition planning.
Summary: This cruise was absolutely fantastic. I loved every minute of it and understand why people keep coming back to Silversea. I like small ship cruising, there is rarely a queue and you rarely have to wait for anything - even at the pool which was the most popular spot on the ship. I also met many interesting people of all ages and backgrounds. I hope that some day I will have the opportunity to travel on Silversea again.
If anyone has any questions, I would be happy to answer them. Email is: email@example.com Read Less
My wife,Pat and I had only ever cruised once before on the Arcadia. This was two years ago when it was then the P&O's latest vessel. Our experience was a brilliant one,leaving us looking forward to the next one but not hooked on ... Read More
My wife,Pat and I had only ever cruised once before on the Arcadia. This was two years ago when it was then the P&O's latest vessel. Our experience was a brilliant one,leaving us looking forward to the next one but not hooked on cruising to the neglect of other types of holiday abroad.
Our only misgivings were that you only have a limited time ashore to explore and discover the countries visited. What it does do is give you a taste,which then encourages you to return at a future date to expand further.
The food was magnificent,the entertainment was fantastic and the ship was awesome.
When the offer dropped into our laps to cruise on the Ventura with upgradings at a reasonable cost we jumped at the chance as it had to be bigger and better than Arcadia !
Our first disappointment was on the second night when we went to watch the show. This was nowhere near as good as the talented group of performers on Arcadia. We thought that the performance would get better as the week progressed,but no,in fact it got worse. People were leaving before the end on most nights. This was particularly true with the second Comedian "Sludge" Lees who was awful !
The food in the Saffron was O.K. without coming up to the standard we had come to accept on Arcadia. The buffet restaurant (the Waterside) was nowhere nearly as good as on the Arcadia with poor choices available most of the time. Our experience wasn't helped by the wine-waiter throwing a glass of Chateau-neuf-du-pap over me on the second night. I'm still waiting for an apology from the lady in question and a replacement glass of wine ! They did launder my shirt and "cream" trousers however.
Although we would prefer to cruise without children,the 20 or so that were on board during our cruise did not bother us and they were perfectly behaved. However the next cruise after ours had 450 children,that would have been a nightmare !
We renewed our vows whilst on board,which was a moving experience for us both. The package at £250 is not cheap,but we were glad we did it. The icing on the cake was that we had Captain Dowds to perform the ceremony as he was the Captain on the Arcadia on our first cruise. Sadly the 80 pictures taken by the onboard photographer left much to be desired and we were unable to select 24 for the album of the occasion (another £120) but luckily one of our table companions had taken some excellent photos of the occasion on our camera so we got our album at a fraction of the cost !
Ventura is big. Very big !! But we were left thinking that much has been lost in P&O's efforts to go larger. The experience hasn't put us off cruising,but we won't cruise on Ventura again. Read Less
Just a few reflections on our recent cruise on Azamara Quest from HK to Singapore. Having previously cruised with somewhat larger Celebrity and other ships, we were agreeably surprised by the wide range of facilities and services available ... Read More
Just a few reflections on our recent cruise on Azamara Quest from HK to Singapore. Having previously cruised with somewhat larger Celebrity and other ships, we were agreeably surprised by the wide range of facilities and services available on the Quest. Rather than comment on every aspect of the cruise, I will list just some of the major features that either impressed (most) or disappointed (few) us. * Food...in a word, "magnificent", with the range of dishes available in The Discoveries Dining Room varied and of a high quality, slightly better (if that was possible) in Prime C and Aqualina, and consistently varied and tasty in the Windows and Breeza buffets. Service by waiters and Assistant Maitre-D's at all venues was consistently courteous and helpful; we found the 'dine-when-you-like' approach to dining very convenient, although it must be said that we have found dining at set times and locations, which is common on some other ships, enables passengers to establish stronger (and in many cases lasting) friendships than is encouraged by open dining.
* Staterooms (ours was Category 1A with balcony)...maintained in immaculate condition by our Butler and Stateroom Attendant, who kept us supplied with a regular supply of fresh fruit and daily news sheets, and helped with other things such as Specialty Restaurant bookings; the size of our stateroom was about what we had expected, and similar to that we had found on other ships, although one had to be something of a contortionist to maneuver around the bathroom without experiencing some minor physical indignities.
* Entertainment...having read some of the negative comments posted by correspondents from other cruises, we were very impressed with the overall quality of the entertainment...the pianist who appeared early in the cruise was superb, as was the pianist who performed towards the end; vocalist Helen Jane was very good, although some of her numbers were not of the style that we particularly enjoy; the English comedian who performed on two occasions was generally good, with a more subtle approach than is often the case with some of the entertainers employed on cruise ships; the young singers were energetic and talented, although some of their music was not exactly of the genre that we would normally listen to; Jim Badger in the Mosaic Cafe was an entertaining pianist, singer and raconteur; the harpist was very easy to listen to, although we found the guitarist who appeared at various venues around the ship rather uninspiring; the Cruise Director was very energetic, and a fairly good singer, although his approach when making public announcements and introductions to guest entertainers seemed unnecessarily 'forced;' enrichment lectures relating to the history and culture of the countries visited were excellent, and much appreciated by all who attended.
* Crew and staff...we found the entire crew and staff, from Captain Carl Smith down, to be unfailingly polite, approachable and helpful, with much greater contact between these people and passengers than we had experienced on other cruise ships.
* Shipboard activities...we made use of a surprisingly good range of books in the Drawing Room library, the daily supply of Sudoko and other puzzles, the well-equipped gymnasium and an e-connections facility that provided a reasonably fast internet service (were we just lucky this time, as the speed on every previous cruise we had taken ranged from abysmal to hopeless).
* Shore excursions...we took only excursions that had been arranged through Azamara, and found them to be generally good, with tour guides who were well-informed and spoke very good English; for us, the visits in HK, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok,Sihanoukville and Singapore were enjoyable, although the 12-14 hour visit from Halong Bay to Hanoi was very tiring and one that we would not repeat again; the sail-out through Halong Bay after the Hanoi trip was scenically magnificent, as was the special 'Symphony of Lights' sailout from Victoria Harbour in HK arranged by Captain Carl.
In summary, we found this cruise to be most enjoyable, with the overall attitude of staff, quality of food and personal service, and ease of embarkation and disembarkation to be slightly superior to that we had experienced on larger ships. We would have no hesitation in cruising again with Azamara, providing the itinerary and cost were to our liking.
Nevernever Read Less
The Seabourn Legend prides itself on service, and it delivers. From the moment you walk on the ship you are pampered. With a passenger to staff ratio of nearly 1 to 1, this is easy.
The cabins, even the smallest, is a suite with a ... Read More
The Seabourn Legend prides itself on service, and it delivers. From the moment you walk on the ship you are pampered. With a passenger to staff ratio of nearly 1 to 1, this is easy.
The cabins, even the smallest, is a suite with a walk-in closet and a bath with bath tub. All amenities are top of the line, with such things as a choice of Hermes soap. Your in suite bar will be stocked with your favorite beverage, and you may enjoy cocktails anywhere on the ship, night or day, all included of course. Nick from South Africa, or one of the other waiters will be there to bring you "the usual" or whatever else you may desire.
The food is wonderful, including 24 hour room service, even having your dinner on room service delivered course by course. Like a buffet? Don't even think of those mega ship experiences. Instead head for the Veranda Cafe where you will find tables set with linens and real silver and glassware for both breakfast and dinner. And you can have table service there instead of going through the line. There is standard fare or gourmet.
In the evening, expect an occasional invitation to dine with the Captain or his staff, or one of the excellent entertainers. Then you can meet other passengers who have also been invited.
The entertainment is excellent. On this particular occasion, they had a pianist/vocalist, Adam James, who could play all your favorites for listening and dancing before dinner. After dinner continue with the Oasis Band and vocalists Christina Otero or Speedy Gonzales (I am not kidding) who had wonderful voices. Occasional entertainment included a superb magician and a concert pianist.
Your cruise director Eric De Gray is handsome, talented, funny, with a penchant for sharing his joie de vivre with all the guests. His assistant Rachel is a great singer with a bluesy voice, a la Shirley Bassey.
The ports were good ... but then, they don't really matter. This is all about the ship. Next time we are going to do a trans Atlantic - 12 days uninterrupted by ports! Read Less
When we first heard about Azamara, it was on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas. We have booked passage on Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, NCL and Holland America, so we know the general drill and what to expect. ... Read More
When we first heard about Azamara, it was on Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas. We have booked passage on Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, NCL and Holland America, so we know the general drill and what to expect. The lure of a more upscale line was just what we were looking for, but were disappointed that we just did not find it in Azamara.
We had an ocean view cabin right near Guest Relations on Deck 4, which was a great location and a tremendous value. We purchased the optional spa deck package for $175 + 18% service charge and found that to be a much better way to go than booking a balcony stateroom. The balconies are very small relative to other lines, and in my opinion, not worth the money.
Here is What Worked in Favor of Azamara' "Luxury" Spin:
Zippered tote bag, binoculars and umbrella in our stateroom were a wonderful touch: especially for a Panama Canal cruise. The tote bag was ours to keep. The bathrobes and towels are a higher quality than other ships.
I am a steak girl, and thought I would favor the specialty steak house (Prime C) over the more seafood oriented Aqualina, but I really enjoyed the ambiance in Aqualina more. Also, you can order food from one specialty restaurant (I preferred Prime C's fondue for dessert) and enjoy it with your friends in Aqualina.
The Windows Cafe is fantastic for breakfast and Dinner, too! Huge assortment of breakfast food including made to order omelettes, waffles, pancakes, smoothie shakes etc. Also an impressive offering of herring, salmon, bacon, sausage as well as breads and pastries. For dinner, the cafe rotated its made to order offerings: including stir-fry (my personal favorite), pasta, and international themes such as Indian and Greek. We really enjoyed being able to swim and throw on a cover-up and have dinner on the back deck at night.
We never waited for a table in the Discoveries restaurant, and you could go to the restaurant any time, with a number of people or just the two of you. The veal was an excellent choice.
Loved the coffee: it was strong and fresh!
The Captain kept us informed of a delayed arrival time in Aruba caused by rough seas when we entered the Caribbean from the Pacific Ocean. He also explained that, because there were guests that had flights from Miami the morning we disembarked, we could not extend our stay in Aruba.
The Guest Relations Desk handled special requests really well.
The shows were well-done. The Twisted TV is not to be missed. We found the caliber of the dancers to be better than on other lines. Magician and comedian were also enjoyable: Eric's "how-it's-done" regarding card tricks was my favorite shipboard activity
The Cruise Director said it best: "You either like me, or you don't." We really enjoyed her. She is also a talented performer. Her show at the Cabaret is not to be missed.
Contrary to other postings, I found that the absence of hovering by bar staff at the pool to be enjoyable. If you patronize them enough, they will find you.
LOVED the limited smoking area.
LOVED having only 2 little girls on board: though the parents are typically more of an annoyance than the children...
The virtual bowling and duck hunting tournaments ala the Wii were great fun.
The crew was a little more mature and ALWAYS very polite and helpful
Here is what fell short of Azamara's "Luxury" Marketing Spin:
18% Service charge tacked on to Spa Deck was not warranted: Guests often left towels on chairs, and no one attended to it like the main pool area. Adding a service charge implies that there will be a level of service provided.
Would have enjoyed a broader variety of excursions: ports offering mainly 6 - 9 hour "best of" bus rides should be offset with more exotic offerings (such as the Swim with the Dolphins in Acapulco. In general, the shore excursion desk staff had limited knowledge of ports and activities.
The maps for each port were not to scale and lacked a basic "you are here" moniker.
The shops were very limited, as many small ships are, but to not be able to offer postcards from each of the ports of call was disappointing.
The enrichment lecturer was dreadful. Dry and monotonous, with a poorly designed PPT presentation. They only thing he enriched for me, was a nap...
The "Butler" was really just a cabin steward in a nicer outfit.
In listing these likes and dislikes, the cruise really was more enjoyable than disappointing. Azamara, by hyping itself as a "luxury" line, subsequently sets the bar higher, raising the stakes for criticism. Overall, we prefer the smaller ships to the larger mass-market vessels.
Bottom line: we would book passage on them again if we found another great deal.
Marty, stop lurking and post one of your own! Read Less
The Azamara Journey is a great ship. Beautiful, stately, small. All the things we like.
Attentive service from a multi-national crew. Our bar service guys, Jose Jaimes and Alin were the best!!! Our butler, Angela (Alin's wife, I ... Read More
The Azamara Journey is a great ship. Beautiful, stately, small. All the things we like.
Attentive service from a multi-national crew. Our bar service guys, Jose Jaimes and Alin were the best!!! Our butler, Angela (Alin's wife, I understand!) and her assistant Jose (whose wife just had twins!!) could not have done any better for us. As it is open seating in the dining rooms, we had many different servers. Roman and Daniel were superb. Hooray to the head Maitre 'de Marius. He kept me from any allergic reactions and his suggestions were spot on! Our hats off to Mags and her aunt Maria for their invaluable wine selection help. Victor and Bernard in the Looking Glass made the best drinks and took great care of us! Ron Hollywood, the DJ, was always open to our suggestions for dance music. Thank you for all the wonderful NEW music!!! Kudos to you all.
The sea days intensive itinerary was just what we needed after a hectic holiday season. The pool was always a welcome diversion. We purchased the thalassotherapy pass for the trip ($175 per couple, $99 single), but had to have them refund us around day 10 due to the pool never being warm. It WAS warm once...at 6pm!!!!! Also there was no service there. It's not very relaxing to have to get up and go to the pool bar when you want something. Why there wasn't anyone coming by regularly is beyond me.
The spa was nice tho. Steam room, two different showers, lockers, etc. All included and available to every passenger. Didn't use the gym, the stairs did me just fine. Ate all I wanted and didn't gain any weight!!! Might have lost a pound or two actually. Hmmmm.
The shows were cheesy, but in a good way. Geared to an older crowd than we. Juggler, ventriloquist, magic show, group show (singers), etc. YES, this ship does tend towards an over 65 crowd. Not a problem for us tho. (I'm 46, my DH is 39)
Sue Denning (cruise director)was a joy!!! Such a trouper, and always entertaining. Her "sidekick" Kelsie was a hoot. The orchestra was always great, and the ship's band entertained us many a day and night at the pool and Looking Glass. There was a pianist in Cova most nights that everyone loved, a wonderful harpist at the martini lounge in Discoveries that was just delightful, and a guitarist who was very entertaining.
A great cruise on a lovely small ship. Perfect for those who like long voyages with an entertaining mix from the Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and the USA. No children's facilities, and that's just fine by me! Read Less
The Mariner is a beautiful ship and fresh out of dry dock she boasts all brand new seating, carpeting, curtains, bed linens, etc. The thickly padded pool deck lounge chairs are quite possibly the comfiest at sea and I found myself falling ... Read More
The Mariner is a beautiful ship and fresh out of dry dock she boasts all brand new seating, carpeting, curtains, bed linens, etc. The thickly padded pool deck lounge chairs are quite possibly the comfiest at sea and I found myself falling asleep more than once while basking in the poolside sun. Of course, that could also have been the cause of late night activities because while the Regent passenger demographic skews a little older - these are a very active bunch! There are plenty of choices when it comes to how much or how little you want to do while on the ship - and the activities run the gamut from mid-day games to enrichment lectures to team contests to wine tasting. If you decide you want to do absolutely nothing at all - there's a place for that too! The passenger/space ratio on the Mariner is very high and it quite evident, especially when you are looking for some solitude. There are plenty of nooks and crannies and comfortable seating options to be found all over the ship when you want some "alone" time.
Embarkation was painless and once on board the ship, we were given flutes of champagne and escorted to the Pool Deck by a staff member who also carried our unchecked bags. The whole process took less than a half hour. Our cabin was ready before 2pm and it was every bit as spacious as I had anticipated. Plenty of room to move around and plenty of storage space. The towels and bed linens are of the highest quality, as is the complimentary bathrobe and slippers. They even provided an umbrella for inclement weather! We had a problem with the safe and with the interactive tv but those items were addressed quickly.
The food in all venues was outstanding, although the service was sometimes on the slow side. Nearly every single dish we ordered was cooked to perfection and the presentation was always creative. Room service was always prompt and for the most part the orders were flawless (one or two very minor errors such as forgetting the lemon for the tomato juice). Even the lunchtime pool grill food was way above average, with large juicy cheeseburgers, hotdogs, chicken wings and then an additional themed grill (Mexican, American, Seafood, etc.) with extra items from which to choose. I have mixed feelings about the entertainment. Perhaps I had gone into the cruise with high expectations and since all of my expectations as far as food, service, ambience, etc. was met, I expected the same thing from the quality of the shows. This wasn't really the case. The trio which played on the pool deck during lunch, and then at other times throughout the evening were very very very good! The Regent orchestra which accompanied the singers and dancers in the shows is also very good. The production/variety shows themselves, however, were amateurish and cliched. The (so-called) comic/impressionist that was featured the first night was almost painful to sit through; and he ended up doing two more shows! Truly the best entertainment on the ship (besides the Nature's Rhythm trio) was to be found at the Liar's Club which is touted as a game but should be called a show and is one of those "not to be missed" events.
The ship's itinerary allowed us to visit seven different ports in 12 days: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, San Juan and Grand Turk. It would take far too much room to go into what we did at each port, but feel free to read my blog (http://rsscmarinersoutherncaribbean.blogspot.com) which details the trip further or email me with specific questions.
I am not the only one to get choked-up while sitting through the Captain's Farewell the last night of the cruise. And emotions were running high the final morning when having to say goodbye to the ship, the staff, and all the new friends I had made. It is quite difficult to put into words exactly what the Regent experience truly is because it's more of an atmosphere that is created by the wonderful staff. Suffice it to say, however, that once you have experienced Regent, you will want to experience it again and again! Read Less
Uncertain as to how we would react to cruising, we chose a short (7-night) cruise to places we had visited many times previously. The exceptions were Grand Turk and Princess Cay, about which more later. Not to leave anyone in suspense, ... Read More
Uncertain as to how we would react to cruising, we chose a short (7-night) cruise to places we had visited many times previously. The exceptions were Grand Turk and Princess Cay, about which more later. Not to leave anyone in suspense, while we perceive some (inevitable) paradoxes in the cruise experience, we enjoyed our voyage and look forward to more cruises in our future. Our boarding experience was swift and pleasant. Our first sight of the cabin banished our principal anxiety: it was surprisingly large and thoroughly welcoming. The verandaha ballyhooed 50 square feet was great for standing on to observe waves and port scenes, but too small for anything else. We both liked the smallish size of the ship, the inherent intimacy. But we also felt that on a longer cruise, the choice of only two restaurants might be too limiting. Food and service are critical to a satisfying cruise, and particularly on a self-described luxury cruise. We always ate late, never entering Compass Rose or Portofino, the optional Italian restaurant, earlier than 8:00pm. Thus we were always offered the chance to join other passengers already seated. We eagerly accepted these assignments, as we thought that meeting our fellow cruisers across a dining table would be the easiest way to make on-board friends.
There is a powerful temptation to fall back on hyperbole when writing about personal travel experiences. One's hotel was "superb." The food at a restaurant in Dubrovnik was "extraordinary." The guide in Buenos Aires was "non pareil." To be clear, we enjoyed our Navigator experience, but the following ratings are, I think, mercilessly accurate.
The food. Bountiful, always at least good, sometimes very good. You cannot prepare meals for 450 people, offering them a dozen or more choices, and rival the cuisine at any Michelin-starred restaurant. That said, a curry one night was excellent. Fish was always very good. Corned beef hash in the morning was perfect. Hot dogs (in particular) from the pool grill were excellent. A Mexican fiesta from the same source at lunch was great. (Though for my palate, Corona is the least singular of all of Mexico's cervesas.) We thought service was never less than good, with frequent rises to refreshingly concerned. One lapse should be noted. If you plan to bring a Waterpik or other personal dental equipment have a care. In advance of the cruise, the Regent service desk assured us that outlets were available in the bathroom for 110volt (U.S.) appliances as well as shavers. Not so. On board, we asked for an extension cord to plug into the dressing table outlet which normally serves the 110volt hair dryer. After some consternation, this was furnished. The Waterpik whirred into life momentarily, and then fried. Could I be the only Regent passenger to travel with a Waterpik? To reiterate, cabin stewardess, bartenders, waiters and dining room staff were uniformly agreeable, almost universally in a way that suggests attitude coming from the heart, as well as from training.
The ports. Our surprises were Grand Turk and Princess Cays. Our first trip to GT, though we had been to Provo a half-dozen times over the years. The cruise terminal is Disneyesque, and (thankfully) most passengers stay there. An enormous P&O vessel that dwarfed our trim little vessel was tied up across the pier, and disgorged more than 3,000 Brits at the same time as we disembarked. We rented a golf cart and puttered about the island, which is still recovering from hurricane Ike and, it appears, from the fraudulent activities of recently displaced government.
Princess Cays, which we visited as our last port of call because of weather, loomed as another re worse Grand Turk. After all, one could reasonably expect the marketing gurus at a cruise line to trade island ambiance for an American Idol image of the Bahamas. Not so. Our 400+ passengers were easily accepted among the carefully planted palms. We delighted in feeding the frenzied fish the stale bread that was provided. And the barbecue was low key and satisfying, though Corona was (alas) the only beer available. So, kudos to Regent (or whomever) for their restraint in keeping Princess Cay more or less akin to its natural character. Though note that the islet can accept as many as 3500 passengers at once, and what it feels like submerged beneath that wave of sun-burning humanity is anyone's guess.
So, where next? We would like to try a bigger ship on a longer cruise. Perhaps Regent Voyager? I think we would like a London to London cruise that touched at the Orkneys, Skye and other places a bit difficult to reach.
A question that more experienced cruisers virtually all of you might be able to answer. Why do per diem costs increase as the duration of a cruise increases? That seems counter intuitive to the way most things, travel included, tend to work. Read Less
Over the past decade my written ship reviews have become more positive and I had to ponder the cause before completing the present review. I mean if anything with age I have become more discerning, more likely to know what is ... Read More
Over the past decade my written ship reviews have become more positive and I had to ponder the cause before completing the present review. I mean if anything with age I have become more discerning, more likely to know what is good or bad about services or products. And therein lies the answer, I am, in short, more discerning about myself, knowing my own needs and preferences and this has allowed me to do a much better job of matching myself to the appropriate ship or cruise line. So as you read this review, you must ask yourself questions about yourself to determine if my remarks are relevant for you.
Furthermore, the primary purpose of my cruise determines what items are most important. If I am booking a cruise mostly to do sightseeing, as was the case here, then I know I want a small ship experience with a port intensive itinerary. Cruises with different purposes, such as a crossing or spa/leisure vacation might yield a different choice of ship or cruise line. With respect to my recent trip to Southeast Asia, which was heavily oriented to for sightseeing, Azamara Quest was the perfect ship for a sightseeing intensive journey and furthermore it was, bar none, the best value for the money among any of the other luxury and upper end deluxe lines cruising Southeast Asia this year.
THE PERFECT SHIP FOR EXPLORING THE WORLD:
Azamara's Quest's itinerary was port intensive and the cruise line worked hard and succeeded in most ports to arrange to dock at a convenient in town location, made possible by its small size (700 passengers). Also disembarking and embarking during the trip without long lines or ever the use of tenders that larger ships often require made the journey hassle free. And after a busy day of sightseeing, it was always wonderful to return to smiling officers (some senior officer seemed always be on hand upon returning). Once again on board there was:
• Excellent service provided in every venue that was both efficient and personal • Fine contemporary western cuisine or Asian food for westerners, which balanced the more exotic cuisine we sample on shore • Flexible open seating which so well accommodated ever changing ending times of our private shore excursions. • In depth relevant enrichment lectures about the places we will be visiting. Azamara provided an excellent program of lectures. • And on those precious few sea days between touring, the ship was both wonderfully relaxing and quiet yet succeeded in providing many scheduled activities to fill one's time.
In sum total, Azamara performed admirably well and it would be hard to imagine another line that does it as well as Azamara, providing an upscale atmosphere with deluxe service (details below) at such a very reasonable price.
SERVICE: The most important thing to me, above all else, on a cruise of any type, is service and that service needs to be genuine, attentive, flexible, friendly and personal. I found all of the Quest officers and crew as well as the hotel management personnel and staff, from the Captain Smith to the most junior deckhand, and from Hotel Director to cleaning staff to be extraordinarily attentive, kind, helpful, friendly and flexible, meaning willing to bend over backward in order to please. My Butler (Emmanuel) and Cabin Steward (Abdul, who should be promoted to a butler immediately) did an extraordinary job, every special request (mostly at the start of the cruise) was fulfilled with a smile, and my cabin was always spotless, with fresh towels, flowers, and fresh fruit supplied in abundance. Somehow between the hours of 8 am and noon and again from 5 to 9 they always seemed to be at hand, even if it were just to open my stateroom door because I was carrying a book or a beverage or to ask if I needed anything for the cabin. Even on the occasion I was running late for a dinner engagement and would leave my day clothes on the bed, I always returned to find them folded and sitting on the sofa. The Hotel Director (Henke), Guest Relations Manager, Deniece Seow, and the Maitre d' in each dining room took extraordinary care of not only me, but people traveling in my tour group and others each with their own special story. In fact other passengers confided in me that they were receiving VIP service for reasons they failed to fathom and some even wondered if they were being confused for someone important. Now when a cruise line can provide that level of service and friendliness onboard, they are "working magic", a level that is hard to achieve and certainly was not as present on my first cruise on Azamara in October 2007. If pressed and you asked me "come on, there must be some fault somewhere with service, I would have to say that the only fault I could find is that at peak times, the buffet restaurant on the pool deck was a bit understaffed when it came to clearing tables.
DINING: Beyond service, I expect that dining on a cruise be a consistent positive experience which is significantly above average from ones general day to day life. I don't ever anticipate it to be haute gourmet, for true gourmet cooking is hard to prepare for a crowd that is larger than 75 people. But I do expect the dining service to be of good quality, varied, somewhat creative and with good attentive service. Azamara in this respect more than met my expectations.
Also, because I never like dining rooms or restaurants that seat more than 100-125 at a time, I am not a big fan of the main dining room on any ship and I try to maneuver away from that choice when possible. On this cruise I succeeded and only ate two dinners in Discoveries (the main dining room on Quest). While the food was fine, the menu tried to be too many things for too many people. The unwieldy and overly fussy preparations made it almost impossible for the kitchen to be well-paced allowing for entrEes to arrive simultaneously about 5-10 minutes after the starter courses were over. The larger the table the more unwieldy it became. When I sat at a table for 2 we dined in 90 minutes. That is quite acceptable. When I dined at a table of 8 where almost everyone chose a different appetizer and different entrEe dinner took 2hr and 45 min and I skipped coffee after dessert.
The main dining room does however have something to very much recommend its use. On sea days it is open for lunch, and the menu is very creative yet simple, innovative without being weird with choices being adequate but not unwieldy. The service was excellent and the room far quieter and cooler than at night. In fact, I found it absolutely delightful to avoid the crowd and cafeteria like atmosphere up on the pool deck for lunch on sea days, and grab a friend or a good book and dine below. I really only have one true complaint about the main dining room and it has nothing to do with either the food or the service but rather I have a big issue with the Discovery dining room chairs. The chairs have long outlived their useful life and the support in 70-80% of the seat cushions have failed and one literally sinks into a hole at the table. For me it meant feeling uncomfortable after sitting more than an hour but for people shorter than me (I am 5'11") it made for an uncomfortable dining experience from the first appetizer onward. There is no excuse for such deferred maintenance on an otherwise immaculate ship.
The two specialty restaurants (which I dined in frequently as my group of 6-8 took turns making reservations with their 2 reservation allowance) were both wonderful although I ended up favoring Prime C just a tad more and this was a surprise to me because I am not a big steak eater. But the menu was wonderfully varied so choices were many and redundancy rare. The service in both specialty venues was 5 stars. In fact the last time I had such good service in a dining room at sea was the last time I traveled in Grill Class aboard the QE2 on the first segments of her 2004 world cruise. The buffet venue on the pool deck was great both for breakfast and lunch, with a great deal of variety, nicely presented and lunch offerings were constantly changed. And sometimes for dinner, after a long day of touring, eating casually and simply out on the open deck in the warm winter air of Southeast Asia was a great alternative which I took advantage of for 3 or 4 times. I also used room service for two breakfasts and one dinner. The service was very prompt and the quality above average.
THE SHIP AND ITS STATEROOMS: Quest is very logically laid out and easy to navigate. Yet there are enough venues and public rooms to meet one's fellow passengers or to squirrel away with a good book. Prime C, Aqualina and the main dining room are very attractive as is the reception area as are the ships and I would say that the informal dining venue on Deck 9 (pool deck) while well maintained needs to be freshened as the wall treatments and carpets are looking somewhat tired. The lounges, cabaret, spa, shop area, pool deck and reception areas are all very attractive and beautifully maintained. All public rooms are crisp, attractive and well lit without being too brightly lit. They are comfortable and well furnished like a University or Country Club, they are conservative not showy, somewhat old world and that's fine as I came to see the sites on land not be overwhelmed by innovative at sea architecture.
If there is to be any complaint, I would say I have some issues with the staterooms. Yes the bathrooms are small, it's been said many times before, but they are attractive and manageable. And a Veranda cabin is an average but adequate size. The bedding is wonderful and there are new drapes and new furniture on the balcony. The towels are plush and the room temperature is easily customizable to one's preference. But to me it looks like the cabins were not fully refurbished when the ship was acquired and this made for tired looking carpets, an unattractive sofa, bed lamp shades that were cracking and long overdue for replacement and a lack of good reading light either in bed or at the desk. I don't consider providing glaring high hat down lighting from the ceiling an adequate alternative. Also the bed lamps were fixed to the nightstands and so they sat smack in the middle of the table making impossible to put a book or anything bigger than a water glass next to one's bed. Some small changes could however make the cabins quite wonderful rather than nice and bland and I have shared those ideas with. I have detailed those suggested changes in a letter to Azamara Management. BUT DESPITE THIS CRITICISM, the "bones" of the ship are very good, and she is a pleasure to sail on.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: As I mentioned I pretty much had my own small group and made all our arrangements privately. However I took one tour with the ship on our second day in Hong Kong and found it to be as advertised and satisfactory. I just don't like herding in groups larger than 10 and ideally no more than 8. I will add that I asked both members of our small group how they found the ship tours as well as a great many other passengers who I chatted with (it is a very friendly atmosphere), and I heard comments range from OK to wonderful and I did not hear any negative complaints or rants so Azamara must be doing a good job.
ON & OFF: Both embarkation and disembarkation are handled better than ANY ship of I have sailed on. It is so smooth and so fast that I hardly remember these events at all.
PRE & POST: I booked directly all pre and post cruise arrangements, including my air so these had nothing to do with Azamara. But I will say that my air arrangements on Singapore Air were done with miles and were extremely easy to both use the miles and book flights in First Class. I transferred points from my American Express Account into their Kris Flyer awards program. Then I went on line and book my flights and by doing so without assistance received substantial discounts on the miles required. Getting upgraded into First Class was so easy compared to American carriers where you are not at one of their elite levels. The flights were outstanding. It's the first time in my life when I went to wash-up and change into sweat pants to sleep that the cabin attendant said "those won't be necessary" and while I looked on incredulously she handed me a pair of Givenchy pajamas to wear (and keep!). In Hong Kong and Singapore I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel and the rooms were large, luxurious and beautifully furnished and the service impeccable. In Hong Kong I must add that the concierge desk was fabulous in arranging for some of my requests, such as a place to buy eyeglasses on New Year's Day. Three pair only set me back $220 US and the glasses were ready in four hours! In Singapore, I did not have occasion to need the service of the concierge but I will tell you that at $185 a night, it was a bargain given the level of services and amenities. The Hong Kong Intercontinental was almost 3 times the price.
THE FINAL WORD, "VALUE"—IT IS IN THIS AREA THAT I GIVE AZAMARA THE HIGHEST MARKS. Yes there are more luxurious ships with bigger cabins, fancier furnishings and more haute cuisine, BUT to get to that level one needs to pay 2 to 3 times as much on a per diem basis. In short an Azamara cruise is not only a great value for the money it is a great cruise experience!! It's the best line on which to luxe it up without spending a fortune. I suppose the only place I would take issue as to value is that I think standard cocktails at $11 or $12 dollars plus 18% gratuity a shade over priced as is the cost of Internet service is high. On the other hand when you save 30-60% on the overall booking compared to any ultra-premium or deluxe line quibbling over the price of a cocktail a bit petty.
WOULD I CRUISE AGAIN ON AZAMARA? The answer is definitely yes and I hope to do so before the year is out. Azamara was an excellent value that fully served to support my primary purpose of the current trip, to be exposed to as much as possible in SE Asia in a 2 week visit. I intend to book again when I am ready to explore Greece, Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean in depth [I have no comments about the ship's entertainment as I never went (and quite frankly rarely do because as a resident of Manhattan I attend theater, opera and ballet performances 6-8 times a month so I don't want to do that when traveling). Nor do I comment the casino, (because I never gamble unless you count bridge) nor children activities (I am not a child so I have no firsthand knowledge and always wonder how other adults do) nor the spa (every ship has bicycles and treadmills and masseurs and I can't rate "standard equipment" which are all indistinguishably the same but for quantity).] Read Less
We had booked the cruise with a travel agency in Dallas. I had requested everything to be first class big handicap friendly suite for my parents, handicap friendly limos to and from the airport, etc. My Dad was recently diagnosed with ... Read More
We had booked the cruise with a travel agency in Dallas. I had requested everything to be first class big handicap friendly suite for my parents, handicap friendly limos to and from the airport, etc. My Dad was recently diagnosed with Leukemia as well, so we wanted this to be a special cruise for the three of us and our caregiver. We had traveled on Carnival, Celebrity and Princess before. Carnival was a nightmarish cattle call of humanity...Celebrity was middle of the road with very unfriendly staff and Princess was great but crowded, so we were attracted to the fact that this ship only had 490 passengers and over 800 staffers.
After we booked the rooms (I was disappointed that no handicap rooms were available...more about that later), I researched the Navigator online. Apparently it started out as a Russian research ship, then was converted to cruise ship, refurbished in 2006-2008 and the company was subsequently sold from Radisson to Regent. The only negative thing I could find was a lot of discussion online about the famous Navigator rattling sound so I brought as portable fan with me just in case. After 8 days on the Navigator, let me just say that even with my room (531) right next to the dining room, THERE WAS NO RATTLING SOUND to speak of in my suite. I did hear some rattling upstairs prior to some of the shows but that was it.
My parents are almost 80 years old and spoke with many of their friends who had traveled on both Regent and Crystal and most found that Regent was far superior in service and food. The average age on Regent was also in the 50-60 range, while everyone told us that Crystal's age was about 80. All drinks are inclusive (Cokes AND spirits) with Regent, so that was a plus as well. We didn't book it until about 90 days before so we ended up paying about $3000/person. The airfare was booked using Advantage miles so we saved about $500/person there. American Airlines was wonderful to work with regarding my father's use of a wheelchair. They called me prior to our departure from Dallas. Someone from A/A was always there for us to help lift my Dad into his seat, whether in Dallas upon Boarding or Fort Lauderdale upon arrival and going back as well. KUDOS TO AMERICAN AIRLINES!!!
The limo to the airport in Dallas was great (memo to wheelchair users...better to get a handicap bus next time with a wheelchair lift) but the real nightmare was in Fort Lauderdale. Our travel agent's first screw up was booking a trailer/van to pick us up!!! There was no way my Dad could be lifted into that contraption so I had to call her and she snapped to it and got us a limo (for $210...the going rate for the 3 minute trip to the cruise ships). We didn't get to the docks until about 2:00 (after waiting 45 minutes for the new limo to show up) but once we got there I felt like royalty after being greeted by the Regent staff. They were everywhere!!! "May I help you..." "Yes sir..." "Let me get that for you..." Now I know we are paying for the service BUT IT SURE FELT GOOD!!!! We were greeted with champagne and they even rolled my Dad all the way to his room where we found the next nightmare....The travel agent had requested that a ramp be placed in the room so that the bathroom floor was flush with the suite AND IT WAS NOT THERE....HELP!!!! Well we called the Regent staff (Martha was especially helpful) AND THEY BUILT A RAMP FOR US IN ABOUT 30 MINUTES!!!!! AMAZING SERVICE!!!!
I went to my suite and was very pleased with the size of the room. It was especially spacious for me since I was all by myself in the room. Huge walk in closet with safe and wood hangers. Beautiful marble shower and separate tub. Big flat screen TV. Separate sitting area. At first I was disappointed that I had one of the few rooms with no balcony but honestly since I only slept, dressed, showered and ate breakfast in my room during the cruise, I really didn't miss it that much when all was said and done.
We changed for dinner and ate in the Compass Room. I loved the fact that there was no assigned seating (like being in the 3rd grade on most ships) and we could dine at whatever time we chose, within reason for dinner and breakfast. Also 24 hour room service, which their caregiver used at 1:00 a.m. to order a sandwich, which got there hot in about ten minutes!!! I ate breakfast almost everyday in my room after that and it got there right on time, was hot and delicious EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!!!!
After dinner they went to the show and I went to the casino. I love poker and craps and was disappointed that they had taken out the poker table, but was quickly assured by Helene, the casino staff manager that the craps table action would more than make up for it. AND SHE WAS RIGHT!!!! I spent most of the next 6 nights at the craps table either right after dinner or after the show for the evening and met some great folks there (Chet, Danny, Kirby, Richard) and the casino staff was fantastic!!!!! KUDOS TO HELENE!!!!!
Quite by accident we met the couple in 529, which was the room in between our two rooms and we spent the rest of the cruise with them (Holly and Joe) and their friends (Chris and Jamie). I won't say more, except we have met new friends for life and are still communicating with them and we have Regent to thank for bringing us all together (the first thing or the second thing?...what thing?...OOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!!) We ate dinner one night in Portofino's and was disappointed by the food...EAT AT COMPASS!!!
The shows that I saw were mediocre at best. The Buddy Holly impersonator was about as good as a bad Karaoke singer and the Vegas Rat Pack review was just awful (how can you do Elvis with no sideburns or sunglasses? how can you do Dean Martin without a drink in your hand??). My parents and their caregiver loved the Motown show and everyone talked about how our caregiver was dancing on her feet throughout the whole show (I guess she was easy to spot, what being the only African-American woman on the ship!).
There was always room at the pool...I never had to wait for anything...It was just wonderful!!!!!
One very bad incident. Our caregiver had a seizure in Puerto Rico (she had a history of heart problems) and had to be hospitalized and we later flew her home to Dallas...(NOTE...ALWAYS BUY TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE,,,IT PAID FOR HER ENTIRE HOSPITAL STAY, THE FLIGHT HOME AND ALL ARRANGEMENTS,,,WHEW!!!!).
The quality of food was excellent, especially the soups which were indescribably delicious!!! The level of service was amazing, especially since ALL TIPPING WAS INCLUDED!!!! I had a massage, which was awesome and my Mom had two complete makeover days (all free since when we boarded we all had any where from $300 to $600 ship credits given to us to spend on massages, cigars, Regent wear, etc.)
Look...if you want a non stop party cruise with lots of screaming and yelling and drunk idiots, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU...But if you want class, fine dining, great company, quiet and efficient service, then by all means...BON VOYAGE!!!!
I AM DEFINITELY CRUISING AGAIN WITH REGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read Less