We just returned from another perfect cruise with Uniworld but it’s what we expected being return customers. Every time we get on board it’s like coming home again, we always see some cruise members from a previous cruise on other ... Read More
We just returned from another perfect cruise with Uniworld but it’s what we expected being return customers. Every time we get on board it’s like coming home again, we always see some cruise members from a previous cruise on other boats. This time it was the head chef and our waiter Alexander.
This particular cruise pays special attention to the D-Day landing sites in Normandy. For those of you interested in history and the sacrifices our young men made to free the world of terror, this is the cruise to take. Being there in person gives you a whole different perspective than what you got from the history books.
On board we enjoyed a plethora of gourmet meals accompanied by a superb selection of quality wines. Try the La Cave du Vin for cozy, hands on, fine dining in the boat’s wine cellar. Book as soon you get on board because it fills up quickly. There is an extra charge for this but worth it. And the bar in the Salon Toulouse will amaze you with the selection of fine beverages from all over the world.
Cleanliness on board is beyond reproach as is the friendliness and the service of the entire crew. Special thanks for service above and beyond go to our Hotel Manager Maria and our waiters Nikolay and Alexander. And the shore excursions are always well orchestrated and professionally guided through interesting places.
But as with everything in life there are always some glitches, minor in this case but annoying. This boat was just refurbished so they added some “improvements”. The faucet in the bathroom sink has separate hot and cold water controls. The hot water is scolding hot so it takes you a while to temper it to a usable temperature with the two handles. But the bigger problem is the water spout which comes out from the wall and almost to the outside edge of the sink. It makes it impossible to bring your face over the sink and to bring the water to your face to wash it. You have to stand back and the water goes over your feet and the floor. Hint to the designers; shorten the spout by at least six inches.
The other goof is the new “Do not disturb” notification. They’ve done away with the door handle sign and replaced it with an electronic touch pad inside the cabin. However, this very sensitive unit is just below the wall slot where you insert the key card to turn on the room utilities. It is almost certain that you will touch it inadvertently and alter the setting when you insert and remove the key card. And when the card is in the slot it hides the indicator light. So when we didn’t get our cabin made up for two days I went to the reception desk for an explanation. They knew immediately what was going on because it has happened to others and they very kindly explained how this new system functions.
And lastly, the room thermostat control is another touch pad unit. It is preset to 23 degrees Celsius and has a wide range of temperature settings. But regardless of what temperature you change it to the room temperature never changes from the preset temp.
But these minor glitches will not deter us from sailing on Uniworld again. As a matter of fact, while on board we booked the Bordeaux cruise for May 2020. Read Less
Overall excellent service.
Boarding was very smooth. we were the first to board.
Rooms were smaller than other Uniworld boats. We were on the lower level. this boat had a wider wall than other boats. The boat did have a problem with ... Read More
Overall excellent service.
Boarding was very smooth. we were the first to board.
Rooms were smaller than other Uniworld boats. We were on the lower level. this boat had a wider wall than other boats. The boat did have a problem with a lack of hot water. cold showers were not pleasant. The water problem did seem to get better later in the cruise, but only for short showers.
Food service started a little rough. I was served raw salmon, and my wife was served raw chicken. I think it took a little while for the cooks to get used to the ovens. The food overall was very good. The lunches were outstanding. Uniworld offers local foods, and the chef did a great job with them. The only other misstep was during a flaming salmon presentation. The fire unexpectedly jumped and caught two passengers on fire. one was singed, the other had the presence of mind to roll on the ground and escaped with minor injuries.
The restaurant staff was fantastic. the really anticipated your needs. Service was always prompt and with a smile. Problems were handled very well.
Bar staff was also very good. they remembered what you liked. The only drawback was Uniworld did not include the same high quality drinks as part of the all inclusive. Many other passengers and myself were surprised to find a 9 euro fee for Makers Mark.
The wines and port served at dinner and in the bar were surprisingly good.
Excursions were changed because of maintenance on a river lock. This changed our itinerary. Overall I thought Uniworld did a good job redoing our ports.
Our favorite excursion was dinner at a winery. the owner was a real character.
The Sandman port tour would have been better if more time was added to enjoy the grounds.
Front desk staff were mostly outstanding. One new person was not up to speed yet, but was very friendly.
Lounge entertainer was better than other Uniworld boats. the additional entertainers were ok.
My favorite part was cruising by the vinyards. The landscape was beautiful.This is not a high activity cruise. It is a great cruse for someone who wants to relax and enjoy some nice wines Read Less
Smallish boat/ship that has accommodation for about 50 people but with a staff ratio of 1 to 2 cruisers. Huge cabins that are exquisitely equipped, spotlessly clean and unbelievably sound proofed. All cabins have an exterior sliding door ... Read More
Smallish boat/ship that has accommodation for about 50 people but with a staff ratio of 1 to 2 cruisers. Huge cabins that are exquisitely equipped, spotlessly clean and unbelievably sound proofed. All cabins have an exterior sliding door and a full sized bathroom that would do many hotels proud. The shower is full sized and is welcome after a day exploring on the land. Each stop is associated with well organized and interesting tours that are included in the tour cost.
Great food and open seating with casual clothing OK for any meal - meals are actually low stress and fun This cruise is well above what you get on most ocean going ships and really sets the bar very high with regard to quality and value for money Non-alcoholic drinks and beer are included and any cocktail or drink ordered is reasonably priced. All meals come with good quality free wine and each day their is a free cocktail happy hour (the cocktails are superb). What sets this cruise apart though is the staff who seem to enjoy your company - nothing is too much trouble.
I world definitely recommend this cruise and I am alraedy planning to go again Read Less
I'll start this review as I have started all of my previous ones, with a bit of an introduction:
My wife and I do 2-3 cruises a year, nearly all of them with Celebrity. We are 30 & 26 years old respectively, and have sailed the ... Read More
I'll start this review as I have started all of my previous ones, with a bit of an introduction:
My wife and I do 2-3 cruises a year, nearly all of them with Celebrity. We are 30 & 26 years old respectively, and have sailed the Caribbean a half-dozen times. I will be writing this with the target audience of "First Timers" and will hope to shed some light on what we enjoy, and don't enjoy about cruising with Celebrity, and on the beautiful Equinox.
Why this cruise?
My wife is a school teacher, so we take a 7 day cruise every year on her Spring Break. We don't have bitter winters here in Central Alabama, but the end of March is the perfect time to hop down into the beautiful weather that the Caribbean offers year-round. We started off cruising Carnival years ago, but ultimately made the jump to Celebrity as we wanted something more sophisticated and relaxing. We don't like to be charged for every single item on a cruise, so we love that Celebrity allows us to go for the "all inclusive" package. We book through a wonderful Travel Agent who only does cruises. We went on board with a drink package, prepaid tips (paid by TA), and $450 on board credit. With Celebrity, the OBC can be used to book excursions, specialty restaurants, on board shopping, or virtually anything else you buy on board. Frankly, its one of the main reasons we sail with Celebrity. All in all, we got a beautiful Concierge Class Balcony and all the perks for well under $3000 for the entire trip. We brought about $500 US in cash for port spending and tipping on board.We have found that, with all of the inclusions, its really hard to beat Celebrity on price. Add in the service and the wonderful food, and its a no-brainer for us. We also have been fortunate enough to have my parents join us for each of the last three spring break cruises. Its wonderful to be on any cruise ship, but even better when you can spend the time with family. My parents being older, do not want a "party cruise". Celebrity offers a wonderful atmosphere that allows everyone to have a great time but not at the expense of others.
After having sailed on her twice, it comes as zero surprise that the Equinox wins "Best Overall" on CruiseCritic every year. Its a beautiful ship with a very user friendly layout. At 121k GT, it sits right in the happy medium of cruise ships in terms of size. There is plenty to do, plenty of room, and yet still small enough to be able to get comfortable with the entire ship over the course of 7 short days. Our two favorite areas of the ship are the sundeck and the main atrium. Both are absolutely stunning whether it is day or night.
Decks 3-6 are where all the magic happens. Bars surround the atrium on all sides but they are presented in a way that is very classy and doesn't ever feel crowded. The four main bars that we frequent are all very different in design and styles, and they are spread out in a way that no place ever feels particularly crowded. The martini bar and the Gastropub are opposite each other from the atrium. One serves decadent martinis in dozens of flavors and all is served in a beautiful lounge and a solid ice bar top. The Gastropub has the feel of a rustic craft beer bar that has an awesome selection of beers from around the world. This bar has ESPN running on TVs so it was crowded while the NCAA basketball tournament was going. The World Class bar is a really cool bar near the art gallery and shops. This bar has two "mixologist" that are expert beverage makers. I go here to experiment and try new drinks that I may not have tried otherwise. This requires the premium drink package, but you can literally tell them you like whisky, citrus, and sweet drinks and they will come up with something you've never tried before. Its a wonderful place to hang out before dinner or after shows, especially if your wife enjoys shopping as much as mine does! This last bar is my personal favorite: The Sunset Bar. Its an outdoor bar that is open from morning til late at night. It is at the top of the boat and at the aft, so the breeze and views are breathtaking. The Equinox, like all Solstice class ships, are covered in real grass on the aft 1/3 of the top deck. Its something extremely unique about Celebrity and its really neat to be in the middle of the ocean and have grass between your toes. All in all, its a wonderfully balanced ship. Its large enough for there to be plenty of options in how you spend your days, but small enough to still feel intimate.
Captain Kate Mccue:
Oh Captain, My Captain! I'll admit I was a skeptic at first. Not that I thought she was a bad Captain, but I didn't believe a Captain could have a significant impact on a cruise vacation. Most Captains that I have sailed with are only worried about doing their jobs, getting us to and from our destinations safely, and they allow the entertainers and the service staff to provide us a good time. And while that is completely fine, Captain Kate is amazing! Her personality infects the entire ship and everyone stops what they are doing when she speaks over the PA. She is an awesome Captain, and every single bit as good as she is advertised. I cannot say enough how impressed I am with her, other than it would be a mistake for Celebrity to ever let her go!
Concierge Cabin (C2) Room 1249. The stateroom is the same as any veranda on the ship outside of Suites, but this cabin does offer a unique feature that only a few cabins on the entire ship offer... a larger balcony. The Equinox has a few "bump outs" or "humps" in her design that cause a few of the cabins on each floor "bulge" out a few feet. At the angles of these "bumps" you get a slanted balcony. From the nearest corner, it is no smaller than any other balcony on the ship, but at its widest, its nearly twice as long. Our deck chairs came with ottomans and the chairs reclined enough that we effectively had loungers on our balconies. We didn't get quite the breeze off the balcony due to where we were, but the extra balcony space will be missed on the cruises that we dont have it.
Room layout is spacious enough for a cruise cabin, our bed was near the balcony compared to others that are near the bathroom. Speaking of the bathroom, its about average in size if you are used to balcony rooms. The shower has simple but elegant sliding glass door that doesn't waste any space. In concierge class we had access to slightly better bathroom toiletries and cosmetics. My wife didn't seem particularly impressed with the shampoo, but there could have been other factors that led to that.
In this section is where we found the best and worst that our particular vacation had to offer. We went into this cruise knowing we would be doing a night or two in specialty dining, specifically Murano. I'll dive into the specialty restaurants in a bit, but lets get the not-so-pleasant out of the way. Please understand that we have never had an issue in the Main Dining Room. Celebrity does dining very well, and I'd even argue that it is one of their strengths. This time, we just weren't impressed. My wife, myself, and my parents got sat at a very nice four top. The MDR is crowded as it is on all ships, so that didn't bother us. We had a very nice and attentive head waiter, and the food both nights that we dined there was excellent. The bar/drink service however, was severely lacking. My father and I managed to get our wine quickly enough usually, but my wife and mother waited 15-30 minutes for their bar drinks every time they ordered. It became such an issue that our poor head waiter would go off running to get the drinks himself. This isn't a major issue, I am aware of that, but I expect more from Celebrity. After two identical services with the identical problems we called our Concierge (perk of concierge class) and told her about the issue and she asked if she could inform the Maitre'D. Literally 5 minutes later the Maitre'D had ran up to our rooms to apologize, hear our feedback, and promised to improve the service going forward. People, this is what makes Celebrity different. There are 3000 people eating dinner in his beautiful dining room, and he stopped mid-service to run up to our room to personally apologize and ask how to fix it. The next day we got back from a day at port and my parents and I each had a bottle of nice champagne from the Maitre'D, it was a wonderful gesture and we were impressed.
Now as it turned out, we had a reservation at the famous Murano that evening. When we left Murano we were so blown away that we called our Concierge and asked her to book us in specialty dining for the remainder of the cruise. These restaurants are not free, nor cheap, but our concierge got us 20-40% off the listed price each night we dined in a specialty restaurant. So, in the end we never got to go back in the MDR, but I am convinced that the issues would have been fixed.
If you do one thing on a Celebrity Cruise, eat dinner at Murano. The first night of the cruise they offer it at a discount if you book ahead of time. My father and I are "foodies" and love fine dining. We both agreed that the Murano dinner service and quality of food is an experience that would be incredible even if it weren't on a cruise ship. Every single aspect, from the bread to the Grand Marnier Souffle is perfect. Lobster Murano is a top 5 dish that I have ever experiences and is cooked table side with everything from bacon, to lobster cooked in a cognac mustard creme sauce. We were so impressed that we booked it for every remaining night of the cruise that we could. One night they were fully booked, so we tried Tuscan Grille. It was very good, but with it being a for-fee Italian steakhouse, we left miserably full compared to the lighter and more elegant Murano.
Entertainment & Activities
This will be rather short as we did not attend any of the main productions in the theater. Celebrity keeps the same shows for 3-5 years before cycling them out, with us sailing on the Equinox as frequently as we do, there weren't any that we hadn't already seen.
We did however attend the comedy shows and watch a lot of live music. The comedian was great and the house band was excellent as well. Celebrity offers other activities like bingo, concerts, seminars, and workshops that many find to be fantastic. Admittedly we mainly go find somewhere quiet near a bar, as we are both young and always seem to be around crowds on land, we enjoy a more laid back experience on the boat.
With the exception of the MDR, which I consider a fluke rather than a flaw, service is impeccable on Celebrity. Tipping is a hot topic on any cruise forum, but I can definitively say that when I hand a bartender or my room steward a $10/$20 bill on the first day, they take care of my wife and I the rest of the voyage. I personally try to find a specific bartender in my most regular bars and tip heavy on days 1/2. I tip $1 a drink the remainder of the time and I am having another drink brought to me before the first one is finished. Celebrity has a wonderful staff and an underappreciated staff/guest ratio. I think the reason they named it "Celebrity Cruises" is because of how they want each and every guest to feel. It really is what makes them so special.
Cafe Al Bacio:
I couldn't figure out the best place to include this place in any of my previous sections, so I ultimately decided that it needed its own. Bacio is arguably the most loved place on the ship. They are a full service coffee & dessert bar that is open all day. In the morning people are getting their day started with anything from a cappuccino to a cup of decaf, and late at night every table is full with people winding down in the low light setting of an old city jazz bar. The live music from the atrium fills the bar and its just a super unique place to relax and enjoy yourselves. It sounds so simple and quaint, but I am amazed that every cruise ship in the world doesn't mimic this place into their own.
Ports & Excursions:
We loved every port we stopped at. We are very familiar with the Western Caribbean so only Key West was a first time port for us. Everyone has different interests at respective ports, so I will just tell you what we do every time and you look for more information if you wish.
Key West: We wandered on our own, Key West isnt a large town and most of the cool stuff is near the ship. There are tours galore and a really neat aquarium nearby. Grab you a piece of Key Lime Pie and a Conch Fritter and enjoy your first stop of the cruise!
Grand Cayman: 7 Mile Beach at Calico Jacks. You go to this beach for the water as it is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. CJ's is great, but very crowded.
Costa Maya: New favorite port in the Western Caribbean. The port itself is a maze, but very very beautiful. We find our way out and go to Maya Chan Beach Resort every chance we get. Check it out, its the epitome of a relaxing beach day.
Cozumel: I have an answer to the famous Sancho's vs Nochi debate... Sancho's is the best! All inclusive, wonderful service, and a beautiful (safe) beach. We go every time we are in Cozumel and have no plans of changing!
In Conclusion: My wife and I fell in love with cruising on our honeymoon and have been blessed to go one more than most our age. Celebrity is a perfect fit for what we want to do and how we want to spend our time on the boat. Its generally an older crowd, but we cruise like "older people". We have 2 more cruises currently booked with Celebrity, and 81 days cannot get here soon enough! Read Less
I have been wanting to visit Egypt since I was 4 years old. Instability and fear had always held me back until I discovered Uniworld River Cruises. Uniworld has a unique way of always making you feel like you’re a VIP. So was it possible ... Read More
I have been wanting to visit Egypt since I was 4 years old. Instability and fear had always held me back until I discovered Uniworld River Cruises. Uniworld has a unique way of always making you feel like you’re a VIP. So was it possible that Uniworld could possibly provide us the security and comforts of home that we demand in Egypt? The only way that question could possibly be answered was to book the trip and find out first hand. So after much anxiety we did we booked our trip for March 23, and I am all the more thankful and grateful for the decision we made. For us, it was truly that trip of our life time thanks to Uniworld.
We arrived at the Cairo airport a day early and was greeted by a smiling and friendly Egyptian holding up a Uniworld sign named Ahab. He grabbed our luggage and the luggage of another Uniworld couple and headed us to the Uniworld Van. He then began to explain all the wonderful things we would be experiencing over the next two weeks and gave us a short Egyptian language lesson. He was funny and knowledgeable and gave us a very positive impression of what was instore. He offered us an optional day trip to the bent pyramid. Any time you meet a 55 year old guide with a high energy cell phone ring tone, you know you are in for a really good time but we had already made other plans.
Uniworlds trip includes a visit to the pyramids, sphinx and camel ride, but we were so anxious we booked a private half day exertion via Viator and had a really good guide named Marwa who made certain we had a great time, along with lots of photo opportunities.
Our stays at the Four Season Hotel was wonderful. This hotel is well managed and was like an luxury oasis in the middle of the desert. This hotel exhibited very good security and we always felt safe. Our room was magnificent and over looked the Nile River. My wife and I were treated like VIP’s the entire visit and we received exceptional service. The spa was fantastic and the services they provided were extremely professional. We dined at the Italian and Oriental restaurants and the buffet. The food and service at the buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner was our favorite!
Since there was 72 people, they divided us into two groups and each assigned a bus and our own Egyptologist. Ours was named Tarek Mostafa and he was absolutely wonderful. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable about Egypt but had good command of the English language, authentic, funny and extremely good dresser. He also made us feel like we were VIP’s the entire trip. My wife and I have traveled to a lot of places in this world and used a lot of guides via Uniworld, Tauck and Viking, but Tarek Mostafa is hands down the best we have ever experienced. I hope you are lucky enough to have him as your Egyptologist. He went out of his way to provide our group with plenty of safe shopping opportunities during a very packed schedule and even helped us negotiate prices with vendors. He will teach you how to deal with locals trying to sell you stuff for one dollar. Every local knew him, and locals treated him with great respect and admiration. If you are lucky enough to get Tarek as your guide, you tell him Pete said hello.
I loved the ole majestic Tosca river boat and all the five star staff that they had on board. I thought it was elegant and beautiful just not a quiet as the electric boats Uniworld has in Europe. She parted the waves of the Nile like a knife through butter. I loved all the wood work, comfortable seating and the pictures of old Egypt that hand on the wall. We enjoyed the Egyptian entertainment and dressing up for the Galabeya party. I even learned how to really dance like an Egyptian!
We absolutely loved cruising the Nile River from on top of the Tosca. Plenty of comfortable seating and nice relaxing pool. We returned home so dark, that our family thought we had gone to Miami. Expect to see lots of beautiful tall palm trees and tons of banana trees. The only modern machinery you will see is electric pumps to irrigate the miles of farms. I saw lots of fisherman checking trout lines and nets. My favorite were the smiling faces and waving arms of children along the banks of the Nile all happy to see us.
Every single day of our trip went as planned and we were always informed throughout the day by our Egyptologist, staff on board the ship and received a printed itinerary of next day’s events in detail. We always felt extremely safe because on every single excursion we had our own embedded guard who wore a three piece suit and holstered an impressive 9mm MP5. In addition, our buses were always escorted by the Egyptian military or police. Everyone waved to us and thanked us for visiting Egypt. I cannot tell you how many people randomly thanks us for coming to Egypt. Not once did we feel unsafe or threatened. We loved the balloon ride and the trip to Abu Simbal. Everything worked like clockwork during the entire trip. We were lucky that the Nile was high enough to cruise to Dendra, and that there were not sand storms or strong winds for us to experience the hot air balloon ride. All the interior Egyptian flights were with Egypt air and they ran smooth and security was extremely good. Expect some early morning wake-ups to avoid the heat, other tourist and sand that can rise up to 13,000 feet during the mid-day. Trust in the process cause these folks are experts when it comes to experiencing Egypt in a safe and comfortable manor. In return, we experienced a perfect trip and a trip of a life time that I will always remember. We left Egypt with a greater knowledge of Egypt and a much better understanding of the Muslim and Christian people who call Egypt home. The last days visit to the pyramids, sphinx and camel ride was as much fun as the first one! I just wish my wife would have let me buy one of those camels for the back yard. Uniworld not only meet our expectations but exceeded them. Ahab, even helped us inside the airport terminal to make sure we made it through security and check our luggage with no issues on the way home. No other company has ever done that for us. These folks treated us like family. If you want to see and experience Egypt first class and feel like a VIP, choose Uniworld’s Splendors of Egypt! Read Less
This was our 4th cruise on Viking and each cruise gets better and better. Service, food, friendly atmosphere, tours, the ship and rooms are all top notch. We decided to stay in a PV3 cabin and really enjoyed the extra space usually we ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise on Viking and each cruise gets better and better. Service, food, friendly atmosphere, tours, the ship and rooms are all top notch. We decided to stay in a PV3 cabin and really enjoyed the extra space usually we stay in a DV cabin.
We decided to mainly take this cruise for the 3 days in Israel and we were not disappointed.
We decided to do a private tour in Israel as there were 10 of us and we booked through Guided Tours of Israel who did an excellent job. We could not ask for a better tour guide and driver.
My least favorite port was Naples - quite dirty.
The lectures on board were very interesting - especially the ones about Israel. The lectures were well attended, the lecture ended at 6:30 pm and everyone headed for the dinning room we did not have a long wait but Viking served champagne to all waiting in line and they did this several times - this is just an example of their service.
They had several lunch specials around the pool , such as grilled salmon, mussels, and a fantastic brunch on one of our sea days served from 10 am to 1 pm. Excellent food stations and they served Bloody Mary's, champagne and Mimosas!
Viking is a excellent cruise line, they care about the passengers and again you can not beat the service - we have booked 2 additional cruises with Viking.
Entertainment is good, we always enjoyed going to the Living Room around 6 pm for a cocktail and the music. Read Less
We've traveled throughout much of Europe and a little in South America, but two countries we had not been exposed to were Brazil and Portugal, so when this cruise was announced we jumped at the opportunity. It also helped that the ... Read More
We've traveled throughout much of Europe and a little in South America, but two countries we had not been exposed to were Brazil and Portugal, so when this cruise was announced we jumped at the opportunity. It also helped that the cruise line was offering a double cabin upgrade (veranda for the price of an inside cabin), and the extras offered (gratuities and basic drink package) were not common on ocean crossing cruises. Even with all our travel, we are relative neophytes in the cruising game, having only taken a total of four over the years. The most recent cruises were on Celebrity, which we now use as our standard against which to judge others, and we were anxious to compare this "upscale" cruise line to those. We arrived in the departure city, Rio, a day early and took in the sights, and then the next morning taxied to the port. As the ship is small and only holds about 700 guests, the lines were short in the registration area, and it was only a matter of 15 minutes before we were boarding the ship. The wait to get into our cabins was also short, and luggage arrived quickly. A bit of good news we received once we were on the ship was we were able to use our Celebrity points to get some perks on Azamara (including a free hour of wifi time). Our cabin was small (category V3 on deck 7), but it had plenty of closet space and places to store the luggage. We met our cabin stewards, Dyna and Gouri, right after finding the cabin, and they carefully wrote down our requests for stocking the minibar and other requirements. For the rest of the cruise they tended to our needs perfectly and unobtrusively, always with a smile on their faces. At the muster drill we learned an interesting fact: Apparently Norovirus, the scurge of cruising, manifests itself within 24 hours of embarkation. So the cruise line doesn't allow guests to touch any of the serving utensils in the buffet for the first day. Not sure if other lines have adopted that practice but we didn't hear of any outbreaks during our cruise. For the remainder of the cruise we learned the ins and outs of Azamara cruising. The ratio of guests to crew is less than two to one, and there are always management staff around to ensure every operation runs smoothly. In the buffet they are constantly providing coffee refills, taking away plates, filling up your wine glass or other drinks. In the main dining room it's all open seating, meaning you meet new people each day. After the first couple of meals we were especially pleased with one of the servers, Doma (from India), and so from that point we requested to be seated in her area each night. She and her assistant, Wayan (from Indonesia) took great care of us, remembering our drink preferences and other details, and becoming great friends by the end of the cruise. Other dining options were the small cafe on the pool deck, where you could get hamburgers, salads, chicken wings, etc., as well as frozen yoghurt for dessert, and two specialty restaurants (which we didn't take advantage of). Both my wife and I felt the food quality was excellent, with plenty of choices at all times, and there were always two types of red and white wine each day, which we enjoyed. There were also special occasions, such as buffets outside on the pool deck. One of those was their "White Night" where everyone is encouraged to wear white. Food was plentiful (including zillions of BBQ lobster tails), and live entertainment and dancing lasted late into the night. Since the weather was quite chilly and windy that night, they provided blankets to everyone. Another special offered was the Chocolate Fantasy, with every chocolate concoction you could ask for including two fountains. Entertainment ranged from magicians to singers to comedians, but our favorites were Four on the Floor, their resident singing group. A special event was the crew talent show, where various crew members showed off their singing and dancing skills. It was great fun seeing people we knew on the crew and finding out they had such great talent. For us other reasons Azamara stands out are (1) small ships and easy to get around, (2) free guest laundry with free detergent, (3) free shuttle buses to take guests from the ship to the city center in each port, (4) drink packages and prepaid gratuities even on ocean crossings, and (5) crew members that take pride in ensuring your happiness and satisfaction. Those and everything else about Azamara are the reasons we found we were in a great minority of only cruising once with the line. Nearly everyone we spoke with had cruised with Azamara 5, 10, 15 or 20 times. One couple had been on nearly 50 Azamara cruises! We definitely will cruise with them again. Read Less
Well, we are back from our first Viking Ocean cruise – 10 days West Indies Explorer on the Viking Sea March 2019. We arranged our own flights, so we got to San Juan PR and made our way to the ship. Check in was easy-peasy and so ... Read More
Well, we are back from our first Viking Ocean cruise – 10 days West Indies Explorer on the Viking Sea March 2019. We arranged our own flights, so we got to San Juan PR and made our way to the ship. Check in was easy-peasy and so different than what happens on other lines. I’ve sailed Carnival (platinum), Royal Caribbean, and NCL in the past, so this was not my first check-in. Of course 930 passengers vice 3000-5000 makes quite a difference.
Our room stewards Teddy and Emm were great and met us when we arrived and explained features of our room. They always greeted us if they were about and ensured we had everything we needed. Even though it was about 3:30PM, we found the pool grill had wonderful and we got our first wine and beer (free with lunch and dinner). Waiters were available and checked on us often. This continued throughout the entire cruise in all dining venues! Great job.
On the second night onboard, just as we were getting ready to leave San Juan behind, we had our Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle – an invitation was left in our room with the Viking Daily the day before. The Captain and his command staff were busy, but every available senior staff officer attended. We had a very nice chat with Tom Aberg (Hotel General Manager), Edgar de Jaspi (Beverage Manager) and John Cunningham (Restaurant Manager) while enjoying free drinks and finger foods. From that evening on, we were always greeted by these senior officers. Surprisingly, a few days later we got another invitation to another Meet and Mingle. We went and when we asked, we were told by another Cruise Critic member, that they missed the first one – apparently they didn’t realize they had to sign up for the M&M on CC prior to arriving onboard, so they didn’t receive an invitation. But the staff wanted to ensure that they were not left out, so we had a second get together with all the trimmings and all the senior staff. (Now what other cruise line would do that???) At this meeting, in addition to Edgar and John, I had a nice talk with Jenn Beaudoin (Cruise Director) and Mara Buga (Guest Services Manager). I had a special request of Jenn and she made some calls had made arrangements. Thank you Jenn and thanks for Fredrik Svensson for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to another Engineer!
I’m not going to do a day to day accounting of my experiences, but I will make a few comments. First, the food and drink onboard is outstanding. All venues were excellent, but we always like the Restaurant and had wonderful meals in Manfredi’s and at the Chef’s Table. Service was impeccable regardless of where we ate. Secondly, I was so impressed by the Senior Staff. On most lines, one does not even see the Hotel Manager, Restaurant Manager, Financial Officer or Beverage Manager, but on this ship/line, they were highly visible and jumped in anytime there was need. For example, Tom, John or Edgar often were escorting guests in the Restaurant or in the Theater. (Again, where else have you ever seen this happen?) Third, I was somewhat concerned about taking the included excursions thinking they would be boring. Not so. The guides were obviously well vetted and could answer any question thrown at them. In many of the ports, the tour at a specific time was broken into smaller groups which worked well and kept wait time to a minimum. I learned something at every port! We also did a 3 optional tours and they were wonderful! Only thing I questioned was at all these wonderful Caribbean ports, there were no Scuba diving tours… hmmm. Fourth, was the general ‘we want you to learn something’ on this cruise vibe on the ship. There was a resident historian onboard who had some wonderful lectures and round table discussions. There was also a Geologist who gave talks on how the islands were formed and such. Really interesting! If you happened to miss the talk, don’t fear, it was recorded for on-demand broadcast on the in cabin TV along with lots of other great informative programs, news stations and movies. Fifth, the entertainment onboard was wonderful – singers and musicians were top notch. Shows were excellent. A steel pan group was brought onboard at one port to play by the pool for an afternoon show. We also had Line Dance lessons. Unfortunately, I have 2 left feet when it comes to this! But it was enjoyable!
Overall, it was a GREAT Experience and it will not be our last Viking Ocean cruise! Great Job by everyone onboard! Read Less
Apart from having to queue for 90 minutes to check in due to Cunard computer crashing several times, the cruise was everything we expected and more. There was a bottle of champagne waiting in our cabin, robe and slippers supplied and ... Read More
Apart from having to queue for 90 minutes to check in due to Cunard computer crashing several times, the cruise was everything we expected and more. There was a bottle of champagne waiting in our cabin, robe and slippers supplied and lovely toiletries and the beds were so comfortable.
There was plenty of choice in Lido restaurant for breakfast and lunch and dinner in Britannia restaurant was excellent for quality, choice and service. Golden Lion pub served excellent British food for lunch, the Atlantic cod, chips and mushy peas were a favourite. Afternoon tea served in Queens room by waiters wearing white gloves was an experience.
There was plenty of activities to take part in if you wanted to and plenty of seating if you just wanted to read.
We took up the offer of 'book inside cabin and get free upgrade to balcony'. However it was not used very much as the weather got quite rough crossing the Tasman Sea and travelling down the east coast and round to Fiordland, so unless the same deal offered next time, an ocean view would suffice.
Definitely recommend this trip to New Zealand. Read Less
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me:
Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier ... Read More
The South Pacific is a bucket-list destination and the back-to-back cruises on Le Soleal hit all the high spots. I generally like expedition-style cruises, but the itinerary captivated me:
Cruise #1: Easter Island, Pitcairn, Gambier Islands, Moorea, Bora Bora and Papeete; Cruise#2: Papeete, Moorea, Tuamotu islands, Marquesa Islands, Hilo, Honolulu
This review will cover both cruises.
As it turned out, the itienrary had a lot of expedition-style elements: transportation by zodiac, snorkel eqipt. issued, visiting out of the way places (not even listed in Lonely Planet or much on the web about them), an excellent speaker introducing us to the various Polynesian cultures, film programs, some hiking, and excellent local guides.
The mix on the ship was about 50% French-speaking and the rest English speaking (consisting of US, Australian/New Zelanders, Europeans) and most programs were offered twice, once for the French speaking, and again for the English speaking audience. Ship announcements were bi-lingual.
Food is both restaurants is excellent and I enjoyed the buffet on on the 6th level for most meals as I could "eat and run".
Spa services are excellent
I liked that the ship had a afternoon reception for those of us traveling on our own so we could meet each other.
This is a 5-star ship, with 5-star dining, 5-star services and 5-star amenities (for example, bathroom amenities are from Hermes). Read Less