Much to my disappointment I chose this cruise with Costa because it was the only cruise that fit into our date shortly after our wedding day. I had never sailed with this company before and boy I wished I had known and not have traveled ... Read More
Much to my disappointment I chose this cruise with Costa because it was the only cruise that fit into our date shortly after our wedding day. I had never sailed with this company before and boy I wished I had known and not have traveled sight unseen or rather palate.I think that I am a seasoned traveler with enough travels to Europe that have lead me to explore over 20 different countries. I have been able to see this with a combination of land travel and cruise travel which include being on over 20 different cruises. These ships include Royal Caribbean, Princess, Oceania, Orient, and NCL. For the good: Costa Magica the ship was in very good condition and the staff was very nice and helpful. Our room which was a suite had lovely appointments, a great balcony, and a jet tub! They didn't skimp on any of the details. Embarkation was interesting in a good way. People boarded each day at every port, and the same as for leaving, this I had never experienced. This made the process of boarding wonderful, no lines or hassles! No one complaining that the cruise had to end.Now what you are wanting to read....the food was just terrible! My husband and I tried to make each meal work. We sampled different things, and everything was overcooked! To the point where one couldn't eat it. The soup was watered down. I mean really bland and thin. I was so disappointed and embarrased as this was my husband's first cruise and my 23rd!!! I was always raving about food on the ships. So, what did we do? There wasn't any room service like I was accustomed to on the other ships. I think there was a limited breakfast menu. We ate at the pizza shop each night. I will have to tell you that the pizza and the salads were very very good! But, don't you think that is sad to be on your honeymoon, after paying $6,000.00 to be eating pizza each night? The pizza area was very romantic, and we made the best of it. The ice-cream was in the same area and that wasn't even working right. My husband ate it anyway because we were so hungry!One day we went to Malta. My husband and I ate lunch there. The island's fish, don't recall the name, is heavenly! For that night's dinner, the dining staff said that there was a change in the menu and that they were serving Mahi-Mahi. Hmmm....where did they get that? Well, it was the same fish that is from Malta. It wasn't cooked well at all, overdone! Mahi-Mahi and the Maltese fish are entirely different. Interesting........So to sum it up, I would not recommend this ship if you are hungry or if you want pizza each night after trying the dinning room's meal.My saving grace is that we stayed in Rome for 4 nights after the 7 day cruise and we dined with the locals and enjoyed ourselves on the local fare.( can you imagine, we even had pizza for lunch one day!) We weren't asking for much, just some edible food.Great ship for the decor and staff, don't expect any good food.The exception is if I guess you happen to take this ship and it's in a different location. I have read that the food is very good. Our travel agent highly recommended this ship, but she was on a Carribean cruise. Read Less
Our trip onboard the Norwegian Spirit was both a good experience, and a huge disappointment. First of all, George & I left on Sunday, May 14th, Mother's Day, so we didn't get a chance to spend time with our moms because we ... Read More
Our trip onboard the Norwegian Spirit was both a good experience, and a huge disappointment. First of all, George & I left on Sunday, May 14th, Mother's Day, so we didn't get a chance to spend time with our moms because we had to get to the pier. George put a whole bottle of Smirnoff Vodka in his bag, and had to give it up once we were on the ship. They found it in his suitcase. Well, one other guy ended up giving up seven bottles. They did give us back our bottle the last night of our cruise. Secondly, it rained for most of the cruise, which didn't make the situation any better. George & I had an inside cabin, which was small, but charming. We didn't get to sleep in the Queen Sized bed that we thought our stateroom would have. Instead, it had twin beds, with a bunk bed. I slept on the top, George on the bottom. The shower was adequate, but the bathroom was too small for two people to get ready in the morning for the day, and at night, for dinner.
The Trivoli pool was mid ship. That was a nice set up, with four jacuzzi tubs at each corner of the pool. We didn't get to enjoy it, because it was raining. The aft of the ship had a tiered deck, above the kid's pool (Buccaneer Wet n' Wild). That looked like a lot of fun, and it had two short water slides.
One evening, they had a Neil Diamond impersonator and his wife, a model from NYC. We got to listen to them in the Galaxy of the Stars. George spent 28 US dollars on a six pack of Bud in a helmet. It wasn't really worth it.
We played table tennis, and had the chance to meet other childless couples who played tennis on the second table. It was nice to meet some new people from different parts of the world. One couple was so good, that George asked them if they were thinking of joining the table tennis championships!
Here's the disappointing part of the cruise. The Chinese people were very rude, they kept cutting in line, pushing and shoving to get ahead of everyone else. I always thought of the Chinese to be polite and respectful of others. These Chinese people were not.
Then, there was the food in Raffles, the buffet. They say that freestyle cruising is the way to go, because you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want. That would be great if the food was delicious. Instead, it was the same food for lunch every day. Our first day on board, we had to ask for more meat on the sandwiches. One slice of meat doesn't cut it. Even for the most picky eater. One night, George and I felt like eating the Mexican food. Well, the little taco that George made had a stick in the meat. George pulled it out of his mouth, and we ended up telling the waitress, who told the head chef. Then, we felt that our complaints had fallen to death's ears, so we went to the reception desk. One of the gentlemen was not a gentleman. He didn't even write down the problems that we were having with the food! We finally talked to one of the women, and they went and got the manager. The manager then went and called the Head Swiss Chef. We got to sit down and talk to him, and tell him all about the problems with Raffles. We also told him how one of the cooks at the stir fry station insulted George on his weight. He apologized profusely for that, and said that he'd talk to the guy who insulted George.
Then, we went to "Windows" to eat. We got to sit by the window most of the time, and look out at the ocean. The staff was professional enough, but not like the past cruises. We ended up getting a special ordered dinner for our troubles. I had a tuna steak, and George had a steak imported for Cagney's Steakhouse, one of the restaurants that we'd have to pay to get into. They put lobster tails on our plates along with our special ordered dinner. That was a nice touch.
As for the rain, it rained when we were in Port Canaveral, our first port of call. George & I couldn't find our way off the ship, because we asked one of the uniformed gentleman, who again, was not a gentleman, what floor to get off of. He told us the fourth floor forward. We went to the fourth floor, and found out it was only for the crew. So, we went back up to the seventh floor Grand Centrum, and well, we were able to get off of the ship.
We went and met my Aunt and Uncle, who live on Merritt Island. They had a tough time getting to the terminal to pick us up. They could see the ship from the entrance of the parking lot, but had to go around the mulberry bush to get to us.
We couldn't do much in the rain. We were going to go to Ron John's, this original 52,000 square foot gift shop. But, we never got there. Instead, we went to my aunt and cousin's business, Curves for Women. That was fun, because we got to spend time with my family. Then, we went to the Package Store, and bought a bottle of Citrus Vodka. My Uncle drove us to his house, and we sat down with him and had a couple of drinks mixed with grapefruit juice. They have a ranch styled house on a canal, and have a swimming pool and jacuzzi which overlooks the canal. They also have a pontoon boat, and a speed boat. Too bad we couldn't go out on them in the rain.
After that, we went back to the ship, and prepared for our next port of call, Nassau. The next morning, we woke up, and it was pouring! We took this taxi ride with a few others from our ship. We had a narrated tour of the whole island, stopped at a fort with cannons, and got to see the homes from the rich to the poor. Then, we stopped at Atlantis, the hotel that people have been talking about. Note, this wasn't a shore excursion. Instead, it was at our own free will and cost only twenty eight US dollars. However, we only had a certain amount of time there. I bought a straw pocket book in the shop right next to the ship that was originally 55 US dollars, but George haggled until we got it down to 43 US dollars. We spent so much time haggling, that we didn't have enough time to buy booze.
That evening we left Nassau and set sail for the private island, Great Stirrup Cay. We set anchor about a mile off shore. We didn't go ashore that evening for the party, but were exhausted and fell asleep in our cabin. The next morning was bright and sunny. We ate an early breakfast at Raffles, again, the same food every morning, and then took the tender over to the island. We felt rushed for time, because we only had a few hours to enjoy the sun. George got sun burnt, and I got a tan. The barbecue was a joke! They only had undercooked chicken, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage. What a lunch! .
They had this African American dude doing some limbo tricks with his body. That was really cool to watch. The only complaint I have about the beach is that there aren't enough lounge chairs, only enough for a few people. The rest of the chairs we had to sit in. We didn't get there early enough to grab a lounge chair.
Then, we left the island, and went back to the ship for our return trip home. It was smooth sailing after that. As I sit and type this, I can't help but think of the smiling staff who were eager to help us. One staff member in particular, Maria, a waitress in both Raffles and Windows, was friendly, and funny. Then, there were the inside jokes that George and I shared. All in all, it was an experience that we'll never forget. Read Less
The Uniworld sailing "European Serenade" is a 13-day cruise that alternates Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Holland with the reverse itinerary. We chose the Vienna to Amsterdam itinerary and enjoyed it greatly. We were able to ... Read More
The Uniworld sailing "European Serenade" is a 13-day cruise that alternates Vienna, Austria to Amsterdam, Holland with the reverse itinerary. We chose the Vienna to Amsterdam itinerary and enjoyed it greatly. We were able to purchase our trip during one of Uniworld's buy-one-get-one-free cruise fares and discounted airfare specials. Upon arrival to Vienna Austria, we went through customs and immigration, and collected our luggage. In baggage claim a representative from Uniworld was waiting for us and took us immediately to our bus that transported us to the pier where we boarded the River Duchess where a lunch buffet had been set out. Check in took a little bit of time as several passengers had arrived at one time, and there were only two crew completing check-in procedures, but we were served wine and were able to have light lunch while awaiting check in and for our cabins to be prepared.
Cabins: The were adequately sized with a typical cruise-ship sized bathroom. All cabins have a view of the river, and we were in a category 5 stateroom, the lowest of the categories. Our view of the river was very close to the waterline, but we enjoyed hearing the water hitting the hull at night. In the literature that we received from Uniworld prior to leaving, we were instructed to pack lightly as there isn't much storage space for luggage. This is true, and there is a laundry room on the ship that was convenient to use. I had brought some laundry soap from home in one of my little travel bottles, and found this to be convenient as well.
Food: Breakfast and lunch both consisted of a buffet and dinner had a menu service with a few choices. The food was very good and well-prepared. I never had a meal that I found to be inedible or bad. Food is prepared in the typical European fashion, so desserts are not as sweet as our American palate is accustomed to eating. The soups were excellent, as were the warm breads at each meal. We were able to try some interesting things that we had never eaten before, and I would recommend trying all the soups available, even the sauerkraut soup. The house wine is also fine to drink with meals. Of course, part of the fun of travelling to a new country is to try local delicacies in each port of call, which my husband and I did each time we got off the ship. I had no idea there were so many ways to make wurst and sauerkraut, and discovered how yummy real gelato is.
Crew: The crew on the ship was excellent. They were all very friendly and personable and eager to help us with any questions or concerns. The cruise director was very knowledgeable about the areas that we were visiting and I especially enjoyed cruising the romantic Rhine seeing all the castles and hearing the history of the area. The captain and second captain were personable as well and interacted with the passengers on a daily basis.
Shipboard life: On several evenings of the cruise, local entertainers would board the ship and provide the evening's entertainment. We heard a polka band, watched a glass blower, and heard a group with medieval musical instruments. On other evenings, the cruise director gave a presentation on the history of the areas we were visiting, and there was dance music for the tiny dance floor in the lounge.
Excursions: The optional tour in Vienna of a ballet and seeing the Schonbrunn Palace were well worth the extra money. We were given directions on how to use the subway system and were able to do a little exploring on our own, and went to the Hofburg Palace and Mozarthaus. St Stephen's cathedral on the included tour was magnificent. At each stop during the trip, we were able to go on a tour that was included in the cruise fare. These were all led by English speaking local tour guides and the tours included many of the highlights of the towns that we were in. There was usually time for exploring on our own, which we greatly enjoyed. My husband and I took several weeks before we went on our trip to learn German so we could converse with the local inhabitants, which we found greatly enhanced our interactions. We especially enjoyed the medieval town of Rothenburg. We happened to be in Wurzburg during a music festival and were able to hear several choirs practicing in the cathedral, which was amazing. We also purchased a cuckoo clock in Regensburg, which was shipped to us a few weeks after we arrived back home.
We extended our stay in Amsterdam with the optional cruise extension, and are glad that we did. The Uniworld guide was very knowledgeable of the area and took us around the city, introducing us to interesting foods and showing us the historical areas and the Red Light district. We had a tour one day of the windmills, a wooden shoe factory, and farm where Gouda cheese is produced. Amsterdam was chilly and rainy, even in July, so be prepared for this with a rain jacket and umbrella. The Ann Frank house is a do-not-miss, and the Rijksmuseum had a lot of very interesting works of art.
Recommendations for anyone considering this trip: Pack lightly. You can wash laundry in the evening as the ship is sailing down the river.
Buy a Frommer's Guide to the area. This gives you an overview of the town and the history of what you're going to see.
Learn the language. The Pimsleur Method is excellent for learning conversational German (or French or whatever language you need to learn) for travelling. We learned basic greetings, how to ask for directions, how to ask for the bathroom, how to order food and drinks, and to say that we speak/understand a little of the language. As soon as someone realized that we were truly trying, they would typically switch to English, or speak slowly to help us understand what we were trying to find out.
Who would enjoy this trip: Anyone who ever fantasized about being a princess living in a castle. The castles along the Rhine are the things that fairy tales are made of. Also anyone who enjoys history, seeing Roman ruins, and medieval towns. Read Less
This review is a little belated as we sailed on Freedom of the Seas on Super Bowl Sunday February 4, 2007 from Miami when the Colts defeated the Bears. We had actually made reservations over a year in advance for the cruise scheduled to ... Read More
This review is a little belated as we sailed on Freedom of the Seas on Super Bowl Sunday February 4, 2007 from Miami when the Colts defeated the Bears. We had actually made reservations over a year in advance for the cruise scheduled to leave the week before but we were bumped because the ship was bought out for a GLBT cruise. Royal Caribbean didn't happen to mention that we would now be leaving on the day the Super Bowl was going to be in town making it impossible to find a hotel room for 150 miles. However, RCCL did give us a credit for the inconvenience of being bumped so it all kind of evened out.
First off, I want to say that we loved Freedom of the Seas. Everything was first class. Although I will mention some things about the cruise, my critique is mainly aimed at Royal Romance (also known as The Wedding Experience and a few other names), which is the wedding planner under contract to Royal Caribbean. Our cruise was originally booked as a way for my family and my fiance's family to vacation together and get to know each other. When we found out that my mother had terminal lung cancer in 2006, my fiance suggested moving up our wedding to the cruise since most of our family was going to be gathered here for the trip anyway. For this reason, we chose to not only make FOS our honeymoon cruise but also the location of our wedding. We thought it would be simpler and less stressful to use Royal Romance and have the wedding on the ship instead of arranging something at the house before we left. WRONG!!
We were told by Royal Romance that we would be assigned our own personal wedding planner who would handle all of the details of our wedding professionally. Instead we got a boiler-room operation where we never spoke to the same person twice. Half the time if I could get someone on the phone they did not understand English. Many of the extras promised in their brochure were unavailable. Everything was disorganized and unprofessional. A week after signing the contract, I received a call that I had to have all of my guests info including birth dates, maiden names and social security numbers by noon the next day or no one could attend the wedding. What?! Seriously?! I spent hours making calls like crazy and got the info faxed in by the deadline. Then RR loses the fax. I have until 5:00 pm to re-fax the info, but I don't have it with me. So my fiance has to take off work to go get the list and re-fax it to them and our guests are finally approved. So we send RR the wedding details, menu and music list. They lose the fax. And on and on and on. Every day it was some new level of ineptitude.
On the day of the wedding, our own "personal" wedding coordinator was late. So they send a flunky who is clueless and gives us the wrong information almost causing my children to miss the wedding. The coordinator finally shows and corrects the mistake but then makes me turn over my dress to the TSA agent for inspection. I'm thinking this means she will unzip the garment bag and look for bombs or whatever. Silly me. She wads it up in a ball and shoves it in the scanner where it starts getting wrapped around the conveyor belt. I pull the dress to safety and scream at the agent. She flashes her gold teeth at me and says, "I din't knows it was a weddin' dress." Hmm. Let's see, they are pre-boarding the wedding parties and the garment bag says D****'s Bridal. I came this close to slapping the TSA agent and ending up in federal prison on my wedding day.
Royal Romance had also overbooked the weddings that day and so we were rushed through our prep time, given only 15 minutes to get dressed and do hair. Brides were flying up and down the halls. On a positive note, I must say that other than the music being played out of order, our wedding itself went off well. The officiant performed a lovely service and the chapel on the Freedom of the Seas is gorgeous. Everyone had a wonderful time at the reception which was held in part of the Viking Lounge with a spectacular view of the Miami skyline and the pool deck. The food and service were very good, although I feel this was due to Royal Caribbean and not Royal Romance. The cake was pretty but not completely thawed. Yep, a frozen wedding cake. We were also told that we would need two cakes by RR, but the guests didn't even finish one cake.
The Royal Caribbean photographer took me and my husband for photos all over the ship. He did a great job and the photos turned out beautiful, but a note to RC and its photographers, because we only have a short time to spend with our guests at the reception before they get tossed off the ship, don't waste that time dragging us from one end of the ship to the other and back again. Let us enjoy that time with out family and friends and arrange a time to take the photos later that day after we sail.
Now for the cherry on top of the slightly frozen wedding cake. Royal Romance LOST out marriage certificate. It never arrived at the courthouse. We had to take time off work to go get a duplicate marriage certificate and send it off to them to re-do when it still had not shown up 3 weeks later. I was not able to get my name changed for over two months after the wedding which caused a great deal of problems and frustrations. We only got a apology and a lot of lame excuses and finger pointing from Royal Romance.
To sum up, I would NOT recommend Royal Romance to anyone based upon our experience. Maybe they have changed their business practices in the nearly 3 years since our wedding. However, based on other complaints I have seen online I would say they are still doing the same old song and dance. When everything else Royal Caribbean does is first class, why would they use this second-rate bunch?
As far as our honeymoon cruise on Freedom of the Seas, as stated before, it was fabulous. Freedom was THE ship to sail on in 2007, the biggest and newest at that time (Oasis has taken over that spot now). As always with RCCL, everything was done to perfection: food, service, entertainment, amenities, ports of call, excursions. No detail was overlooked. Our every need was anticipated. The staff bent over backwards to help my mother who was very frail from her cancer treatments.
We had only two mishaps during the cruise. While watching the surfers on the Flowrider, I sat in greasy, gritty black soot from the smokestacks on the benches at the back of the ship. This stained a brand new outfit. I took it to customer service, and they had it cleaned free of charge and returned the same day. The soot is apparently an ongoing problem, so word to the wise - watch where you sit on the upper decks or always sit on a towel.
The second mishap, which was not Royal Caribbean's fault in any way, involved a sail/snorkel excursion. My mother was feeling well enough to accompany us but needed a wheelchair, which we had brought on the cruise for her, to get to and from the boat. The sailboat captain even took the wheelchair along in case she needed it at our beach break. When we got back from the excursion, the deck crew unloaded the wheelchair as we helped mom topside. By the time, we got her to the dock, some low life had already grabbed her wheelchair and taken off with it. I hope the person who stole the wheelchair really needed to use one and wasn't just using it for a joyride, because there is nothing lower than stealing a wheelchair from a dying woman. My husband immediately headed back to the ship to borrow a wheelchair and report the stolen wheelchair. He ran into our RCCL wedding photographer who went above and beyond the call of duty to try to find my mom's wheelchair. In the meantime, it had begun to rain, and my mom who did not want to inconvenience anyone, insisted on trying to walk back to the ship. It still breaks my heart to remember her leaning on us for support, slowly, painfully limping her way back to the ship, struggling for each breath, down that long, long dock, in the pouring rain. My husband met us just outside the ship with a borrowed wheelchair and we got her back to her room, but the effort had exhausted her and caused her so much pain that my aunt, a nurse, had to knock her out with heavy painkillers for the rest of the day. On a happier note, my mother's wheelchair was found. Whoever stole it, had luckily dropped it off on our ship and not one of the others in port, so mom was able to use it for the rest of her trip which she thoroughly enjoyed. Other than the wedding, her favorite part was sitting out on her balcony and watching the sun rise over the ocean. Sadly, it was her last cruise. She passed away less than a month after our return. But we have memories of happy times together on that cruise that will last a lifetime.
The cruise was such a success that we were able to completely turn my new mother-in-law into a cruise addict. We had to practically drag her onto the cruise. She had so many fears about cruising that she almost backed out a couple times. Only the wedding convinced her to come along. But she had such a great time on FOS, now she can't wait for our yearly cruises. We will be celebrating her birthday on Oasis this year.
I know this review is something of an epic novel (kudos to those who have made it this far), but I would like to mention one last thing. We did stop at Labadee, Haiti, on our honeymoon cruise. My heart goes out to the people of Haiti who have suffered so much from the earthquakes. I did not know what to expect when we visited Haiti on that cruise. We saw so many news stories about the awful state of Haiti and all the violence there and how the island had been destroyed by deforestation. We were almost afraid to disembark. But what we experienced was a Haiti with soaring lush green mountains and warm, cheerful, fun-loving people. I look forward to returning to Haiti again in the future and seeing all they have accomplished in rebuilding their country. RCCL has my support 100% in continuing to bring tourism dollars into Haiti and I laud them for all the aid they have brought and continue to bring to the country. Read Less
We sailed Seadream for our "babymoon" (I hate that term actually). At almost 7 months pregnant, we did not do many rigorous activities at the ports of call.
Our room (standard window) was furnished cleverly, with many shelves ... Read More
We sailed Seadream for our "babymoon" (I hate that term actually). At almost 7 months pregnant, we did not do many rigorous activities at the ports of call.
Our room (standard window) was furnished cleverly, with many shelves to put things on, and felt large enough. The lavatory was large enough for us, but I could see someone who is not petite being in tight quarters.
Food was great. Service was fabulous. I met a woman on board who loved having fresh coconut juice, so the kitchen made sure to stock up in the ports and served the coconut right up!
Dinners were good. We usually prefer to dine alone, and although we had the ability to every night, actually sat with other on a few occasions and had a great time.
Movie night out in the open with the blankets and popcorn was awesome, something that sticks in my mind every time my mind wanders about cruising.
We had massages in the spa, and while I felt fine my husband stopped his halfway - the rooms are quite tight and the boat was rocking a bit.
The pool area was great, and I spent many days right on the deck with my feet in the water reading a book. The area is really open and the views from the pool are great.
One night we slept outside on the beds up on top. It was a really beautiful night, but I will say that it depends on the winds, and sometimes we got a really strong wiff on the engines. I would also suggest to pick a night when the boat is docked - we did it the night we were anchored at St. Barths, it feels much less rocky!
My husband enjoyed the watersports (I stayed safely on the boat!).
I would recommend Seadream in a heartbeat, and we will definitely try a cruise with them again. I liked that the atmosphere was not stuffy, there were no formal dinner nights to worry about (this would have been a huge concern for me being so pregnant), and the people in general were laid back and friendly. We actually made some friends we are still in touch with!
BTW, I also apologize for my use of "boat", instead of "yacht", as I know some people are sticklers about that! Read Less
We excitedly booked the Sea of Cortez Cruise for our honeymoon. How disappointing! This was my third cruise, the second with Holland America, and the first for my husband. I hesitate to cruise with Holland America again.
The ... Read More
We excitedly booked the Sea of Cortez Cruise for our honeymoon. How disappointing! This was my third cruise, the second with Holland America, and the first for my husband. I hesitate to cruise with Holland America again.
The excursions, meals, entertainment, spa, and public areas were excellent. Tremendous attention to avoiding transmission of communicable disease was commendable, and only one passenger came down with a flu like symptom. The BUT and it was a BIGGIE, was the ongoing mechanical and plumbing problems on this trip. We were almost 8 hours late leaving port because the ship had to be towed in to San Diego. Hours later we finally were towed out to sea, after a few false starts. The plumbing problems were ongoing. Many passengers woke up to flooded cabins throughout the trip. Corridors were barricaded constantly, public washrooms closed, and the ship was crawling with plumbers attempting to resolve the ongoing issues.Odour, inconvenience, and stepping around busy workmen became the order of the day.
I also question the expertise of the public relations manager on this particular cruise. I caught my pant leg on the bottom ridge of the escalator on day two and wrenched my leg. The medical attention was excellent. The public relations manager was appropriately conciliatory, until she was certain I would not be suing the company. Then her shadow side emerged. At first I was told to purchase an outfit from the onboard store to compensate for the value of the ruined garment, and that the original outfit would be cleaned, repaired and returned to me. I took them at their word and after several phone calls, when I was repeatedly told my outfit would be rehemmed to a much shorter length and returned to me the next day, I found out my outfit would not be returned, and that if I did want it returned I would be charged for the new purchase from their store. This gem of information was provided on the second last day of the cruise, after 7 days of haggling. I was able to negotiate a reasonable solution after a face to face albeit unpleasant meeting, however it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. My subsequent communications to Holland America through email and my travel agent, have not facilitated a response.
Thinking about a cruise on the Ryndam? My advice - Don't book! Read Less
My wife & I took our honeymoon aboard the Celebrity Millennium on a 13 day cruise during June of 2007. The departure port was Barcelona, Spain visiting Villiefranche, Pisa/Florence, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Athens, Dubrovnik, & ... Read More
My wife & I took our honeymoon aboard the Celebrity Millennium on a 13 day cruise during June of 2007. The departure port was Barcelona, Spain visiting Villiefranche, Pisa/Florence, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Athens, Dubrovnik, & finally finishing in Venice, Italy.We handled our own flight arrangements into Barcelona by flying in on Easyjet the morning of the cruise. It did take us sometime to find the Celebrity representative to take the bus to the cruise port since they did not have any sign directing passengers unlike the Disney cruise. Unfortunately we had a wait about an hour before we could depart because of additional passengers flying in the airport. The bus ride was not to long and after about 20-30 minutes then we arrived at the port to get aboard the ship. Check in was quick and easy but boarding of the ship did not begin for another hour so my wife & I had lunch in the shopping area of the port. Once aboard we headed to our stateroom, Celebrity advised us they would not be ready for another 2 hours but when we got there our room was clean & our luggage had arrived. My wife quickly took a nap since she was recovering from a bad bought of hay fever she had gotten while we were in England before the cruise. Our room was 9000; ocean-view stateroom, on Sky Deck. The room was very large since our room was one of the few ocean-view's on the deck, and apparently where the balcony was normally located we had an additional small pull-out couch and storage space. Closet & storage space was ample for all our luggage (which is a lot for a 2 week cruise). My wife was very impressed with the vanity mirror in the room. Our room also had a full couch which was very nice. The bathroom was a good for the size of room we had. The stateroom's TV & ordering system was easy to use and figure out. We used the TV a few times to order room service & breakfast during the trip. Room service was always delivered quickly and nearly always on time. Both our primary & secondary stateroom attendants were very polite and friendly throughout the cruise. Clean towels and other items were always in good supply. Since we were honeymooning, I had booked honeymoon package. The items were always promptly delivered on time for every night we were to receive them. The only issue we had with our room during the cruise it was located near a crew entrance for the bridge area. A few times during the cruise my wife & I were awoken by crew members coming & going through the door.The Millennium was enjoyable and was easy to get around. I definitely prefer the Millennium shop layout compared to other cruise ships. The staff of these different locations were always very helpful even on topics relating to the cruise and it's ports. The coffee bar makes an especially nice cappuccino & espresso in my opinion for you coffee lovers. The front desk staff were always helpful and the ATM & cash exchange services were located right next to it. Even though the weather was perfect for our entire trip the Millennium indoor pool is a great amenity on those warmers days when you just enjoy a good swim and not deal with the crowds outside. I was disappointed to learn once aboard that Celebrity has just gone to policy of no smoking inside the ship. When I booked the cruise it had there was a cigar bar located aboard but when we arrived it had been converted to a piano bar. Millennium offers a large variety of dinning & drinking venues aboard and we enjoyed them all while aboard. There were plenty of activities during our cruise though we only attended some because of being so tired after spending so much time in port during the trip. Our days at sea normally involved sleeping in late and going to various activities like art shows, shop sales, and other presentations. Since we were newly weds we did attend the ships get together for honeymooners & people celebrating anniversary's. If you are adventurous you can even participate in the game show during the event. One of the funniest moments of our honeymoon occurred watching the game show. My wife & I also won the contest for being the youngest newly weds aboard the ship. We got a nice prize packing including t-shirts, cards, mugs, a cake, and even a bottle of champagne. Food aboard the ship was very enjoyable. While Celebrity tout's their normal dinner service being very close to high class fine dinning, it fell a bit short of my expectations. Even then, the Millenniums food is far above both Carnival & Royal Caribbean ships I have sailed on. Dinner in the dinning room was always an event in itself normally involving 4-6 courses. I consider myself an adventurous eater and the nightly menu's always had something new to try plus having the classics as well. DJ our head waiter did a fantastic job during the entire cruise. DJ had been working on the Millennium for several years so he knew the menu's, the ship, and the port inside & out and provided us with valuable information. DJ was even able to help my wife & I get a very nice table at the Nautika restaurant in Dubrovnik since he was friends with ones of it's managers. The only issue we had with dinner service was our sommelier. My wife & I quickly befriended another honeymooning couple dinning with us. We decided to share a bottle of wine every night with them, our sommelier did not like this arrangement in addition she got upset for me during one meal for getting a class of cheaper wine that was a type that I particularly liked. Our final dinner service our sommelier never even came to our table. Our friend left the dinning room to order bottle of wine. The staff in the bar asked the reason and she explained the situation. They said they would take care of the delivery and a few minutes later our sommelier delivered the bottle of wine and an apology. The Ocean Cafe & Grill had enjoyable food for the most part. The made to order waffles are must to try while aboard. The nightly sushi bar was very good as well, always a popular place for a mid afternoon snack. We did notice a few things throughout our cruise that the previous nights dinner menu cakes & pies were often cut up to make desert for the next day's lunch. Towards the end of the cruise the ship began running out of fruit juice & fresh fruit for the buffet. The Platinum Club also had very nice martini's, I especially enjoyed the flight of martini's which was a great deal. My wife & I also had dinner in the fine dinning restaurant the Olympic while aboard. I purchased the dinner with the full wine package. Our food was fantastic and the service from the large staff of waiters/waitresses, sommiliers, and other individuals was superb. The wine pairings for each course were pretty spot on. Since again we were newlyweds the Olympic staff gave a entire cake to celebrate besides the regular deserts we received with dinner. The Olympic is a must for any foodie, but I would not recommend for children.As part of the honeymoon package I purchased we did get over an hour in Roman bath with skin treatments. All we had to due was to call and book an available time during the cruise. The treatment was in small private bath much like steam room. The experience was completely new for both my wife & I but was enjoyable. The only problems my wife & I had during our entire cruise was when leaving the ship. I bought some scotch & wine to take home. We were repeatedly told to put all alcohol in our carry-on luggage which my wife & I did. As soon as we left the ship and reach the airport that is where things got unpleasant. At Venice's airport you can not check in for your flight until 2 hours in advance. Since the Millennium and 2 other cruises ended their cruises on the same day, there were several thousand people stuck in the airport for several hours before they could check in to their flights. Luckily I found a table in the food court so my wife & I were able to sit while waiting, most people had to sit on the floor. When we finally checked in for our flight we headed through security which the Italian customs agent said I was not allowed to bring my alcohol through. He tried his best to help me put in our checked luggage but it had already left to the terminal. He was very upset about having to take it, which I did my best to assure him it was not his fault. Upon returning home I contacted Celebrity concerning the issue of my alcohol but never received a good answer on why the instructions were mixed up.The first port we visited was Villifrance located in between Nice & Monaco. I had booked a shore excursion to take us to both Nice & Monaco. The ships tender took us to our waiting bus where we headed to Nice first. The bus dropped our group off near old downtown just near the flower market. There we were free to walk around the city for over 3 hours. My wife & I enjoyed walking through the local street markets and local stores. We even took the opportunity to try some of the local pastries which were very enjoyable. We then headed to Monaco for the rest of our bus tour. The bus took us to Old Monaco which was some way from Monte Carlo where some people wanted to go. My wife & I enjoyed the old city and visited the royal family's home and then went shopping before we had lunch. We arrived a week after the F1 race so racing clothes were on sale everywhere. Lunch in a local Italian restaurant was great and the Monaco beer the owner said was terrible was quite good in you like a amber style beer. For sea lovers you can visit the aquarium which is world renowned. We than headed back to the ship and the drive was very scenic and enjoyable. My wife & I then walked around downtown Villefranche before heading back to ship. Contrary to the opinion rude Parisians have bestowed on their fellow countrymen the locals of Nice & Monaco were very friendly and talkative. The area was one of our favorite ports of the entire trip.Our second port was to area outside Pisa & Florence. Again I booked a bus tour to visit both locations. The drive to Pisa was not too long, but we quickly learned from our tour guide there isn't much to see in Pisa besides the leaning tower. Sure enough she was correct and the tour only spent about hour in Pisa. Be warned do not buy anything from the street vendors since it is illegal and you can face a 1,400 euro fine. We then headed to Florence which was a very beautiful drive. We walked to Dante's church to begin our free time within the city. Many headed to see the statue of David but my wife & I walked around to visit some of the cathedrals and old buildings. My wife definitely enjoyed the great number of fine leather and clothing stores located in the city. We had some additional time so we tried to go & see the statue of David after all but the wait was over 4 hours so were returned to shopping district to grab a bit to eat & get some gelato. If you don't have time to see David don't be depressed there are a number of other version commissioned as well throughout the area including a stone one in the center of the city. Overall Florence is a very interesting city to visit, if you are a big fan of the Italian Renaissance or shopping you'll most likely enjoy it.Our next port of call was Rome. Unfortunately President Bush was in Rome for a state visit and there were mass demonstrations across the city. It was advised Americans should be travel with as much discretion or not at all. We decided to stay at the Port of Civitavecchia and walk around. Since it was Sunday most of the stores were closed and nothing was going on there was not much to see or do.Naples was our next stop. I had been warned even before our trip to be extremely cautious in Naples by my history professor who had lived there for several years. Celebrity and especially the foreign cruise staff warned all passengers at length not to go into the city itself and to stick with your tours at all time. We were told to take no valuables with you and make sure you have hidden copies of the required travel documents just in case. Upon leaving the port you quickly find that Naples is a extremely dirty city with shanty towns and packs of roaming wild dogs. We boarded our bus to Pompeii, and as you drive there you can see the piles of trash every where because of the city's on & off trash strike. Pompeii itself was an enjoyable place to visit and would have been more so if we had not had the slowest tour guide I have ever experienced. Since my wife & I are both lovers of history and very familiar with the site from books, we asked to separate ourselves from the tour so we could move faster and see more of the site. The original idea was return to ship and take a cab to the Naples Museum of History, but some of our table-mates had taken a cab to Pompeii and on their return trip the cab driver tried 4 times to drop them off in strange parts of the city. Based on that and plus our tour guide and the locals telling as well not to go into the city we did not. I did enjoy a nice afternoon on the ship taking in the view of Mt. Vesuvius. The ship when departing did sail past the scenic island of Capri, which I told was by other passengers was a beautiful and interesting location to visit. All in all when enjoyed visiting Pompeii but nothing else really about our stop in Naples, so be forewarned about the port.Santorini was our next stop and by far the best stop on the entire cruise for both my wife & I. We took the ship's tender the cable car to take us up to Thira. Unfortunately there were also 2 other cruise ships anchored so the wait was about an hour. We didn't not want to take the foot path because of the distance or ride the really smelly donkeys. Upon reaching the top you get a breathtaking view of the entire volcanic caldera. After taking a few minutes taking in the view, we headed to main road north of Thira to get a taxi ride to the town of Oia. The cab ride was quite an adventure since the cab driver was driving very fast while dodging 4-wheelers & mopeds driven by tourists. Upon reaching Oia we quickly began walking around the local churches and shops. We did stop to help a local who had spilled his shipment of tomatoes down one of the walkways in the town. He was very appreciative of my wife, other tourists, and my help in rounding them all up. Walking along the path towards the northern point of the island is fabulous. I don't think I have seen more breathtaking views in my life. The local buildings are beautifully decorated with their white walls and brightly colored roofs and windows. All the while my wife & I visited the islands local shops buying some jewelry, drinks, and taking plenty of pictures. When the other tourists began moving in force into Oia, we headed to a local restaurant for an early lunch. The restaurant had a breathtaking balcony reaching over the edge of the caldera allowing for some great pictures. After lunch we headed back to Thira were we visited more shops, which my wife was impressed with the variety of fine jewelry stores. In the early afternoon we headed back to the ship, to cool and prepare for dinner later. At sunset we and a lot other passenger headed to the rear of the ship to take in what is considered one of the best sunset sets in all of the world. In the end, if my wife & I had one place to pick to visit again it would be Santorini. Though locals told us the beginning or end of the season is the best time to visit since during peak season as many of 8-10 cruise ships can be anchored any give day making Thira & even Oia very crowded. Athens was our next stop, and like our other stops we took a bus tour to the Acropolis. We left out Piraeus getting good bus tour through the city. The group made a short stop the spot where the first modern Olympics were held. The route to Acropolis was very winding threw the city but we finally reached our destination. Our tour guide gave us our ticket and told us what time to meet back the bus. We then walked up to entrance, and upon reaching there you begin to be screamed at by Athenian tour guides trying to move the crowds in & out the Acropolis. Reaching the summit you get to see the sight of the Parthenon. The Parthenon then, still, and for sometime in the future is going under restoration. Scaffolding covers certain sections of building and parts of the Acropolis are covered with blocks of marble being repaired or replaced. The experience is still exciting and the site allows from some great views of city of Athens. After returning to bus we stopped for a bathroom break at tourist shop run by a "friend" of the tour guide. We then proceeded back to the ship. It was unfortunate that my wife & I had to choose visiting the Parthenon or Athens History Museum. I hope they offer future shore excursions that include both. All in I enjoyed the experience greatly, though my wife found the Acropolis a bit boring.Dubrovnik, Croatia was surprisingly enjoyable port. We took the tender ashore and a bus to Old Dubrovnik. Its massive stone walls were very impressive. My wife & I headed to well known photo gallery dealing with the Yugoslavian/Bosnian conflict. The gallery was quite small for the entrance fee, but still a moving experience. After that we left headed into the city shopping at some of the local stores and enjoying the scenery. When finished we headed to the Nautika for lunch. Nautika is upscale seafood restaurant with a well known reputation in Europe. With the help our waiter DJ on the Millennium my wife & I got a very beautiful table on the porch overlooking ocean. The food was fantastic and I had the best calamari I've ever had in my life. Dubrovnik is quaint and very enjoyable destination and I look forward to the chance to visit there again in the future.Our final port was Venice. It is an interesting experience heading into port past St. Marco's square on a cruise ship. Once there you can easily take a water taxi from the port to St. Marco's. My wife & I then headed out on foot by ourselves to take in the city. Contrary to what many people had told us the city really had no odor and was pretty clean. Of course you do have to very careful of pigeons in St. Marco's square. My wife & I had a women walking right in front us get a hair full of poop. I would recommend walking in the covered areas as much as possible around the square. We decided not to take a gondola ride because of the high cost, plus my wife does not like small boats. We enjoyed our time walking and taking in the buildings and shopping in the many stores of all kinds variety. Venice ended up a lot better then what my wife & I expected since so many people had made negative comments about it before we left. It was definitely a very enjoyable place to visit.All in all the the honeymoon was fantastic and Celebrity & the Millennium lived up to nearly all the expectations and opinions I had heard before going on the cruise. Both my wife & I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone in the future minus maybe visiting Naples. 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Where to begin?? It was a great cruise. My husband and I got sick of all the wedding planning that went along with a traditional banquet style wedding (as well as with the price tag) so we opted to do a cruise wedding. We ... Read More
Where to begin?? It was a great cruise. My husband and I got sick of all the wedding planning that went along with a traditional banquet style wedding (as well as with the price tag) so we opted to do a cruise wedding. We weren't sure what we were in for, but overall the experience was great, with a couple of small set backs.Planning started months before disembarkation, we worked with a travel agent who booked our room, as well as all our guests rooms, as well as helped us with hotel and transportation details. I was a bit leary of the wedding company the cruiseliner works with to get the details of the wedding rightthey didn't really want to start planning anything until about a month beforeMy (husband and I are very much in planning, so this was a disconcerting. But they did get pretty much everything right. Before we got on the ship we were given priority boarding, We had 25 guests for our wedding on the ship. (Three were non sailing, and after the reception were escorted off before sailing away). Arrangements were made for me to get ready at the ship's salon (where I also got my hair done). The salon was greatawesome views of the ocean and beaches as I got ready. The lady who did my hair wasn't supposed to be on duty until after 2pm, but was there early with all the necessary items I'd need. My guests were shown to their rooms, and they had a couple of hours to get read and explore the ship (also before most other folks were allowed to board so it was like they had the ship to themselves), and my travel agent made sure that everyone got a bottle of wine (or chocolate covered strawberries) on arrival in their staterooms. The actual ceremony went off without a hitch. We rehearsed our vows while we were waiting in line to board the ship with our justice of the peacewhich was kinda funny, because we were practising in front of our family. At the actual ceremony we were in the viking crown lounge which was decroated by the wedding vendor the cruiseliner uses, and it was absoloutely gorgeous. Guests were all escorted to the Vicking Crown Lounge. Lots of light, 180 degree views of the ocean. Ceremony was short and sweet. After the ceremony everyone was escorted to a lunch buffet that was being served. The buffet was greatall my guests loved it. We had salmon, steaks, chicken, pastas, cheeses etc. we also had a dessert part. I think our meal package was about $75 per person. Everyone really enjoyed it thoughmy father who was really concerned about the quality of everything was pretty impressed. One thing that really annoyed me was the hall they had our wedding reception in was testing out their sound system with techno musicthis was really annoying, but honestly, guests were enjoying themselves for the most part. My husband and I weren't at the reception very long thoughwe were taking pictures with our private photographer for awhilewe loved him though, he was so great and accommodating (as he should have been our wedding pictures cost about 1k USD, for about an hours worth of pictures). We were welcomed by all of the ship as well as passangers who knew us as the couple that got married the first day on the shipwe were all over the ship having our pictures taken. After the wedding, the rest of the cruise was just great. A few of my guests did get sea sick b/c we were in some rough seas b/c of the hurricane, but they got over it after a day. This cruise was a gastronomical delight. My parents and I are Pakistani/Indian in background, and 10 of my guests happened to be close family and friends from the same part of India/Pakistan. They loved the food, and our waiters happened to be Indian. My family made an off hand remark that they would love an Indian mealand the next night our waiters delivered!!! They were so amazing to my guests (oh BTW we all were sat together in the same area of the dining hall by request). The indian meal had poppers, dal, chicken tikka, korma, saalun, roti and basmati riceit was pretty impressive, especially since it was completely off the menu. I recommend that you try the formal breakfast at least once. It really is very nice. The food overall was awesome! Loved it, and seconds and thirds were always brought over with a huge smile. My husband and I also went to Chops Grilleand we loved it. The steaks were "like butta" and better than steaks I've had at Capital Grille, Hugos, Topaz. The only place my husband said had better steaks was this restaurant in Vegas that has Kobe steaks, but he was also very much impressed. I totally recommend Chops at least onceits worth the little extra.I wasn't too sure what kind of entertainment they would have on the ship, but the shows at night were great, and my guests really enjoyed them. The casino was fun. My parents are pretty conservative, but they even got in on the action. Rock climbing wall was a lot of fun. We had our friends (sans the uncles and aunties) do a rock climbing competition. I went to a seminar on working out and nutrition which ws fun. The work out facilities were awesome. Imagine being on the treadmill overlooking a bright blue ocean with panaromic views. Also really enjoyed the wine tasting class they had on board (for an extra fee). There was also an art auction with original Picasso and Joan Miro. Our room was a junior suitewe had a balcony off the back of the ship. It was great being able to be on our balcony as we came into and out of port. We rarely were in our room, (too much to see and do on the ship and in port) and the last night of the cruise I slept outside on the balconythat was awesome. I totally recommend it. You fall asleep outside under the stars, it was perfect. I was so sad to leave the ship when our trip endedthis experience totally turned me on to cruisingwe're leaving for our next RCCL cruise in June 2009. Read Less
We flew in to San Juan on a us air non-stop flight out of Charlotte, NC the day prior to our cruise. We picked the Marriott Isla Verde based on the reviews from trip advisor. It turned out to be a fascinating pre-cruise experience. The ... Read More
We flew in to San Juan on a us air non-stop flight out of Charlotte, NC the day prior to our cruise. We picked the Marriott Isla Verde based on the reviews from trip advisor. It turned out to be a fascinating pre-cruise experience. The hotel staff was excellent, this place has everything you need: a beautiful and wide beach, nice sand that doesn't stick to your feet, hammocks, a beautiful swimming pool, swim up bar, jacuzzi, lounge beach chairs by the pool and on the beach, umbrellas, and plenty of shaded areas since there is a landscaped garden all around the pool. There's a casino where we won for a change, a nightclub, a bar, a restaurant where they served all you can eat Puerto Rican food which by the way, it was totally worth the $20 per person. This place features one restaurant outside by the beach area as well. Between the live salsa on weekends, the food, and the beach, we can affirm that there's a little bit of everything for everyone there if you don't mind staying ten minutes away from old San Juan and the cruise ship terminal. Embarkation: It was a piece of cake. We got off the shuttle, handed the bags to one of the porters and "poof" they were gone. We proceeded to check in, spent very little time there, and then on to the liquor store upstairs. It was crazy and I felt right at home; People were doing sample shots in the middle of the isle, everybody seemed to be with uplifted spirits... I ended up bringing on board 6 bottles of liquor! Yes I did show them at the x-rays and nobody said a word, it was OK!! One of the perks of sailing out of SAN JUAN in the Carnival terminal I guess. After that we did what everybody else does when they first come on board, eat at the windjammer. Then we checked the dinning room reservation, our cabin, we had a balcony right about the center of the ship, it was pretty standard, with plenty of space, storage, and a very comfortable bed. Muster drill was a mustard! and the sail away party was alright, with all the classic songs, electric slide, electric this, electric that... Note: I'm not going to get into detail of my likes and dis-likes about the food and entertainment/shows simply because I've learned on my own cruising experience that these items are so subjective. My advice is: Do as much as you can on and off the ship. time goes by really quickly in your vacation so go ahead and try new foods, drinks, places, and meet people too. You can always go back to the safe zone when you go back home.
Food: Let's put it this way. It was 10 x better than what the average Americans eat everyday. Be honest. How much would you spend at a local restaurant if you order a four course meal with lobster tail, or prime rib, or Angus steak? I read lots of reviews where people criticize the food while at home, their refrigerators are empty with nothing but sodas, and condiments... No offense if you don't cook, or don't have the time, but my point is that the quality of the food, and service are superb in my opinion considered the amount of guests they feed AROUND THE CLOCK, and the price of the whole experience. We ate at every venue, in different times, an overall all restaurants have great choices. Entertainment: There was a lot going on every night; shows, karaoke, bars, shopping, nightclubs, at the midway point of our cruise we found ourselves with the dilemma of getting some precious 5 hours of sleep at night, or trying to stay with the daily programs around the clock. We decided to sleep some more since our main focus was to hit hard each island. 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
So we took a cruise. This was only our second cruise. The first was our honeymoon cruise 8 years ago. This one was a family cruise with 35+ friends and family...and oh by the way..we had 2 small children with us this time.
The embarking ... Read More
So we took a cruise. This was only our second cruise. The first was our honeymoon cruise 8 years ago. This one was a family cruise with 35+ friends and family...and oh by the way..we had 2 small children with us this time.
The embarking process was a disaster with 2 small children but let's not dwell on that...it is what it is. After the first day...things were great. THe cruise director was awesome..Richard..although he stole all of my dance moves...he was wonderful..and HOT but that's irrelevant. The only negative things I can say...the shows were so so..and the aqua tots for the children under 3 were a joke. Those are my only complaints. The programs for the kids...I can't speak more highly of. My son is 5 and was in the 3 - 5 group..and I had to bribe him not to go to adventure ocean..every minute of the day he said he wanted to be in the adventure ocean...they did so many wonderful activities. My nephews were in the 9 - 11 group and everytime I saw them they had new apparel thanks to winning stuff in the kids program.
The food was normal cruise food..although we didn't go to all dinners..our waitresses were wonderful...the pool was great..even for my non-potty trained child...he just had a small pool that he could go into. I dreaded it prior to the trip but it was not crowded and they did an excellent job keeping potty trained kids out of it. I had no problem getting a chair at the pool but my 2 year old dragged me there after breakfast so we were there by 9 am.
One thing that is a must..go to Quest..I haven't had so much fun in a long time..have a few drinks and be a team captain...especially if you can bust out the worm or still do a split...but be prepared to see yourself on the big screen..I still have nightmares of seeing myself in slow mo...
I will always remember this vacation..and I am a royal caribbean fan...my next cruise will definitely be on that cruise line!! Read Less
First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, ... Read More
First time cruising, had no idea which line, what to do, how much money should I bring, all the stupid questions running through my mind. Decided on the Ruby Princess for no real good reason, I think because it was the newest ship, whatever that had to do with it!!!
Landed in Miami on Jan 17th, met the Princess Rep, Eileen, told her we had to get luggage, retrieved luggage, turned around , Eileen is no where to be found, had a rep paged, nothing. Finally a competitor rep, Norwegian, helped us out. We though such a wonderful way to start our first cruise. Driver of bus to ship said there was a accident on Rte 95, so it will take was longer to get there as he is taking side roads, Scenic South Miami!!!! After a little over an hour, there it was in all it's shining glory.
Found our state room on the Baja Deck, introduced to our cabin person, Dragos from Yugoslava. He could not do enough for us. He had 19 rooms, but it seemed like he was our personal guy.
We ate at the Buffet all the time, did not experience the dining room, although I heard it was OK. At the breakfast buffet, stay away from the scrambled eggs, OMG I am pretty sure they are powdered. Every pasta dish they had was cooked perfect, al dente. Prime Rib and such meat was over cooked a bit, but still tasty. With all I ate, I was surprised I had gained only 4 pounds.
As for the islands we visited, (we, meaning me and my ex-wife, that's right, ex), Jamaica was horrible. Did the Sting-ray thingy and got to hold the slippery sucker for 90 seconds. I took a picture and got scolded for it. Then we went to Dunns Falls which was very cool. But after, you get attacked by natives. I gave the guide a tip of $10 and he actually said it was not enough!!!! Was approached by this guy who told me to inspect his hands, like I had no idea what hands were, and tried to sell me knick-knacks for $45. I offered $5 and his 'relatives' heard me. All hell broke loose. They were yelling at me. He came down to $35, then $25, then $12, then after I heard for the umpteenth time that "I no respect him, mon", he came down to $8. Finally he came down to $5, and I was so irritated, I told him no sale, that "He did not respect me, mon" Did not even bother going to town, went right back to the ship for a few frozen pina colodas.
Grand Caymen was great, road horses on the beach, walked the streets, met great people on the back streets. Visited a few shops. Cozumel was also a great experience. Hired a taxi on-line. (email@example.com). Lazaro was our guide. Absolutely wonderful. Took us out of the tourist areas, showed us his neighborhood, then went to the other side of the island where therre is no electricity, plumbing. Just a couple of restaurants on the shore with great frozen pina coladas. It cost us $120 for the four hours, which was well worth it.
The last island was in the Bahamas, Princess Cays. Now this place is exactly where I want to spend a week. Secluded, nice beaches, little barbeque going and of course, frozen pina coladas. I would love the ship to lower anchor and have the tenders bring me back and forth.
If it is your first time cruising, just think of the feeling of having nothing on your mind, Can't do it, huh!!! Well, go on a cruise.
Getting off the ship in Fort Launderdale was effortless, mark your suitcases well, buy polka dot ones or tie a brightly colored bungy cord around them, because there must of been a sale on black and blue luggage. Bussed back to airport, and hung around for a few hours, finally read a newspaper.
Break is over, now I have to get back to shoveling, as mother nature is dumping 6 inches in my driveway. Read Less
January 5, 2008
We were scheduled to board in NYC on a Saturday afternoon. I was a bit concerned because I had planned to arrive around 2:00 p.m. for a 4:00 p.m. sail away but days before learned there were new Homeland ... Read More
January 5, 2008
We were scheduled to board in NYC on a Saturday afternoon. I was a bit concerned because I had planned to arrive around 2:00 p.m. for a 4:00 p.m. sail away but days before learned there were new Homeland Security rules in effect which required the cruise line to send the manifest to the port authority 45 minutes before sail away. We couldn't accelerate our time table. This was going to be tight.
We came across NJ with no problems & even zipped through the Lincoln Tunnel. We headed over to the West Side Highway & drove north. Big Mistake. Go north on any other street, then enter the pier. It took almost 45 minutes just to get through the left turn lane (you wait for blocks before it's your turn to actually turn left) into the pier drop off. Once there because we were so "late" we breezed through the lot. Stevedores had extra tags (because of course I forgot ours) & promptly whisked our big bags away. This was better anyway because they were colorful and sturdy rather than the silly paper ones you print out & fold yourself.
Inside the renovated terminal, everything, especially the Latitudes lines, was well marked in the colorful NCL font. There were lots of people from the cruise line and the port authority directing traffic.
We sailed through the metal detector and the baggage scan in under 15 minutes. I was thrilled. Apparently, people who arrived early were not as fortunate. The Gem was over 2 hours late returning from her New Years' voyage and that had everything delayed. This was to be the Gem's maiden voyage to the Caribbean.
Then there were 3 lines to check in: passengers, Latitudes members and suite/VIPs. There was no wait at all for the VIPs. NCL reps were handing out numbers for the regular passengers but it was not clear that Latitudes members did not need them. We got one anyway. About half way through the line to get checked in, someone from the VIP line motioned to us & led us in that way because she had no other customers to help. I'm not sure why fortune smiled on us but it made for a wonderful beginning to the cruise.
We stopped for the obligatory sail away picture against the green screen. We took our coats off but looking at the photos in the gallery later, many people did not. It was kind of funny to see so many embarkation photos of people all bundled up. There is plenty of space to walk around if you do not want your photo taken.
The ship is beautiful. She has various gem shapes with sparkle painted on her hull ranging in size & color. Inside her overall dEcor surprisingly works for the most part but there are bold, bright jewel tones & I can see where some might say she's over the top. The pillars near the front reception desk are adorned with "diamonds"; there are huge purple geodes protruding from the 2 story lobby. You are greeted with a glass of champagne one you board which was a lovely touch. Freestyle 2.0 seems to be working.
Our cabin was ready right away. We checked it out, dropped our stuff and head off to the Garden Cafe for food. That was a circus. You would think that our fellow passengers had never eaten or they were afraid the ship was going to run out of food before we left Manhattan.
We had some fresh pasta at a sautE station and went in search of a seat. We ended up at a little table for two, outside, all the way aft, next to the stairs. It was about forty degrees that afternoon, which is almost balmy for NYC in January. There were many passengers outside enjoying the fresh air. The poor crew members, especially the ones from warmer climates, were bundled up in down jackets, with hats & gloves, trying valiantly to provide quality service to the crazy passengers through chattering teeth.
After we finished eating, it was time to retreat from the maddening crowds. We headed back to the cabin to watch the break down process inside the terminal & the stevedores' last minute preparations before the loud horns began signaling our departure. HAL's Nordaam sailed out ahead of us. We were about an hour late pulling out but that was fine.
For the perfect birds' eye view, we headed up to the Star Bar on deck 13 Midship where me met cc friends and the ship's most wonderful bar staff: Freddy and Zarina. Cocktails in hand, we had a panoramic view of the ship & harbor as we steamed out of NYC. I ducked out into the cold to snap a picture of Lady Liberty as we cruised by. They were blasting Lee Greenwood's song, I'm Proud to be an American, as she bid us adieu. I was moved to hear so many people singing along in a variety of accents and a number of people crying; heartwarmingly, most of the people crying were not native English speakers.
We had a BE, the lowest level balcony cabin. Ours was all the way forward on the right of the ship & was therefore partially reduced by the structure of the ship itself. It was not a "full" balcony by about 6 inches on either side. It was still a private outside space. The one thing that did drive me bonkers the whole trip was that when the sliding door closed, it was not a tight seal & the wind whistled for the whole 11 days. It wasn't so bad going down or in the Caribbean but coming back we had unusually high winds & a storm which sent us rocking & rolling. That was noisy. Between the noise & the motion, especially way up front, I didn't get much sleep on the way back. At certain points it was so bad I was holding on for fear that I would literally be bounced out of bed.
Friends had an aft balcony. It was lovely & spacious. They could fit a full lounger on their balcony & while I do not know for sure, the balcony seemed larger than her counterpart on the Dawn but the cabin was about the same size. I will say that the carpet was . . . loud. It is a lime green with a purple plaid pattern & purple flowers. Other colors in the room are designed to soften the effect but I think it would give me nightmares.
We made the acquaintance of a lovely couple who was staying in one of the courtyard villas. She offered to give us a tour but I never felt comfortable imposing & actually asking for one, but I was dying to.
The food was adequate. We ate everywhere expect Orchid Garden and the Sushi Bar. Neither of us likes sushi.
Le Bistro The restaurant is located MidShip near bar central. It's where or near where Impressions is on the Dawn. The food was good. The braised ribs were outstanding. I wish I realized I could have ordered double portions and forgone the filet which was flavorless & over cooked but it was still tender. We tried escargot for the 1st time and are now converts. I had Crème Brule for dessert because he's not a sweet eater; nobody can eat the fondue alone. Also, I've said it a number of times, I wish they would serve it with angel food cake instead of just fruit.
Unlike the beautiful paintings on the Dawn, this Le Bistro is adorned with more modern paintings, primarily of indigenous peoples. I'm no art historian but the art buffs will recognize the style / school of the paintings. While art is subjective and I probably could have better appreciated the paintings in a gallery, at dinner I was put off by the fact that most of the naked subjects in the paintings could have . . . shall we say, benefited from some personal grooming. Less delicately, I really did not need to see pubic hair while I was eating.
Cagney's A steak house is a steak house to me. Some are better than others. In NYC where you have dozens of world class ones to choose from, you are not going to get that kind of quality aboard a ship. The big yellow chairs are luxurious & comfortable. Shetty, our waiter, was superb. He was gracious & charming. He's known as a ladies man & has a knack for making every woman feel beautiful. The maitre'd , Laura, is delightful. She always had a warm smile & a genuine greeting for all her passengers. The Cajun ribeye is the entrEe of choice; it's better and more flavorful than the other cuts including the filet mignon, in my opinion. It is also the cut recommended to me by the Head Chef, Andreas, who Shetty summoned when I could not eat my lamb. Although the temperature, color and spices on the lamb were perfect, the meat itself was flawed & I could not even cut it. While I was waiting for my replacement dinner, Shetty kept bringing me extra orders of the fresh asparagus. Get a few twists of the grated cheese on it & let it melt from the heat of the cast iron dish - amazing! If you get the Ribeye they can tone down the spices if you prefer. The bananas foster is excellent for the dessert but be prepared to go into glorious sugar shock.
Magenta This is the smaller of the two main dining rooms and is located midship, just around the corner from Bar Central. There are lovely huge pictures of colorful single flowers on the walls and the room is brightly lit. The menus are varied but there were wonderful soufflEs for dessert every night. One waitress remembered me from the Dawn last year because I have a habit of eating out of order; I'll have an entrEe for an appetizer & vice versa. When I don't like any of the appetizer choices I substitute the international cheese plate which NCL lists as a dessert.
On the Gem, the reservation desk for all of the restaurants is located here. It is staffed for most of the day & they are always willing to make suggestions. You can also call from your cabin phone to get a reservation for that day or the next.
There are displays by the elevators which inform you about the occupancy of any dining venue at any given time. If you are waiting to be seated in one of the two main dining rooms you will be given a pager, like the big colorful ones on land. You are free to wander off wherever to wait to be called. It is much more civilized than standing around in a herd.
Grand Pacific. This big dining room is located aft. It has dark wood & dim lighting. While the food & service were fine, it just wasn't my thing. I liked the Venetian so much better on the Dawn even though the room layouts & dEcor were identical. The colors were so much darker that it diminished some of the elegance to me.
La Cucina Like steakhouses, when you are in or close to NYC, the standard against which you measure food is high. The restaurant is beautifully decorated. It's warm with exposed "brick" and draping vines. The long block tables reminded me of friends' mothers' kitchens growing up but the similarities ended there. The food was Italian cooking for people who don't like Italian spices. Bland would have been an improvement. Your antipasto is included. They wheel the whole cart over & you pick what you want. The concept is adorable but the food is just tasteless; even my prosciutto had no salt. My dinner was just uninteresting. The demiglaze for my veal was thick & heavy although the meat itself could be cut with a fork which was an unexpected but welcome surprise.
Astonishingly, La Cucina was actually one of the most difficult restaurants to get a reservation. We ate there the second to last night at 9:00 p.m. because it was the only reservation we could get.
Teppenaki This style of dining where the chef entertains you as he cooks is always fun. The food was delightful & flavorful. The tricks were cute & even more impressive because we could feel the motion of the ship. They have 3 seatings at 4 stations that hold 8 diners. Reservations go quickly. It's also extremely loud in the small room. We ate with some members of the musical theater company. They were very sweet & it was fun to hear their perspective on the ship. They had come aboard in the shipyard before all of the decorations were in place. They said it was sometimes hard to imagine that it was going to be finished.
Tequilla This restaurant is above the atrium. You are closer to the purple geodes protruding from the ceiling. It's sort of odd when people cut through the restaurant because it is a bit of a main corridor. The tex mex food was good. The portions are fairly large, especially for a cruise ship. We were walk ins one night having forgotten to make reservations so they seated us in the "overflow" section which is really the Blue Lagoon. If the sign wasn't on the wall & the carpet wasn't different, you'd hardly notice that they are 2 restaurants. The sangria is marvelous.
We never managed to eat at Blue Lagoon but the menu promised comfort food from all over: bagels, grilled cheese, lo mein noodles etc. It was a far cry from the diner/ fast food feel this venue has on the Dawn.
The Garden Cafe. This seems to have 3 parts. There is a section out by the pool. Late breakfast is served there but is often cold and looks picked over. Late sleepers like us, took what we could get before switching to room service. The main portion is lovely, especially for a buffet. Seating is only on one side of the ship. The kids club, I think, was on the other side (mid ship) as was La Cucina (aft). There are plenty of stations & the crew tried to keep people flowing in some kind of order. Even though there were plenty of stations serving a wide variety of foods, I grew a little bored of having the same choices every day. I liked it when they served different things each day. The Indian food was my favorite.
There is also an outside buffet aft, which was usually the most accessible & seemed to have the odd hours we wanted. There were a large number of German passengers aboard so this aft buffet usually had food they loved. It was interesting & different for me. They also usually had an oompah band (sp?). It is not my favorite style of music but you could see the joy other passengers experienced listening to a little touch of home. The only time it really got on my nerves was in 2 certain spots on the deck above the pool deck you could hear both the pool band & the German band - quite a cacophony but I just walked a bit faster through that area which was only a few feet.
The pizza is garden variety frozen pizza even though I'm sure it was made from scratch; it was tasty enough, sometimes even piping hot & easy to cart around for a late afternoon snack before our late dinners. I also discovered the popcorn machine in the Spinnaker Lounge. I'd run in there for a cone full by the pool. On one occasion they even had actual crackers at the cheese station. Usually I end up eating my cheese with bread which is fine but this was better. Hint: NCL stock more crackers, please.
Bali Hai (or something like that). This is the grill / bar on the deck above the pool. You can get fresh burgers or chicken & some deep fried foods here. It's nothing unique or extravagant but it's hot & beachy.
Room service. This was very easy. There are door hangers in your cabin the binder; fill them out, hang them on the handle . . . the food comes to you. They call before they come so you are not too surprised in the morning. For the most part they were early rather than late. I learned from seeing it on other passenger's doors that you can write in other kinds of hot breakfast food & that shows up too. The omelets really were sooooo much better on the balcony.
On board activities
There is a lot to do. We certainly didn't do it all.
Our cc meeting was a wonderful way to meet everyone from the boards. Our organizers - they know who they are - did a phenomenal job. Thank you again, ladies. I was a bit surprised that the flag officers didn't mingle. They just huddled in a group in the front, waved, made some welcoming remarks but didn't really circulate. A few did recognize us throughout the voyage.
The internet cafe is sloooooow but what'd you expect? It's a satellite connection. As two people who had to keep in touch with our offices, we used all of our 250 minutes. I saw something days into the trip that if you opened the account on sailaway day latitudes members got an extra 20 minutes free. By the time I found out, it was too late. There was also a sign about free lap top rentals but I never read beyond that because I had no interest in being responsible for their lap top.
The pool was crowded. The water slide was fun but you did it without a mat & I could feel every seam / rivet on my one trip down. They had water slide races for the evening deck party. There were life guards at the slide during the day but not in the evening. Very few people seemed to use the pool / hot tubs at night but there were some. There are some really cool sun beds on the forward decks but no secret hot tub. There's a shower thingy to cool off on deck 14 above the pool grill / bar so you don't have to go down 2 flights of stairs to get wet. We had 4 sea days which were windy. My secret hiding spot was all the way after on the little deck between the rock wall & the sports deck / basketball courts. The wall blocked the wind & a lot of the noise.
There were lots of older teenagers at the sports deck but everyone was well behaved. You can play basketball, tennis or soccer. There are about 4 shuffle board courts. There is a huge chess / checkers set - each piece is about a foot high. There are ping pong tables. There was a pool table by the gaming tables near the swimming pool.
The library is well stocked with lots of great fairly recent books. If you must read the latest best seller, bring your own copy but there is a good selection & they come in multiple languages.
I don't remember what deck it's on (7 maybe) but there is an observation bridge. You can check out what the captain is doing.
The ship schedules a variety of things throughout the day. We went to the wine tasting with Edmund the sommelier. He was informative & very sweet. He remembered some of our preferences from the tasting & was able to help us select great wine pairings with our dinners. They had martini & martini tastings too but they were often scheduled one right after the other. Who can drink that much?
There didn't seem to be a lifestyle lecture series on board, at least I couldn't find it.
There was lots of bingo. Of course there was shopping. I didn't see a single bargain.
They play video games on the big screen & showed art & played trivia. There is an art gallery you can walk through; it's off to the left of the desk where Pearly Kings pub was on the Dawn. The art was too modern vibrant for my tastes. They showed movies in the stardust theater & on the big screen in the atrium. Sometimes they had subtitles. I think there is a charge for premium movies on the flat screen TVs in the room.
You can of course go bowling in Bliss for $5. On the last 2 sea days back it seemed crowded but the wait was otherwise not too bad.
We never used the spa so I can't comment.
When I saw kids obviously in the kids' program the counselors appeared vigilant & the kids were having a blast.
The bars etc.
The Star Bar was by far our favorite. It's quiet. They play Frank Sinatra. Freddy is a wonderful mixologist. Zarina is a doll. The snacks are yummy. The view is the best on the ship.
Bar central was like trying to get a drink at an airport bar. I always felt like I was in the hallway. There was a big band / oldies pianist, Stacy Ward McAdams, on the Champagne side, & a more modern guitarist whose name now escapes me on the Maltings' (beer & whisky bar) side. She was very talented. When you could hear both, it was awful because the music does not coordinate. We stayed on the Maltings' side because there was some thatched grass that sort of separated you from the hallway. IMO, they should put the piano player back up in the Star Bar.
Spinnakers is the lounge. They have acts & some dancing. The furniture is funky. We had great fun getting are pictures taken in some of the crazy chairs. We saw the adult comedian there. We didn't stay for his earlier tamer show because it was just too crowded & you couldn't hear. This is also where they played Quest (the x-rated vulgar scavenger hunt) & Liars' Club. They do have 50 kinds of beer available & the wait staff really hustles.
Bliss was trying so hard to be the funky NY / LA / Vegas night spot. Yes it has big beds for lounging & several comfy couches / seating areas. It's young, hip & trendy. They had a toga party one night. Most of the crew hangs out there. I felt old (& fat). If Paris Hilton ever cruises on the Gem (& comes down out of her GV) she'd hang out here.
The Java Cafe always seemed to be hoppin'. It's a bar & a coffee bar but the food snacks they offer in the display case are included, no extra charge. Say "Hi" to Carol. Some of you may remember her from the Star Bar on the Dawn.
Tequilla. I saw people eating & drinking there & looking over the railing to watch the various football games. The balcony location looked like the ideal spot to me.
We saw a few of the variety shows. They were cute. The StarDust theater is comfortable. There were always plenty of seats; the only time it was crowded was the last night to see the crew. Our assistance cabin steward won the "lottery" & got to perform. He was beaming. There was a comedian & a Second City improvisation troupe. I didn't care for them too much. There was a juggler who was absolutely amazing. I thought it was going to be dumb but he was fantastic.
We tried to see the comedian again in the Spinnaker lounge but we got there late. It was standing room only & we couldn't hear a thing, so we left. We came back early for his Adults only show. It was not something I'd bring the kids too but it wasn't disgustingly raunchy.
They played Quest. That is always X rated & bacchanalian. If you like that type of humor you will laugh. If it's not your thing, stay away - it gets raunchy & vulgar.
We had a number of ports & everyone's choice of activity will be different.
St. Thomas I love this island. Although I didn't know it until later, my darling wonderful boyfriend bought my engagement ring while we were there. That was the highlight. The rest . . . well, it was the Gem's first trip there . . . but she has a lot of room for improvement.
We had to tender because there were 7 ships in port that day. Carnival docked at Havensight much to the chagrin of the local merchants; they all complained that because according to them Carnival passengers never buy anything. We used the life boats to tender. It was a mess & took hours. Although we arrived in port at 11:00 am & we had tender ticket # 8, we did not get off the ship until almost 2 pm & we had to be back on board by 5. They took us to Charlotte Amolie & kind of dropped us on a sidewalk.
It was over cast. We walked to Havensight. There's a new Yacht Club shopping center with some restaurants along the walk so that was a fun stop. I had a "Where the ^%$#@ did I park my boat?" drink at one of them & seriously, after that concoction I almost couldn't find the Gem.
We shopped & took the Skyride because we really didn't have much time. The view is lovely but it's over priced. Up top we had a bushwacker & listened to some music but we couldn't linger or we would not have made it back in time.
Antigua - this was a lovely island. We were supposed to go zip lining here but it had rained that morning so our excursion was cancelled. NCL transferred out booking to a "moderate" rainforest hike. It was a tough climb for me and many of the others. The "moderate" hike was actually 1,600 feet up the side of a dormant volcano on a twisty steep, rocky trail. Out guide, Ace, was funny & helpful through the rough parts but sometimes I got the impression his assistants didn't really care about our safety. The tour company also ran out of walking sticks so some us were on our own. We brought bottled water with us & they gave us water but it was so hot & humid, we could have used more.
Barbados - we went to the Boatyard. If you have ever wanted to be on MTV's Spring Break, this is the place for you. If that's not your cup of tea, skip it.
Greneda - we enjoyed our privately booked tour with Mandoo but it seemed that all of the NCL tours went to almost all of the same places. We ended up at a lovely secluded beach where we feasted on this amazing dish called Chicken Roti. I have no idea if it's local to the island; all I know is that it was probably the best thing I ate during the whole 11 days.
This was typically disorganized. If you do self disembarkation you stand around in the halls & in the lobby in a line with all your stuff. Other people can't walk through. Tempers are short. It's a big mess. Our friends were in a suite & they got priority disembarkation. We were allowed off with them. I didn't see any stevedores or others to help with the luggage. Fortunately everything was on wheels. We grabbed the bags, shuffled through the new customs & immigration stalls & then headed out to the street to find our ride home. Hint: call your company when you sail under the Verrazano (sp?) bridge then again when you dock. It still takes about an hour to get off the ship. Read Less
My husband and I cruised for the first time in April this year on the Thomson Spirit. It was our honeymoon and we booked this particular cruise because of the itinerary. Very few cruise lines seem to include the holy land in their ... Read More
My husband and I cruised for the first time in April this year on the Thomson Spirit. It was our honeymoon and we booked this particular cruise because of the itinerary. Very few cruise lines seem to include the holy land in their itinerary, so for the ports of call alone - Limassol, Latakia, Alexandria, Port Said, Ashdod, Limassol - this cruise has to be given bonus points.
Unfortunately, however, I have very mixed feelings on the holiday as a whole. It started off bad with the flight to Paphos uncomfortable. Trying to find a Thomson representative and/or our coach was chaotic, and when we finally were shown which coach we'd been allocated to, the coach driver refused to let us on, saying his coach was too full! So it was two rather tired and crabby honeymooners that eventually arrived at the ship, much later than anticipated. It took rather a long time to embark but I was impressed on entering the ship itself with the big line of cabin stewards waiting to greet us and take our luggage.
It was about 11pm when we finally got into our cabin (the ship was supposed to leave at 10pm so we were already a hour behind departure time). We were disappointed to see in our 'Cruise News' that we had missed the introductory tour round the ship, the first show in the Broadway show lounge and the start of a deck party that was going on outside. I was also disappointed to find that we had missed the booking deadline for excursions at our first port of call. Being cruising first-timers, we didn't realize - and were not told by our (Thomson) travel agent - that it is advisable to book excursions in advance.
On the whole I was very impressed with the standards on the ship. The cabin was very comfortable and immaculately kept by our personal cabin steward, Ganesh, who was very attentive to our requests. The only complaint that my husband had about the cabin was the fact that he had to tune in the TV himself, and after the first night the only channel we had was CNN.
As for the rest of the ship, we found enough to amuse ourselves for the first couple of days, but after this there just wasn't enough to keep us entertained. The nightly shows in the Broadway show lounge may have been other people's cup of tea, but not really ours. Raffles bar and casino was very pleasant, and had a very talented pianist and singer who it was a pleasure to listen to. High Spirits bar, which on paper looked to be more our thing, was more like High Tedium - it always seemed to be half empty and the 'gameshows' and 'quizzes' that were held there in the evenings were more suited to a Butlins holiday camp than a cruise ship. We went on the first evening expecting something like a pub quiz, but instead people were offered 500 bonus points for doing a can-can or other ridiculous things like that.
Apart from the day at sea, there was precious little to do on board during the day. High Spirits was dead, the shops were closed, the cinema usually was showing something other than that advertised in Cruise News, and there were no activities to take part in. The shops in fact only opened at the strangest times - sometimes not till 11pm at night - and this was not very handy if you needed to buy a packet of paracetamol or something like that.
We had one formal evening - the Captain's Cocktail Party. Having never cruised before, I obviously didn't know what exactly to expect but had imagined it to be an actual party with music and dancing and cocktails! Wrong. We had to stand in a queue for the best part of hour to get our photo taken and eventually be introduced to the Captain and have our photo taken again with him. After that we were shown to a seat in the show lounge where we had the dubious pleasure of listening to a 10 minute speech from the Captain and his staff before dinner. As for the dining itself, I certainly can't criticize the food, the choice or the service. I was a bit worried about what the food on the ship would be like as I'm not a very adventurous eater - but I found the choices available in the Lido Restaurant (the self-service buffet restaurant where we ate most nights) were enough to satisfy even me. If there was nothing I fancied we could always go back after 11pm when the late night buffet started and there would be a change of menu. The restaurant was open 24 hours so you could never go hungry.
We did try the Compass Rose dining room one evening, which we didn't really like because you are shown to a table with 6 strangers who we had nothing in common with. In both restaurants, however, the service was second to none - the waiters are so polite and courteous, and as with the bar staff and very funny too and actually were a lot more entertaining than the entertainment staff!
The reception staff were not as efficient however. On the crossing to Ashdod I felt very seasick and went to reception, where it said in our welcome pack you could get tablets to help. The girl there just looked at me as if she didn't know what I was talking about, then after some muttering with another member of staff they said that they didn't have anything and the medical room was locked up but they would get someone to open it up, and would bring the tablets to our cabin. I'm still waiting!! It certainly was not encouraging to see how little concern they took in their passengers' welfare.
We had further trouble with reception when not once, but twice we got a letter through our cabin door asking us to go there with our credit card because our mid-week payment for our on-board account wouldn't go through. This turned out to be because they'd taken down the wrong card number not just once, but twice!
The reception/admin staff let themselves down yet again when we arrived in Ashdod. Israeli authorities have to meet each person on the ship individually to check their passports and 'ok' them to go ashore - even those not intending to go ashore. We were booked on a full day excursion to Jerusalem so we were called down fairly early to be checked. The customs official checking my passport looked me up and down suspiciously and asked me to take a seat in a waiting area, and put my passport on top of a big pile of ones to be rechecked. The number of people joining the waiting area grew and grew, yet the Israeli officials just kept adding more passports to the top of the pile so that none were actually being dealt with. It turned out that on the list of passenger details Thomson had supplied them with, which they were cross-referencing with passports, Thomson had my sex down as male and had mixed up my date of birth with my husbands! After over an hour of waiting we were getting extremely angry, but Thomson said they could not do anything to hurry the officials up because it was nothing to do with them - but of course if Thomson had taken down the details from our passports properly in the first place, there would have been no mistakes that the officials needed to check out! Eventually we did get to board the coach and we were on our way to Jerusalem. Our guide was very knowledgeable and very entertaining - however, the sites we visited were so busy and he didn't use a microphone like we noticed other guides doing, so unless you were standing next to him you couldn't really hear anything. We also felt very, very hurried - our walk up the Via Del a Rosa was so rushed that we had no opportunity at all to look at anything, or take any photos, or buy any souvenirs. When we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was the site I had particularly wanted to see, we were only given 10 minutes to look inside, so it was impossible to take anything in because it was so, so busy.
In the afternoon we continued on into Bethlehem for lunch and to see the Church of the Nativity. We were all very surprised when our guide announced that as he was not a Palestinian, and Bethlehem is in Palestinian territory, that he could not cross the border with us! And with that he jumped off the bus, and left us with the coach driver who spoke no English. The border itself looked like the Berlin wall and was guarded by soldiers (who came onto the coach - guns n' all - to inspect us on our way out), and we carried on through into the town of Bethlehem where the coach stopped outside a hotel. We assumed this was where we were due to have lunch and the driver did motion us to go in there, so in we went.
The lunch itself looked completely inedible - certainly everyone at our table looked with the same surprise at the dish that was in front of us, nobody seeming to have any idea what it actually was! Being a picky eater, I couldn't eat a thing, so my husband and I didn't stay at the table long and went outside hoping to get back on the bus. It was locked, so we stood for a while on the street waiting for our group to rejoin us - while Palestinians across the road were looking at us suspiciously, and a young child went past with her mother and laughed at us as if she'd never seen tourists before!
Back on the road, the coach drove on for a bit and then went into a multistory car-park where the driver again motioned for us to get off. By this time I was feeling quite anxious being in a strange place, not knowing where we were supposed to go or what we were supposed to do and with no-one with us who spoke our language. The group of us found our way up a hill to the Church of the Nativity, where we tagged onto another Thomson group but of course with so many people and only one guide, nobody could hear anything she was saying so we just had to have a look around the church ourselves.
All in all, it was an extremely tiring day and when we finally arrived back at the ship, Israeli customs had to recheck our passports before letting us back on - and of course we had the same problem as we had that morning, and so more waiting was involved.
I should say a word or two at this point about the other ports of call/excursions. Latakia we gave a miss as we couldn't get booked on an excursion and didn't fancy going it alone. Our next port of call was Alexandria, and as we weren't going on one of the excursions we thought we'd have a wander out ourselves. From the ship, Alexandria looked absolutely beautiful - the port area itself having stunning views. But as soon as we stepped off the gangway we were immediately hounded by street vendors and taxi drivers. As it was our first visit to Egypt, this was the first time we'd experienced this, and I really had no idea how unpleasant these people are. We ended up just getting past the 'Welcome to Alexandria' sign, when we inadvertently turned into a side street in an attempt to avoid an adamant cab driver and we had apparently walked into one of the city's slums with heaps of rubbish and horse crap lining the street. It was enough to make us turn on our heels and flee back to the safety of the ship!! Other passengers seemed to enjoy their day at Alexandria very much so if you are on an organized tour it may well be an interesting place to visit, but I certainly would NOT recommend going it alone.
Our next port of call was Port Said for Cairo. It was a very long journey into Cairo - about 4 or 5 hours I think. The guide on the coach was very interesting and informative though. We did the Pyramids and Tombs tour, and the sites we visited were very interesting but again, as with Alexandria, you couldn't move an inch but you were face to face with yet another vendor. The pyramids truly are a stunning sight to see, but it is spoiled by the fact there are so many vendors there who won't leave you alone. Stand in one place for more than two seconds and someone else is upon you! I could barely even take photos - I was trying to get a shot of the great pyramid when a man on a camel walked into the shot, and then wanted money because I'd taken a picture of his camel!!
One other thing about the excursions to Cairo that is that every single one involves a stop at the Papyrus museum and souvenir shop. The guide takes orders for personal cartouches which she phones into the shop so they are ready for you to collect. On the one hand, it's quite good to be given the chance to buy souvenirs from a proper shop and not have to deal with the street vendors, but on the other hand I don't think it's very ethical of Thomson to be trying to force these items on you because you do feel almost obliged to buy something. Clearly, since the shop is part of every excursion to Cairo, Thomson must make quite a good commission from this.
I have already talked about Jerusalem. The port of Ashdod itself is not much to talk about - it is really an industrial port with no nice views, just lots of freight containers and warehouses. There is however a free shuttlebus that takes you into the city where there is big shopping centre. We did venture there on our second day at Ashdod, but didn't buy anything because we had no local currency. This was the second thing that we felt had not been properly explained to us by our travel agent - he had told us that we didn't have to order any local currency from them before we left the UK because there was a bureau de change on the ship. He also said that it would however be handy to have a few euros just in case. We were disappointed to find that actually you could only get euros or dollars on the ship, so there was no chance of us getting any shekels! We also found that dollars are more handy to have in these countries than our euros, which were pretty useless.
All in all, I have mixed feelings about our cruise on the Thomson Spirit. While it was a great itinerary, I felt the excursions could have been a lot better organized and the destination services staff a lot more on the ball. The standard of service by housekeeping, bar and waiting staff however was impeccable, the cabin clean and comfortable and a good choice of food that was well-prepared. My expectations were not quite met entertainment-wise, and in fact the lack of entertainment spoiled the holiday completely for my husband, who hated it from start to finish - he says the only good thing about the holiday was the in-cabin movie King of Kong!
Personally, I am not put off cruising and want to give it another go. I think perhaps that maybe the ship was the wrong ship for a young couple, so I've finally convinced my husband that another cruise-line might be a whole different experience for him and we're now looking at larger ships where there is more to do on-board. Read Less
After being on many other cruises, this was the absolute worst! We could only compare it to a repositioning cruise. If you ever did one, you know what I mean! Our destinations were: San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Georges (Grenada), ... Read More
After being on many other cruises, this was the absolute worst! We could only compare it to a repositioning cruise. If you ever did one, you know what I mean! Our destinations were: San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Georges (Grenada), Bonaire, Aruba and back to San Juan. They should rethink Grenada and Bonaire. Absolutely nothing worth seeing on these islands. Unless you scuba or snorkel. The amount of time spent on these islands would have been better served with more time in St. Thomas and/or Aruba. We spent 11 hrs. in St. Thomas (7 am - 6pm), fabulous! 8 hrs. in St. Kitts (it's ok). 5 hrs. in Grenada (what a dump!). 8 hrs. in Bonaire (never left the ship for this one) and 9 hrs. in Aruba (fantastic!). The weather was just plain horrible with high seas and high winds. The ships TV said "Gale force winds", something like 26 knots every night while we sailed. Surely not their fault, but still more of a nuisance listening to the wind through a sliding door that doesn't seal right! While cruising to other ports at night our outside furniture was rolling back & forth smashing into the balcony dividers.This brings me to our cabin. Nothing at all like the picture online. We had told them about our anniversary and asked to have the room decorated. It wasn't. On the 4th day I finally called and they scotch taped 3 balloons outside our door. Nothing like RCCL! On to our steward Francis. Our anniversary pkg. included a full bottle of champagne, which we did receive, only we didn't drink it for a couple of days. My wife was feeling ill and I took her to the Dr. in sick bay. They told her she had a little cold! She gave her a bottle of Robitussin and a box of Sudafed. (Meanwhile we found out she had walking pneumonia when we got home) For this they charged us $120.00 and never put a stethoscope to her chest! My advice, don't get sick on a cruise! This went right along with horrible room at the Holiday Inn in San Juan (Carolina). We had to exchange our room (Executive Suite 6th fl. ocean view) for a room in which we could smoke (on the terrace) around the pool. When we opened the door to our room, the stench of mold and mildew made us step right back out! To make a really long story short, we left with no refund! $461.61 for 2 nts. gone! The Embassy Suites right next door, gave us a King bed smoking room for $530.00 - 2 nites. They had a casino and an Outback restaurant inside (never ate there but did have a drink). Our stay was just fine. We stayed at the Condado Plaza & Hotel Casino upon our return from the cruise. It was decent enough although the six pack of Coors Light @ $36.00 was skunked and expired in Aug. 07'. Back to the Crown Princess! The people that work on this tug should give up their day jobs! On our 1st day pool side, we got a drink immediately. Then it took a half hr. to get somebodies attention. I could have walked over to the bar but it was 3 deep! Now I know why! You couldn't find a waiter! When I did get to order, he brought the wrong drink! This was typical of all I had encountered. Our 1st "Formal" night we went to "The Crown Grill" ($25.00 pp)it was just awful! All of our side dishes were cold to almost warm! I had the Ribeye steak med. and my wife had the Petite Filet Mignon. Mine was over done and hers was under done. We had ordered a bottle of wine ($54.00) had 2 cocktails before dinner and our bill was $153.00! I actually made them go over the bill so I could understand how they were billing me. Highway robbery! Our reg. dining room seating was the late seating. We never went. It was on the 4th deck aft (the Botticcelli) & we were on deck 15 forward. 900 ft forward and 11 stories away, with no single way to get there without going outside into the winds.The 2nd "Formal" night we went to the Michael Angelo dining room. We chose open seating and sat with some very nice people. 2 couples were from England and the other couple were from Calif. They all concurred with us about the horrible food! Heres an example: Caesar Salad - a soaking wet mess! It looked just like the creamed spinach! Inedible! My NY strip, tough as nails. Even the soup "Root Veg." tasted like dirt! We got up and left. No reason to try anything else. The buffet food was ten times better! Only you had to deal with the "beasts at the trough"! A bunch of (what I would classify as) trailer park trash, including the smell of body odor. They would push their way in and reach right in front of you to get at the food. Totally classless! We had never run into that on RCCL! Even the casino couldn't make up their mind if it was smoking or non-smoking! Sometimes you could and sometimes you can't. I just don't get it? We will never cruise on Princess again. Way too many people and the fact that tips are already included means they get tips no matter how well or poor they perform. In our opinion, by lowering the price of a cruise, they have opened the flood gates for the masses only to be unable to cater to any, let alone all of them! I would of had more fun burning the $7000.00 than taking this cruise! Oh! I almost forgot. We went to the Crown Grill for disembarkation which is for "Platinum Club" members. Heres what you could get: coffee, OJ, water (glass) and a stale danish! That was it! No mamosa'a or any cocktails were available. The used plates sat on our table from 7:30 till 10:45 were still there when we finally left! Quite a few other passengers also were complaining about this ship, especially the staff & food! So we weren't alone!They can keep the Crown and any other Princess ship! Read Less
I hope I remember everything I want to say. :) I absolutely loved our end of May Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruise. :) It was my in-laws 25th anniversary and so they, their 4 kids and their two daughter-in-laws (including me) the 8 of us went ... Read More
I hope I remember everything I want to say. :) I absolutely loved our end of May Alaska Royal Caribbean Cruise. :) It was my in-laws 25th anniversary and so they, their 4 kids and their two daughter-in-laws (including me) the 8 of us went together. :)
Dining: I gained 10 pounds!!!! That should speak for itself! :) hehe. ugh, the food was much too fantastic. very yummy. And even better than the food! (if you can imagine that) was the fantastic service. Our head waiter was a bit too proud of himself, but our Waiter Freddy Gonsalves and his assistant waiter Liodela were just so absolutely wonderful :) They did everything in their power to take care of our requests and never made us feel guilty for having asked for anything! :) They are the best! :)
The windjammer was yummy too! :) It was warm enough that we would sit outside but you do need a lite jacket at the end of May in Alaska. We did not use the Portofino or the Chops Grille. Wy pay $25 per person more when you have just as excellent food and service for FREE in the Dining room and Windjammer :) And the room service was very nice. They were a little abrupt over the phone when we would call in, which was probably from under-staffing. Put a few more people working for room service and they'd have it down :) If you don't like to wait, go to the windjammer and yes ;) you are allowed to take the food back to your room. :) If you want he full wonderful dining experience, go to the dining room but it does take longer. We had the 6 pm seating. We would come at 6 and order, bread and drinks are served. Appetizers began at 6:30, Main courses 6:45, desserts about 7:15 p
The Ship: BEAUTIFUL!!! :) All the glass.. especially the glass elevators... just beautiful :) 10 story lobby. beautiful art all over the ship :) My husband enjoyed the Shipshape center :) Putt putt and dodge ball were fun too (we are in our 20's :D)
and the VIEW: :) To DIE FOR! :) I'd say the view ... all that water and mountains.. even better than any port of call! :)
Ports of call
1st: Icy Strait Point: If your heart can handle it :) try the Ziprider! :) I loved it! I'd describe as a swing but much faster :) and only in one direction lol :) Lots of history in the museum and things to buy that you can't get on board such as AFFORDABLE sunglasses lol...(stuff in the onboard shops is very expensive unless you wait for days when they have stuff on sale like normally their watches are from $50 to $500 but they had ONE day when they had $15 watches.)
2nd: Hubbard Glacier: unfortunately the fog decided to be lazy and didn't clear up but for an hour... so never got to see that collapsing glacier event thing :( But that's not the cruise lines fault they can't control the weather :(
3rd: Skagway: Very nice town :) You have to do a bit of walking in order to get all around and see all the different stores but it was concentrated enough ... that I don't think we walked more than 3 miles the entire day all together. We did take the train through the mountains :) Very very pretty :) Especially Inspiration Point :) You are allowed to stand up and walk outside while the train is moving to take pictures... my husband spent nearly the entire time outside :) We were supposed to go on the 8 am train but the train in front of us was disable on the track and so they moved us to the 4:30 p train... which I think was probably better than the 8 am :) the train was back by 7:30 and out boat left at 8 pm phew some of us were worried that the train would have troubles and the boat would leave without us but the train people assured us that the boat does not leave without the 50 people on the train... it would wait for us if anything happened :) YAYE! :)
4th: Juneau: Hehe I got lazy. Stayed inside and slept and went up top and viewed the town... very big compared to the others... very sprawling.
Days at sea: beautiful... open ocean was all you could see... it was like looking into eternity :)
Believe it or not I did come back with a tan!! :) yaye! :)
WEDDING VOW RENEWAL!!! :) well, not for me :) For my in-laws :) The Cruise Programs Administrator Kelly Tucker was absolutely wonderful. We are supposed to plan before you get on the ship but it didn't occur to us to throw a surprise vow renewal for Ma and Pa Simpson until we were already on the ship. of the 6 kids I was elected to see if we could get it worked out and when I met up with Kelly... she just treated me like I mattered like even though we were doing things out of order and other people had signed up before me to have their weddings or vow renewals down that I, the late bird, mattered just as much as them! :) I did not expect that :) She was just absolutely wonderful and took care of our every need and request :) Just absolutely WOW :)
Between Freddy and Kelly... I just felt so loved and cared for and like family on Serenade :) I couldn't thank them enough for all their hard work and effort and time and patience :)
The Rooms: I was told that cruise ship rooms and tinier than you could ever imagine so I went in with the expectation of some 4 x 10 room, a twin bed, and one of those trailer showers that sits right over the toilet... it was actually bigger than I thought! :) We had an inside room and I would call it very spacious - the bathrooms too :) But you have to walk in with the expectation of smallest tiniest box in the world and then when it ends up better than the smallest thing you can imagine, then you will be able to enjoy it :) Our room had a ton of mirrors all over which helped add to its spacious feel :) I like the movies (Wild Hogs, Harry potter, star dust, ratatouille, etc) (and ya there is actually a cinema theatre :D )and programs on TV that taught about the different ports and amenities. If you get easily nauseous, get an inside stateroom cuz its in the center of the ship and therefore rocks less... you can barely feel it on a bad day if you stay in bed. Balcony rooms or rooms at the ends of the boat can definitely feel it when the water gets choppy.
Stateroom attendant: QUICK! :) I thought she did a good job but I also don't have very high standards lol :) We would be gone for 2 seconds and come back and the room had already been cleaned. Very quick! :) My mother-in-law commented on how she thought boats were supposed be cleaner or shinier and that most everything seemed to have a filmy layer on it and therefore less shiny. I reminded her that of the high prevention measures they are taking because of the Norwalk virus and so they have to use bleach on nearly every surface (including shiny ones) and bleach can leave a filmy residue especially when used as often as they were required to use it... so you will have a less shiny ship but its worth it to not get a gastrointestinal virus that keeps you hugging the commode for the rest of the cruise. :) (And NO the ship did NOT ever smell like bleach thank good ness cuz that is a horrible smell to live with)
Money money money: Everything is very expensive so wait for a sale, the have a ton of them and that is when to buy stuff... spa too what is $200 one day is $89 the next ... seriously lol :)
I regret not having taken part in some of the sales especially the art sales and raffles but I will know better for next time! :)
The DOWN SIDE:
Oh poo I hate this part.... at least I don't have a ton to say :)
Bar: My family and I don't drink alcohol and apparently alcoholics are great tippers cuz when we would go to a bar to order virgin drinks, the bar attendants would barely acknowledge us in comparison to the drunk tippers on the other side of the bar. :( I must say though that the drinks were very good :) Plus the drunks were hilarious to watch... so it made for a good show lol.
Guest Services: Very abrupt... but again, just understaffed, there were too many things they had to deal with and not enough people to do it so that had to get through the line of people as quickly as possible.
Nausea: It is a ship. It does move. :) lol. Bring Nausea medicine just incase.... I never used any, but my in-laws did.
Anyway enough with that!!! :)
More upsides! :)
Do as many poses as you can with the photographers :) Posing is free and they are set up most evenings to take you picture for formal nights of casual or ports :) Then you have a big selection to pick from :) The photos are very professional but you don't have to pay a sitting fee like with other professional photographers AND the photo prints are less expensive... more so than say Wal-Mart but much better quality. $20 for 8 x 10 full plus $10 more if you'd like another 8x10 with wallets and 4x6's in it. So 1 8x10 2 4x6 and some wallets for $30 :) Our local professional costs $27 just for one 8x10 besides the $100 for an hour of posing :) Free posing and cheap high quality prints :) Moral: GET YOUR PICS DONE! :) Its worth it! :)
If you are going and you happened to bump into Freddy Gonsalves or Kelly Tucker, let them know the Simpsons said hi (yep they memorized our names, ain't that something :))...
Enjoy yourselves on the Serenade! :) I know you will! :) Read Less
We did the three night Vancouver/Victoria pre-cruise tour. We stayed at the Four Seasons for two nights. We arrived about an hour before the official check in time so our room wasn't quite ready. They sent us to the bar for a ... Read More
We did the three night Vancouver/Victoria pre-cruise tour. We stayed at the Four Seasons for two nights. We arrived about an hour before the official check in time so our room wasn't quite ready. They sent us to the bar for a complimentary drink while we waited. The room was beautiful - a corner room on the 14th floor. The view was great!
We had one day to explore Vancouver on our own, and then boarded a motorcoach (then ferry) to Victoria.
Timing is everything. We happened to be in Victoria for Victoria Day, so everything was packed with people. They even had a marching band competition going on across the street from the Empress hotel.
Our tour guide, Billy Raegh, was fantastic. Very entertaining, very friendly, very accommodating. In Victoria, we spent a few hours at Buchart Gardens. I don't think there is ever a bad time of the year to visit the gardens! Some of our party was anxious to get to the Empress in time for High Tea. Instead of doing the city tour immediately following the Gardens as planned, Billy took us to the hotel. For those of us that skipped the tea, we had some time to rest and have dinner before regrouping at 7pm for an evening tour of Victoria. This was a terrific idea - the tour was so much more leisurely and enjoyable without the crowds.
My only critique of this pre-cruise tour was that the Empress is on the shabby side. We had furniture in our room that was scratched, torn, or broken. It wasn't just that we got a bad room either. One of our cruisemates had a toilet on the blink. Another had a mini-fridge that made horrible noises.
We had been warned about wet weather in May, but the drive to the ship was the only time that we were rained on all trip!
Embarkation was very smooth. Maybe just 15 minutes from the time we left the motorcoach until we were boarding the ship.
This was our first time cruising in a full suite. It will be very hard for us to do anything less in the future! Having all that extra space, including the extra large balcony, was worth it. The other perks were appreciated as well. One of our favorites was the complimentary laundry service - going home with clean clothes was a real treat!
We did Anytime Dining, and never had to wait more than a couple minutes. We typically asked for a table for two, but those tables are very close to another table for two. It's more like a table for four. We didn't mind though. We enjoyed everyone that we met on board. There was a nice variety of options on the menu, but food tended to be a little on the bland side in the dining room though.
We tried the Bayou Cafe - this was definitely our best meal and well worth the cover charge. We ate at the Horizon Court once for lunch. No complaints. We did pizza once too. Also good.
We decided to renew our vows and opted for the Deluxe Package. Irving coordinated all the details for us, and it was really special. The ceremony was in the chapel. We had stuck our head in the chapel earlier in the day when it was set up for computer classes. We were a little worried about how it would look for the ceremony, but there was no need. It was very nice. The flowers were beautiful, and very long lived. We had the bouquet in our stateroom all week, and it never faded.
As part of our package, we were able to do a Bridge Tour. Very fun. There was a group of about twelve of us. Lots of interesting tidbits to learn on that tour.
Also, the package included a massage or facial for each of us. We decided to upgrade to a couple's massage. We were on tables, side by side, getting a massage at the same time.
We did the Misty Fjords Explorer in Ketchikan, Whales and Trails in Juneau, and Explore the Yukon in Skagway. We really gave the digital camera a workout in all three places! This was a great sampling - we saw glaciers, wildlife (whales, sea lions, bald eagles, otters, a black bear, and sled dogs), the rainforest, waterfalls, and gorgeous lakes.
Another highlight for us was meeting Libby Riddles (and her dogs). She autographed books, and gave a nice talk about her experiences in the Iditarod.
Cruising through Glacier Bay and College Fjord were both incredible too. You felt like you were so close to the glacier, but when it calved and the sound took so long to get to you, you realized how far away you really were.
Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation.
Overall, this was a fantastic cruise. The ship was beautiful, the service was excellent. Read Less
This was the first time my family and I had taken a cruise (my husband and I are both 30 and we took our 9yr old son and 4yr old daughter). We decided to leave from Baltimore because we didn't have to fly. We drove there from ... Read More
This was the first time my family and I had taken a cruise (my husband and I are both 30 and we took our 9yr old son and 4yr old daughter). We decided to leave from Baltimore because we didn't have to fly. We drove there from the Eastern Shore of MD. The Carnival Pride was a beautiful ship and our balcony stateroom was awesome. Although we had nothing to compare it to. However my mom and dad also went along with us on this trip. They have sailed with Carnival before on the Glory. They said that the staff, entertainment, and food on the Pride dwarfed in comparison. I myself was a little dissapointed in the friendliness of the staff. I have heard countless testamonials from other cruisers on how amazing the staff on Carnival's cruises are. However on the Pride you could definately tell that most of them were there just to do their job. There were a couple of exceptions though. Our room steward Gede was great. We also had a very friendly bar waiter- Taufik. The entertainment on the Pride was good. The shows were excellent. Although if you are traveling with kids, keep in mind that the show "Vroom" has VERY skimpy outfits. I'm talking g-strings. My husband didn't mind but I was glad that my 9 year old son was at Camp Carnival. My son loved Camp Carnival. He spend most of his evenings there while we were just lounging around or catching a show. They offered a wide variety of activities to keep the kids entertained. My daughter did not want to go just out of her shyness. Plus, the camp is in the very front of the boat and when she did go the first day I think it was just a little too rough up there for her. I do not get motion sickness, but after visiting the ship's arcade with the kids one evening (also in the fwd part of the ship) I felt nauseated. The Pride also offered a lot of activities for adults. Do yourself a favor and catch the men's hairy chest competition if you have never seen it before. It was a riot! I also attended one of the bingo games on board. I thought the bingo was quite expensive. They play 1 game and it is $20 for a sheet with 3 cards on it. They also offer live music on the lido deck every day. The music was ok, I just wish they would put in a new sound system or fix the one they have. The music came across screechy and very LOUD. You could not hear the people at your own table talking to you. On this cruise my family opted out of the formal dining. All of us just went to relax and we did not want to dress up. So, the only food I can comment on is what came out of the Mermaid Grille. The food was again....just okay. They offered a different meat selection every night. However, the side dishes remained the same for the most part. Lets just say I don't want to see steak fries or white rice for a while. The cheeseburgers and hotdogs poolside where really good. Just don't go there at lunch time and expect not to wait. The line wait was about 20-25mins long between noon and 1pm. If you have a sweet tooth, they offer an awesome dessert buffet during the lunch hours. I did find the lunch meal to be better than the dinner. Especially if you want different selections. All in all this was a great cruise. My family needed a relaxing vacation and Carnival provided it! I will definately sail with Carnival again, but on a different ship. The Pride didn't show me anything I will CRAVE to see again. I guess they just need a little more time in their new port to get it together. Read Less
Let me begin by noting, We are from Connecticut, in the USA, and travel 5 Star or we don't travel. We have very high standards, want a luxury vacation, and are willing to pay for it. We are in our late 50's, as were most on ... Read More
Let me begin by noting, We are from Connecticut, in the USA, and travel 5 Star or we don't travel. We have very high standards, want a luxury vacation, and are willing to pay for it. We are in our late 50's, as were most on board. Only a few children (maybe 4 on the entire ship). If you have children, this is NOT the ship for you. Your best choice if you are traveling with children would be to travel Royal Carribbean, it has a lot to offer for children and families and is a lovley line. We did not want a cruise with children...we wanted to indulge our senses and our minds and enjoy the solitude and quite. We chose Celebrity Summit as we wanted to travel to some ports that the larger ships could not enter, and thus changed our reservation from the Celebrity Solstice to the Celebrity Summit. I was a bit concerned with my choice of Celebrity Summit prior to booking, as it is not a new ship. However, it went into dry dock and was referbushed in January 2009. They did a great job renovating this ship. The only negative we found was some of the areas of this ship could have had an update, but not to worry. You would have to look really, really close to notice. The balcony in our state room was not updated as well as the rest of the ship. The lounge chairs and tables were a bit worn as were the lounge chair covers. I feel they should have paid attention to this, as we love to sit on the balcony in the evenings and view the exodus of the ship to a new port. However, do not let this change your mind about Celebrity Summit...such a little thing should not sway your decission. I mention it only as I am quite exact when speaking about things and do want to make my point. I read many, many reviews and felt I had made a good choice. Yes, there are some minor, very minor, elements that could have been renovated, but all in all, for the trip itinerary, ship ambiance and elegance, the price...a tremendous value. The ship, all is all, is in great condition for it's age. Beautifully appointed. I would certainly travel on this ship again. The attitude of the Staff were far beyond my expectations. You see the commericals on TV, etc. and wonder? Well, it is all true, and then some. The staff remember your name every single time they meet you. You are treated in the highest regard. They do all they can, and then some, to make your voyage amazing and memorable and do it wonderfully, every single day. The public rooms were well appointed, silks and damask, marble, quite luxurious and all in beautiful prestine condition. All dining was serviced with linens and fine crystal and china...in all restaurants. The cuisine in the main dining room was simply wonderful. A wide variety in every category of the meal, and well presented. Quite amazing. We dined in the specialty restaurant "The Normandie", 6 of the 12 evenings and will say the service and food were superb. We really felt like royalty...honestly! The cuisine was elegant and delicious...not one single complaint. Like any 5 Star restaurant in the states. Just delightful. We were quite impressed and are still remarking about it. You must try the Spa area...The Persian Room has 3 steam rooms, one more wonderful than the next. A sauna and thermal heated seating that is just divine. There is an extra cost for the Persian Room, about $99.00us per person. You can use the room as much as you like, whenever you like during the entire 12 days. It is wonderful. We indulged ourselves every day.The stateroom cabins on this ship were quite ample in size, with down comforters and pillows (you had a choice of 4 pillow/comforter types). The decor was lovley, crisp, elegant and quite well appointed. As we chose Consierge Level Cabin, we were welcomed with Champagne and canapes, fresh flowers and a bowl of fresh fruit upon arrival. Also, every evening we were presented with a silver plate of canapes prior to dinner and flowers and fresh fruit daily. Quite amazing. A lovley stateroom...no towel animals on on your bed on this ship...just simple elegance, well maintaned and lovley. Our cabin steward and assistant were amazing. Just pick up the phone and they were there in minutes...really...minutes, to tend to you every whim. Really wonderful. I must train my husband better. ha,ha,ha. We truly enjoyed our cruise and are already planning our next.A few very important items: (1) PACK LIGHT! I am a clothes horse and found you do NOT need all that stuff. Also, It cost 180-Euro for each bag that was over weight, in total 360-Euro in extra baggage charge at the airport. Pack light...you can purchase a lot of things for 360-Euro! (2) Use your ATM-Debit Card or Credit Card to buy Euro. Do not use Travelers Checks, they are not easy to to use and most businesses will not accept them. (3) If you are traveling in Venice, Italy on a cruise. You will need travel accommodations from the ship to the airport or to a hotel if you are staying on for a few more days on your own. There are no cars in Venice. You MUST book a reservation with a Watertaxi. As you exit the ship, you will be directed to the "Security Building" and there, at the end of the building is a "WaterTaxi Reservation Booth". Make a reservation immediately. You will be given a numbered ticket and then procede to the dock. If you do not get the reservation, you will not get to the airport or hotel. Cost about 50-80 Euro, depending upon where you are traveling.You are welcome to email me for more detail and photos. firstname.lastname@example.orgThis is a superb travel ship and I would travel on her again. Read Less
EMBARKATION: The embarkation process went smoothly. We ended up getting on the ship in record time. As we headed to our Stateroom, we found that we had a connecting cabin with another couple. It turned out that our next door neighbors ... Read More
EMBARKATION: The embarkation process went smoothly. We ended up getting on the ship in record time. As we headed to our Stateroom, we found that we had a connecting cabin with another couple. It turned out that our next door neighbors were these two, middle aged, women, who were very friendly. We enjoyed talking with them.
FOOD / DINING ROOM: We found that our table was only available for the late dinner seating. George, who can't eat after a certain time, talked with the Maitre'd. On our past cruise on board the Carnival Victory, September, 2007, we ended up with a Maitre'd who didn't seem to care. Anyway, this person was way cool, and we ended up changing our seating time to the earlier dinner seating. We had the table to ourselves! We like sitting with other people, however, since it was our anniversary cruise, we really wanted to be alone. And, it didn't bother us that we were seated by the railing, so we could overlook the dining room. The food was delicious, as always! We couldn't ask for better service or better food. The head waiter and his assistant were very friendly. They took pictures of us with our camera, and we enjoyed talking with them.
CABIN: We had an ocean view stateroom on the Rivera Deck. Even though we were on the ground floor, we were still able to have a smooth sailing. We didn't feel the boat rocking too much, and the cabin was spacious. We could see out the window, which wasn't a port hole. There was enough closet space and drawer space for the two of us. We definitely weren't cramped.
SERVICE: Overall, we felt that the staff on this cruise were more friendly than past cruises. We met this guy Bart, a manager, from Belgium, who took care of our every need in the gift shop. He really made sure that we had a comfortable and pleasant shopping experience.
ART AUCTIONS: We attended a few of the champagne art auctions by Park West Galleries at Sea. We didn't buy anything, but we did enjoy ourselves. We always have fun when we're together, especially at the art auctions.
CLEANLINESS OF SHIP / STATEROOM / FACILITIES: The ship was very clean! We didn't have any problems with our cabin steward. He made sure that everything was taken care of. We'd leave our room for dinner, and come back, and the bed would be turned down, with an animal towel shape waiting for us. We had a swan, and a rabbit, both which I couldn't resist to take pictures of. The ship itself was always clean. The staff really hustle to make the ship a clean and fun place to live. The facilities were also very clean. The bars, lounges, and casino always had people picking up after the cruisers.
PORT OF CALL: We stopped in St. John's, New Brunswick, where we had stopped on our cruise in September, 2007. We had missed getting off the ship that day, because we were too tired. So, we decided to take the 5 night cruise and see what St. John's had to offer. We got off, and started walking on the board walk. We met these two really nice girls who were natives of Canada. They showed us where the mall was, and we went SHOPPING! George doesn't like to shop, but we had fun anyway. After we shopped, we went to this bar and grill, and sat downstairs on the board walk, to watch people pass by. George and I had fun talking, and being together.
CRUISE DIRECTOR: We had an awesome cruise director. We had him once before, when we were on board the Legend. He didn't remember us, of course, but we remembered him. He was really a lot of fun!
DEBARKATION: We got off the ship in record time. When we ended up getting home, to Connecticut, we were ready and waiting for our next cruise. This was to take place on September 6, 2008, on board the Miracle, out of NYC, to the Eastern Caribbean. Read Less
Let me just preface this review by saying, the Canada/New England cruise was by far the perfect summer cruise. Anytime we can escape the hot humid south is a blessing. For 10 days we enjoyed gorgeous, sometimes a bit chilly weather. ... Read More
Let me just preface this review by saying, the Canada/New England cruise was by far the perfect summer cruise. Anytime we can escape the hot humid south is a blessing. For 10 days we enjoyed gorgeous, sometimes a bit chilly weather. Completely opposite of NC weather. If you're considering this cruise, definitely plan it for the summer.
Embarkation: Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey
We decided to drive to New Jersey from NC, in one day. We left about 4am and took maybe 2 breaks. So needless to say, we were stressed getting there. Won't do that again, I will in the future drive to Baltimore, stay over and then finish the drive the next day. Jersey turnpike is a real 'experience' for a southern driver. Got to port fine, but just in time. Nobody was really waiting in line by 3:30pm so we breezed right through.
Champagne and Strawberries awaited us in our room. And we ordered a smoked salmon sandwich from room service becaused we were starved. It was awesome. The balcony room we had was enough for the two of us, I couldn't imagine any more people in it. Loved having a balcony....can never cruise again without one.
The usual departure stuff went well, then we napped until dinner. We had a late seating for dinner. They did a great job of seating us with two other couples who were celebrating their anniversary. So all in all, a great dining table.
The food was fine. I kept in mind that they had to serve a certain way because they're serving so many in so little time. So the soups are basically puree's, I'd avoid pasta anything. I always stayed with the most luxurious option and was pleased every time. Deserts again were good some nights, a little more 'fluff' other nights. We did mostly dining room options as I'm not a fan of the cafeteria experience on a cruise.
Loved the coffee shop, always had a great selection of snacks, cookies, sandwiches. A nice break since our dinner was so late.
We didn't do much entertainment, we basically rested as much as we could. I did bingo a couple of times, my husband did the wine tasting. We weren't uptight about constantly being busy, our goal was to not have a schedule. It was too chilly for me to want to swim.
Did a spa massage, it was nice, but I hate the up sell they always do.
Ports: Here's a quick and easy reference for the ports. Research the american ones like Bar Harbor, Portland, etc. then rent a car and bring your GPS. We found some great places to eat and tour on our own schedule. The only tours I booked were for the canadian ones and I did one for Boston because I'd never been there and didn't want to navigate a car in a city like that.
My other goal was to have lobster every day. Not a difficult thing to do in New England. In Bar Harbor, we found an incredible lobster shack by the bridge and pigged out on whole lobster, steamed mussels and steamed clams. I can still taste them today! Every port was historical and relaxing. I'm not a beach bum, so I didn't miss not being on a carribbean vacation. The New England cruise was just my speed. Read Less
About a year ago, my in-laws surprised us by telling their kids and grandkids that in celebration of their 50th Anniversary, they would be taking all of us on a cruise the summer of 2008. After much discussion, searching and planning, we ... Read More
About a year ago, my in-laws surprised us by telling their kids and grandkids that in celebration of their 50th Anniversary, they would be taking all of us on a cruise the summer of 2008. After much discussion, searching and planning, we chose a 7 day western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Liberty. Most of us had been on carnival cruises at least once before and found it to be fun for all ages. The Liberty fit the dates we needed and was a ship none of us had been on. 21 of us cruised, from 5 yrs. old to 80! We had 10 cabins.
Embarkation went smoothly, we had all completed our documents online. Our cabins (all oceanview and balconies) were roomy and nicely decorated. In honor of the anniversary, my in-laws cabin had a bottle of champagne, rose petals on the bed and doves joined like a heart when they entered. They were touched.
We enjoyed the many activities on the ship. The comedic entertainment was not that great and 1 show was not up to their usual talent. Our chief complaint was that the ship was hot. Our rooms never got sufficiently cool enough. The casino was stifling, often forcing us to abandon play as sweat was dripping off our heads. Lounges, theaters etc. were ok.
We stopped at Cozumel and swam with dolphins which was a blast. In Grand Cayman we did the Submarine which in my opinion is not worth $90 a person. If this is something you want to do, check out the rate through other vendors. We did not book sub on ship but went straight to atlantis once on the island. In Jamaica, some of us went to the beach, others on Bob Marley tour (loved it) and others horseback riding. Some went to climb the falls. Note: Falls...cab ride $10 each, climb $17 each. None were booked through ship but were easy to arrange on land and much less expensive.
Cruise director was great, funny and we enjoyed many activities. Wait staff was great and could really shake their booty's! Room steward was quick, efficient and helpful to all. Spa staff very nice and accommodating.
FOOD WAS EXCELLENT! Many cruises we've been on has been hit or miss but I must say everyone commented that food was great, especially dessert.
To celebrate 50th Anniversary, we surprised in-laws by booking a "vow renewal and cocktail party." While we thought twice about the $785 cost for 20 people (youngest free), we did it anyway. We were extremely happy with both the vow renewal (all grand kids took part in ceremony and walked down the aisle) and the cocktail party. It was very beautifully laid out, we had a wait staff of 4 and the food was more than we could handle and very good. Well worth the $785 and I recommend this to anyone considering vow renewal. The captain himself married them and was very nice and patient with our brood.
Debarkation at cruise end was not done well. Our luggage came pretty quickly but the lines at immigration were very long. Passengers should have been separated by citizens, non-citizens, aliens etc. It took over an hour to get out of there. While this may not be under Carnival's control, a better system should be looked into. We've been on other cruises where there was a separation.
Let me commend the carnival liberty crew. On our last day of voyage, we came upon a boatload of distressed haitian refugees. They had been at sea 15 days and many had died. We stopped, send out a lifeboat to collect them, brought them back to the ship where they received food and medical attention and spent the day confined in a separate area. That evening, the coast guard boarded us and off loaded the refugees. This delayed our arrival the following morning in Miami by about 2 hours but their humanitarian efforts are commendable.
All in all, a great cruise and one I highly recommend. Read Less
First Carnival cruise - Jubilee - about 15 years ago. This was a Panama Canal (part way in) to near the Equator...NO AIR CONDITIONING!!! No, it didn't break down on our cruise; it actually broke on the cruise before ours. Of ... Read More
First Carnival cruise - Jubilee - about 15 years ago. This was a Panama Canal (part way in) to near the Equator...NO AIR CONDITIONING!!! No, it didn't break down on our cruise; it actually broke on the cruise before ours. Of course, they didn't bother to tell any of the passengers who were boarding for the next trip...nor did they try to fix the A/C. Heaven help you if you were a diabetic...the only sugar reduced dessert was yellow cake. Every night they did change the frosting to another color and they gave it a different name (i.e., pink was strawberry; yellow was lemon; green was mint, etc., etc.). Okay, this was an old ship even at that time but it was always very dirty (perhaps, it was also too uncomfortable for the crew to keep things shipshape (no pun intended). After this cruise, my husband and I swore we would never sail with Carnival again. So much for swearing...move forward about 15 years...
Our second (and, without a doubt our very last, forever, no way) cruise was on the Splendor. It was a brand new ship with only two voyages before ours. It was cruising out of Dover, England and would be visiting Northern Europe/Baltic ports. Our brother and sister-in-law talked us into joining them on this trip. Although we were very hesitant to go on this cruise, we decided we would give Carnival another try. I mean a brand new ship - how bad could itt be? Pretty bad, if you want my opinion.
. We were on the Spa deck (10) in a handicap room (at the very front of the ship - there are two locations on board the ship for handicap access rooms (the very front or the very back (right next to the crew's metal stairway!). The doorways to these cabins have a wall opposite them making maneuverability difficult if you're using a motorized scooter. They door to the room does open automatically to let you get in when you put your card in the slot (we didn't know about this feature until we were five days into the trip because the door was not functioning when we got on the ship). One problem with that was that the door automatically closed whether you were in the room or in the doorway...smash!!!!!!!!!!! goes the door into your scooter, leg, etc.
. Food was alright (nothing special). The desserts (sugar-free) were the same as on our first cruise... The food court was very disorganized and at some points on the line you actually had to reach across food to get to other food (yuck!).
. The Styrofoam carvings were - well - there! Ugly - if they didn't want to do fruit carvings or ice carvings... okay, but Styrofoam with plastic flowers just didn't meet our standards.
. Shore excursions - who knows! If you were unable to walk well or couldn't climb steps - you needn't bother to book any tours. You can get off the ship and ride your scooter or wheelchair up and down the dock - but, don't expect to go sightseeing.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I would like to add one bit of information though, 10 years prior to this cruise we went on the Royal Princess to the same ports (with the exception of Germany) and it was FABULOUS!!! Read Less
First we are a little spoiled; we live in Florida and only have to pay for the cruise (plus the bus ride from the other side of the coast, 55 dollars round trip). We don't have to worry about airfare, motels, meals, etc. We also try ... Read More
First we are a little spoiled; we live in Florida and only have to pay for the cruise (plus the bus ride from the other side of the coast, 55 dollars round trip). We don't have to worry about airfare, motels, meals, etc. We also try to sail during hurricane season, in the month of September; schools back in session and the rates are the best. Also having been though a number of hurricanes the best place to be when Florida's getting hit is on a large ship, they move away from the storm, no matter how many times I've tried the state just doesn't seem to relocate. Sometimes we go with a few friends, sometimes with a lot, this time with four other couples. We pick trips by ports and decided we wanted to revisit Jamaica. This would be our 5th cruise on Carnival, 3rd time on the Triumph, which is fine the Triumph has always been our favorite ship, the Captain is great, he did a wonderful job getting us though hurricane Jeanne a few years ago, we ended up with 2 extra days because the port of Miami closed for the storm and they returned the booze to the rooms the night before we were turned away. The poor staff, two extra days at sea and everyone had their liquor back, it was fun for us. Back to this September. We had VIP status (last minute offer from Carnival, 100 dollars extra to go from a balcony to a suite, we took it). So boarding for us was a breeze. Waiting lounge, TV's, short cut the lines. We waved at our friends as we went by. Still we only beat them to the ship by a quarter hour, Miami's new site is much better and quicker. Room wasn't ready so off to Lido we go. Everyone in our group knew to meet at "our" table. Being this was our 3rd time on the ship everyone knew were it was. Get the first of the colored cups for the drink of the day and we were back "home" again. Life doesn't get much better. Did the whole life vest fashion show at muster and invited everyone to tour our room, about twice the size as normal, tub, big dressing area, real nice for what we paid. My wife and I aren't into statis-quo and never would pay the 70 or so extra dollars that it costs, but for the price we paid, it was well worth it. As always the room stewards were great, the bar staff great, the dining room staff wonderful. Never in need of anything. My wife and I have over 40 years of restaurant experience between us. The staff on these ships work like dogs. I would hire any of them in a heartbeat. Whatever they are paid (and I'm sure it isn't enough) they earn every penny. The food on all our trips has been great. We are more Chili's, Applebee's, Outback type of people. The food is very good, and much better in the dining room then we are custom too. I have worked for 5 star restaurants, much is on par with what they serve. You've be surprised if you knew how much of the supplies are the same between a mid level restaurant and a starred one. Presentation, and just because you are told it's better (and the cost) are much of the reasons you think it's better, sorry to say, much of what most people think is better is only in their minds. Now if I can vent. Carnival is for people that aren't into pomp. The "fun ships" are meant for "fun" (funny, maybe that's why they call them that), and more the everyday working Joe. If you shop at Wal-mart, Target, Sears, etc. you'll be set. If you're into over paying for items, highend brand names, having your butt tickled with a feather, or status symbols, book on a different line. There's a reason why there are so many cruise lines, do your research on this site and take the time to find a cruise ship that best reflects your own tastes. As far as I'm concerned if you can't have fun on a cruise you are either dead, or just a miserable person who needs to get a life, and please don't book on my ship, I'm there for fun.... Venting over. We had three ports, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. Grand Cayman is always a coin toss. Been there before, this time the sea's were to rough so we (and every other cruise line) waved bye-bye as the port faded from view. This was the third time for one couple with us to be turned away, they are starting to think it's personal. But, for as disappointing as this is for passengers, this has to be a real bummer to the staff of the ship. They get a break from all us bone heads when the ships in port, the last thing they want is a ship full of disappointed people, and then to try to entertain them. But they did a great job, I ended up with my second "ship-on-a-stick" from a "survivor" contest. This old man beat out the younger ones in the contest with the longest time keeping a hula-hoop going (I have no hips but the neck worked just fine). I have to admit it became almost embarrassing since it ran on the TV in the rooms, on their in-ship channel. I was surprised just how many people saw it. Almost embarrassing, but I lived though the fame. We had booked the deep sea fishing tour on Cozumel but the same rough seas canceled all the water related tours there also. So we went "shopping", not one of my favorite past times but I made the best of it. Now men hear me, let the wife's hit the bling shops. If the American stores took on the ports free drinks policy they would sell a lot more. Even if they don't have anything out in the open, they have it in the back room, just ask. The wifes look at the rings and we husbands just hold up the paper cups saying "hit me again". After a few shops we went to Senior Frogs, had one of their "yard Margaritas", then I finished half my wife's, too strong for her. A couple more shops looking at rings and we danced our way back to the ship at the end of the day. Mind you I'm not a big drinker, one or two beers a month. I have a job that depends on a clean driving record and does intense drug/alcohol testing, so after 29 years working there, I just don't mess with it all. But on the cruises I can lighten up, no DUI's to worry about and I can always find my way back to the room. Living in Florida we great use to tourist screwing up traffic, over loading the restaurants/stores, and just getting under foot. I have to say the people in Cozumel handle the influx very well. It's a busy port with two or three ships hitting it at a time. Just imagine 4 to 6 thousand people being dropped off in your front yard for 8 hours. The people were all nice and friendly, I'm sure they have a lot to say when the ships pull out at the end of the day, but in person they do a good job making you feel welcome. One port out for the count and one had the plans changed, this left Jamaica. Just a side note on shore excursions. You will see posted a lot about not booking though the ship because it cost more. This is true it does cost more but we always book with the ship for a number of reasons. As with Cayman we got shipboard credit for the snorkeling as soon as we sailed away, same with the fishing trip, in fact our best friends were owned money after the cruise and got money back. No worry with lost money. Also when you book with the ship, the ship waits if a tour runs late. If your tour is late you can be fined if they have to wait, rightly so since you maybe shorting people of port time coming up. If your too late, and they can't find you, the ship will sail and it's up to you to make it to the next port, or home. I saw this happen once in St. Thomas when the ship waited for over two hours for a couple of teenagers who didn't get back in time. The ship left with one of the parents waiting on the dock. They did make it to the next port, how I don't know, but I bet it wasn't cheap. We had a dune buggy tour that because of an accident ran a hour over on Grand Turk. When we did make it back to the dock the whole ship was standing at the rails yelling for us to run (they had no idea why the ship was waiting). We just took our time walking back to the ship, just waving and smiling to the crowd. But because it was booked with the ship there was no repercussions. So the little extra you pay with the ship is more like insurance. Also the tour people that book with the ship don't want to lose their meal ticket so they're pretty good about giving you what you want, and what they advertise. Now back to Jamaica. Jamaica is what it is, I love it. The people do have a "don't worry be happy" type of attitude. Also Ocho Rios is a safe port, not like Kingston, which can be a little scary, and no place to be after dark. Ocho is safe. It's also hard sell. The people will follow you, and like many ports you do need to barter for the best price. Some will yell, some will follow you for blocks if you look interested, and all seem to enjoy the barter as much as they enjoy the sale. Just know this when you hit the shops, this is Jamaica, it's not K-mart. This is part of what Jamaica is, it can even be fun. Just lighten up and go with it. I'm a little bit of a sucker, yea I did pay a dollar for ten cents worth of roasted peanuts in a brown paper bag from a man with a bike/roaster. It was worth the buck just to talk with him and look over his homemade transportation/outdoor gas grill. Get a hair braid and tip the girl, remember this is their main source of income, for many this is what they feed families with, or at least how they can just get by day to day. Also there is a number of locally grown crops that are for sale that are marketed as being legal, but aren't (and I'm not talking about the Blue Mountain coffee), it's just winked at (unless your in the Bob Marley compound, then smoke on dude), don't be dumb, you can get busted. And if you haven't been to Jamaica in a while they now check your belonging before you get back on the ship at a visitor center, not a very good check, but be smart and don't risk your vacation. I've been to Jamaica before and did the falls by way of "Cool Runnings", a very good excursion if you haven't done the falls I would suggest it. This time we sign up for the zip line/canopy tour. Very nice! You now meet the tour groups in this little "visitor center/tent". While waiting in the tent looked over and it looked like there was a small Grateful dead concert. At first I thought I was having a flash back. Then came to understand that was the line for the Bob Marley tour and it all made sense. On the Canopy tour you get a informative bus ride to the site, great guides. And then a ride up the mountain side that is an excursion all by itself. Once you get up this one lane path/lane you take a walk down to the first platform, and take a number of cable drops with the last one being the longest. Never had done it before and all in the group were ready to do it all over when it was done, including one member who has a fear of heights. Once you get to the bottom you have a nice walk in a park setting and on the ride back you can get off in the shopping area if you wish, which we did. Back to looking at ear rings and of course free rum. One place in the shopping center gave us a bottle of free rum. Yea Marks and Morgan could learn something from these ports. The shows are fun. I did well on the slots, my wife not so much, so together we broke even, not bad. Allot yourself how much you're willing to lose and don't think about once it's gone. Its fine to line up what you're going to do on your cruise but don't become a slave to your agenda, things change. It's best to set up a wish list of things you would like to do and heck with it if you can't make a couple, move on. It's a vacation, don't make a job of it, relax and have fun. Getting a second cruise this year for our 30th anniversary in January, a couple of weeks from now, will report how that went. Read Less
Our trip into NYC was very uneventful. Once George and I reached the pier, we boarded the vessel in record time. We found the embarkation process to be a lot easier than past cruises. It was even better than the cruise we took out of NYC ... Read More
Our trip into NYC was very uneventful. Once George and I reached the pier, we boarded the vessel in record time. We found the embarkation process to be a lot easier than past cruises. It was even better than the cruise we took out of NYC on board the Carnival Victory in June, 2008! Once on board, we located our stateroom, and went upstairs to the buffet on the Lido Deck to get lunch. There was so much to choose from! We couldn't decide what we wanted to eat first.
The life jacket drill wasn't as painful as usual. Well, the drill is more painful for those of us who don't think orange goes with our ensemble. Anyway, we had it in The Phantom Lounge, where all the Vegas / Broadway styled shows took place. BINGO, The Not So Newlywed Game, and other activities also take place inside the lounge. It's really big, and can seat a lot of people. You don't get that cramped feeling in that lounge the way you do at other spectator events.
I had joined the Carnival Forum's "Role Call For September 6, 2008" and had met some very nice people through the forum. This one couple I e-mailed were first time cruisers, and we kept an eye out for them while we were in the buffet area. We didn't meet them until our first full day at sea. They were both from NYC and had taken the subway that let them off a couple of blocks from the pier. They were both really nice, and we enjoyed talking with them.
We spent a lot of time in the gift shop. George wanted to buy some bottles of Drambuie and Grand Mariner. He even bought a 4 1/2 Liter of Johnny Walker Black to bring home. We had already brought one home from our cruise on board the Carnival Victory in June. We figured we'd buy another one to put on the coffee table. We packed light, so we could fit our 10 Liters in our suitcases, as well as the cartons of cigarettes George's mom wanted us to get for her.
We had a lot of fun shopping and attending the champagne art auctions hosted by Park West Art Galleries at Sea. We enjoyed this one painting by Alexander Chen, called "South Beach in Miami, Florida" or something like that. We became instant fans of his work. He really knew how to bring out the colors and painted in great detail!
A few other people we met were just as friendly as the first time cruising couple. We met this mother and daughter who were cruising for the first time as well. I can't remember where they're from, but they really enjoyed the champagne art auction. Neither of them drank the champagne though.
Our first Port of Call was San Juan, PR. We had been there twice before, and both times we had done something different. For the third time, we wanted to take a tour of the city. We were always told to beware of taking independent tours, however, we hadn't run into any problems as of yet. "Knock on wood." Anyway, this one guy approached us as we walked about a hundred feet away from the terminal. He hooked us up with this really cool taxi driver, who took us around Old San Juan. We even went into the capitol building and saw one of the forts. By the time we got back to the ship, we were tired, and we weren't in the mood for dressing up for dinner. Instead, we ate at the buffet, and then went to one of the revue shows.
It was great! Those shows they have on board are tops! George, who doesn't like to go to the theater, has to BEG me to go to see the shows. Of course, since we were right on the upper level of the theater, all we had to do was walk down the hall and into the upper part of the lounge, or the "cheap seats," our cruise director would call them.
For dinner, we were seated with this other couple. However, they decided not to sit with us the second night, and we ended up eating by ourselves until the last night on board, when this other couple, a different couple, joined us. They seemed really nice. We were really bummed that we couldn't have sat with them earlier.
During the cruise, there's a color war. Those who are seated at an odd numbered table are blue, and the evens are red. Throughout the cruise, there's a lot of competition between the colors. The Not So Newlywed Game, The Hairy Chest Competition, and BINGO are a few of the ways that cruisers can score points for their team. Many people forget where they're seated in the dining room, but when the cruise director looks at their room key, they can tell which table the person is sitting at, and therefore, which team gets the points.
Our second port of call was St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. We ended up going to Cokie Point, for our beach day, instead of our usual trip to Magen's Bay. We had a great time, however, we missed being in Magen's Bay. When we go in September, we're going back to Magen's Bay.
Our last stop was Tortola, B.V.I., because Grand Turk had been flooded from a previous hurricane. We liked Tortola, since we had been there once before. However, it was TOO hot, and we ended up just walking a little ways into town. Once we got back on the ship, George had to jump in the shower. The humidity had really gotten to him.
As we began our cruise back to NYC, we reflected on the best parts of the cruise. We enjoyed the galley tour, where we were able to see the food being prepared for the Midnight Gala Buffet. Also, we were treated like royalty in the dining room, and were very pleased to have our head waiter and assistant waiter as our servers. Their service in the dining room was prompt, professional, and terrific! We'd definitely cruise on board the Miracle again! Read Less