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Sail Date: August 2008
I had a great back-to-back crossing. I will give you my impressions for different aspects. Every section of my review will include my overall impression and then some details. If you want the long story short, just read the first paragraph ... Read More
I had a great back-to-back crossing. I will give you my impressions for different aspects. Every section of my review will include my overall impression and then some details. If you want the long story short, just read the first paragraph of each section. BACKGROUND My name is Julie (29), I'm from Quebec, Canada and this was my 4th cruise, 2nd solo cruise, first Transatlantic, first on Cunard (others have been with NCL). THE BARGAIN I got a fantastic deal for a solo cruise, less than 2 weeks before the embarkation day. I had been dreaming about a Transatlantic cruise aboard QM2 for many years and I couldn't wait anymore. Since dbf is not into formal nights at all and has never cruised yet; a Transatlantic aboard QM2 didn't seem like the best idea; I was therefore actively trying to find a roommate or a good solo deal (which rarely happens on QM2). There was less than 2 weeks to go and my hopes to find a roommates were not so good. In fact, I was getting discouraged since the good deal I had seen was not even available anymore. There was a good deal on the Eastbound Crossing but it was near 200% single supplement, and I had to add the flight back to this amount; too expensive for me. I was checking a website, one last time, just to know I had tried everything and, for no good reason, I checked the back-to-back crossing solo occupancy rate. There was NO single supplement on an already amazing rate, meaning the back-to-back crossing, would cost me no more than a one-way crossing + airfare (roughly 100$/day). I was ecstatic and I knew I had only a 20-minutes session to complete the booking but I first had to confirm with my boss and my boyfriend than it was ok for them and I did it in that time frame. I learned later than on one segment of this crossing, there was only 1 place left, not 2, because of the third/fourth occupancy that was high that week, it's probably why I had no supplement. I was now booked and I had less than 2 weeks to go! TRAVELLING TO AND FROM NEW YORK I opted for the overnight bus to New York and almost missed I finally made it. I live near Quebec City, QC, Canada and when I take a cruise out of New York, I always take the overnight bus. It's definitely more affordable than the plane and the schedule works better than the train. My boyfriend was supposed to drive me to Montreal (where the direct bus to New York is). He called me saying he couldn't be here on time (for a good reason), my plan B was to take the bus from Quebec City to Montreal and it went well. I had a bit to eat and then proceeded to the bus line (Greyhound asks you to be in line 60 minutes before the departure to secure your seat - this is where is almost went wrong. The line was HUGE and I was crammed to a corner near the entry door (still I was lucky to be inside, lots of people arriving after me had to wait outside). I was hoping to make the 10pm bus but now know this was impossible, there were 2 other busses that night, one at 11pm and the last one at 11:45pm. I got on the last bus but there were less than 10 seats when I got on. Would I have missed this bus, I would have missed the ship! I reserved a seat on the shuttle to get me back to the bus terminal and there, I had to wait another 2 hours in line to come back to Montreal after debarking the ship, but I was not as worried this time since I had no ship to catch. I wrote a message to Greyhound about that, but they never got back to me. EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION PROCESS I was at the port quite early (around 9 I think) but better to wait there than the bus station. People were still disembarking. I found the porters who were getting ready for new passengers and they gave me luggage tags (I had not received them since I had booked so late). They were very friendly and helpful. Then I entered the terminal and there was a small waiting room and we were only about 8 people there. Later, they opened the check-in waiting lounge and I got the very first seat. Check-in itself went smoothly and I went to another waiting room. Of course, lots of people had priority so I was not the first onboard. Debarkation was a lot of waiting in lines but I guess it's normal. THE SHIP QM2 is a very elegant ship and its interior looks much better than it appears on the pictures I had seen before the trip. I had an inside room, forward. It was a nice room with plenty of storage space (even with dbf, I think we would have been alright for 12 nights). The shower was way smaller than what I'm used to with NCL but the TV was much bigger (I usually don't watch the TV much but during the storm, it was nice to watch movies on a good size TV). FOOD Food is very subjective, but here is my opinion: Excellent in most cases! I'm not a buffet person and it was a disappointment for me that the dining room was not open for lunch on embarkation day (NCL, which is supposed to be a lower category cruise line does this better, offering you both options). I went to the buffet, it was a little crowded but the Asian fare was very good. I went another time to the buffet for lunch, maybe twice for breakfast and stopped one at tea time, they had a great selection of finger size desserts. The dining room food was excellent. I had planned on trying the other venues but it was so good (and my tablemates were so nice), I went to the DR every night instead. I had their spa selection most evenings but other times I chose among the other items, everything was perfect. I requested steamed vegetables with my meals; otherwise you don't get much. Those were cooked to perfection too. The portions seem a little small but I had an appetizer, sometimes a soup, an entrEe+veggies, and a dessert and I was stuffed every time I left the table. For lunch, I sometimes went to the DR or the pub. I didn't eat a big lunch most days. I also ordered room service a few times, for breakfast; I simply had cereals, fruit and juice. Everything was perfect here again. On NCL, they call you when they are on their way to deliver your food, you have time to prepare the tip, get dressed, etc. I thought it was the same on all ships but they don't do that on QM2, the first time they knocked on the door, I was fully asleep so it took me a couple of seconds to realize what it was, dress in my bathrobe and open the door... and I still had to open the safe to get to my wallet. After apologizing a lot to the poor crew member, I made sure, for next time, to put a wake-up call 15 minutes before the scheduled delivery time! SHIP ONBOARD ACTIVITIES Since I was on a B2B crossing, I had a lot of sea days but I never got bored, there was so many different things to do! In fact, I had to leave out some activities that interested me since there were other things at the same time. I went to both CC get together and it was nice to meet fellow CC. I also showed up for the Young-Adult-Get together and I met some people of my age there (and they offer free mimosa). I recommend it for the 18-29 old crowd. I went to 4 art auctions and I was lucky because they changed the art director in Southampton and each had his/her own style. On the second week, I bought 3 pieces, 2 small, unframed pieces at a very low price and 1 mid-size piece lithograph. The artwork showed up at the house before the anticipated date and I am very happy with the quality of the product. I looked up the price of the same piece on internet and I saved about 25%. I enjoyed tea time in Queen's Room twice, it was a nice experience. The first week, I saw all the planetarium films and I enjoyed them all even if many of them repeated some information contained in the other movies. On the return voyage, I took the Bridge lessons every morning and I enjoyed it so much, I'm now taking lessons here in Quebec City. I highly recommend it to anyone (teenager to elderly) who wants a brain challenge but fun too. Other activities I participated in and enjoyed: - 1 RADA workshop - Hat making for the Ascott Ball - Simply watching the sea go by on deck - Etc. The dance lessons were too crowded and it was going too fast for me, I gave up after 5 minutes each time I tried them. Since I didn't have enough time to do everything, I skipped the lectures since I could listen to most of them on the TV when I was getting ready for dinner. On top of all this, I worked out every day (except storm day), either in the gym or taking a class downstairs (by the way, I think it is great that their fitness class are downstairs because I had a stateroom right under the gym and was worried about vibration but there were none since people were not jumping on top of the cabin). I didn't go to many shows since it's not much my type of thing, but I must say that Rock @ the Opera is not to be missed. At night, I was often in G32 dancing or in the Queen's Room to watch people dancing. The live bands were all very talented and the Caribbean band had the party going every time they played. SPA The spa facilities are very nice. On embarkation day, they have a 20% discount on some treatments, I enjoyed a massage right after we left Southampton. Be advised that the spa is not as private during that day. Of course your treatment room is private but there are tours of the public areas of the spa : - Thalassot herapy pool - Hot tub - Steam Room - Finland sauna - Aromatic sauna - Special jets showers - Ice fountain I didn't mind since I paid less but if you don't want any intruders, I would choose another day. FELLOW PASSENGERS I was expecting an older crowd but it was not at all. There were many teenagers, lots of young couples and families too. I heard that the Westbound trip was marketed as "kids sail free" it's probably the reason why. Before to even know my tablemates, I asked the Maitre D' to change table of the next week (because I had to repeat my formal dresses, and didn't want them to know). This was a mistake, my tablemates, mostly solo travelers + an older couple, were all fantastic, I was sad to leave them at the end of the first segment and half of them were taking the trip back to New York. But it's ok, I met another group of nice people the following week, but I must admit it was not the same as the first table where we almost had a party going every night. SHIP OFFICERS/CREW The ship officers and crew members were mostly excellent. At each CC get together, we had senior officers and also, Julie, the Captain's wife, and the Captain himself for a short speech at the end of the meeting. I find this extraordinary and it was fascinating. One of my few disappointments about this cruise was that we were supposed to have an officer (the Staff Captain, who is young and very cute too!!!!) at our table one night (we had a card stating "guest" in front of his place) but he never showed up. I talked to him later and he said it was not on his duty assignment that week and he sent a bottle of wine one night. I'm not saying it's his fault but it's not fun to expect such a nice treatment and then having it removed. I did mention it to the Food & Beverage Manager at the next CC meeting. I told him not to have his staff put the little card on the table before making sure someone would show up. He said he would look into it and I also got an invitation at his table one night, I think it was a very nice touch from him and I think all people at the table had a great evening. I found my room steward and both sets of dining room staff simply perfect! Some bartenders were a little pushy sometimes though or rolled their eyes if you skipped a drink twice in a row (hey, I won't feel any obligation to drink more than I want to when I already paid to be on the ship). SOUTHAMPTON I was happy, the weather was very nice and the Captain said it should remain the same all day. I debarked early in the morning and walked to the Hythe Ferry. It's about a 20 minutes' walk. The ferry isn't expensive and it's a nice way to get good pictures of the ship (in the port of New York or Southampton, you cannot get a good picture). After, I was planning to do a free guided walk that the city offers but I got there 15 minutes late so I started to explore by myself. Luckily, I found the tour in route and joined them. It was supposed to be a 90-minutes tour but it lasted over 2.5 hours. It was very interesting and highly informative but the weather had changed, the wind was awful and cold rain was pouring. At least, I had brought a light jacket with hood + a baseball cap but I still had my sandals on. I found a taxi at the ferry station instead of walking back (I was freezing). STORM AND POWER FAILURE ENCOUNTERED! On the Westbound crossing, we encountered two special "events". One night, all Power was lost. No engine were running, we were drifting at sea and only emergency power was on, no TV, no regular lighting, nothing. This lasted for about an hour. I knew it was probably not a big problem but I was getting ready for the worst., I prepared a bag of essential goods (towels in a big Ziploc bag), bottled water and sodas, chocolate pillows and a box of cereals I had not eaten from that morning room service, first aid kit, etc.). I had also prepared my warmer clothes. Of course, I didn't need any of this but doing something was keeping me from stressing from the situation. When the power came back and I heard the ship moving, I went back to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, we had power for normal hotel operations but we were not moving. The Captain informed us at 9 am that they were researching what caused the initial problem and had to stop the engines for this reason. We gained power back late in the morning. We were already many hours behind schedule and we encountered a big storm the following day. The seas were so rough, I saw a cart rolling in the hallway and a vase broke on the floor. It was interesting to watch but I started feeling sick and went back to my cabin for all the afternoon. Sitting down on the mattress was the only position I could endure, as soon as I lay down or stood up, I felt very bad. I heard an officer say he checked the data and QM2 had been through only 3 storms of that nature since it debut. It was a real experience but I was glad when it ended (the storm, not the cruise). CONCLUSION This Transatlantic crossing was a dream come true for me and I'm sure I'll always remember it. Since Cunard is more expensive, I don't think I will go very often but I might if I find another good deal like this one. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2008
ALASKA CRUISE September 2008 This was a special holiday for me; I was travelling alone from Scotland, doing the Rocky Mountaineer trip by coach and train from Calgary to Vancouver where I first saw my beautiful ship, Serenade of the Seas ... Read More
ALASKA CRUISE September 2008 This was a special holiday for me; I was travelling alone from Scotland, doing the Rocky Mountaineer trip by coach and train from Calgary to Vancouver where I first saw my beautiful ship, Serenade of the Seas for my seven night Alaskan cruise. Many people along the way said how brave I was travelling from Scotland alone to undertake a holiday such as this. May I say that the Rocky Mountaineer team and everyone at Royal Caribbean made it a wonderful holiday and one I would recommend to anyone. Here is my diary of my first cruise, but certainly not my last. 08SEP08 10.30 am. Taxi booked for 11.00 to take me to Glasgow airport for my flight via Heathrow in London to Calgary. I'm all organised. I can't believe I am finally on my way after a year of anticipation. 12.00 midday. In Departure Lounge at Glasgow Airport. Luggage checked in to Calgary - fingers crossed. 15.30 At Heathrow having Nachos and wine and waiting for my gate to be called. Plane on time. Really nice lady beside me visiting her sister in Calgary. Watched 'Forgetting Sarah Armstrong' (Russell Brand) and 'Summer' (Robert Carlyle) on the flight. Arrived in Calgary a few minutes ahead of schedule at about 19.05. Cleared immigration, picked up luggage - so heavy!!! And my limousine was waiting for me. In was in my hotel by 20.00 - amazing! When I checked in they handed me a Rocky Mountaineer Vacations Pack. My room is huge - two double beds, it's really a suite. Dumped everything and I'm now in the bar having a Stella and Duck Spring Rolls and reading over my itinerary. It's so detailed and organised. This is going to be an amazing trip. The Bar is quite old-world, high ceilings, big leather chairs and lots of dark wood. Staff very attentive as you would imagine. There's a Death by Chocolate evening here every Monday night - a long buffet full of all things chocolate. It looks amazing but I haven't got a sweet tooth tonight. I should have mentioned I'm in the Fairmont Palliser. Tues 9th September. Had breakfast in the hotel - Continental - absolutely loads of fresh fruit, juices, cold meat, cheese etc, lovely. Caught the coach at 08.20. Lovely guide/driver called Chris, full of loads of information. Drove towards Banff and the Rockies, snow on them. So beautiful. Stopped a couple of times for photos. Weather beautiful leaving Calgary but started to rain as we got higher. Went on the Gondola at Banff to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Snowstorm at the top. Had a hot chocolate. We then went looking for Elk but couldn't find any. Did see White-tail deer, big horn sheep, hawks and cormorants. I'm now in Banff for lunch and a 1 ½ hour stop. Having soup (Hearty Chicken Tortellini with a warm roll - delicious) and a beer $10.50 in the Elk and Oarsman overlooking Banff Avenue. Another 50 minutes in coach before arriving at Lake Louise. I can't believe how beautiful the hotel is, I've never seen anything like it. My room (suite!!) is bigger than my flat; I could have a party for 10 easily. There's also a little seating area with a massive picture window overlooking the lake and mountains it's absolutely stunning, if I ever have the chance to come back here I would love to spend a couple of days in this hotel. Went for a swim, whirlpool and steam in the spa and then watched the Canadian Country Music Awards on TV before going down to dinner. Had dinner with a lady from Australia but is Scottish who is doing the Rocky Mountaineer trip after her cruise. I had considered this but I thought doing the tour first then the cruise would be more relaxing. I had bison, veal,pork and beef meatloaf with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables - delicious! Washed it down with a glass of merlot. Came up to have a nap before going down for a drink but was so tired I stayed in my room watching TV and reading. Wednesday 10th September Very misty morning but mountain tops are sunny, the sun burned through as I was having breakfast in Poppy's Brasserie - Paradise Valley Benedict - delicious. Bright sunshine now, very, very beautiful. Went for a ten minute stroll then back to my room to make the most of my amazing window before my guided walk around the lake which I had booked on to. Joe the Ranger took our walk round part of the Lake and told us its history and the history of the area. It was really interesting. Had a walk around the Lake on my own after the guided talk. I can't think of a more beautiful place. How lovely it would be to spend a honeymoon here - it's so majestic and romantic. I had an almond Danish and Mocha coffee before boarding the coach, bang goes any hope of weight maintenance. Oh well, never mind, what are holidays for? Spent the afternoon touring round YoHo National Park, stopped at the Spiral Tunnels where a figure of eight has been bored through the mountain to allow trains to climb or descend the steep gradient. Swiss engineers were brought over to help with construction. We then went to the Emerald Lake - so beautiful. The colours are so vivid in the water because of the deposits suspended in the water and it's something to do with the wavelength of the colour blue. I'll find out more in Alaska as the glaciers are blue. Didn't see much wildlife, no bears. Saw Big-Horn Sheep, some saw a Coyote, also a brilliant blue bird. On top of a metal bridge there was a huge bird's nest with a bird on it. It eats fish and apparently the vibration of traffic on the bridge shakes the bugs off into the river below and the fish come up to eat and voila! Ready made Sushi - intelligent birds! Arrived in Banff around 17.30. Didn't go into town, stayed in the hotel, had a bite to eat, a beer, and finished my book. Got a really early start in the morning. Thursday 11th September Up at 5.00am. Read for a couple of hours then got taken to the train station. Boarded the Rocky Mountaineer train and left around 09.00am. Really comfortable compartments, huge. I have a window seat with no-one beside me so loads of room. Stunning scenery! Had a really nice 'airline' style breakfast. Our Steward is Rob. We just passed a freight train with 108 carriages all with double deck containers, two engines at front and one at the rear. Such a relaxing day and so much beautiful scenery. Breakfast and lunch were served on the train. Both were delicious. Also, snacks and unlimited teas, coffees and soft drinks. I hadn't paid the extra to be in a coach with the glass roof but to be honest I don't think I missed much, my view was really amazing. Delayed a few times on the way, once waiting for an ambulance for someone in another carriage who fell ill, which meant we arrived in Kamloops very late. But they were really organised. Gave us luggage tags so they could deliver our bags to the correct hotel and take all the guests straight to the lumberjack show. The meal was lovely at the show, a buffet with loads of different things in it and the show was really entertaining and informative. It explained about lumberjacking in a short film then a sort of comedy about two lumberjacks in competition. It included sawing, throwing axes, climbing trees using springboards (I'd never heard of them before) and log balancing on water. It was great fun. Coaches took us back to the hotel, the whole evening was so well organised. Got back to hotel about 23.00 - long day - really tired! Friday 12th September Coach due to leave at 07.10 which it did but the train wasn't ready for us so we got a tour of downtown by the lovely driver called Doug. Nothing seems to be a problem for anyone, they really like being of help and service to people. Scenery completely different today, arid, dry and like tumbleweed. Nothing like the dramatic greens of the Rockies. We've just stopped for an Eastbound freight train to pass the other way. It took 2 mins and 50 secs for it to pass and it was going fast. Can you imagine how long it was!! Saw an Osprey with a fish in its mouth. Got into Vancouver around 17.00. Staying at the Sheraton Vancouver. Lovely room on the 29th floor. Amazing views! Went for a walk and had dinner in a Thai restaurant 'Salathai' - very good. Sat at next table to a really friendly couple from Vancouver who chatted to me and invited my to join them - so kind. Bought a Johnny Reid CD on the way back to hotel - I had heard him sing in the country music awards on TV the other night. Had a last drink in the bar with a lovely couple from Devon - not sure of their names. Slept on the 29th floor with the curtains open - beautiful. Next day - CRUISE!!!!!!! Saturday 13th September Had a muffin and coffee from the 7/11 for breakfast, I didn't want to have much. Took my own luggage down - slight confusion but OK, apparently I should have notified reception which cruise I was on and left my luggage outside my door for collection but I hadn't read the instructions correctly. Boarded coach for Vancouver city tour. Good tour. Went to Stanley Park, Granville Island (fab) and Downtown Vancouver. The tour was included in the cost of the holiday. Got to dock around 13.30. The ship, Serenade of the Seas looks amazing. Got through immigration quite quickly. My stateroom is lovely, much bigger than I thought it would be, really comfortable. It has a huge Queen size bed with brilliant little lights at either side, a really comfy two seater couch, TV, vanity unit, load of storage space and a fridge - it's really perfect. I chose an inside stateroom so it has no window or porthole but it didn't feel in the slightest claustrophobic. Went for a walk around as we cast off, the ship really is beautiful with so many different areas, you can be alone or with people quite easily, whatever suits you. . Watched as we sailed away from Vancouver and had a cocktail - Bahama Mama! Went back to my cabin where luggage had been delivered and I unpacked. At 16.15 there was an emergency practice and we had to gather at our muster station in the Tropical Theatre wearing lifejackets, it is maritime law that everyone on board participates in the safety drill, it's reassuring to see how slick the crew organise everyone. I went to the newcomers orientation which was really helpful as the ship is so big, a ember of the entertainment staff walked us through most of the public areas explaining about them as we went along, I would recommend this to anyone as you could miss some lovely parts of the ship if you don't know it. The Spa is amazing, mosaic hot-beds facing wall size picture windows overlooking the ocean. At 19.45 there was a show in the theatre - Latin dancing and gaucho acts by a couple from Buenos Aires who were great. I loved the Tango - reminded me of when I was in Argentina. Then dinner which was lovely. There were only four others at my table although it could accommodate eight. A couple from Redding and two ladies from China. After dinner went up to the Vortex nightclub but it was quiet and I was exhausted. Got to bed about 10.30 and slept right through until 06.30 - unheard of! I forgot to say I'd gone to the Champagne Bar for a Scotch mid afternoon. It's beautiful and looks over the water with huge windows. Sunday 11th September Wakened at 06.30, read for a while then had a shower, great shower - unexpected. Went to Reflections for breakfast at about 08.15. Had Fruit (melon, watermelon, grapes, pineapple) Eggs Benedict, a couple of small Danish, Tomato Juice and Earl Grey - delicious! Reflections is the main dining room on board and spans two floors, I chose the fixed seating plan in the evenings but it is free seating for breakfast. There are other places to eat on board, for example, the Windjammer on the 12th deck is great for self service at breakfast or lunch but I find that if I'm on my own I prefer to be served rather than do self service. At 09.30 went to a Digital Photography seminar which was really helpful especially as I had bought a new camera for the cruise and had little idea how to operate it then at 10.00 went to a lecture on Icy Straits and the Hubbard Glacier. Really interesting, then went to the Schooner Bar for the 'Ribbon Rose' workshop. Learnt how to make ribbon roses. It was really good fun and I now have a lovely silk rose! It's great having the port lectures, it really gives you an insight into the area before you go ashore. There are so many activities it's difficult to choose but there is no pressure on you to participate, if you just want to chill and read a book by the pool that's fine. Booked an excursion for Icy Straits: Hoonah Sightseeing and Tribal Dance. In the afternoon I went to the Art Seminar which was OK but not really what I like. It was explaining the differences between lithographs etc. I prefer Art Galleries or talks about the Impressionists. Later in the afternoon I had a swim in the Solarium Pool. It was just lovely, the pool has a glass roof which is closed for Alaskan cruises (understandable!) but opens when she cruises the Caribbean. I don't know why I was surprised but the pool had salt water which was lovely to swim in! Lounged around there for a while reading. This evening was the first formal night and started with the Captain's Champagne reception. It was so elegant. There was a band playing old 50s and 60s tunes. I had my picture taken with the Captain. Don't know whether I'll buy it though, depends what I look like in it, I really don't like being photographed. I wore my black skirt and black beaded top. It did look lovely and a couple of people complimented my dress. Joined my table companions at the reception then we all went down to dinner. It was delicious. I had: Lobster Bisque Fillet Steak, thinly sliced with pepper sauce, mash, asparagus & mushrooms Cherries Jubilee with Vanilla ice cream There was a show afterwards: 'Stage to Screen' which reminisced back to shows like Chicago, Hairspray, and Little Shop of Horrors. Afterwards I went outside to try and see the Northern Lights but it was cloudy and rainy. Went to the Midnight Buffet in the Windjammer. I've never seen anything like it, it was just beautiful with lots of little canapE things and fruit skewers. The Ice Sculptures were amazing and the fruit sculptures as well. All just beautiful. Looking forward to Icy Straits tomorrow. Monday 15th September Another lovely sleep. My alarm woke me at 07.00. Had breakfast in Reflections; melon, smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels, and a Danish - delicious. Sat with a lovely couple who live in Vancouver and have done 5 cruises. It's so easy for them, just a hop and a skip to the dock. Must see what ships cruise from Greenock! It's only about an hour away. Got the tender at 10.15 as the ship can't dock at Icy Strait. It's a tiny place made up of wooden buildings. I went ashore with the two Chinese ladies and we started walking through the fishprocessing museum before catching the coach. We had a 1 ½ hour tour of the Hoonah area with a fab guide. She was really bubbly. The natives of this area are Tlingit and are very proud and have great traditions. They belong to either the Eagle or Raven moieties and they are a matrilineal society so they take their clan from their mother. Also a raven can't marry an eagle. After the tour we went to the tribal dance show. It was amazing and explained many of the customs and beliefs through song, dance and storytelling. They didn't have a written language until the 1970s. It was a really good excursion. After the show I had a bowl of clam chowder which was excellent and a bottle of local beer. Bought a couple of books and a beautiful dreamcatcher. When I got back to the ship I went to my cabin via the photo gallery. I really liked the photo with the captain so I bought it and a frame with a beautiful picture of the ship. Had a cocktail, a mojito, before the show. Tonight's show was a tribute to the Temptations - brilliant (I'm running out of superlatives!). Dinner was lovely, I had Crab and Prawns to start and Tilapio (fish) to follow (delish) and a chocolate dessert to finish. Later that evening was the 'Abbalicious' seventies night in Vortex. Vortex is the nightclub. Good fun. Tuesday 16th September Day at sea. Had smoked salmon, cream cheese and toasted bagel for breakfast in Reflections, delicious. Went to a talk given by a Tlingit native which was really interesting, he wore the most beautiful tribal outfit. Had corncakes for lunch and a delicious almond sponge dessert with melted chocolate inside - fab! Today was Hubbard Glacier day. Arrived at the Glacier about 09.15. Strong wind and rain and it was freezing but it looked amazing. It's bright blue and I really do mean bright blue. I stayed for about 45 minutes until I froze! Some of the crew were selling mugs of hot chocolate laced with brandy which was a great idea, didn't succumb though. Went downstairs and watched from the Champagne Bar. Brilliant view. The weather cleared up and it was lovely. I went back on deck and took some pictures and a movie. I hope they turn out well. All through it you could hear crashes as huge chunks of ice broke off and crashed into the ocean. It's called calving and the noise is called white thunder. This was a once in a lifetime experience, especially as the glaciers are melting and receding due (I expect) to global warming. When I was at the native talk I had a Scotch to warm me up - Chivas Regal. In the afternoon I went to a talk on the next two ports of call: Skagway and Juneau and booked the 'Ghosts and Good Time Girls' tour which is in Skagway and is about the women who were there in the days of the Gold Rush. Looking forward to it. Then I went to the solarium for a swim and hot-tub. The pool was amazing. Outside the sea was quite rough and the boat was pitching a little. The water in the pool looked as though it had a wave motion motor, with big waves to the front and back - really strange. Had a lovely Martini with olives before dinner - delish! Dinner was great as usual and afterwards I listened to music in the Lobby Bar for a while. Wednesday 17th September Today is Skagway. Met our guide at 10.15: Madame Donna, Matrix of the Red Onion Saloon, she was student who did this during her vacation and she was dressed like a good time girl would have been during the Gold Rush. The tour was great fun. She told us all about the history of the Gold Rush, the women involved and the ghosts. We ended up with a tour of the upstairs in the Red Onion Saloon where the girls plied their trade. It was really interesting. Afterwards I wandered about the town and bought a cross stitch kit - a salmon based on a Tlingit design. Afterwards I went back to the Red Onion where I had a bowl of black bean and chilli soup (fab) and a couple of beers (also fab), it wasn't expensive. Then I looked around some of the shops and found a museum which was interesting, it was all about the Gold Rush. It's a subject that I'd like to learn more about, they must have been so brave to undertake the hazardous journey in such unwelcoming terrain. Later that evening I went to 'Name that Tune' in the Schooner Bar. Two American ladies joined me so we had a team, didn't win though. Had venison for dinner, it was really good. Started with halibut chowder and finished with maple syrup pudding with vanilla ice cream. Had a couple of mojitos in the Lobby Bar and listened to the music. Thursday 18th September Got up at 03.00am to see if I could see the Northern Lights but no luck as it was overcast. Up again at 06.00am, we had arrived in Juneau. Had breakfast in the Windjammer then went on to the pier at 07.15 to meet the coach for the whale watching excursion I had booked on to. Drove about 20 minutes to Allen Marine at Auke Dock for the boat. Saw whales very quickly, amazingly graceful. Watched them surface and dive. They did this two or three times then came out a bit further and dived vertically. Their tails came up this time before they disappeared out of sight. Apparently once you see their tails they stay down for 5 - 10 minutes to feed. Also saw Bald Eagles tangling talons and porpoises, stellar sea lions, seals and scooter birds. Had lunch of salmon at Orca Point Lodge. The salmon was the best I've ever tasted, it was wild Coho, or Silver Salmon and was marinated and cooked over a barbecue. Absolutely delicious! Here is the recipe: Orca Point Lodge Sauce Recipe ½ cup butter ½ cup brown sugar ¼ cup soy sauce 1 tblsp lemon juice Melt butter over low heat, add remaining ingredients and heat slowly to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Marinate salmon for ½ to 1 hour. Cook salmon for 4 - 5 minutes each side and baste while cooking. The salmon will flake easily when done. Don't overcook. The trip was fantastic. I have never seen such beautiful scenery in my life. It was tranquil and peaceful but so dramatic, majestic and awe inspiring as well. After the trip was over I got dropped off in Juneau to have a look at the shops but I didn't buy anything. Got back to the ship about 1.30 and the ship sailed at 2.30. Lazed about in the afternoon. Had a Corn Chips Basket and a beer in the Seaview Cafe with guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Really nice and light. Spent the afternoon reading. Had a couple of cocktails before dinner in the Atrium Bar; a Martini and a Marguerita. Good band playing. Then went in to dinner, it was lovely - lobster - delicious. Afterwards I went to the show, it was an impressionist. He was quite good but not the best show on the cruise. Went to bed when it was finished - really tired. Friday 19th September At Sea. Can't believe it's my last day! It's been amazing. Had breakfast (buttermilk pancakes) with some lovely Americans. Read for a while then went to the Cookery Demo at 11.00. It was great fun and was about creating a Black Forest Gateau. It was an Executive chef, a volunteer from the audience and Carly B, the Cruise Director (who provided the fun). Also went to a Line Dancing class which was fun. Learnt the Fan-Fan dance and Manhattan Skyline. After that I went to a lecture about the Gold Rush and interesting facts about Alaska. Had lunch at the Seaview Cafe, a cheeseburger which was good. Lazed about for the rest of the afternoon. Went to the show at 7.00pm, it was a comedian called Tom Bruscoe. He was really good. Then dinner; a lovely Tempura Fish dish of a fish I've never heard of called 'scrob'???? I went to the Safari Bar with my table companions to listen to the jazz for ½ hour before going to bed. Saturday 20th September Disembarkation day. Didn't sleep well - too conscious of having to get up early. Had breakfast in Reflections; French Toast which was delicious. Then we had to wait in the lounges until our luggage tag colour was called, it was all timed perfectly depending on which flight you were on or where you were going next. Everything was so well organised. We got off and through Baggage Pickup and Passport Control really quickly. Coach to Sheraton. Had about 3 ½ hours to wander in Vancouver but weather appalling. Walked down to Gastown and had a delicious Clam Chowder then walked back and got the shuttle bus to the airport. Quick check-in. Have just had a Beefburger and fries and a couple of glasses of wine. Good flight home, can't believe it's all over but it was an amazing holiday on an amazing ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
10/12/08 Crown Princess Cruise My flight arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 10 minutes early (10:05am instead of 10:15am), much to my delight. Since I was seated in row 7, I was able to get off the plane quickly and reach carousel 4 before ... Read More
10/12/08 Crown Princess Cruise My flight arrived in Ft. Lauderdale 10 minutes early (10:05am instead of 10:15am), much to my delight. Since I was seated in row 7, I was able to get off the plane quickly and reach carousel 4 before our luggage appeared. I waited about 5 minutes for the belt to start moving and luggage to start passing by. It was probably another 5 minutes before my huge, red suitcase showed up. I grabbed it and headed outside to find Go Airport which I had reserved over the internet for my delivery to the port. The driver informed me that even though the port was close to the airport, he would have to deliver all the other people in the van before taking me to the port since non-cruisers were not allowed past the gates. He assured me it would only take about 20 minutes, so I happily agreed. Well, his 20 minutes actually turned out to be an hour and 5 minutes. I got in the van at 11:00am and I was delivered to the port at 12:05pm. Surprisingly, I wasn't the least bit irritated. It had been a long time since I had been in Ft. Lauderdale and I enjoyed seeing all the sights during my hour long 'tour'. I figured the $15 I spent on the van service was cheap for over an hour long tour of the city! As previously mentioned, I arrived at the port at 12:05pm. There was no line and I easily breezed through the few steps of embarkation and stepped on the ship at 12:15pm. Yes, 10 minutes is all it took and I was grinning from ear to ear. My first stop was my cabin. This was my first solo cruise and I couldn't wait to see where 'home' would be for the next 7 days. I was in E702, Empress Deck 8, ocean view cabin. I was thrilled to find a very comfortable cabin with a huge window. The beds were set up as a queen size, with a night stand on either side. There was also a desk and chair which could also be considered a dressing table. The hair dryer was attached to the wall in the corner above the desk. Since I brought my own hair dryer, I never used the one in the cabin but it looked like it might have been o.k. In the corner opposite the desk was the small cabinet that contained the refrigerator. Inside was the ice bucket, two bottles of water (one large, one small), a can of Coke, Diet Coke, and Dr. Pepper. I never touched any of the drinks but did use the ice daily. My cabin steward, Henry, was fabulous and my ice bucket was never empty. The location of my cabin was absolutely perfect for me. It was 3 cabins away from the aft elevators which took me almost every place I wanted to go. The only exception was when I wanted to go to the Princess Theatre or the Casino. Since those trips weren't frequent, I absolutely adored my cabin location. After my inspection of the cabin, and dropping off my very heavy backpack, I took the elevator up to deck 15, Lido, to grab some lunch. Two of the three buffet areas were open and there was absolutely NO wait for obtaining my lunch. I thought the selection of foods was really outstanding at the buffets throughout the week. It was also interesting to see that the selections at the 3 areas were never identical. The two buffets in Horizon Court had very similar items but the Cafe Caribe almost always had a totally different menu. I found myself eating in Cafe Caribe much more than Horizon Court. I found all the food at the buffets to exceed my expectations. I have read reviews where people complained and said the food was not even as good as Applebee's. I did not find this to be the case. The selections were huge and everything I ate was absolutely delicious. Nothing I had would have ever been found in a cafeteria. Over the years, I have eaten at many, many fine restaurants and most of the food on the Lido deck was every bit as good as what I've had in those restaurants. The exception to that statement was the hamburgers from the Trident Grill. They were just so-so and nothing to rave about. I've had much better hamburgers on other ships that I've sailed. Unfortunately, I never made it to the Pizza and Ice Cream Bar to sample the pizza so I can't comment on it. It looked and smelled good, and I had planned out sampling some late at night, after dinner. I just never made it back to the Lido deck to try it. After lunch, I went back to my cabin to decorate my door (yes, I'm one of 'those' people) and check on my luggage. My suitcase had arrived so I unpacked after decorating my door. Since my room was set up as a double, I had twice as many hangers as I needed. I decided to hang everything up, including my shorts, t-shirts and bathing suits. I still had leftover hangers. I put all my toiletries on the 4 shelves provided in the bathroom and stored my empty suitcase in the bottom of the closet next to the cabinet containing the safe. When I cruise with DH, we store the empty suitcases under the bed. However, since it was just me, there was plenty of floor space in the closet for the suitcase. By now, it was time to start thinking about Muster Drill. I grabbed my PFD (Personal Flotation Device), aka Life Preserver, and headed to my Muster Station. This is where I think Princess is superior to other lines, the way they handle Muster Drill. My station was the Crown Grill. Yep, I went down and sat in one of the booths, with my PFD sitting on the table. You listen to a recording telling you all the information you need in case of a real emergency. Then, at the end of the recording, the staff who are spread throughout the restaurant, demonstrate how to put on your PFD. After the demonstration, they ask everyone to stand up and put on theirs. You are then dismissed. It was definitely the easiest Muster Drill I've ever attended. Best of all, there is no sweat involved. After Muster Drill, I ran back up to the Lido deck to meet all the people in my group. It was wonderful to finally meet people I'd been talking to on the boards for the last 6 years or so. We were cruising as a Group and were supposed to all be seated together at dinner. Somehow, Princess had messed up our reservations and only half of the 19 people were seated together. There was not adequate time to fix the problem before early seating (6:00pm) so they arranged for us to have two tables next to each other in the Anytime Dining Room just for that evening. So for our first dinner, we all ate together in the Da Vinci Dining room. I must say, the service we received in the anytime dining room far exceeded our expectations. It was an absolutely delightful experience. I did see a stack of the 'dreaded' pagers so I now know for certain they do have waits for some of the cruisers assigned to anytime dining. I had planned on keeping a journal of the foods I ate so I could mention them in my review. Unfortunately, my laziness prohibited me from doing that. I can only say every meal I had was wonderful. I was not disappointed in anything I ordered the entire week. After dinner, I found myself extremely tired. I'd been up since 3:00am to make my early flight out of Boston. So, instead of going to the Welcome Aboard Show, I headed to my cabin for the evening. I have had nicer bedding on another cruise line, but it was certainly adequate and I must admit, I slept soundly the entire night. Monday - Princess Cay Monday morning, I woke up, dressed in my bathing suit and cover up, and headed to the Lido deck for breakfast. I love the fact that they open the buffet at 6:00am for those of us who are early risers. There was never a problem for me to find a table by the windows in the morning for breakfast. The selection of breakfast foods was huge. I can't imagine anyone wanting anything that wasn't provided. There was a variety of fresh fruits, cold meats, cold cereals, hot cereals, pastries, and hot items such as French toast, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, omelets, stewed apples, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and several other choices that I don't recall. After filling my plate and seating myself by the window, I began eating my wonderful selection of foods. The wait staff showed up almost immediately to ask if I'd like coffee. They go from table to table, filling coffee cups, or providing hot water for tea, as well as pouring ice water for anyone who wants it. If you forgot an item from the buffet, they'll even run and get it for you. The wait staff in the buffet were the best I've seen on any ship. I must remember to write a letter to Princess to compliment them. After breakfast, I waited for the rest of my group to ready themselves for the tender trip to Princess Cays. This was one of the times it came in handy to have a nice selection of books to read. I never sat idle. I simply read my book and sipped more coffee. Let me stop here to say, the coffee on the Crown was not the horrible mess that has been reported on these boards. Yes, I could tell it wasn't 'fresh brewed' but it did not taste bad. I drank a LOT of coffee and found it to be o.k. In fact, I can even say I enjoyed it. Back to my story, when my group was ready, we made our way down to the Explorer Lounge to pick up our 'tender tickets'. Here again, Princess has a very civilized process for tendering. You get a ticket and sit comfortably in the lounge, waiting for your number to be called. When your number is called, everyone stands and follows the 'guide' down to the tenders. You load and leave immediately. I'd say the entire process took less than 15 minutes and it certainly beat waiting in line. When we arrived at Princess Cay, part of our group was loaded on golf carts to ride over to the bungalow they had reserved for the day. Since I had not planned on staying on the Cay all day, I did not include myself in the use of the bungalow. Instead, I walked over to Davey Jones' Locker where I had read the best snorkeling was. I always travel with my own mask, fins & snorkel since I'm more comfortable with my own equipment. I found a table under one of the huge pavilions to leave my water shoes, beach towel and cover up and proceeded to the water with my gear. The beach was beautiful and there were many lounge chairs available for those who wanted them. They had all kinds of water equipment for rent as well. There were also plenty of trees for shade for those who didn't want to spend the entire day in the sun. I only wanted to snorkel so I didn't bother finding a lounge chair. While not exceptional, the snorkeling at Princess Cays is certainly acceptable. I saw many beautiful fish and had a terrific time during my two hours of snorkeling. When I got out of the water, they had begun serving lunch in one of the pavilions. They had hamburgers, hotdogs, bar-b-que chicken and ribs as well as a variety of salads and fresh fruits. The food looked wonderful but I wasn't really hungry yet so I made my way back across the island to the tenders to return to the ship. I understand from my friends in the bungalow, they had servers who brought the food to them from the pavilion so they did not have to leave the bungalow. They also had air conditioning which I know was appreciated. It was HOT on Princess Cay. Back at the ship, I spent the rest of the day in the Terrace Pool. Anytime I was on the ship, and the sun was shining, you could find me either in the Terrace Pool or on one of the loungers around the Terrace Pool. It was much quieter than the other pools since it was 'adults only'. The waitstaff and bartender at the Outrigger bar made sure no children utilized the Terrace Pool. I had planned on spending sea days in the Sanctuary but found the Terrace Pool so pleasant, I never made it to the Sanctuary. After several hours of relaxation at the pool, I made my way back to the cabin to get ready for dinner in the Botticelli Dining Room at our assigned table. Tuesday - Day at Sea As previously mentioned, when the sun is shining, and I'm not eating, I'm at the Terrace Pool. I spent the entire day at the pool. Since I'm an early riser, I was up at 6:00am and went to the Horizon Court for breakfast. The food was wonderful and the service was far superior to any I've had on any other ship at the buffet. By 7:00am, with coffee in hand, I made my way out to the pool, selected a lounger and plopped down for the morning. I alternated time reading, time in the pool and time napping until noon arrived. At that point, I abandoned my lounge chair and headed to the buffet for lunch. Let me stop here to say I witnessed many, many chair hogs. I HATE chair hogs but nothing was being done about them. There were signs up stating that a chair left empty more than 30 minutes would have items removed and placed in lost in found. However, that never happened while I was watching. Even though I could have run to the buffet, grabbed my food and come back to my lounger, I didn't want to associate myself with the chair hogs. So, I gathered all of my items and left. I was immediately accosted by someone asking if I was really leaving my chair. When I assured them I was, they immediately grabbed it. I sat inside in the cool air conditioning to enjoy my lovely lunch. Once finished, I went back outside to the pool area and sat in a chair in the shade for the remainder of the afternoon. Let me pause here and say during the early afternoon, the Captain announced that due to a hurricane, we would NOT be sailing to St. Thomas and St. Maarten. There were quite a few complainers around me but, since I sail for the ship and not the ports, I didn't care one bit about the change. We were heading directly to Grand Turk and then we would go to Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. While I hate Jamaica, I really didn't care about this change since I planned on staying on the ship and pretending it was another Sea Day. Around 4:00pm, I went back to the cabin for a shower and to dress for dinner. Around 5:00pm, I made my way down to the casino to make my obligatory contribution. I love the slot machines. I don't consider myself a gambler since any money I win just goes back in to the machine so I can play longer. To me, it's just a charge for entertainment. I love watching all the people around me while I'm playing. From the looks of those around me, I'm pretty sure I was the only one who didn't care if the machine gave me extra credits or not. Everyone else seemed anxious to win! After finally losing my daily allocation, I wondered the ship until it was time for early dinner. Rather than try to remember what I ate each night, I'll just say I had a nice variety of either steak, seafood or lamb each night of the cruise. Every item I ordered was absolutely delicious. The soups, appetizers and salads were also wonderful. I was not disappointed in any of the meals I received in the dining room. Tuesday was our first Formal Night and everyone I saw was appropriately dressed for dinner. There were about an equal number of tux as suits. All the ladies were very nicely dressed. After dinner, I headed back to my cabin to read my book until I fell asleep. Traveling with DH was really nice. He always wants to go to ALL of the shows which usually bore me. Then, whenever we were in the cabin, he wants to watch TV. Since I really hate TV, the one in my cabin was only turned on if I wanted to check the weather or watch one of the informational presentations by the cruise staff. Wednesday - Grand Turk Since I knew how devastated Grand Turk was from a previous hurricane, I really was anxious to visit this island. I had booked a ship's excursion for this day only. After a wonderful breakfast on the Lido deck, I got ready to leave the ship and join the excursion. I did the combined snorkel, swim the stingrays. It was a very short walk from our ship to the snorkel boat which was brand new. Almost all of the boats at Grand Turk were demolished during the hurricane so all the ones for the various excursions were brand new. I didn't actually count the people but I believe there were about 30 of us. The boat ride to the stingray location took us about 15 minutes. The guide pointed out many items of interest and gave us quite a bit of history of the island during our ride over. We could easily see lots of devastation which had not yet been repaired. One of the guides told us she still did not have electricity where she lived. I really felt badly for these people. The visit with the stingrays was exactly like what I had done on previous excursions but still fun. They did have a person videoing the entire excursion and since I wanted to help the economy in Grand Turk, I purchased one. It's supposed to come in about 3 weeks so I hope they got me on film when I kissed the stingray while holding it. After everyone had a change to hold one of the stingrays, and had a number of them swimming around our ankles, we all loaded back on the boat for the short trip to the reef where we would snorkel. I have to say, the snorkeling at Grand Turk was my least favorite of the three places I snorkeled on this cruise. It wasn't bad, it was just crowded. Having 30 people swimming over a reef gets really uncomfortable, especially when there were a number of people who were NOT great swimmers. I got rather tired of being kicked in the face or run over by people not watching where they were going. However, all in all, the excursion was fun and I did see a lot of beautiful fish. After 25 minutes of snorkeling, we were herded back to the boat for the ride back to the pier. At the pier, I decided to investigate the shops and the pool area. I am happy to report that over half of the stores are operational and the pool area shows no affects remaining from the hurricane. (I'm pretty sure it was Ike who devastated them but not positive) I made a few more purchases since I wanted to help their economy. The prices ranged from ridiculously over priced to quite reasonable. My suggestion is, don't purchase an item at the first store you enter. I found identical items at 3 different stores with 3 different prices. I purchased my items at the store that had a price about half of what the first store charged. I wanted to help the economy but I also wanted a bargain. Around 1:00pm, I returned to the ship and went directly to the Lido deck for lunch. Since I'd been in the sun all morning, I returned to my cabin after lunch for a shower and a nap. I didn't leave the cabin until it was time for dinner. After dinner, I went to the one and only show I attended during the week. It was an Illusionist who was absolutely outstanding. I have to refer to my Patters for his name. I do remember he was an Aussie and he selected one of our group to go on stage for one of his illusions. She was seated next to me and wasn't too thrilled about going up on stage. She has promised from now on, she'll employ my tactic of looking down at her lap and not acknowledging his presence in the aisle, trying to get her attention. After the show, I retired to my cabin for reading and sleep. Thursday - Ocho Rios O.K., here is my opinion and, to repeat, my opinion only. I hate Jamaica. It is a beautiful island but the people there are far too pushy and drugs to readily available. We did receive warnings in our Patters as well as over the ship's intercom system that Princess had a zero tolerance for drugs and that if you left the ship, you may be approached by persons trying to sell them to you. Anyone leaving the ship 'may' be subject to a strip search. Well, that just supported my feeling that Jamaica was not the place for me so I did not get off the ship. The sun was shining so I spent the day by the pool and enjoyed the peace and quiet. I know a large number of people did get off the ship to shop and sightsee but I really can't comment on any of that because I was on the ship. I heard that the people who went on ship's excursions were somewhat shielded from the islanders pushing drugs or hair braiding and they seemed to be happy with their day. Since this was our second formal night, I left the pool after lunch time to spend the afternoon in my cabin reading, napping and dressing for dinner. Friday - Grand Cayman Once again, this is a tender island so refer to Monday's description of the tender procedures. It was a very smooth process and there was almost no wait to tender to the island. Three of us had already decided we would not do a ship's excursion here but would find our own place to snorkel. For this day, we truly lucked out. We had read on the boards about Cheeseburger Reef which was behind Burger King and was only a short distance from the pier. We began our walk trying to find Burger King. After about a half of a mile walk, we still didn't see Burger King so we stopped in a store to ask directions. Well, that was the smartest thing we did the whole trip. The store was called Cayman Auto Rental but the rented many things besides cars; one of which was snorkel gear. When we asked about Cheeseburger Reef, they really didn't recognize that name but said Burger King was about another half mile down the road. However, they said if we just wanted to snorkel, we were welcome to snorkel behind their store. We agreed and had the time of our lives. They had a very nice wooden walkway from their parking lot down to the beach. Once there, we had about six feet before we were in the water. The reef behind the store was pristine and the fish were phenomenal. This was, by far, the best snorkeling we had during the entire cruise. There was only the 3 of us and the reef was huge. We spent two hours of pure joy snorkeling. The people in the store were so gracious, they even allowed us to store all our bags under one of the tables in the store so we didn't have to worry about our possessions being left on the beach. This truly was the highlight of the cruise. What a wonderful time we had in Grand Cayman. After snorkeling, we reclaimed our bags from the store and thanked the lady for her hospitality. We thought about shopping but were rather tired from our long swim and time in the sun, so we went back to the ship. We heard from lots of people who had been to the beach and/or shopping and everyone commented on how much they enjoyed Grand Cayman. It was truly a delightful stop. Our group had reserved dinner at the Crown Grill for Friday night and had been looking forward to it all week. Unfortunately, this was our only disappointment for the cruise. While the food certainly was good, none of us felt it was any better than what we had received in the dining room. It was tasty, but not exceptional. We had read about how outstanding they food would be but that was not our experience. In fact, those of us who ordered steak, thought it wasn't as good as the prime rib we were served in the dining room. We were all glad we had the experience of dining in the Crown Grill but we agreed we wouldn't waste the $25 per person again. It just did not stand out enough for our tastes. Saturday - Sea Day I really don't have much to report on Saturday since I did exactly what I had done on Tuesday's sea day. I will say, the Terrace pool was considerably more crowded on Saturday than it had been on Tuesday. I believe a lot of people had not found my little oasis by Tuesday but had by Saturday. Even though it was crowded, I still had a delightful time and got plenty of sun. After lunch, I took a little time to visit the ship's library and drop off a couple of paperback books that I had read and didn't feel like dragging back home. I hope future cruisers will enjoy them as much as I did. Saturday was a sad day since everyone was packing and preparing for debarkation the next morning. I noted at our final dinner in the traditional dining room, over half of the tables were empty. I know the food on the Lido deck was outstanding but I still wouldn't want to miss being served on our final night. The dining room was decorated very festively in red/white/blue with balloons on each table and the waitstaff in red/white/blue vests and bow ties. Even though it was a sad time, the dining room looked great!! I slipped extra tip money to our waiter and assistant waiter since they had done such an outstanding job during the week. After dinner, I went back to my cabin to finish packing and organize my paperwork for the trip home. I also took down my door decorations and completed my customs form for the next day. Sunday - Time to leave Since I had an early flight and was doing self debarkation, I got up at 6:00am so I could enjoy my final breakfast at the Horizon Court. After breakfast, I returned to my cabin and found my room steward, Henry, so I could give him an extra tip as well. He took outstanding care of me and deserved the extra money he received. I made a final check of my cabin to be sure I wasn't leaving anything behind and made my way down to the Da Vinci dining room to wait for the announcement that the ship had cleared immigration and self debarkation could begin. I believe the announcement came about 7:30am (if I remember correctly) and I was off the ship before 8:00am. After leaving the terminal I walked down to the area where the taxis were. One of the workers grabbed a taxi for me, put my luggage in the trunk and sent me on my way. By 8:15am, I was being delivered to the airport. I easily checked in for my 10:30am flight and sat at my gate, reading a book until we boarded the plane. It was a very easy flight, non-stop, back to Boston, where we landed at 2:00pm. My DH and two dogs were there to pick me up as soon as I retrieved my luggage. My first solo cruise was officially finished. A few random notes that don't really fit anywhere else. The Explorer Lounge has the best drinks. Order one of their frozen margaritas. They are all delicious and are huge. They are the best value on the ship. Honest. At the other bars, always ask for a large when you order drinks. The large are considerably bigger and only cost an extra dollar. They are a good value. Several people in our group bought the soda cards and found them to also be an excellent value. I don't drink much soda so I can't give you a first hand experience. However, I saw them being served many, many times out by the pool and also in the dining room. After the first night in the dining room, they never had to show their sticker or ask for soda again. The waiters brought them automatically every night. I had planned on purchasing a coffee card but after trying the coffee the first day, I realized what was served on the Lido deck was perfectly acceptable. I know many people complain about the coffee but I couldn't find any fault with it. Many people in our group went to the Purser's desk to ask for the free Princess cards they give out. I never play cards so I didn't bother. However, I saw theirs and they are really worth the trip down to the Purser's desk. Next Princess cruise, I'll be going down to ask for mine. The shopping on board was not outstanding. I've found a much better selection on other ships. Of course, the stores stayed packed with people buying what they had. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything to spend my money on. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
I am a female in my early 50s who often travels solo and this time was no different. I was in Ft Myers area for a wedding and decided it would be a good time to take my 12th cruise. I got a great single rate, about 150% instead of the ... Read More
I am a female in my early 50s who often travels solo and this time was no different. I was in Ft Myers area for a wedding and decided it would be a good time to take my 12th cruise. I got a great single rate, about 150% instead of the normal 200% that's normally paid to cruise alone. I've cruised with NCL Majesty, Norway, Sun, Sky 3X and (same ship) Pride of Aloha. With Carnival, I've cruised Destiny, Fantasy, Inspiration and prior to this cruise I was with Princess on the Golden. Most of my cruises have been to the Caribbean, tho I've also cruised full transit Panama Canal and Hawaii. That's my history, here's my review: I drove to the Ft Lauderdale airport via rental car from Ft Myers Beach, an easy 2 hour drive along Alligator Alley (I love my Garmin!). Turned in the National rental car and took their free shuttle to the pier. I timed this since I'd read how easy Princess' embarkation process is. The shuttle left the airport at 1:25 and I was in my cabin (!) by 2:10. The fastest embarkation I've ever had. Cabin - I was in P206, Plaza deck (deck 5) in an outside cabin. The cabin was about the same size as the outside cabin I had my last cruise (Jan 2008) on what was then, the Pride of Aloha - now the NCL Sky. A rather small cabin but fine for one or two people. Plenty of closet space, so you could hang everything. Not that much in drawer/shelf space, but, like I said you could hang everything. There was plenty of room for shoes, hats, etc. in the closet. A fridge in the cabin is great. My window was large - I can't imagine being without one. My cabin steward, Bong, from the Philippines was very efficient and unobtrusive. He brought me anything I wanted - feather pillows, a top sheet and a robe were very nice. He kept my ice bucket full and the cabin very clean. If he was in the hall working nearby, he walked me to my cabin and opened the door for me. He was always pleasant - you can't expect more than that! I went to the mandatory lifeboat drill, which with Princess is also handled quite nicely. Instead of lining up outside in the hot sun, wearing a life vest, Princess holds their drill in various rooms on the ship. Mine was in Gatsby's Casino. With that out of the way, I began exploring the ship. As others have noted, the layout is somewhat difficult and I'm terrible knowing up from down, port from starboard, forward from aft. There were very good maps at each stairwell indicating which way was forward and you could figure out the port and starboard from there. I'm embarrassed to say I got lost going to the Botticelli dining room on, I think, the fifth night. I didn't feel too badly, though since the people I ate dinner with got lost on the fourth night. :) A hint - to get there go to the Piazza on Deck 6, walk aft as far as Club Fusion and take the stairs down. I don't think there's any other way to get there. I'm not terribly observant either, and someone has since posted that there's a difference in the border on the carpet to indicate port and starboard...I never noticed this, but it will be a great help, if true, on my next cruise. Other than my difficulty keeping straight which way was which, I thought the ship was very pretty. It was different in that the hallways were not all just long, straight lines. The area leading into the Piazza from my cabin had an art gallery you could walk thru for a change of scenery. By early evening, the first night, I still had not received my large suitcase. I'd luckily packed one day's clothing in my carry-on, so I was ok. I mentioned to Bong that I hadn't received my case so he went in search of it. I don't know exactly when it got there, but when I started to leave to explore some more, the case was outside my door. I unpacked and noticed my suitcase was badly ripped. So bad, I'm not certain how all my things got to my cabin. At the suggestion of another passenger, the next day, I went to the customer service desk and told them nicely about my suitcase and asked if they could help me fix it enough that I wouldn't lose all my belongings when I disembarked. A very nice gentleman there told me to bring the case to them and they would have their upholsterer try to fix it free of charge! I did that and the case was returned in perfect condition two days later. I was very happy with the Purser's desk to say the least. I think it was on Tuesday (sea day) that I very suddenly got a cold...Really, one minute I was fine, the next I had a sore throat and everything that goes along with a cold. For that reason, I probably didn't do as much as I'd normally do during a cruise. Since I didn't keep a journal this time, I can't give a day by day description of what I did do, but here is a general overview of things I did at various times/days during the cruise: MUTS (Movies Under the Stars - Deck 16) - I watched Sex and the City. Didn't like the movie all that much, the TV version is much better written, but lying in a recliner on the deck of the ship (they hand out blankets in case you're chilled) was wonderful! I am NOT a big movie fan, but I can't imagine a better way to watch one. I'm not a popcorn or candy either, but I did see them getting those things ready. I assume there's an extra charge to partake in the goodies. International Cafe (Deck 5) - went there most days for my lunch. They have the same foods every day pretty much, but I fell in love with the shrimp salad. Basically a plate of shrimp with oil & garlic. I was trying not to gain too much weight this cruise and other than the oil, this was a really good lunch idea. It helped that my cabin was just down the hall, so I'd just walk there, get my plate of shrimp & take it back to the cabin for later. This dish was available from noon til about 5 pm. Crooners Martini Bar (Deck 7) - a Grey Goose martini on the ship is $8 (including tip), so I found this a great place to go every night before (& sometimes after) dinner. I normally sat at the bar, so got to talk quite a bit to the bartenders, Paul & Adi. Paul left the ship at the end of our cruise for a trip home and 3 months off. Both guys were great, got to know what I liked and I had fun talking to them. Princess Theatre (Decks 6 & 7) - I often am not motivated to go to the production shows when on a cruise, so I did not go to see any. I did attend the magician's show. The act was very good if you like that kind of thing. Really impossible to tell how he did his magic, that's for sure. Gatsby's Casino (Deck 6)- slots were VERY tight. I would normally spend a couple of hundred dollars and be there at some point every evening. This cruise, I think I might have spent a total of two hours in there. Decided I could put my $$ to better use. I did see one guy win $500 on the $1 slots and a woman win $400 on one of the penny slots, but other than that, nada. Explorer Lounge (Deck 7) - briefly watched the comedian (don't know his name) and he was pretty funny. That was the extent of my time there. Botticelli Dining Room (Deck 6) - Since I was travelling alone, I'd chosen traditional dining. In retrospect, this was a mistake. I assumed that I'd be seated with a large group and probably bond with at least one couple or at least have another group of people to say hi to. However, the first night, I was seated and waited and waited but NO ONE else arrived to my 8 person dining table - how embarrassing! It would have been nice for the maitre'd to see this and get me seated at one of the less than full tables, but no, I ate dinner by myself. When I was almost finished, a couple in their mid-60's ran in and apologized profusely. They'd gotten locked out of their cabin and had to wait for a technician to come let them in. They were very nice people and I enjoyed their company, but thru the week, none of the other people seated at our table showed up. Since I'd met other people on the ship, I really wish I'd left my options open to dine with others in the Anytime dining rooms or even in the Traditional dining room, when invited. I didn't feel like I could abandon my 2 tablemates to do this. If there'd been 6 or 8 people there, I would not have had a problem accepting invites to eat with others - I'd just let my normal tablemates know I wouldn't be joining them that night. Oh well, lesson learned. We did have 2 female waiters, one from the Ukraine and one from Poland. They were very sweet and attentive. I didn't think the food was really anything to rave about, but certainly good enough. Outrigger Bar and pool area (Deck 15) - good place to go for quiet relaxation in the sun. It's the adults only pool. It could get very crowded around the pool, but I was always able to at least find a seat up by the bar. I love the sun, so did at least a couple of hours every day lying on the pool deck, watching the pool games, etc. ...are you still with me? I know this is a long-winded view, but if you're like me, you want to know as much as possible before you go. If not, I won't be insulted if you don't read it all :) Princess Cays - took the tender to shore, found a recliner in the sun and relaxed, swam, went to the bar for drinks and music, had lunch. The normal stuff for a private island. All the drinks can be charged to your ship card, so you only need $$ for the vendors who have little huts along the beach if you decide to buy anything. Lunch is free and is basically grilled burgers, hot dogs & chicken with side dishes. Water is available at various places, so you don't have to buy it unless your prefer the bottled variety. St Maarten - booked the tour with Bernardstours. Bernard met me and a group of Crown cruisers at the pier @ 10:30. For $35 (+ tip) he took us on a tour of the island for about an hour and a half (?) in an air conditioned van with a cooler of soda, water, beer & rum punch. Next we went to Orient Beach for 2 hours. I chose to go to the Orient Club side (to the right of where the van was parked). If you're not familiar, that is the nude beach. I didn't do the nude thing, but there's good people watching there unless you're totally turned off by naked people...then you probably would want to go to the beach area to the left of the van parking. I prefer the nude side - fewer people and a great place to relax. Next, we had the choice to shop in the downtown for an hour or so and get a ride back or just shop til you're ready to go back and get your own ride - or just walk back to the ship - it's really not that tough if you don't mind the heat (I don't). However, I was very tired after the beers and beach, so I chose to go back to the ship (around 3:30). I highly recommend Bernard - for the price, it's a great time. St Thomas - my Princess tour was cancelled. I was scheduled for the full day catamaran sail and snorkel @ $129 pp. They didn't notify us until the evening before it was scheduled, making it difficult to figure out a different one to go on. I decided I'd been to St Thomas several times before and it's safe to just take one of the open air buses where you want to go. I thought I'd go shopping in downtown Charlotte Amalie and prepared accordingly. Once off the ship, I turned around, went back to my cabin and got my beach gear ready. I'd never actually been to Magen's Bay Beach so I decided to go there. Taxi ride was $9 pp (+tip) one-way. Entrance to the beach is $4 pp. This is the best way to get there IMO. I was able to get there by 10, a full hour to an hour and a half before the ship's tour people got there. I was also able to stay much longer...they left at 1, I chose to leave at 1:30, but could have stayed longer if I wanted to. If you go there, be prepared, drinks are pricey - I think I paid $8 for a painkiller (including tip), but you're pretty much a captive audience. The painkiller was good, I have to admit. Grand Turk - Almost everyone else went to Margaritaville, but I had no interest. My cold was really with me by then, so I just walked the beach, swam for a little while, shopped in the pier store and walked back to the ship. I was only out about 2 hours. Ok, so it sounds like I really did do a lot, but here are the things I missed and will probably do when I go again (yes, I'm booked again for the Crown on 1/25/09!): Will do Anytime dining and see how that works out. At least if I'm seated alone, it won't (hopefully) be at a table for 8. Check out Skywalkers. The nightclub could be fun, we'll see. Adagio Bar looked like a nice place for drinks with great views. Not sure how much you'd see at night and I don't think it opened too much before dark, but still a nice looking bar. Drag myself to at least one production show. I'm sure I wouldn't hate it, it's just not tops on my list of things to do. See the full show of the comedian(s). Check out Club Fusion...don't really know anything about that one, but passed it on the way to dinner every night. Check out the Wheelhouse Bar - I didn't get in there at all, so I should at least visit. Use the sauna and steam room. I'm not sure why I didn't get there. What would have been better for a cold than a nice, hot steam room? Next time to St Thomas, I plan to get to Sapphire Beach (& maybe Coki, too). In past visits, I've been to St John for snorkeling at Trunk Bay, done an island tour, shopped at Havensight, shopped downtown, so I'm now going to try to get to as many beaches as possible. St Maarten, I'm always happy to shop & go to Orient Beach...I'm sure there are other worthy beaches, I just like Orient, so why change? Obviously, since I'm booked again, I really enjoyed this cruise. I'm pretty easy to get along with, so maybe that's why I enjoyed myself so much. But I did feel I received some exceptional treatment from various employees of the Crown Princess and with only a few small glitches, it was a perfect cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Tahitian Princess Review Dates: 0ctober 20-30, 2008 Room # 8035 First some history of our group. We were a group of 5. Three single women in a mini suite and (1) couple in an Ocean View room. This is my 8th cruise, 15th for one person, ... Read More
Tahitian Princess Review Dates: 0ctober 20-30, 2008 Room # 8035 First some history of our group. We were a group of 5. Three single women in a mini suite and (1) couple in an Ocean View room. This is my 8th cruise, 15th for one person, 4-6 for others. We'd been planning this cruise for 2 years. A dream cruise for all of us. For the couple, they had been to Tahiti before on the their honeymoon, 25 years ago. We booked with my friends agency on the internet but most likely won't book with her again. I think customer service has gone by the wayside these days. My 2 friends flew from New Jersey on the 15th to California. The couple already live here as do I. We all joined up at the Flyaway station in Van Nuys. Most from Southern California know about this & it's the best way to get to LAX. We had booked our flights with Air Tahiti Nui on our own in March as we all could tell that prices would only get higher. Thank god we did. At times, our same air fare, was tripled. We were very happy. I can't say enough about Air Tahiti Nui. Wonderful airline, polite staff, fed us twice, still allow 2 pieces of checked luggage without any ridiculous fee's, gave us a little bag of goodies which included: eye mask, ear plugs, socks and earphones. There is not a lot of room between you and the seat in front but it was still better than I was used too. Food was good going, ok coming back. Still, I loved this airline and hope to fly them again. We debated for a month, do we get French currency ahead of time or wait until we get there. We went back/forth. Finally, while at the LAX airport, we saw a currency exchange area. We asked about their rates and such. The gal "convinced" us that we would get the best rate here in LAX than in Papeete. Well, let me say. That was not true. Not just based on the daily fluctuation of rates but theirs was terrible. We got better rates at the ATM's in Tahiti. So don't get currency at LAX. We originally were booked with the Sheraton in Papeete for our overnight stay on October 16th. This trip was 4 days land before boarding the cruise ship. The reason for the Sheraton was both that it was a nice hotel & that not many of the hotels can accommodate 3 adult women. Some rule there about 3 people to a room & certain square footage. So most hotels couldn't meet our needs. However, we all were having issues with paying almost $450 for less than 12 hours in a room. So we ended up booking Pension Ahitea Lodge. While it did the job, I would not stay at this place again. They picked us up from the hotel as arranged. But they went down a back road and then down an alley to the lodge. It was worrisome. I didn't like the vibe but there was 5 of us. The room was 2nd level, ceiling fan but requiring the windows remain open to get air, dirty bathroom, no water pressure, dirty/old looking linens-sheets/towels, no curtain for the shower, bad pressure for toilet. Just was awful to me. They did have a pool and offered a continental type breakfast of Baguettes/jam/juice in the morning. That was good. .And to top it off, there was a rooster out the window that started crowing at 0300 and stopped at 0900. I wanted to ring that rooster's neck. It was horrible. And the people were very nice but I just wasn't comfortable there. I would not recommend this place. That first night, we walked to downtown. They had several of the food stands where you get could get all kinds of goodies. From meals to pastries. Excellent. On October 17, we took the Aremiti 5 ferry to Moorea for our land vacation. It's the 30 minute ferry. Very fun. And they have great Chocolate Croissants. Easy to get to at the dock from downtown Papeete. Once on Moorea, we arranged transportation with Albert's Tours. Loved them. They were on time, informative and funny. Cost was 4000 xpf for all 5 of us. Very affordable. And we used them for the Scooter/dune buggy rental too. We had reservations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Moorea. They COULD accommodate 3 adults in one room, they were cheaper with more amenities. Plus, if you book over a weekend and join the Ambassador club, you can save a ton of $$. I got one night free. Very happy there. The hotel was beautiful all over. Absolutely no complaints. We had an over the water bungalow. Our other friends had a garden room by the pool. We absolutely loved our bungalow. It was a sunset view, right over the lagoon by the Dolphin encounter. Room 604. It had a large sitting area/office area, balcony, main bedroom and the largest bathroom I've seen in ages with tile, separate tub/from shower, separate toilet area. It was amazing. Then we just went a few steps down OUR ladder to the Lagoon. Or as we called it for 3 days, "OUR OWN PRIVATE AQUARIUM". Literally, it felt like that. Not that many people were snorkeling. And the marine life were amazing. My friend wasn't in there 2 minutes before Stingrays went by. Absolutely loved it. And I'm a diver so I'm used to seeing some of this. But the South Pacific marine life is beautiful. And I would recommend buying dive skins if your someone who plans to spend a lot of time in the water. The first 3 days we did use dive skins except for diving. We paid for it with sunburns. Not fun. Didn't ruin the trip but I was sore for a day. The sunscreen wasn't enough. In regards to Moorea or Tahiti in general. It's quite expensive. Most meals are about $50-$100 each. We didn't mind that for dinner but it was a bit much for breakfast and lunch. We went to the local store, got baguettes, lunch meat and such and made our own. The gals went daily for croissants for us all. It was great. We ate one night at the Mayflower restaurant. Very good food, not too expensive. The next night we ate at the Bus Stop. I thought the food was not good & the service worse with prices too expensive. It took forever to get service. I ordered a filet. First 2 bites were good then it was all grissel and not edible. The 3rd night, we at the hotel. Excellent food. And decent prices. The entire grounds of the hotel were wonderful. They have the Dolphin encounter, the Turtle reserve, Helene spa and Bathy's dive shop right on the grounds. We did a 2 tank dive and had snorkelers for our dive. The shop was great. Awesome equipment, brand new. New BC's, new tanks. The average dives were 77-80 degrees, for 40-60 minutes. I used a dive skin with 2 mm shorty as did my friends. Worked great. No complaints. They even will video the dive if you want them too. Newer boat. All was well. This was my favorite island and we had the best time. We went up to Belvedere on scooters/dune buggies. It was a blast tooling around on Moorea. The hotel was awesome as was the staff. Flowers/cool cloths upon arrival. Then Hibiscus flowers in the room during the stay. Quite lovely. On October 20, back to Papeete via the Aremiti 5 ferry. It was easy. A small walk, unless you have tons of luggage like myself, to the ship from the Aremiti dock. We came about 5:30 p.m. and were the only ones in line. We got checked in within minutes. Easiest check in ever. We got to our room and our luggage was there within 1 hour. We were docked overnight in Papeete so we didn't sail until Oct. 21. The ship is smaller & loved that. It was more personal. Wish there was more than 1 pool as all you need is inconsiderate children to make it miserable. Speaking of children, we did not see many children at all. I imagine it is due to the location of this cruise, expense of the cruise. We had 1 teen in our roll call that was wonderful, polite. But there was a family of 3 children that were not very well mannered. They were a nightmare in the pool. The rest were great. And some more shops or bigger shops to have more stuff. The great thing was that on the last night, if you had made a purchase in the jewelry shop, you were entered into a drawing to have your purchase reimbursed up to $2000. The first name drawn never came forward but I was the 2nd name. Woo Hoo. My earrings were reimbursed and then I bought a ring I didn't think I could afford. It was great. The staff was very nice/friendly. It never seemed like you were "bothering" them for anything. Seemed they liked their job. But the ship was so easy to get around. I enjoyed the Cabaret lounge for shows. Much more personal . Though I do like big productions, I liked this too. Did not care for the comedian at all. Very small casino but I'm never there so it did not matter. Also, photo area is quite small too. But very nice staff there. But a cool thing is that they aren't "hounding" you to no end to do photos. It's very much if you want them done, you need to locate them. They were at Huahine and Raiatea. Did not see them at the other ports. Our room steward was Noel, he was familiar and good. We had him for 2 of our rooms on the Coral Princess April 2007. It was nice to see him again & he remembered us. I thought the dining room meals were good. Some better but mostly very good. Our waiter for table 65 was Kim. Talk about a "hot" Asian man. Very handsome. However, the morning buffet's I thought were horrid. The eggs too runny, the bacon cooked too long, the pancakes rubbery. I ended going to the fried eggs frequently as the others weren't good. And to me, the coffee was the worst ever. But the lunch's & dinners there were fine. Our first night on the Tahitian Princess and our overnight on Raiatea, we had local dancers doing Folkloric shows. They were a highlight and very enjoyable. The first night we embarked, they did not have the Photographers out for embarkation photos. Not sure why. But I like those photos most. So in talking with the photo dept., Jen I think, she informed me that they could take any photo you want or took yourself and put it in the template of the embarkation photo. Woo hoo. Loved that. The ship overall was excellent & I would love to sail it again. Excursions: We did 2 excursions on Oct. 21 through Princess. One was a highlights tour. It was ok. Loved the lookout spot over Papeete, took us to waterfalls & the Hall home. Then we did the Papenoo valley tour. I liked this better & wish they did a combo of both in 6 hours. It felt repetitive on the 2nd but I really enjoyed the 2nd one. It was through Princess but was with Patrick of Patrick's tours. He's a riot. But make sure you bring bug spray. I brought it but thought I was ok and did not use it. I paid for it. I looked like I had chicken pox from the bug bites. Not fun. Prior to leaving Papeete, we went back to the marketplace, Le Marche I believe it is called. It's the 2 story indoor place. There is a lot of stuff there from fresh pastry, to souvenirs to vegetables and fresh fish. It was very hard to look at some of the beautiful fish that I take photos of. I do like to eat fish but not what they had. The good stuff is on the 2nd floor. It's quieter and your free to really look around and bargain a little. We also had been told to get one of the flower arrangements for our room. And we did. I loved it. It was a medium size one but it lasted almost the whole trip. On Huahine we did the Motu picnic tour with Marc's motu picnic. It was excellent. We went to a shallow place for snorkeling first. Excellent. Then we went to the Pearl farm. They gave a talk about Pearl farming with the how's/why's of Pearl farming. Quite informative. And then, I did it. I found my pearl for my necklace. I was a happy girl. Then off to a deeper snorkel area. Excellent again. Then to the beach for the picnic. They made a great, fresh Ceviche. Absolutely delicious. All the drinks you want. The food was great. Then back to the ship. Did a little shopping. By the way, it's a great feeling to not be harassed when getting off the ship to the docks to buy stuff. That was the best. Then to Rangiroa. We went on a snorkeling adventure through Princess. Again, very good but a little on the tame side. Several divers in the group. But great marine life & great boat. Next port was Raiatea. Really enjoyed this port. We had a 2 tank dive scheduled in the a.m. The ship said it was with Atmosphere dive shop but the shirts said Hemisphere dive shop. I forgot to ask. Good boat. Required back roll entries. Good marine life. BC's/equipment looked good. I brought my own gear but my friends rented. They had warm tea after the first dive. Loved that. Then back to the ship for lunch. Then off to our Sunset sail booked with Princess. We really liked the guide, Summer. Excellent. She had rum punch and Hinano's. Told us some history of the Island. Excellent tour. Next day, we left Raiatea & sailed to Bora Bora arriving at 12 p.m. We had a Snorkel Safari & Stingray adventure booked with Princess. This was awesome. The guide was excellent, the boat good. We got to swim with the rays, feed the rays, kiss the rays & snorkel on the 2nd part of the excursion. Loved it. Our 2nd day in Bora Bora was a dive booked privately with Bathy's dive shop again. I really enjoyed diving in Bora Bora. The marine life great, great boat, great DM-Hideyo, she found me Nemo's. One dive here was a drift dive. Loved it. They are a great dive shop. And again, new equipment. Next port was Moorea. This was my favorite Island followed by Bora Bora. Since we had stayed here for 3 days, we canceled all Princess excursions, rented scooters/dune buggy from Albert's tour/rentals and went around the Island ourselves. We went up to Belvedere again as I missed it the first time. Then we went to the Hibiscus hotel, they had a restaurant on the beach called Sunset. GREAT food. The chicken sandwich was the best I've ever had. Awesome. Then back to drop off rentals, then back to the ship. We shopped all the little booth's they had there. Lot's of local stuff. One other point. It was so refreshing to get off the ship and not be attacked by people selling their goodies. Meaning, they are there if you want to seek them out but they are not in your face selling stuff. No Diamonds International. That was wonderful and several comments made by many passengers echoed that sentiment. The airport in Tahiti is not as small as I expected it to be. But not like our modern airports of the U.S. The plane deplanes outside not up to a hub walkway. So you have to walk down the stairs of the plane. Something to think about for those that are handicapped or disabled. The transfer via Princess to the airport was fine. Had a detour but it’s so close, it didn’t matter. Our friends on the 10 p.m. flight waited in line for 2 hours as did we, give or take 20 minutes, to get checked in & luggage off to security. Then, we went right in the airport and through security for us. They had a small shop there. They had big chairs for everyone waiting. Very comfortable. There was a small bar or something up top but did not partake. It was all fine for me considering all that I had heard. I never used the “official” room service but would get a little something for the early mornings of excursions or diving. I like the balcony and didn’t want to go to the buffet for breakfast. They were on time and pleasant. Also, very important. This has been a question/dilemma over and over for many. Here’s the skinny on the showers in the spa. Via several staff of the Spa, you are allowed to use the showers on the last day on the ship. It’s a first come, first serve basis. There is a sign up sheet and once the spaces are filled, then that’s it. You cannot sign up until the last day. We were in the hot tub, pool and basically, pool side all day. I did not want to fly like that, especially overnight. It would be unpleasant. So I asked and got all 5 in our group signed up for showers. It was fabulous. Speaking of the spa, I did use it’s service. I had a deep tissue massage with Melanie. She was wonderful. I had a lot of family/work stuff right before going on this trip. I wondered if I would make it based on several issues. Needless to say, I was a knotted mess. She definitely made relaxing easier. Thanks Melanie. This cruise was awesome, definitely a dream of a lifetime. There is nothing like the crystal blue waters of Tahiti greeting as you come into and are at every port. I just couldn’t get enough of the waters. And the marine life there. I just hope we all do go back again as we talked about. It was lovely. Great ship. It’s too bad that Princess is pulling out of Tahiti on a full time basis. I can’t imagine what the locals will do as they rely on the tourism a lot. But maybe one day Princess will be back. It was a lovely trip. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Some background info on me. I'm 36 and booked with a singles group. This was my third cruise on Carnival and fifth cruise. I flew out of Newark, NJ. Check-in was easy, but my gate could not have been any further from the ... Read More
Some background info on me. I'm 36 and booked with a singles group. This was my third cruise on Carnival and fifth cruise. I flew out of Newark, NJ. Check-in was easy, but my gate could not have been any further from the ticket counter. Also I didn't have an assigned seat so I was freaking out a bit. I was able to get a seat and was happy to be on the plane. I suppose one passenger on the plane felt as though people were not finding their seats quickly enough. This guy said very loudly, "Tighten up people, there are people waiting to get seated. If you are talking in the aisle, take your seat." I cracked up because he was with a large group and I thought he was joking. But then he again in a very loud, angry voice said, "Again people, there are people waiting to be seated. Tighten up, tighten up!" At this point I was beginning to think that this guy was going to delay our plane. He piped up one more time but then was quiet the rest of the trip. Although he was loud, I was thinking that there was no way a terrorist was going to mess with us. Clearly that loud guy would have kicked their terrorist butts. I found a little old man from Carnival near the Miami airport luggage claim that was selling vouchers to the port. After a bit of a wait we were off to the port. The driver was actually really funny. He gave us a bit of a tour and I saw the place where they filmed one of the scenes from Scarface. The lines for the cruise check-in weren't too bad. There was a confused little old man giving out Zone numbers. I asked the lady at the check-in counter if I needed a Zone number and she said if I didn't have one, then I could board the ship right now. I thought this was awesome since there was a bunch of people waiting to board. I tried to go up the escalator to board but I was stopped. The lady there asked me for my Zone card and I explained that I didn't get one and was told that meant I could board. She told me that wasn't the case and would find the guy giving out Zone numbers and then look for me. She completely ignored me after that and I soon realized that I would not be getting a Zone number. I asked the group next to me if they had a Zone number and they said, "Yes." I gave them a sad face and said, "Oh, I didn't get one." They asked if I wanted to be with them and their Zone. They were Zone 3 and Zone 1 was just called. I told them sure, unless I make friends with someone from Zone 2 first. When our Zone was called I followed them up to the escalator. The lady that was so rude to me before tried to stop me, but I pointed to my new friends and said, "I'm with them." I also took my Embarkation Photo with my adopted family from Wisconsin. I looked for my room but the hallway was closed for cleaning, so I headed to the Lido deck for some lunch. After exploring the ship for a bit I found my room and decided to unpack. Our group had a get-together at 3pm so I went to the meeting spot to find everyone. We did the muster drill and later ate in the dining room. I spend the first night at the Bronx Sports bar to watch the Phillies play Game 4 of the World Series. Monday was our "Fun Day" at sea. Our group had some ice breaker events and I met some more people. We played in a volleyball tournament. It wasn't what you might call a standard size court. It was a 10ft by 10ft court. It was very difficult to get the serve to land in the court and I was eliminated in the first round. I met up with several people from the Cruise Critic web site during the day. Later, we had the captain's welcome party and formal night. Formal night also means lobster night. I ate two lobster tails. Yummy! Tuesday was our first day off the ship. My roommate told me we were anchored on the other side of Grand Cayman. The seas were very choppy and I was surprised that we ever stopped at the island. Our group was supposed to go swimming with the stingrays and snorkeling. But Mother Nature had other ideas. A very dark cloud formed and we got soaked for about 20 minutes. We were told the excursion was canceled and that we could do what we wanted for the day. I was disappointed but since I have done the stingray excursion before, I wasn't too disappointed. We ended up taking a taxi into George Town and I got to see Seven Mile beach. We did some shopping and I tried the sliding board at Margaritaville. Wednesday we were docked on the island of Roatan, Honduras. This was by far my favorite island. I found their Spanish very easy to understand. Before the cruise I had booked a zipline tour with ShoreTrips. I met up with some of my friends from Cruise Critic and we did the South Shore Canopy Tour. Some of the people from my singles group did the same excursion but I didn't see them while on the island. The zipline was crazy. They strap you in and you fly through the jungle. At one point I think I was over 100 feet above the jungle. The longest zipline was 800 feet. Later we stopped at the beach for a drink. Thursday we anchored off the coast of Belize. Our excursion for the day was schedule to be Cave Tubing. I'm not sure why, but apparently in Belize, they don't have local news. Our bus was on the main road headed toward the caves when we were told that the road had been washed away. I'm not sure why they didn't know this before leaving, but we were told it would be about 4 hours for the road to be repaired. So we turned around and some people wanted to get off the bus. We were given the option to see some Mayan ruins instead. That sounded cool since I've never seen any ruins. Then they told us that they had good news, we would be able to go cave tubing since the road was now open. We dropped off some people and then picked up some more. Some lady on the bus was from another ship. She asked the guys on the bus if they would guarantee she would be back by 3:30. The guy said that they would try their best. She said you have to promise me. Shortly after that they told us, sorry but the road is washed out up further. So we turned around again. I'm not sure if the road was washed out or that annoying lady screwed up our excursion. On the way back to the port we stopped at a local school. One of people from our group, had organized a collection of school supplies. This trip was probably more memorable then cave tubing would have been. A few of us got off the bus and visited the school. We handed out school supplies and were swarmed by children. It was a unique experience and something I probably will never forget. Later that day a few of us drank some of the local wine with the locals. We met a guy who said he had a place for us to sit down and drink the wine. I was pretty sure he was going to take us to some back alley and kill us, but it turned out okay. My roommate gave him a dollar and he went out and bought us ice. The wine had a bitter after taste and it felt a bit like the ground was moving. We watched a show at the comedy club that night. I had to make sure I got a good night's rest since I had my scuba diving excursion in the morning. Friday was Halloween and our first sunny day on the trip. We docked in Cozumel, Mexico. I signed up for the beginner's scuba excursion with Carnival. The tour was run by Sand Dollar Sports. I think if this had been my first scuba experience, I would have hated scuba. The lesson was very quick and we didn't get much time in the water to practice. When I was in the Cayman Island two years ago the training was much longer. Scuba is so cool. I saw a puffer fish and a baby stingray. After the excursion I had lunch and then headed out to the end of the pier to meet for our Carlos and Charlie's excursion. I love this place. I don't remember much after my second yard of Margarita, but from the pictures, it looks like we had a pretty good time. Our whole group dressed up as pirates and wenches. We ate dinner that night in our Pirate costumes. As you might expect after a day at Carlos and Charlie's, I had a really bad headache that night, so it was sort of an early night for me. Saturday was our last "Fun Day" at sea. The last day of the cruise always sort of sucks. You just start getting used to the ship and all your new friends and then you realize you have to say goodbye to them all. It was too windy to play in the second volleyball tournament so I was unable to redeem myself. I played the slots and lost some money. We had a private party for our group in the disco before dinner. We went to the piano bar for a bit and I finished packing. We stayed at the dance club as long as we could and then had 4am pizza one more time. Getting off the ship took forever. From what I have been told, the port was on heightened security due to the election. I don't blame Carnival for this since they have no control over Customs. I heard a bunch of people missed their flights. I didn't get to the airport until almost 1:30. The seas were really rough on this cruise. Again, something that is not Carnival's fault. We you book in October, you have to expect some weather issues. The rates are cheaper for a reason. Despite the rainy weather and rough seas, I would still book another cruise with Carnival and also book in October. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
Got to the Spirit from Sacramento. Had a TERRIBLE embarkation - waited 3.5 hours before finally getting aboard. Nobody knew what they were doing - it was a bad joke. Got to my stateroom during the muster station drill. Went directly to ... Read More
Got to the Spirit from Sacramento. Had a TERRIBLE embarkation - waited 3.5 hours before finally getting aboard. Nobody knew what they were doing - it was a bad joke. Got to my stateroom during the muster station drill. Went directly to bed. I went on a "Singles Cruise" but found out that mostly the "singles" were men over 60. I'm a 44 year old guy. Ugh - very few women. Lotsa older people and families - not the "FUN" ship I imagined. My stateroom was nice and the staff was friendly. However, I will NEVER go on Carnival again unless they change their television situation. Not that I'm going on a cruise to watch TV, but I'm there to relax. I'm not going to "party all the time" and wanted to watch some of the NFL games and NBA games. All Carnival had was 3 Denver channel, CNN & TNT. Worse yet, the TNT was in spanish. Come on now, this is 2008!! - the last thing I want to watch is CNN with all the world troubles. The staff was oblivious to this problem and was verbally harassed by some mad football fans. Very disappointing. Acapulco was great - Ixtapa was a pain to get to with the tender boats and Manzanillo sucked. When I opened my balcony door, it was like we were docked at the Long Beach shipping yard. One nice thing was the spa - had a very nice seawood wrap and the staff was excellent. The room service was quite prompt, but the food stunk - ordered a ham sandwich - got the ham smashed between 2 pieces of Wonder Bread. Umm, fine cuisine!! All in all, a below average cruise. I would not recommend it. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, ... Read More
If you like Europe and can adapt to a European style of cruising then book a trip on the Costa Serena. This was my first cruise so I can only offer a review of how my trip went. I have no base to say if it is a good cruise ship or not, only how I see it. So here is a play by play of the trip, the ship and my thoughts. I stayed in room 7336 on a seven day cruise of the eastern Mediterranean. I am a 30 yom from California and have been to Europe numerous times. This was my first European cruise. Embarkation was an easy process. I caught the free shuttle from the bus stop in Venice. 15 minutes later I was checking my bag at the port and given an embarkation number. It was about a 1.5 hour wait to be called. If you plan on drinking alcohol listen up. There is a duty free shop on site. You can by one liter of hard alcohol and unlimited wine per person. Once you clear security they give you your booze before you get on the ship. After Venice you are not allowed to bring any liquids on board. Costa offers an unlimited beer and wine package, but it is only good during lunch and dinner service. They offer countless other packages but read the fine print before purchase My cabin was great and the steward was on the ball. Filled the ice and cleared the room twice a day. There is a 4 euro/person/day tip charged automatically Room service also will cost you 2 euro/delivery, so order a lot to make it worth it. The entertainment was good, considering the multi nation passengers. There were 3000 on my cruise with 400 english speakers. Announcements are given in five languages. If it does not concern you then you won't hear it in english. Don't travel Costa in the summer. Kids under 12 travel free. You can expect 500 to 700 kids on board running wild according to our english speaking cruise host. Apparently parent supervision is absent and kids are everywhere doing as they please. Breakfast was simple European/American blend. Same food is served in the buffet as in the table service restaurant. Same thing goes for lunch. I do recommend the restaurant seating because you will meet other english speakers. Dinner was mediocre at best, consisting of fancy presentation with frozen pre-prepared items. Very bland and often over cooked. I had one great dinner at the last gala night. Two of the nights I had a late lunch buffet and then got a pizza at night. Not the traditional American cruise cuisine. No steak, lobster, shrimp cocktail or fancy lavish buffets. Dinner was a big disappointment. No need to dress up. Slacks and a nice shirt will do. Bring a tie for the gala nights. Here is my run down on the ports of call. Bari: Don't buy an excursion. It's and easy walk to town and tours are offered off the boat at a cheaper rate by locals. I just walked around on my own and saw the old city in about two hours Olympia: Don't buy an excursion. Get off the boat and hire a cab to take you to the ruins. Once there look around for and English tour and just join in. I went to the end of the cab line and got a ride for 60 euro with and hour wait time. Not enough time to see everything. Try and catch a one way so you can stay for at least two hours or more. Then walk into town and catch a cab back. Izmir: Take the excursion to Ephesus. Well worth the money Istanbul: Take a cab to the palace in the morning and buy a self guided tour. Then return to the ship for lunch. Purchase the half day excursion from 1 to 5pm. However all the main sights are close so you can just spend the day on your own if you want to. I liked having a guided tour of the other big sights. Plus, if your tour is late getting back they will hold the ship for you. If you are out on your own they will leave you behind Dubrovnik: Don't buy and excursion. Take the shuttle to the city and just jump on an english tour or walk around on your own. The ship itself is very large but easy to get around. The amenities on board are simple. No big wow factor. The staff is always available to help you and was very nice. I did not find smoking to be an issue. The hot tubs were warm not hot and the pools were cold. The gym was great but I did not use the spa. There are two reservation only restaurants but I did not eat at either one. Try and get your room on the left side (even room number) of the boat. You get the best views of the ports. Be sure to watch to the two informational presentations offered in the beginning and end of the cruise. When you disembark, wait for your color. I left early and ended up standing around for two hours waiting for my luggage. I should have just stayed on the boat. Overall it was a very nice cruise. My only true complaint was the bad dinners. Everything else was fine. Just understand this is not a Carnival cruise ship, its Italian style cruising. If you can adjust to a European mindset then you'll have a good time. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2008
Azamara Journey Barcelona to Barcelona - November 9th, 2008- Or a Cautionary Tale of an Adventurous Woman with No Means I had been eyeing the Azamara Journey's November itinerary that included Corsica AND Valencia since I first saw ... Read More
Azamara Journey Barcelona to Barcelona - November 9th, 2008- Or a Cautionary Tale of an Adventurous Woman with No Means I had been eyeing the Azamara Journey's November itinerary that included Corsica AND Valencia since I first saw it earlier in the year. I thought I would never be able to make it because my work schedule would be too busy for me to take the anticipated 14 days off it would take to enjoy it. So imagine my surprise when I lost my job two weeks before the ship sailed. With the economy heading for an iceberg, I thought I would take my pleasure first, before I take my pain. I have sailed on cruise ships before (Silversea, Princess, Windjammer Barefoot, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity), in fact, I think I am a cruise junkie. The Journey is, I think, cruise number ten or so for me. I also cruise by myself, which means I have to limit the amount of cruising I do, because it is more expensive, so I try to get the most "bang for my buck." My travel agent helped me to get an extremely good single rate on this cruise, enabling me to have a verandah cabin for less than the cost of an ocean view. I also received shipboard credit, which kept the entire amount of the cruise less than the cost of shorter cruises I have taken on other lines. I made my own flight arrangements, so I have only myself to blame for going through Heathrow (do not do that...it is so annoying), but I highly recommend Expedia, because they allow you to book a hotel for fewer days than your flight plans. I was able to book the round-trip flight from San Francisco and hotel for the night for less than others paid for a round-trip ticket. The hotel I stayed at, the Vincci Maritimo Barcelona, was a very chic, three-star, high-styled newer hotel, near the trendy Diagonal shopping center. A Metro stop was literally at the corner, so I was able to poke around Barcelona after a night's sleep. I took in the Sagrada Familia, the unfinished Gaudi masterpiece of a cathedral. I walked the Ramblas and took in the Barcelona energy. The Spanish have a beautiful city with lots of history to embrace. I was filled with anticipation as the taxi sped me to the ship at around 2:30 pm on Sunday. The pier was not crowded. The security people were unhurried. As I walked up the gangplank, I was struck by how the ship reminded me of a home. The size does not pretend to overwhelm you, as do the megaships. Instead, there is a cozy feeling. A young steward with Champagne who led to my cabin greeted me. My butler emerged and introduced himself, pointing out all the amenities that awaited me. I was in 7029 on the Starboard side, a bit forward. My cabin was gorgeous. Mirrors tricked the eye to think the room was larger than it was. The slider to the verandah opened effortlessly to let me breathe in the sea air....ahh...home again! Every nice day I was out on that verandah for breakfast. Every rainy day I had breakfast in the cabin. It was only toward the end of the cruise that I ever went to the ninth floor Cafe for the elaborate and extensive breakfast fare that most passengers raved about. For me, the ease and quiet of rising and having coffee in my room was an exercise I enjoyed. As many other reviewers will tell you, the bathroom is small. If there are two of you traveling, you will probably notice how small the quarters are, but for those of you who travel solo like me.....jackpot! The toiletries, by Elemis, are very nice. My butler brought me extras so I have some for home. I felt the sail-off was a bit subdued, but then, I think people may have still been exploring the ship. I don't think I realized how many people were on the ship at any time other than at the muster. People really kept to themselves, and I never noticed a crowd or a line at anything. First night dinner I was the guest of a gracious hostess, Doreen Allen. We met at the muster, and I joined her group of sartorially splendiferous, well-travelled friends for my first of twelve gourmet nights of dinners. I just have to tell you that there is not a bad meal on this ship. Although I took the chance to go to both Prime C and Acquaviva, which are sumptuous and the service is a lesson in attentiveness, I would say that you are experiencing fine dining in the Main Dining Room, so if don't get to the specialty restaurants, you will be fine. The veal chop is wondrous. If it's on the menu, you must have it. Our first port, Marseilles, has a reputation of being a motley, somewhat unsavory place. I intended to go inland to Aix en Provence, but instead ended up touring Marseilles for the day. It was wonderful! I think when I had tried to visit it by road before it had seemed forbidding and dark, but from the sea, it was just another port town, full of fish restaurants, cafes, bars, churches, and relics just like any other port. Monaco is an access point for Nice, St. Paul de Vence, Eze, or other interesting places. That it has to be its own little gambling principality is its own business. Portofino drowned in November rain and began the rainy weather we had throughout Italy. The stalwart village faces the sea in its tones of ochre, red, and tan. I highly recommend you take a look at the mausoleum behind the chapel in Portofino. You'll see pictures of the residents, now passed, in their prime. Most are life-long fishermen, or sturdy wives, legacies of families, and some young children. Off in a separate section in the rear of the area, set off by an iron gate, is the Protestant cemetery. A word of caution? If it's rainy, be very careful when walking up and down the stone stairways. I twisted my ankle and was just glad to be able to get back to the ship. If you are unlucky enough to hurt yourself in this way, the Medical Clinic keeps walking boots that will allow you to walk, in a fashion, without crutches. (They'll charge you $30.00 until you return the boot). At our next port, Livorno, many tours went to Florence or Pisa and other passengers made their own arrangements. Just a word of caution on bus tours from Livorno to FlorenceThere isn't time to spend as much time as you might like, even in such off peak times, in the Academia and the Uffizi. With commute time thrown in, there is just time to gloss over the many sights of Florence. The shore excursions from the ship cost $700 for a couple....$350 per person. Some passengers were very disappointed. I heard other passengers were very satisfied by private arrangements they made in smaller groups. Civitavecchia is a friendly small town in itself, and I was willing to forego Rome because of my self-imposed handicap (the boot), however, I managed to stump to the train station, and was able to buy a birg, an all day ticket for train/bus/metro for $9. I ended up leaving the train at Trestavere, where I took a streetcar further into Rome. I then walked up to the Piazza Rotunda, smack into a student demonstration protesting cuts in education. The students were intent on being heard by banging pots, waving flags, and shouting slogans, Police were out, helicopters surveyed from overhead, and Italy expressed itself. I continued up to the Trevi Fountain where no protesters could ruffle the calm of the falling waters around the beautiful sculptured horses and men. I made it up to the Metro station and took it to Roma Termini. I caught the 5:17 to Civitavecchia, due to arrive at 6:37. The ship was scheduled to sail at 6:45. I stumped off the train at 6:37, frantically looked for the tax driver who was not in his taxi cab in front of the station. Three minutes later he appeared and asked, "did you want a taxi?'" We sped toward the ship with me urging him to go faster all the while. He pulled up in front of the ship. The steward opened the taxi door, and as I boarded I was told "no hurry, we are still waiting for one more person." I have never been that late to board—and had pictured myself hiring a fishing boat to catch up to the Journey on its way to Corsica. In Corsica it was still raining. The Moorish looking profile of Bonifacio rose to a height along the Corsican coast. Corsica is a very wild and interesting place, but off season, it is hard to grasp the feeling of the Corsican culture. The launch took us to the dock in front of the old fort of Bonifacio, and the ship offered us a shuttle for $8 that was available to us all day. Well, the shuttle only went about a quarter mile at best, albeit steeply, and was only used by most people once. A group of passengers had formed and our "band of gypsies" from San Francisco, Roseville, Connecticut, Minnesota (and sometimes Charleston), did our best to explore the streets and paths along the Bonifacian coast. I noted some of the Corsican specialties for sale, such as knives, wine and jewelry with a shell in the center. There were also some wonderful little French clothing shops with horrific Euro prices. The rain was daunting though, and I am afraid that Bonifacio got short shrift on the exploration that day. The next day we arrived at Malaga, Spain. Known for its beaches and its location in the Spanish Costa del Sol, I loved this small, ornate city. I hiked up to the ancient Muslim fortress above the city, the Gibralfaro, and walked along the parapets where soldiers must have defended the fort easily. I looked down at the bull fighting ring and the sculptured gardens with its promenade below. I was reminded of how life must have been along this seaside promenade long ago. It is still a lively port. I found my way to Antigua Casa de Guardia, on the main promenade. Opened in 1840, this wine tasting establishment is a way station for locals and tourists alike. Oak casks behind the counter hold wines and ports of local vintage and they are very good. For one euro, you can have a glass of wine. On the wall behind the casks is a picture of John Wayne bellying up to the counter of this popular place. Our first day at sea was a lovely opportunity to savor the amenities of the ship. The Library was full of current titles. The fitness center had lots of machines, all in good working order, and fitness experts who conducted classes in pilates and yoga. Bingo sessions thrived. The Trivia Teams were fiercely knowledgeable. The Art at Sea Auctioneer passed out champagne. The Captain had a reception that was well attended. At 4 o' clock, on my way to Tea, I passed a couple on the stairs. The husband was remarking that he thought they would have so much time to do things today and where did the time go? It seemed the ship was endlessly fascinating. Sometime after nightfall, during dinner, we passed the Rock of Gibraltar, on our way to Casablanca in Morocco. It was a good thing there were stabilizers on the ship, as everyone raced to look out the starboard windows. In Casablanca, I bought a ticket to the land tour of Casablanca and the Hassan II Mosque, hearing that the mosque was one of the largest in the world and one of the most opulent. Indeed, the mosque is quite impressive. It can accommodate 50,000 men inside the mosque, and 75,000 men outside in the courtyard. Oh, and 5,000 women up in the rafters on the second floor. And, come to think of it, where were the women? Occasionally, we would see a pair of shrouded women getting into a taxi, or in a car, but very few women in public. Only men sitting in tea bars, in stores, asking us for tips, taking us into tourist shops. The bus tour took us proudly into the wealthy section of Casablanca, and into the neighborhood by the king's palace. Back on the ship, the mood was very mixed. Most people had not enjoyed Casablanca that much. Those who had gone into the souk (the REAL souk, and not the tourist stores the tour guides deposited us at) came back with stories, both good and bad, of what they saw. The souks can be very earthy the farther back into them you go. We passed the Rock of Gibraltar in daylight the next morning. It was impressive, if partly shrouded in clouds. The amount of ship traffic was amazing. The passage between Gibraltar and the mountains of the North African coast cannot be more than 3 miles. As the day passed, we made our way toward Valencia, our last port on the return to Barcelona. Valencia is an exciting city of contrasts, and my main reason for choosing this trip. I had seen the unreal pictures of Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences in a magazine and had to see it with my own eyes. Architect Santiago Calatrava suspended all rules, it seems in constructing this masterpiece of a public esplanade where museums, theatres, aquarium and open spaces are housed in buildings that inspire. Reflecting pools mirror arching steel structures and lines and curves jut everywhere. The aquarium complex takes hours to visit—I took three hours to visit all the parts, for a ticket price of $25.00. The dolphin show is impressive, as are most of the exhibits. This was only the second time I have seen Sea Dragons in an aquarium. Near the complex is one of the Calatrava's famous bridges that challenges the engineering world. There are five, I believe, in the city. I was energized by this city that apparently considers art and architecture as important basic elements. I visited the Museum of Fine Arts (free admission) as well as their gorgeous tiled train station before heading back to the ship. I began to miss the ship on the last night, as I said goodbye to friends, and realized how quickly I had come to like the ship, and how quickly the staff, the cruise director and the officers had learned my name. I thought about how I would miss coming to my lovely stateroom, finding the bed turned down and my fresh fruit waiting. I'd miss sliding open the balcony door and sitting out in the sea air. I'm still fantasizing about the veal chop for dinner. So, as I brave the worsening job market, I will be motivated to get my next job, if only to pay for my next cabin on the Journey. Ciao bella! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
I am a senior, solo cruiser. However, my sister was on the same cruise. We had separate cabins, did our own thing, but met for dinner every evening. We traveled together and stayed in San Juan pre-cruise together. This was my 10th ... Read More
I am a senior, solo cruiser. However, my sister was on the same cruise. We had separate cabins, did our own thing, but met for dinner every evening. We traveled together and stayed in San Juan pre-cruise together. This was my 10th Princess cruise; and 16th overall. We stayed at the Sheraton Old San Juan. We shared a double room that was spacious enough for the two of us to be comfortable. The staff was very helpful and the room amenities were very nice. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and toured OSJ on our own. We had lunch in OSJ and dined at the hotel. The next morning we were picked up by Juan of AAA Island Tours for a trip to El Yunque. I would highly recommend him for a tour. We were dropped off at the pier at 1:00 for boarding. I flew on Jet Blue - Washington, DC-New York-San Juan. The flights down were uneventful. The return flight had a delay at New York due to weather in Florida. I was in a fully obstructed OV cabin - E228. It was situated between two lifeboats so I had a pretty good view from my window. Cabin steward was Bobby. He was always available, friendly and extremely competent. I only had a couple of requests and he took care of them immediately. I frequently adjusted the temperature in the cabin to suit my needs, but not because of any A/C problems on the ship. I asked for and received late seating traditional dining. We were in the Island Dining Room at Table 212, a table for 8. Our waiter was Sveta and our assistant waiter was Ana. Both ladies did an exceptional job. Because it was Thanksgiving, the second formal night was switched from Friday to Thursday and a turkey dinner was added to the menu for the night. I think most of us had the lobster anyway since the turkey dinner was offered again on Saturday night. I also ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room every day. I was always seated with others, as I requested, and always had good service. I went to afternoon tea twice. I also had the pizza, free ice cream, and fresh fruit for afternoon snacks (not all at the same time though). Other than lunch the first day (we missed eating in the dining room by 10 minutes), and the seafood buffet the first night (which was an appetizer portion before dinner) I didn't eat any meals in either the Horizon Court or Cafe Caribe. However, what little I did have there was very good and the selections seems to be varied and plentiful. The Lobby Bar with Aggie quickly became my favorite place for a cocktail. After my first visit, Aggie always greeted me by name. I made a few donations in the casino during the week, but I got lucky the last night and won it all back playing roulette, plus a few extra dollars. I don't smoke, but I did not find the smoking in the casino to be a problem or a hindrance to my time there. I saw three shows: the Welcome Aboard show, Do You Wanna Dance, and Caribbean Caliente. I enjoyed them all. I skipped Piano Man this time since I had seen it last May. I also saw Hypnotist Joshua Seth, comedian Kevin Jordan, and Ventriloquist Michael Ziegfeld. All were very funny and entertaining. I didn't participate in any of the shipboard activities, so I have no comments in that regard. My ship time was spent reading and resting. I exercised by walking around the promenade deck and using the stairs all week. I watched a few musical concerts on MUTS, but not any movies. At the sail away party raffle, I won a coupon for the spa, which I used towards a hot stone massage. That was the most exquisite sensation and I definitely plan to do it again. I didn't get any kind of sales pitch, just a wonderful 75 minute treatment. I took four shore excursions - island information and history tours in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua and Tortola. The first three were exactly as I expected and I was very pleased. The tour in Tortola, unfortunately, was not what I expected. Instead of the historical tour I signed up for, we got a drive around the island and a tour of the beaches. I mentioned this at the Shore Excursion desk. The staff member took notes and the next day I had a letter in my cabin advising me that the situation was being investigated. I didn't ask for a refund, I just wanted them to know the tour didn't go as advertised. Because I was traveling with my sister, and she uses a walker and sometimes needs wheelchair assistance, embarkation and disembarkation were fast and painless. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
This was my first cruise ever & I was travelling alone as a single woman. So, even though I had done lots of research & had read many reviews both on CruiseCritic.com & other websites, I didn't really know what my ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever & I was travelling alone as a single woman. So, even though I had done lots of research & had read many reviews both on CruiseCritic.com & other websites, I didn't really know what my experience would be like compared to all the information out there. I booked 2 days pre-cruise in Venice, our port of embarkation & 2 days post-cruise in our disembarkation port, Lisbon. All hotel & flight arrangements were booked using Royal Caribbean's packages and I used a local travel agency to make my travel reservations. Travel to Venice went pretty smoothly...didn't realize that Custom Air arrangements were available so one could use their airline of choice until after my flight arrangements had been made. Neither my travel agent nor Royal Caribbean mentioned this option during my numerous calls & e-mails to them both throughout the reservation process. I had 2 different airlines that were used...Delta flying to Venice & British Airways flying home from Lisbon. Would have preferred to accumulate all my miles with one carrier's frequent mileage program. Transfer to the hotel in Venice from the airport went OK once the Royal Caribbean agent showed up. Our small group was left standing around not knowing what to do for some time until the agent appeared. My hotel, the Metropole, in Venice was in an excellent location & a wonderful, if expensive, place to start off my adventure. The elegant breakfast buffet (included)was wonderful and the dining area quite beautiful. I ate one dinner in the hotel restaurant that had gotten great reviews and was not disappointed. My meal came to approximately $85.00 - that was for one person without any wine. So it was expensive, but I am glad I tried it. The food and service were excellent and the overall experience was quite memorable. The room I had at the Metropole overlooked a canal on the side of the room and it was great to hear the noises of the boats because that truly was the Venice experience I wanted. The room was appointed very luxuriously and quite comfortable. I was impressed by the level of care taken to maintain the Splendour of the Seas - being that the ship is 12 years old, I had read different comments about her condition. I always noticed staff members cleaning & polishing areas on the ship during my stay while I walked around inside. When I walked outside on deck, I noticed workers also doing various cleaning, painting & maintenance on a regular basis also. So I was impressed with the ongoing service the ship seems to receive on a regular basis. I loved the ship. It was neither too big nor too small. I enjoyed the fact that we had 1800 passengers onboard which allowed me to see the same people on more than one occasion. That was good because it helped me connect with people...being on my own...that was important. I did put several suggestions in the suggestion box during the course of my cruise. These included: no quiet areas on the ship...the solarium has a bar which creates a noise factor that detracts from this area. While speaking to others on the ship, they mentioned this to me. Also, the daily activities during our "at sea" days...we had 4...were lacking in my opinion. Since I do not have any interest in Bingo or cards or the art auction...I didn't find enough to do. Only on the last day at sea did I see 3 things that I was interested in and went to...a cooking demonstration, the captain's corner where you got to ask the captain and ship's engineer questions in a one-on-one meeting, and a towel folding demonstration. I would have preferred more intellectual activities, more films...we only had one movie on the ship and it was the latest Indiana Jones movie, which didn't interest me. I'd like to be able to see movies related to the areas we were travelling to...either by the origin of the actors in the films or the locations used in the films. For example, the film: Casablanca would have been great since that was one of our ports of call. Perhaps, guest lecturers, professors & experts in their fields of history, geography & nature of the areas on the itinerary. These ideas were also put into the suggestion box. Service onboard the ship was excellent. My cabin attendant was very friendly and eager to do a good job. He and I chatted a bit and he seemed to want to make my stay a good and enjoyable one. My room always was made up nicely and I enjoyed the different animals greeting me each evening on my bed that were made out of towels that had been artfully folded. All of my Shore Excursions were booked in advance and the ones for all the ports of call were done through the cruiseline. I only wish that there was more free time included for self-exploration & shopping in each port of call. The shore excursions, while excellent in content didn't allow for that. All of the guides I felt were wonderful in their knowledge of the areas they covered and their personalities were warm & friendly & open to questions all of the time. The dining room experience was a good one for me. I found the food to be much better than I had expected. I really looked forward to dining in the dining room each evening. The waiter & assistant waiter were very good and the waiter, especially, quite professional and had a wonderful & warm personality with lots of good humor. Our head waiter also was a great man who appeared each evening to humor us with his great style and willingness to help out in any way. I thought the evening entertainment was a little thin. Meaning that I thought on some nights, it bordered on "shlocky" or "corny" or not of that high a caliber. Other nights were better so overall I'd give the entertainment a C+ grade or something like 2.5 out of a possible 5 score. I thought the cost to use the internet...$.60 a minute was quite high so I purchased a the largest minutes package available which brought the cost down to $.40 a minute...still quite high in my estimation. I would have liked to have had a self-service laundry onboard as well as some availability of pay phones. $7.95 a minute to use the stateroom cabin phone was definitely out of the question for me and a very high price, I felt. These items were also put into the suggestion box. My aft balcony cabin on Deck 6 was spectacular! Don't think I could ever cruise again without a balcony cabin. I spent more time in my cabin than I had anticipated and it was lovely and full of light and beautiful vistas. It was perfect! Disembarkation went smoothly and because all of my transfers were done through the cruiseline, minimal inconvenience & waiting were experienced. My hotel in Lisbon was quite lovely. Definitely worth the 5-star rating it had. I enjoyed my beautiful room with a water view as requested. I only wish I spoke Portuguese because in Lisbon, not a lot of people spoke English...which I had been forewarned about in my guide book. The lavish breakfast buffet (included)was also fabulous & I looked forward to it very much on my second morning in Lisbon. Hotel staff were very willing to help out and I enjoyed use of the free internet offered in the lobby computer room. Did want to mention that travelling as a single I was charged a 200% premium price for my cabin by Royal Caribbean so I didn't like being penalized for travelling alone. The cruise was more expensive than I had originally planned it to be because of this. Did try out the Spa by taking advantage of the "Salon Sampler" offered one day. Was a great experience...had 7 treatments for $119 which I felt was a great value...they lasted just under an hour. So, while it wasn't a long time in the spa, it was a chance to do something I normally wouldn't have tried probably. In summary, I would love to take another cruise again! I thoroughly enjoyed my trip and would not hesitate to go on Splendour of the Seas again. I thought she was a good ship with character and beauty. I loved all the glass and the windows and the ease of finding my way around once I got oriented with my ship's diagram/map. My overall experience was quite wonderful & I have many memories that will stay with me for a long time! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
What a fabulous cruise! And a great port-of-call itinerary! Leaving San Juan, ship goes to Philipsburg, St Maarten; Roseau, Dominica; St. George's Grenada; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba and last day at sea. The cruise ... Read More
What a fabulous cruise! And a great port-of-call itinerary! Leaving San Juan, ship goes to Philipsburg, St Maarten; Roseau, Dominica; St. George's Grenada; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Oranjestad, Aruba and last day at sea. The cruise and crew were outstanding! The check in on Saturday was long. Between 1 ½ - 2 hrs before I set foot on the ship. So patience is a very must. I got to the pier about 1:30 p.m., about 20 min from the airport. One tiny disappointment. I wanted to go to the singles get-together (wished it was the second night) but missed it. I didn't read the itinerary thoroughly plus being the first night after a long day coming from Toronto, squeezing a quick walk around Old San Juan with what little daylight I had left then coming back to unpacked, and also at 10:15 that night it was mandatory to participate in the lifeboat drill (well, I'm sure not everyone did but for your benefit you should!). I was beat. I only chose two excursions to the islands I've never been before (Dominica, Bonaire) and both were good. I skipped the shows in the evening except a comedian and a magician/comedian. The entertainment staff were good, however, I just found it was the same rig a ma roll like on other ships, more Americanized. It would be nice to see more international flare. There was entertainment at night, whether it is a small band playing at Rendezvous Lounge before dinner, the main show in Celebrity Theater, or piano player in Michaels Club, something by the pool about 10:30, or the late nite disco. Kelby, from Cape Town, served a great martini every night. I let him choose what to make. I opted out going to the Martini Room as I'd rather sit outside. Being from Canada I get enough cold plus I don't like air conditioning and relish to sit outside all the time. Plus the aft deck 10 was never too windy to sit outside. Kelby's martinis were roughly 3 dollars cheaper since they were served in plastic glass which I didn't care. The dinner and waiters at the the Cosmopolitan restaurant were good. My dinner companions were ok (there were 3). Two of them couldn't speak English and I sadly can't speak Spanish plus it's just not that but I didn't feel any clicking. I heard one couple had a table with some single people I wished I had something like that as everyone clicked the first night. But the only thing the couple did enjoy was their dinner and wasn't fussy on the cruise itself. Can't win 'em all, eh? The buffets at the Watergrill Cafe were good. Sometimes I ate at the Aqua Cafe for breakfast with a more liter flare (fruits, different breads, cereal, yoghurt). You had to hit the Watergrill Cafe at a right time to avoid line up. But what does one expect with over 2,200 guests aboard a 91,000 ton ship. At the Watergrill Cafe, they also have Asian breakfast. One afternoon I had Vietnamese noodles, yummy!!!!!!!! To work off the food, they have excellent gym facilities in front of the ship. I made quick workout on the weights. I wanted to get outside, so I decided to walk around the ship on the top deck rather than use the trend mill. The chairs by the pool had nice cushions on. But I opted to sit elsewhere to get away from the noise (especially when music started or band playing) and found a perfect breezy spot in front of the ship. The cabin stewards were fantastic. I mentioned the safe wasn't working and he had it fixed when I came back from my quick jaunt to Old San Juan. I didn't even notice a tile loose in my shower but got a knock on the door if they could come in and fix it. I got a window cabin but never asked for it. It was nice though to wake up to light. Sadly it was time to disembark. That was done with ease. You are given a color tag to be place on your luggage plus a letter stating the time and place to meet in the morning. Bags must be out last night by 11 p.m. so make sure you have clothing needed for disembarkation next day plus DO NOT PACK passport, air tickets, medicines needed and anything other important items. I enjoyed the Celebrity cruise and I'm thinking would like to try maybe Galaxy that has a little longer cruise. 7 days is just not enough! But for me what holiday is? Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
Friday The flight from Canada was uneventful. I checked into the Grand Yacht Club (Hilton). Nice hotel, nice room. You could easily walk to the pier if it wasn't surrounded by a barbed wired topped fence *smile*. I went for a walk ... Read More
Friday The flight from Canada was uneventful. I checked into the Grand Yacht Club (Hilton). Nice hotel, nice room. You could easily walk to the pier if it wasn't surrounded by a barbed wired topped fence *smile*. I went for a walk around the Marina. Wow, some very nice boats. There are some pictures at www.fotki.com/ggrrrr. Saturday Embarkation - Left the hotel at 11:15 (checkout was 11:00). Grabbed a cab with a person I met from my hometown. Embarkation went very quickly. I was on board, in my room, at 12:15. I had made the decision to try the Chef's Table, so I called Dining Reservations. I got right through and my name was put on the list. Lunch - went to the Lido deck, had pizza - yum! Cruise Critic Meet & Greet - the first of two get togethers. We met at the aft pool. Sail-a-way - lots of fun. Ok, it's always fun to get moving on your vacation *lol* Dinner - The App - Melon with Port - so so. The Main - 5 Star Prime Rib - very good, melt in your mouth. Show - The production numbers were good, but there were only 4 and the rest was Princess marketing - mostly boring. Sunday Coffee Card - I bought the coffee card at the International Cafe on deck 5. Entitles you to fresh brewed coffee, speciality coffees, ice capps, etc, Breakfast - I ate with the singles breakfast club outside on the Lido deck. Breakfast was good. Lunch - went for pizza again - still yum Cruise Critic Meet & Greet #2 - in Skywalkers. 12 people showed up. Chef's Table - I was accepted to the Chef's Table. Cost $75. 144 people applied and they accepted 2 tables of 12 each. More later MUTS - Football was being shown Captain's Cocktail Party - They ran 3 of them. Dinner - took a VERY long time for courses to come out. The App - fettucini - good. Soup - Won Ton - ok, The Main - Beef Tenderloin medallions - so so Show - the show was over by the time we got out of dinner Skywalkers - good music, good crowd, left late Monday Jamaica - I booked the Mystic Mountain chair lift and bobsled coaster tour. We went early and got right on the transportation, there was no waiting, The drive is about 15 minutes. The chairlift takes around 15 minutes and gives you some good views. You can see the ship at some points from the chairlift. When we got to the top we were able to get right on the bobsled coaster. I did the bobsled coaster 3 times. It was fun. I'd recommend it. Margaritaville - looked in some shops on the way. Margaritaville was fun Dinner - skipped dinner in the DR and ate in the buffet as I was hungry and didn't want to chance another loooong dinner. The food was fine. Tuesday Grand Cayman - been there, done that. I looked around Georgetown for a while and then went back to the ship and took advantage of the quiet. Chef's Table - We were met at the International Cafe by the Head Maitre d'. We went on a tour of the Galley, while it was working. We were told that the food we would have was not on the menu, ever. The Executive Chef got creative for us. We had 4 apps in the galley along with some Mumm's Champagne. 1) Tuna tartar with wasabi, 2) foie gras terrene on toasted brioche, 3) fontina cheese quiche with white truffle, 4) new potatoes with sour cream and caviar. We then moved to the dining room. We had: Risotto laced with parmesan cheese, red radicchio and langoustine ragout, lemon sorbet with mango slaw and laced with grey goose vodka, roast veal shank and veal tenderloin, market vegetables, chateau potatoes, baked camembert with pine nuts, port wine reduction and walnut bread, passion fruit dream cake, whiskey soaked raspberry soft centre, mango glaze. All the food was served by the Executive Chef and the Head Maitre d'. At the end we received a copy of the Courses book and a picture of the table. I recommend this. Wednesday Cozumel - I signed up for the culinary tour at 9:00 am. It was at the Playa Mia Resort. Transportation took us there and we were met by the head chef, Luis. Really nice guy, young and talented. We made an App, a Main and a Dessert. the App was a grilled tortilla with chorizo sausage, onion, lettuce and cream. The Main was pan fried group wrapped in banana leaf with green pepper, tomato, onion and olive. the Dessert was a layered dessert, home-made cookie, a rice pudding like concoction. They gave us Margarita's, Tequila or Beer (or water), whatever we wanted, and kept them coming. After that we had the run of the resort until 1:00 pm. There was no extra cost for anything after the cooking . This was a lot of fun and I would recommend it. Dinner: App - fettucini again, it was good. Main - Beef Wellington - I don't recommend it. The crust was very soggy and not appetizing. I did have enough food however. New Years Eve Party (ship party) on the Lido Deck. This was fun. The band (Wavelength) was very good and the crowd was into it. Thursday Sea Day - totally relaxed. The day was cloudy - no problem Maitre d' wine tasting. They had some nice wines, including an Opus1 - enjoyed this Princess Idol - from Sunday through Wednesday they held an American Idol style contest, The winner from each night met Thursday night for the final. One of our singles group won. Dinner - App - had the Twice Baked Goat Cheese SoufflE with Garlic Sabayon - very yummy. Main - Steak, very good. Friday Princess Cays - we got to the island, but the swells were too high for the tenders, so we left. We just sailed around. It was nice. I like sea days, Another cloudy day, with some sunny breaks Skywalkers - Lots of fun Saturday Got off the ship at 7:15 am. Was at the airport at 8:00 and had to wait until 11:50. Flights home were uneventful and on time. Eventually found my car covered in a foot of snow in the Park and Fly. Summary Nice ship: I found I was able to navigate the ship more easily as I had been on the Caribbean Princess last April. Chef's Table: very good and recommended All tours: very good Food: Fair to very good. Others had food they really enjoyed when I had the dinners that were fair. So, next time, I'll make different choices Cabin Steward: very good Room: Inside single. It was not large, however it was perfect for my needs People: Met a lot of very nice people, who were a lot of fun to hang around with Overall - it was a good cruise, lots of highlights. A cruise is what you make of it. Yes, the lounge chairs are very close together, I moved them. Yes, the layout of the buffet could be better, it's a small thing that shouldn't become a large issue. So, overall, I enjoyed it and recommend the ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2008
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we ... Read More
As we approached Ventura after the long but comfortable flight from London Gatwick Airport to Barbados airport, the first view of the ship gave the impression of a multistory block of flats, but this view was soon to change after we embarked. The one thing that P&O Cruises do exceptionally well, are their transfer arrangements in Barbados. Luggage is transferred directly from the aircraft to your cabin. Coaches meet you near the aircraft steps and swiftly convey you to the ship, similarly at the end of the cruise luggage is transferred from the ship to your final airport destination and customs and immigration formalities are completed on-board prior to disembarkation. This saves a lot of hassle at the airport both on arrival and departure. On entering the ship, we were extremely pleased to find that she was tastefully decorated in rich colors, with a feel of spaciousness. There were plenty of comfortable chairs and settees, ideal for curling up and spreading out with a book. Traditional P&O style elegance abounded. All public spaces inside were spotlessly clean and remained this way throughout the cruise. On this cruise, we had chosen a balcony cabin on deck 11, port side. The cabin was compact and comfortable. There was good storage space and the added bonus of having tea and coffee-making facilities in the room was appreciated. The bathroom was adequate with excellent toiletries provided and the large fluffy towels were changed twice daily. There was an ample supply of hot water. There is an excellent interactive television system that offers many choices- from television channels to ordering in-cabin room service and to choose free and pay movies. You can shop, gain information - look at your on-board account and many other actions from this facility. Guests should also be aware that this service also acts as your messaging system. The comfort of the bed was average; it certainly did not have the "wow" factor. The covering was a flimsy duvet, which was not large enough to be tucked in and more often than not ended up on the floor. There is a good air-conditioning system, and there is adequate lighting and a refrigerator. Bathrobes are not provided on board, except in mini-suites and above. The balcony, of adequate size was furnished with two upright chairs and a very small low-level table. There was absolutely no privacy on the balcony as owing to the construction of the ship, the majority of balconies on decks 9, 10 and 11 are tiered --be aware of this fact when booking - we could look down to those below and they could look up at us. Additionally because of the design of the ship, conversations could clearly be heard from balconies three or four cabins away. The room was maintained in an excellent condition and serviced twice daily. There are three formal dining rooms on board - two for "club dining" - 1st and 2nd seating and the third for "anytime" dining. There are also other various specialist and casual dining venues. We found the food to be consistently of a high quality in all dining venues -plenteous and varied and especially designed to the British palate in the main restaurant and casual style buffet. The only disappointment was the very limited choice of breads. In the main Restaurant, dinner was well presented and expertly served. Great care is taken to cater for guests who have dietary requirements. Unfortunately breakfast in the main restaurant lacked any presentation skills whatsoever - breakfasts looked as if they had been just thrown on a plate. Yoghurts should be served in a dish and not presented in the container itself. The ship had over 3000 guests on board and never once, even on sea days did we have to queue or wait for seats in the self-service buffet. Dishes were replenished often and hot food was hot and cold food was cold. There are no free juices, other than at breakfast time. Free tea; with lots of different blends and coffee are available here 24 hours a day. There is a full and varied programme of entertainment, outlined in the Daily Newspaper - The Horizon. There is something for everyone. We found the production shows and most of the guest entertainers to be excellent offering professional and varied programmes. For a ship of this size, the Cruise Director and his limited number of staff did a great job. They were highly visible all over the ship, a pity the same could not be said of the officers, and gave the impression of being a most happy and caring team. Even on days when ports of call were cancelled due to bad weather, within a reasonable time, additional entertainment was arranged and relayed to guests. They are to be congratulated! There are the usual on-board shops offering a good selection of goods and usually at competitive prices, do be aware that the shop selling those items that you may have forgotten to bring with you, is, if they have not run out of goods, fairly expensive. There are free launderettes on board, but you have to purchase soap powder from this outlet. They charge 50p for 2 concentrated soap tablets. There is a luxurious spa offering various treatments and therapies. They do offer specials and details of these are messaged to you through your in interactive cabin television as are shop "sales" as well as being advertised in the daily newspaper. There is a well-equipped gym. Internet facilities are available. Although expensive - take advantage of the packages available and the special offers advertised. Specials are also available for the speciality restaurants. There is an excellent and knowledgeable Shore Excursion Team and tours bought from the ship are reasonably well priced and good in content. Occasionally, some tours do not reach their expected standards and to which they have no control - they do however listen and investigate and take appropriate action. There is a Future Cruise Consultant on board, who is most anxious to sell you a future cruise. Beware! She quoted us a price for the same itinerary and on the same ship next Christmas at a cost of £8600.00. We were horrified at this cost. We went next door to the Internet centre and checked P & O`s web site and found the same cruise, although in a different grade of cabin, but in a grade on the same deck with the same facilities, and almost next door to the one that she quoted for £4300.00. We returned a few days later to her, after having again checked our facts and confronted her with our information. You can guess her embarrassment. We asked her to check again and guess what? You are right. Obviously someone who works on a commission basis? We had originally booked the Christmas and New Year Cruise on the Oceana for 2009. However after a number of months, having paid the deposit and received confirmation - P&O cancelled the 2-week cruise and extended it into a 4-week cruise. We were offered a transfer to the 4-week cruise at a supplement - but as we could not get time of work had to decline. We were offered very minimal compensation if we were to book a further cruise with P&O within a specific time frame. We asked to be transferred to the Ventura but were told that P&O would not honor the price available at the time of our original booking, even though they had the advantage of having our deposit for some 5 months. The price had risen by £1000.00 - we did however receive our deposit back in full. Gone it appears are the days of honorability. Administration on the ship and Head Office leaves a lot to be desired. We had a query re on-board credit. The ship e-mailed their Head Office on 21 December and followed the query up with further e-mails - no response was received by the time we disembarked on 2 January and thus we did not receive the credit due to us. Additionally notifications originating from the Pursers Office were In-correct - especially in respect of disembarkation - these had to be withdrawn and re-issued on a number of occasions. Likewise in respect of the 1st edition of the Port information issued in respect of St. Vincent - the information provided actually related to the Azores - what a waste of paper, time and money - more attention to detail is required in this department. The Ships`s photographers do and good job and produce fine quality photographs, together with an excellent DVD of the cruise. Individual photographs tend to be expensive, but again packages are available. This was a Christmas and New Year Cruise and the ship was discreetly and sensitively decorated. There were excellent festal activities. There were, I understand over 700 children on board. This being the case P&O are to be congratulated on their programmes and organized events for those guests as they were very seldom seen and certainly not heard - most well-behaved and a credit to their parents and staff. The facilities for kids and teenagers are outstanding. Dress Code on the ship fell into 3 categories - formal, semi -formal and smart casual. It was pleasing to not that the majority of guests adhered to the dress code especially on formal evening. Following this cruise however, the dress code for this ship and the Oceana fall into only 2 categories - Formal and Smart Casual. There are numerous bars and other venues for drinks throughout the ship. Quiet bars, energetic bars or pool bars. Drinks are well-presented or excellent quality (except at the Captains Cocktail party - where they appeared to lack in alcoholic content) and were reasonably priced. There is a comprehensive wine list again not overly priced. The currency on board is the British Pound. In keeping with the P&O tradition, gratuities are extended on the final evening of the cruise by way of cash in envelopes. Although if you opt for Anytime dining, your gratuity for the waiters in this regard is added to your on-board account. Do be sure that you bring enough sterling for these gratuities. We had planned to withdraw cash at a facility at Gatwick Airport but it was out of order. Fortunately we had enough cash to cover the gratuities, as the Pursers office do not cash personal cheques. There are 3 modest sized swimming pools (one of which is reserved for adults) on board as well as a number of Jacuzzi's. Whilst there are large deck areas with sun beds, there are insufficient sun beds or space for the number of passengers on this ship. - There is just not the amount of required space and beds are so tightly squeezed together and you have to climb on to the sun bed and then sit on it. It does not help when passengers reserve sun beds for hours with their towels and then come along and remove their towels and walk away not having even sat in them. One morning at 7.45am all sun beds were occupied by towels and yet no sun worshippers. P & O do not have a policing policy on this issue - they need to adopt one - this was one of the major factors of discontent on this cruise. A suggestion as to how this might be alleviated is that the upright chairs on balconies be removed and replaced with reclining chairs, like those on the promenade deck. Many guests occupying such cabins would quite possibly tend to spend more time relaxing there than to fight for a sun bed on the open decks. Excellent reclining chairs are provided on the promenade deck. However as the ship has a strict no-smoking policy inside the vessel - many smokers tend to congregate on the starboard side of this deck as it is within easy reach of the bars, entertainment areas, restaurants and night club for their smoke. More ashtrays are needed and those broken need to be fixed and all need to be emptied more often than they are now. This deck also needs to be cleaned more regularly. Some guests on deck 8 - starboard aft, complained about the smoke drifting up from this deck and on to their balconies. They also complained about the noise experienced from these cabins during the early hours of the morning, when smokers from the night-club gathered on this deck. Noise was a constant problem when late night revellers were returning to their cabins in various areas of the ship when the discotheque closed at around 4.00am. There were reports that there were a number of fights on board and those guests were locked up in the brig, but we never witnessed any such fights or any real drunkenness. Unfortunately on the first week of the cruise, the weather was not kind, rain, winds and high seas. This resulted in the ship not being able to dock at 3 of the ports of call. The ship handled well during these conditions whilst at sea. However, it was disappointing that we missed these important ports of calls. Obviously something to do with the size of the ship and its design as guests on other cruise ships and on those of a similar or larger size had no port cancellations. She appeared to the able to dock when in the Caribbean but not at those ports at the edge of the Atlantic. As our fare had included port taxes and charges, it will be interesting to see if P&O refund these to the passengers as they would not have had to pay them and we did not avail of these services. The foregoing are thoughts and/or suggestions and are by no means complaints. They are also designed to assist others when planning their cruise vacation, as to some things that they may wish to consider. In all, we had an excellent cruise and would certainly travel with P&O again. P & O market the ship more towards families, but we feel that the Ventura is suitable for all, couples singles as well as families. We thoroughly enjoyed the traditional P&O experience and would recommend them without reservation. Well Done to all those who made this possible. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2008
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the ... Read More
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the Alaskan, Norwegian, New Zealand and Chilean Fjords and I enjoyed each one for different reasons. Our cruise straddled the Christmas-New Year's holiday, so there was a good mix of young and old since there were many extended families on board. NCL did a good job on the Christmas and New Year's Eve activities. Keep in mind most of the ports require tendering and the ocean this far South can be rough. There were significant delays tendering in Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands due to inclement weather. I spoke with people on Celebrity and they had similar issues. The cruise lines work very hard to make this a safe process, so patience is required. One note: Chile requires a $132/person visa for US citizens when arriving at the airport. Argentina has an $18/person departure tax. If you cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, I believe you don't pay either one and save $150/person. Probably not an issue unless you have a family of four and pay $600 in visa/taxes. Ship The Norwegian Sun was adequate for this type of cruise. A medium size of about 2000 passengers, it does not have a lot of the outdoor and sport amenities found on the Caribbean mega-ships, all of which would be useless given the cold and windy conditions experienced during most of the cruise. NCL uses a Free-style dining system and unlike some previous NCL cruises, we had no problems with waiting or slow service because we ate between 6pm and 7:30pm. The food was good in the standard restaurants and excellent in the specialty restaurants. The on-board entertainment was better than normal; maybe because it was a holiday cruise. We had an Oceanview room, which was fine. If you get a Balcony room, try to get it on the Port side if traveling from Valpo to Buenos Aires and Starboard the other way. NCL arranged several interesting lectures on the regions we visited. Embarkation I recommend staying in Vina Del Mar or Buenos Aires the night before your cruise. Both are excellent places to spend some time and eliminate the stress of rushing to the ship. In Valparaiso, where we started the cruise, the embarkation was slowed by the transfer bus availability from the immigration building to the ship. The actual cruise check-in was completed aboard the ship and went very fast. I think the delay was due to the number of buses available and checking in at the peak time. We waited about 1 hour in a comfortable lounge area with a bar and some small gift shops for the transfer buses. Ports/Shore Excursions I usually pick my cruises based on the port of calls, so I will spend more time on this portion. I normally like to do independent shore excursions but this cruise stops at ports that have limited independent options. I always recommend using a cruise line shore excursion if you don't want to worry about travel logistics and getting back to the ship on time. Also, the shore excursion people get off on the first tenders, which made a big difference on this cruise. Independent tour operators, restaurants and shops took US dollars at every port and city we visited. It is best to have smaller denomination bills for obvious reasons. Santiago/Valparaiso/Vina del mar- We arrived three days before the cruise started to see Santiago, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We stayed in Santiago one night at a great little hotel called Hotel Orly and toured Santiago on our own. Most of the sights are in a compact area that is pedestrian friendly and safe during the day. We took a full day tour with Think About Chile tour company to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It worked out good because they picked us up in Santiago and dropped us off at our hotel in Vina del Mar and kept our luggage safe during the tour. We stopped at the Bellavista winery on the way to Valpo and then had a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It was $96/person but lower if you have more people. It takes about 2 hours from Santiago to Valpo without any stops. Puerto Montt- We booked a tour through GV Tours (Gail and Veronica) for $75/person. They use a nice mini-bus, which was full of people from our cruise ship. The tour hits the highlights of the Puerto Montt lake district area including Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Fruitillar, Petrohue falls, and Lake Esmeralda. The tour also included an excellent salmon lunch and a stop at a small farm. The tour lasted 8 hours and they claim they never missed a ship departure time. On a clear day Mt Osorno dominates the landscape. I highly recommend getting away from the Puerto Montt town and touring the lake district. There are several independent tour operators waiting at the port. I saw a short 2-hour tour of the lake district for $15/person. Puerto Chacabuco- Take a cruise line shore excursion if you ship stops here. There are no reliable independent options and nothing close to the port. We took a bus tour through the Rio Simpson valley, which was basically a 3-hour roundtrip bus ride to a National Reserve where we took a 30-minute hike. It is beautiful scenery but it rained most of the trip. The highlight of this stop was cursing through the Fjords that surround Puerto Chacabuco. The Andes drop right into the water here and the rainfall makes it very green and lush. The sun came out later in the day and we had a great sail through the steep Fjords. Sunset was about 10:30pm. Cruising the Chilean Fjords- We spent two days cruising in and out of the Chilean Fjords. The water was calm and scenery beautiful. A lot of waterfalls, islands and glacier capped mountains but surprising little visible marine life. Day time highs were around 50 F but windy. Punta Arenas- We opted to take an expensive cruise line shore excursion to Torre Del Paine. The trip was great. We saw a lot Guanaco's, rheas and condors. The lakes are an amazing milky-blue color and the famous Torre "horns" made a brief appearance. The weather is very unpredictable and changed by the minute, and it is always windy. This was on my list of "must see" places in the World, so I paid the steep $1100 for this one-day excursion. I don't believe all the cruise lines offer this trip, but ours was sold out before the cruise started so book early. The most popular day excursion at this port was the penguin trips. Ushuaia- Sailing the Beagle channel before Ushuaia was very scenic and this is the best chance to see glaciers up close. Six glaciers come down to meet the Beagle Channel. We passed these glaciers in the morning before arriving in Ushuaia. I believe you see these during the evening if traveling from Buenos Aires to Valpo. We hired a taxi with another couple in Ushuaia and went to see a glacier near Ushuaia and then Tierra del Fuego. The cost is $110 per taxi and 4 people can squeeze into a taxi. The trip was about 3-4 hours. Tierra del Fuego is beautiful and worth the trip. Ushuaia also has a nice downtown area for shopping and souvenirs. There are several independent land and boat tour operators waiting at the port. Rounding Cape Horn- This was a highlight for many passengers on the cruise. After a rough first two days at sea, we were concerned about the conditions around this infamous area considered to be the most dangerous in the World. Well, it was like a swimming pool. Our cruise director said it was the most calm NCL had seen in two years. We circled the Cape Horn Island and saw the lighthouse and Memorial. It is my understanding this part of the cruise is usually cancelled due to rough seas. Falkland Islands- We took an NCL shore excursion to the Lagoon Bluffs to see penguins. I think this is the best spot on the cruise to see penguins because of the variety, population and scenic backdrop. We saw Gentoo, Rock-hopper (cool eyebrows) and the famous King penguins (smaller cousins to the movie-star Emperor penguins). All the other stops on the cruise only see Magellan penguins. The tour is via 4-wheel drive vehicles and part of the ride is very rough. The Lagoon Bluffs is a beautiful beach and cove area where thousands of penguin come to breed. We saw a lot of baby penguins like the movie. Great photos. It had sun, rain, sleet and hail all in the one hour we were at Lagoon Bluff. It was fun to watch the penguins when it hailed. It was like a free massage for them. There is a small cabin that serves tea, coffee and pastries, which is included in the tour. Port Stanley is small but nice and scenic town. It is fun to go to the pubs and talk to the locals. The three we went to were Deano's, Victory and Globe taverns. Victory is popular with the British soldiers stationed in the Falkland's and they have some great stories. Puerto Madryn- Yes, our first port where we actually docked since Valpo. We had a late start since it was New Year's day and we stayed up till 3am the night before. We teamed up with eight other people on our cruise and took an independent tour to the Peninsula Valdez for $50/person. There are tour operators waiting outside the dock area to book independent tours. It was a long two-hour ride through the barren Peninsula Valdez to reach an area with Magellan penguins and huge elephant seals. A beautiful coastline on a very sunny and warm day. We also stopped at a small national park museum. We also saw a lot of Guanacos along the way but mainly in the distant. Many other passengers went to the Punto Tomba, probably the best place for penguins outside of the Falkland islands. Montevideo- Civilization again and we docked. Although there are several interesting shore excursions, I recommend walking around the old town and downtown area of this city. The port is less than 10 minutes walk to the old town and stop by the Port Mercado to see the grilled meat restaurants. We hit all the major sights in three hours, had a grilled steak lunch at a restaurant Hillary Clinton ate at, and went to the beach for a few cocktails at a cafe. There are excellent antique markets on the weekend. I bought an antique Kodak Brownie camera for $15. Buenos Aires/disembarkation- We were scheduled to fly out of Buenos Aires that evening, so we decided to take an NCL shore excursion, which kept our bags during the tour and dropped us at the airport afterward. In fact, we never touched our bags after leaving them outside our cabin the night before until arriving at the airport. We took the Best of Buenos Aires Tour, which included a three-hour tour of the city and then a visit to a Gaucho Estancia. I had been to Buenos Aires before and I recommend staying at least two days to see the sights and experience this great city. The Estancia was nice with folk dancing, music, Gaucho horsemanship, horseback and wagon rides, and a huge grilled meat lunch. It is a nine-hour tour getting to the airport around 5:30pm. The cruise met all my expectations. I will mention a few complaints from other fellow passengers: 1) Some had limited time on shore due to tendering delays, 2) The food was not as good as some past cruises, 3) shore excursions were pricey, 4) there should be more activities during days at sea. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
Embarkation: We arrived in Miami the night before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency ($60/night on Priceline), which is only about two miles from the pier. We left the Hyatt at 11:30 for a short 5 minute taxi ride to the pier. I ... Read More
Embarkation: We arrived in Miami the night before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency ($60/night on Priceline), which is only about two miles from the pier. We left the Hyatt at 11:30 for a short 5 minute taxi ride to the pier. I think it was about $13 including tip. We noticed a lack of porters and ended up carrying our bags over to the luggage drop-off area where a porter finally acknowledged us and added a second tag to our bags even though we had printed the Carnival luggage tags at home. We were inside and through security within 5 minutes and were checked in within 15 minutes of arriving at the pier. As expected, my $50 OBC shareholder benefit was applied to my account and with my blue sail & sign card in hand, I was ready to go. After a 15-20 minute wait in the terminal, they called our zone (Zone 15) and we proceeded up for our embarkation photo and were at the lido buffet by 12:15. Cabin: I was traveling with a group of friends but due to some last-minute changes, I ended up canceling the reservation I made back in March and re-booked approximately 10 days before the cruise. I booked category 6A guarantee and ended up with an upgrade to 6C, cabin U29. This was my first cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the cabin was a lot more spacious than I expected. The recent upgrades made as part of the Evolutions of Fun campaign really make the cabins feel almost brand new. Being located near the front of the ship, I noticed just a little more movement in my cabin than I did in other parts of the ship, but not significant enough to make me wish I had booked closer to the center of the ship. I really enjoyed having a window in the room, allowing the sun to wake me up each morning. My friends were in cabins U141, U145 and U151, so Carnival clearly made an effort to assign our groups cabins close together, with the exception of my last minute booking. Dining: Our group of 7 was assigned late seating in the Pride dining room, table 181. We were seated with another group of 3 girls, also in their mid-20's, who made dinner even more entertaining every night. Our waiters were Rex and Awayan. Rex's personality and quick-witted jokes kept us laughing every night. He started with Carnival 10 years ago as a dishwasher and has worked his way up to head waiter. Here is a quick review of the food: 1st Night: Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Chicken a la Greque (5/5) Dessert - Warm Chocolate Melting Cake (4/5) 2nd Night (Formal Night): Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Maine Lobster Tail (4/5) with Grilled Prawns (5/5) Dessert - Grand Marnier Souffle (1/5) 3rd Night: Appetizer - Fried Mozzarella on Mixed Greens (1/5) Entree - Sweet and Sour Shrimps (5+/5) Dessert - Tiramisu (5+/5) 4th Night: Appetizer - Crab Cake (5/5) and Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Grilled Chicken Breast and Baked Potato (4/5) and Penne Mariscos (Penne with Shrimp and Scallops in Tomato Cream Sauce) (3/5) Dessert - Baked Alaska (3/5) Best Appetizer: Crab Cake Best Entree: Sweet and Sour Shrimps Best Dessert: Tiramisu We also tried breakfast in the dining room on our last sea day. The belgian waffles with stewed bananas (think bananas with caramel sauce) were amazing, and I heard plenty of compliments about the eggs benedict as well. I would have liked to have had breakfast in the dining room more often, but after staying up until 3:00am every night, getting up at 8:00am just didn't appeal to me. Lido / Horizon Buffet: We had lunch a few times at Horizons and the Lido buffet. The chicken entree on our embarkation day was good, as were the potatoes. I also tried the Mongolian Grill, but was disappointed as it didn't really have any flavor, just a burn from the szechwan sauce. I didn't try anything from the international buffet or the poolside grill, so I can't comment on those, except that the lines seemed long every day. Some of the desserts were wonderful, while others seemed a bit dried out. Definitely try some different things as the ones that appealed the least to me ended up being some of my favorites. NY Deli / 24-Hour Pizzeria: The deli station doubles as an omelette station in the morning and serves sandwiches from 11am to 11pm daily. I tried two different sandwiches during the cruise. The grilled turkey sandwich was decent, although it could have been grilled a little longer. They were essentially just pressing the sandwich with the grill and putting it on a plate, not leaving it on long enough to toast. The turkey wrap was a little disappointing and I would probably need 3 or 4 to fill me up. The 24-Hour Pizzeria was popular but never had more than 2 or 3 people in line. They do a great job of getting pizzas out quickly and each 12" pizza is sliced into quarters and served. I quickly got hooked on the mushroom and goat cheese pizza and probably had it 5 or 6 times during the cruise, including a 3am visit after the casino had closed. During off hours, they only have pepperoni and cheese pre-made and everything else comes out as an 8 or 9 inch pizza cooked to order in about 10 minutes. They also have Caesar Salad (and grilled chicken!) and Calzones available. Entertainment: One thing that the ship does not lack is activities. During the day they had different activities all day long on the lido deck stage as well as different tournaments in the casino, destination and shopping talks in the lounges and calypso music all day long. Every evening had a production or variety show in the two-story Dynasty lounge and two nights featured adults-only comedy shows in the Xanadu lounge. There was also a jazz band on the promenade, a pop band in one of the lounges, a piano bar, karaoke in the Xanadu lounge and the Illusions Disco, which was busy until 2-3am. Our cruise director was Skip Lyons, whose quick whit kept everyone well entertained. 1st Night: Welcome Aboard Show 2nd Night: Living in America - Las Vegas style musical (4/5) and midnight adult comedy show with Oscar Collazos (4/5). 3rd Night: Balancing act and family-friendly comedy (3/5) 4th Night: Christmas Musical at 5:00pm (3/5), Shout! - Branson style 50's musical (3/5), late-night adult comedy show with Ronnie Bullard (5/5) Crowds: Even though our sailing was sold out, we rarely noticed crowds on the ship. There are so many different activities going on that everyone had something different to do. The only times we ever noticed crowds were at lunchtime at the lido buffet and during the last night of the cruise for the adults-only comedy show, which was standing room only. This could be because the first adults-only comedian did two shows, while the second only performed once. Although the lido deck was always busy around the pool in the afternoon, we never had a problem getting groups of chairs up on the Waterworks deck or on the other side of the lido deck stage. On embarkation day, we were also able to sit out on a deserted Serenity Deck. By the last at-sea day every single chair was occupied on the Serenity Deck. According the the cruise director there were 518 children onboard. I don't know where they hid all the children, because we hardly ever saw them. The only time they ever came out was when Camp Carnival brought all of the kids to the Dynasty Lounge on the last day of the cruise so that they could sing christmas carols as part of the Christmas show and to see Santa. Key West: We got off the ship at Mole Pier around 8:45am and took the Conch Train to Mallory Square. After reviewing our maps, we decided that we would walk from Mallory Square to the Southernmost Point (about 1.5-2 miles) and explore the shops along the way. Two of our friends were booked on the Fury snorkeling excursion for $39, and we agreed to meet up with them back on the ship. We stopped at two different bakeries and picked up some croissants and a piece of chocolate covered frozen key lime pie (YUM!). We had fun exploring and taking pictures. On the way back the girls decided to stop at a nail salon on Duval Street for manicures and pedicures, leaving the guys to head to Sloppy Joe's for some drinks and Sloppy Fries. After the girls were finished with their pampering, we headed back to Mallory Square around 12:45 and hopped on a Conch Train back to the pier with no wait. Cozumel: We docked at Punta Langosta pier and were off the ship by 1:30. Two of the girls in our group that were sharing an inside room forgot to set their alarms, so we agreed to meet up with them in an hour at the entrance to the pier. The rest of us spent the first hour shopping outside of Punta Langosta, where I picked up a small bottle of Mexican Vanilla for $4 and two t-shirts for $10. We then met up with the other two girls and took two taxis ($16 each) to Mr. Sancho's. Mr. Sancho's is about 15 minutes from the pier and is a beautiful beach/restaurant/bar complex that is quieter than some of the other beaches in Cozumel. The entire complex is really clean and also had a nice pool next to the restaurant. We relaxed on the beach for about 3 hours and enjoyed some drinks from the bar. The two girls that did not go snorkeling in Key West decided they wanted to try it, so they went snorkeling in a small boat with just the two of them and a guide ($30). They said that they enjoyed it and were able to see a lot of fish around the reefs. As the sun was starting to go down and the beach was closing, we decided to head to Margaritaville for some drinks and a free calimari appetizer. Watching the sunset from their dock was beautiful, but two margaritas and a beer were not worth $30. After Margaritaville, we made a quick stop at the Mega (think Mexican Wal-Mart) to pick up some Mexican candy (Milch = YUM!) for my 6 year old cousin and Coca-Cola, which is still made with real sugar in Mexico. I love Mexican soda as it does not have an aftertaste like the stuff made with corn syrup in the United States. Debarkation: We arrived as scheduled in Miami around 7:30am. They announced that the various officials would be making their way onboard for our inspection and after clearance they would begin debarkation. Our group agreed to meet for breakfast in the Horizon Grill area at 8:30. We were easily able to have breakfast and still sat around for about 45 minutes before they called for self-assist. I was the only one that chose to do zone debarkation, mainly because I was by myself with two suitcases, a backpack and a box of liquor from the duty free store. I was assigned zone 16 and made it off the ship around 10:45, only about 10 minutes after the self-assist was called for our deck. My bags were waiting for me on the carousel and it only took 2 or 3 minutes to clear customs and immigration where they didn't even question the four bottles of liquor I was carrying. I guess they are more concerned about getting everyone through quickly than collecting a few dollars duty on my extra bottles of liquor. Overall everything moved smoothly and I had no problem getting a taxi back to the Hyatt to pick up my car. Overall Impressions: Overall I loved my first cruise and was very happy with the Imagination. As I said earlier, the refurbishments really show and most areas of the ship seem almost brand new. The only things that date the ship are the purple and red colors of the atrium and the theming of the dining rooms. This was an off-season sailing in mid-December and there was a nice mix of age groups with the majority of passengers being mid-20's through late-40's. Both Key West and Cozumel had plenty of activities to keep us entertained and I would love to spend more time in both ports in the future. I would gladly sail on Carnival and the Imagination again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
I wanted to take my sister on a quick getaway to get her mind off of a breakup. This cruise was cheap and easy to book, so we did it! It was definitely fun, but the decor was tacky in an amusing way, and we didn't find many ... Read More
I wanted to take my sister on a quick getaway to get her mind off of a breakup. This cruise was cheap and easy to book, so we did it! It was definitely fun, but the decor was tacky in an amusing way, and we didn't find many activities at night other than Karaoke, gambling or dancing, none of which interested us. We enjoyed the small deck at the back of the ship where 2 hot tubs were situated. We spent most of our time there with our books and music. It was never crowded there either, so it was nice to just hang out and be alone (I'm a mom, so I don't have a lot of quiet time to chat with my sister usually). Our room was the bare necessities, but our steward WAS amazing, we never saw him, but could always see proof that he'd been in our room, leaving everything perfect, even putting our sodas in ice when we left them on the counter. We loved having the cotton robes for the duration of our trip. The food at dinner was wonderful, definitely the highlight. Nassau was beautiful, glad we did an excursion there. All in all, I refer to this as our 'budget' cruise, and it was exactly what we needed for the price we paid. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2009
Background: I'm a 27 year old male who celebrated a birthday onboard who sailed with my mother who is in her upper 50's. This was my seventh Princess cruise and her fifth (she's now Platinum). Other lines we've both ... Read More
Background: I'm a 27 year old male who celebrated a birthday onboard who sailed with my mother who is in her upper 50's. This was my seventh Princess cruise and her fifth (she's now Platinum). Other lines we've both sailed together on include NCL and Carnival. Other lines I've sailed on alone are Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. With this said, some comparisons will be made between brands - particularly NCL - during this review. Now there are positives and sometimes negatives to any vacation - keep this in mind when reading the review. Overall the Crown Princess was just an ok experience. It didn't stand out and it's sad to see Princess become an average cruise line. Pre-Cruise Stay: Since Fort Lauderdale was having an art show going on, a lot of the hotels in the port area were extremely booked up so we stayed at the Days Inn Airport / Cruiseport on Broward Blvd by the highway. While the rooms are being renovated one room at a time while the hotel remains open and we were put into a renovated room, the hotel itself has a dated exterior and is in the middle of no where! The neighborhood it's in is very seedy with a set of projects just a block away (and a police station the next block after that down towards Las Olas Blvd). While you could walk about a mile to shops and dining at the Las Olas Blvd mall area, it isn't advisable. I wouldn't stay at this hotel again but if you are out for a bargain then you might want to give this place a shot (the price was too tempting not too given what other hotels were charging)! Embarkation: Went very smoothly. Being a platinum member I never stopped moving when I arrived. I got there just before noon and moved from giving the porters to the bag to a short line where I was identified for my status and whisked to another area and right on through security. At that time they started boarding and checking in! Within 15 minutes of arrival I was on the ship and in my cabin! Nice job Princess!! Cabin: We were in the very forward part of Caribe Deck in C101. The cabin was spacious as the other Grand class ships we've sailed on with Princess. The balcony is bigger on this deck and I thank Princess for the upgrade to this deck since we booked this cruise past the 90 day final payment period and were on as a guarantee. The cabin was clean upon arrival and our room steward Sushet was fantastic. Whenever we had a request, which was very rare outside of normal stateroom servicing, he took care of it right away. The cabin's balcony door was a different story though. It seems as though the exterior frame had suffered some damage. It was covered with duck tape to hold it in place. It was worth a chuckle but on the first sea day when the ship was moving along briskly and overnight, the door wouldn't stop whistling as much as you had it locked the whistling still returned. Finally had to call the Purser's office and had to wake up the maintenance guy at 2AM to come and figure out how the heck to make the thing stop whistling! A piece of plywood later rigged to hold the slider firmly shut and tada - no more noise! We used the piece of wood for the rest of the cruise after we were done on the balcony each night. Odd since the ship was in drydock two weeks prior I thought they might have tended to this problem. Either way it got fixed and off to dream land we went. As for the cabin bathrooms, I guess I got spoiled by NCL's shower system as Princess has a fixed shower nozzle that comes out of the wall at about 6 feet. It points downward and you can't get the shower head to move up at all. Consequently being 6 foot 4 inches tall this was a real pain in the butt to get my hair washed! The shower space isn't that big to contort yourself in such a manner as to getting your hair wet. With respect to this I think Princess could learn a little something from NCL's bathroom design which has a nozzle attached to a hose that you can remove to get all areas of your body cleaned. Public Rooms: In the dry dock two weeks prior the ship received new interior carpeting. Some of the carpeting was shedding but the new carpeting was quite refreshing since the passenger decks can get quite musty with all the sewage problems that occur from sailing to sailing. I'll take the fresh shedding carpet over the nasty sewage smell any day. Some of the chairs were re-upholstered as well in some areas. The ship looked fresh and as good as new. She didn't really show any wear or tear throughout. Some areas of rust on the Promenade Deck were being tended to by the deck crew and were largely scraped and repainted by the end of our sailing. All in all the ship was in fine working order. Entertainment: Due to the time of the year and the football championships Movies Under the Stars had two night's wasted with endless games being shown. This has become a real hidden treasure and a great alternative to the other ship entertainment such as endless comedians! Only one good movie was shown at night this trip which was Mamma Mia and the popularity of it was astonishing as people were dragging chairs from everywhere to watch it. I love that experience. Production shows were great. A show on Cole Porter was WAY before my generation and it was just before my moms. While this show wasn't enjoyable for me because I had no clue who the guy was, the set and costumes and overall work of the production staff was great. The Motown show was ok. It would have been better if one of the male vocalists could have kept his notes a little better. This was the only time any of the production staff seemed off in their performance. Destination Anywhere, the first major production, was the best of them all. This is not to be missed. Overall, nice work by the production team in the main theater entertainment. Daytime entertainment was the same as always with trivia to be had, pool games on sea days and gatherings for various groups ranging from alcoholics anonymous and red hat society to LGBT gatherings. Something new Princess is venturing into that NCL has been doing for quite some time is the Nintendo Wii. While I was the only person who showed up to play it, some new games I had never had before (Wii Fit) were fun and helped pass the day away (as opposed to lounging on deck). The Cruise Staff were very nice and very friendly. Big stand outs on the cruise staff were Elaine (such a darling), Kirstie and David. If you get to know these three people - even if sailing solo - you'll have a fantastic time! David got my mom up dancing and she had a blast. Other evening activities were also available. Every show lounge had some performance and dancing available. Quadri a quintet onboard was quite good. They had a special classical performance in the Explorer's Lounge during the middle of the cruise. Endless comedians were paraded around with the best one leaving the ship that week who participated in the variety show. The other comedians we skipped. We did take in the magician's show which was quite good. Now for the discos, DJ Tommy Boy who spun in Club Fusion was at least trying to play a fair mix of music. He had the music onboard that I like but couldn't really play it because the age / demographics were more towards the disco and Motown eras. Motown could be heard playing almost everywhere during the cruise from the Princess Theater to the pool deck. I like Motown but not that much! Rotate the music Princess! Skywalker's disco with DJ Artik was ok. He also had to play to the demographics which on this cruise skewed younger with a lot of 18-25 year olds. The music large centered on hip hop and R&B. Redundancy did pop up since it was the same Top 40 played every night pretty much. Skywalker's on this ship is much better designed than on previous Grand class ships (Star, Golden and Grand). Spa & Fitness Services: If you wanted to be pampered there were options for you! The Sanctuary was a very warm and inviting place and you could use it to escape from the hustle and bustle of the ship but it also seemed to be a bit over priced in some respects. I guess that is to limit the passengers who wish to use it to what it can accommodate. The fitness areas are comparable to other Grand class ships. A large workout area consisting largely of cardio equipment with a few resistance machines in the mix. I didn't really go to sea to workout and when I wanted to do cardio the Promenade Deck was a much better alternative and probably less likely to spread norovirus. Enrichment: Princess's Scholarship@Sea program was in full gear. From dance lessons, ceramic painting, photography lessons and teaching magic tricks, you had plenty of options to choose from if enrichment is your thing. Service: Let me start with all the positives because there are so many. The crew, staff and even Captain are what make a cruise enjoyable and there was barely a let down by anyone. I do have to send out special heartfelt thanks to Elaine on the Cruise Staff for hosting various events during the day that kept me very well entertained including Wii Hoola Hoop and the Friends of Dorothy gathering. She made sure I wasn't bored! Other cruise staff that I felt went above and beyond were Kirstie (from Australia) and David (from Canada - whose mom is on Cruise Critic too)! Stateroom service was excellent and provided by Sushet in the forward Starboard side of the Caribe Deck. We ate in the Michelangelo dining room each night of the cruise from start to finish. The hostess greeter, who later became the sanitizer lady, was extraordinary! She made sure we got a table of our choosing - usually a two seater and on my b-day celebration night she got me a window seat to boot. The dining room's maitre d' was also very nice. At the Purser's Desk the people were so very kind given all the stuff passengers throw at them! One lady from the Ukraine was so very nice and gave me a Princess Patter (second copy) each night when they were hot off the presses (at 8:30PM). She also helped to fix a problem on the folio that was minor and it was quick to fix. Some service issues were had at the shore excursion desk. This area seemed disorganized and we wouldn't have had to utilize their services had the Grand Turk tour we booked online not been cancelled or if we were given advanced warning of its cancellation so we could have rebooked something else online. The people there couldn't figure out how exactly to bill two folios in the same cabin as opposed to billing two tickets to one folio. This took more time than it really should have and I think the folks in this department could use a wee bit more training on the computer system. The only other gripe I had was with the International Cafe attendant. I had asked on Cruise Critic if it was possible to get a tea (chai) latte from this cafe. Several folks said it was possible. After trying several times the first two days I gave up because the server always had an excuse for standing there. First it was the machine caught fire from the previous cruise and it was out of order, then it was working but could only make regular caffeinated coffee lattes, then it was broken again and it wouldn't be fixed until after 3PM (at 11AM) and then he finally told me that they don't make chai lattes or any non-coffee beverages there unless I wanted to purchase small boxed teas for $1. This was very disappointing and he could have told me that at the start when I told him what I wanted the first time. He seemed very cocky and I wasn't impressed with his service at all. Dining: I left this for last because out of the entire cruise this was the most disappointing part of it all. The food was always good to order and cooked the way I liked when it came to steaks and various other meat dishes. The problem was in the selection. The food selection in the main dining room at dinner has been shuffled up something fierce with nothing exceptional standing out any more. Beef Wellington and lobster tails were served on the same night as they had been. The night of the Chef's dinner though none of the entrees were appealing and it was hard to find something to order. Some menu items to my astonishment were actually the SAME as what NCL serves! Escargot is long gone from the Princess menu and so isn't larger sections of meats such as the Filet Mignon. If you want any sizeable beef dish you have to go to the Crown Grill, their specialty restaurant. Before one night used to have Filet Mignon on it in the main dining room. Since Carnival took over several food changes have been made and while I could understand this being for cost cutting measures, why should I pay more to sail on Princess when they offer the SAME dishes (spring roll appetizers and strip steak are two immediately that come to mind) as NCL? The cold soups left something to be desired as well. NCL does a much better job. The buffet areas are typical for breakfast with the same selection you would find anywhere. The omelet station was never busy either which meant two minutes later you were on your way with the item you ordered. After the Norovirus outbreak spread more around the ship and sanitization stations were setup, the buffet moved a lot slower with the crew serving passengers. I didn't mind the wait but others were rudely impatient to the crew and it was completely unnecessary. Lunch time options in the buffet were ok. Nothing to scream at but poolside burgers and pizza seemed so much more popular. On days when the ship was at sea the line to get a burger or pizza was quite lengthy but it was well worth the wait for both. Princess has the best pizza at sea that I've tasted. Shore Excursions (Booked Through Princess): St. Maarten Ecoworld Tour. Who knew that St. Maarten had a zoo? I didn't and it was an ok visit to the zoo which allows you to get much closer to wildlife than you can in the United States. Our tour guide was informative and in-depth on her explanations of the origins of the animals (none are actually indigenous species to the island). The zoo gets its financial support largely from cruise ship tourists and I would recommend this tour as it also drives you all over the island with two scenic stops after going to the zoo. St. Thomas Walking Tour - OUTSTANDING - NOT TO BE MISSED! The owner of the company did a fantastic job giving us the legends and lore of St. Thomas and the surrounding islands. She's a history buff and she knew the islands in and out enough to give a great tour and she had a great personality even though she's been in the business for so long. She was so very enthused about her subject matter and it came out in her presentation. This tour was well worth the money! Grand Turk - The reason for why we booked this cruise with Princess was to experience this island. Unfortunately the only tour being offered on land at this time is the Hurricane Ike experience that doesn't require you to do swimming, snorkeling or diving. For $19 you get taken all over the island and shown what damage happened to the island, which was quite extensive. Some residents four months later don't have power and the island still needs construction done. Tarps are on roofs everywhere. The tour does stop at the Scenic Lighthouse for about 20 minutes. The tour is very cheap and it is worth it unless you like to just lay on the beach which this island is so small that there isn't much to see there anyway and it could really just be another private island beach day with more upscale shops available than on Princess Cays. Disembarkation: Again, another smooth flowing process from Princess. Since we booked a post-cruise excursion to Everglades National Park, we were the first ones off the ship after the people who walked-off with their luggage and thereby the warehouse was empty of people killing each other to get their luggage. It was very nice and by 9AM we were on our way to the National Park after arriving in the dining room for debarkation at 8AM. Very smoothly done again Princess! Overall: Did I think I got the value for my money - not really! I had spent about $300 more for this Princess cruise per person than I would have if I sailed with NCL. With the exception of daytime activities being more abundant on Princess than NCL, there really is no difference between the two brands with respect to food selection and service given. It's sad to see Princess go downhill so badly after the lecherous Carnival Corp sucked the good out of there. For a first time cruiser you'll have a blast on this ship as it does offer many options but you can find a similar product elsewhere for a cheaper price. Princess was the first cruise mom and I took and at the time both of us agreed it was the cruise line "where we belonged" and now it's become the cruise line we're going to "escape completely" from and go with Norwegian Cruise Line. As for the Noro-virus outbreak onboard from our sailing, this is the first time since I started cruising where it's been bad enough to have a nightly reminder about being sanitary. This particular sailing was full of people new to Princess. A stroll down the Caribe deck on the port side or starboard looking at the stateroom tags, you could tell just how many new people either to cruising or to Princess there were aboard. With this said, I think Princess could do a far better job preventing an outbreak onboard by practicing the same sanitization techniques that are implemented ALL the time on NCL. After the outbreak there were people stationed to force you to use sanitizer at the buffet. On NCL this is standard practice irregardless of an outbreak. When coming back from onshore, only after the outbreak did a hand sanitizer station get setup and were you made to use it before embarking the ship. This practice is standard procedure on NCL. I think Princess needs to re-evaluate its methods to contain an outbreak before it even begins but passengers could do more too such as washing their hands after the bathroom!! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
EMBARKATION: Embarkation was relatively smooth. A benefit to taking the shuttle is that they check your luggage onto the ship for you, which helps speed up the process. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin remarkably early, but I have no ... Read More
EMBARKATION: Embarkation was relatively smooth. A benefit to taking the shuttle is that they check your luggage onto the ship for you, which helps speed up the process. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin remarkably early, but I have no idea whether or not that was influenced by the bags being checked by the shuttle service. THE SHIP: Being fans of the Voyager Class, the Freedom was easy to maneuver. It is laid out nearly the same, so it quickly became familiar. TOWELS: I had read that Freedom placed no pool towels in the cabins, as on other ships. We had pool towels in our cabin upon arrival and our room steward exchanged them nightly for clean ones. FLOW RIDER: My BF tried it out on our last sea day and reported that it was a lot of fun. It is also a great spectator sport. CANTILEVERED HOT TUBS: Located in the adult pool/solarium area, these are a great feature. CROWDS: It's a big ship and there are plenty of places you can wander and find yourself completely alone - despite the huge number of passengers aboard. HOWEVER, the popular events were packed. I looked forward to the 70s party - even packing tacky 70s clothes for the event - and couldn't really enjoy it because people were literally shoulder to shoulder. Some folks were still trying to use the Promenade to walk from one end of the ship to the other, bumping and shoving their way through the tightly packed mass of party-goers. Richard Spacey (CD) and the entertainment staff did a great job, but the crowd just ruined it - at least for us. We'll return to the Voyager class next year. Bigger isn't always better. JOGGING PATH: We don't use it, but if you do, you'll need to get up awfully early. On Freedom, the jogging path is on deck 12, overlooking the main pool. It's packed with sun worshippers all day, so there is no possible way for anyone to run on the track once passengers begin to gather by the pool. GYM: It's great and well-equipped. No idea what's up with the boxing ring, however. Like other reviewers, I just didn't see the point. Never saw anyone use it. ROOM SERVICE: Was very reliable. We ordered coffee each morning, to drink before going up to breakfast. They called before delivering our order and were always on time. DINING: We used MyTime Dining on this ship and LOVED it! In the past, I've missed shows or activities because they conflicted with my assigned dinner time. (Yes, they offer two show times, but the early one is sometimes too early on port days.) On this cruise, we scheduled our dinner around our activities, rather than vice-versa. It eliminated a lot of stress not feeling like we had to race to eat on schedule. You do sacrifice the social aspects of meeting other passengers at dinner. The MyTime section includes more small tables and passengers are seated with the group they arrive with, rather than being seated with others. You also don't get to watch the performing wait staff, unless you walk to the railing and look down at the lower-level dining areas. With everyone eating at different times, the wait staff can't really stop everything to perform. We considered those sacrifices minor in exchange for the option of eating whenever it was convenient. The host seats participants in the same area each night, so you will still become familiar with your wait staff. I highly recommend this new dining option! Surprisingly, we were able to find a table by the window at the Windjammer every morning but one. Freedom opens up the specialty restaurants for additional seating at breakfast, so finding a table was never a problem. SHOWS: As always, the shows were great. To be honest, our least favorite was the "Once Upon a Time" show that came so highly recommended by our cruise director. The other shows we saw were all great. Don't miss the parades, the ice show and the Quest show. MEET & MINGLE: Ours was a bust. We met some nice folks, but only about 10 people showed up. The Freedom activities director was even a no-show. It was pretty lame. NEXTCRUISE: They didn't advertise this option on the ship, but it's a good deal if you know you intend to cruise again the following year. You don't have to decide which cruise to take while on board. You just promise to book one within the next 30 days and you get coupons good for up to $200 worth of on-board credits for you and also for friends who book to travel on the same cruise. We'll be trading in our NextCruise coupons toward a cruise in 2010!! PORTS: LABADEE: Better than I expected. Yes, it's a bit of a Disney-like, manufactured paradise. However, the natural beauty of the location still shines through. It's a relaxing first port with lovely beaches and nice places to walk. You don't need the shuttles, you can walk everywhere. Check out Dragon's Breath Point! JAMAICA: For seven previous cruises, I intentionally avoided Ocho Rios. I'd heard frightening things about the port. Like Labadee, I was pleasantly surprised. We opted for Royal Caribbean's "Cruise to Dunns River Falls" and I recommend it highly. LOTS of excursions take passengers to climb the falls. But few take you back by boat (thus avoiding the high-pressure sales pitches on the way to the parking lot) and even fewer provide the fun party atmosphere we experience on the Baby Reggae. Rum punch and dancing were the order of the day on the return trip and everyone had a fabulous time! Be sure to hit Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. It's a very short walk from the ship and hugely fun - even better than Carlos and Charlies! GRAND CAYMAN: We'd booked the Buccaneer Sting Ray and Snorkeling excursion on-line, having done it previously and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, weather conditions were awful the day we were in port and the excursion was canceled. Here's your second chance to hit Margaritaville if you missed it in Jamaica. It's right across the street from the tender port. COZUMEL: We considered the clear kayak excursion, offered both by ShoreTrips and Royal Caribbean. However, I discovered it was less expensive to book directly with the small resort, Playa Uvas. For only $45, we got beach chairs, an open bar, Mexican lunch, kayaking and use of the facility. We went snorkeling on our own, since we have our own gear. We had a staff member assigned to us who waited on us like royalty. (Thanks, Onassis!) It was a great day. OVERALL: We prefer the smaller Voyager class. We often found ourselves annoyed the crowds. It gets old having people bump into you or pile into the elevator before you can exit on your floor. If you are traveling with kids, they'll love Freedom. The H2O Zone is amazing and the FlowRider was a huge hit with the teens. We got GREAT service from Hanson (room steward), Adrian (pool bar) and Olena (dining room). To be honest, we got GREAT service from EVERYONE, the folks mentioned just stood out. It's difficult returning to reality after a week on a Royal Caribbean ship. After being treated like royalty all week, it's hard to return to being just average! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
This was my first ever cruise and I was actually talked into it by a sorority sister who had the idea to bring three of her closest sisters together for a reunion and being that it was close to spring, a mini Spring Break flashback for us ... Read More
This was my first ever cruise and I was actually talked into it by a sorority sister who had the idea to bring three of her closest sisters together for a reunion and being that it was close to spring, a mini Spring Break flashback for us all. So with a couple bags packed with summer clothing and a lot of sunscreen, I went down to Galveston and boarded the Carnival Ecstasy. Being my first cruise I though that it was all quick and easy, but one of my sisters did say that in the past the embarkation has been really slow, but this time we were on before noon and had time to grab lunch up in the Panorama Grill because our cabins were not open till 1:30pm. Once in our cabin on the Empress Deck we had a nice sized cabin for three girls, and enough closet space for us all to have room to hang things. The bathroom was small for even two people to be in, but we quickly worked out a solution and everyone was happy. The public rooms on the Ecstasy are all really nice and there are ample places for you to sit and read or look out on the ocean. The nice thing is the show lounges and many of the other rooms are smoke free so that makes it nice, but we saw so many people not following the rules and smoking in places they should not have. That makes me have to say one thing that made the cruise end on a weird note. The final morning of the cruise we all woke up at 2:30 to an alarm bell going off. I thought it was someone who had hit the alarm in the hall and ran off, because I had heard some kids giggling earlier. Turns out there really was a fire down on the Main deck and we started hearing more and more people out in the halls talking of fire. In a panic all three of us got dressed and grabbed our life jackets and went up to our assigned muster station in the Starlight Lounge. We didn't actually see any Carnival crew on the way to the lounge or even inside the lounge for quite a while. The only ones I did see were assisting some elderly people who were having some trouble up the stairs, and Steve Cassel, but he was only on the intercom after they had put the fire out. I will say this, he was as calm as he was doing the normal announcements, but still I would have thought that there would have been more communication involved, even if the fire was over fast. Steve and his crew were really great thru the whole voyage and my two sorority sisters had a great time. The shows are really good and I got a chance to talk to one of the dancer's after a line dancing class they were giving. She told me how challenging it was to dance on a moving ship and how the pitching of the floor means you have to really choreograph a routine with that in mind. The food was really good and I thought our waiter Carlos was awesome!! He was always so cheerful and entertaining. It ended up just being us at our table for late dining which surprised me because I was expecting at least some other person joining us. A quick look around the room showed me that we were not the only ones who were feeling the same way. There were many tables who had empty seats, but we saw it as a nice thing because it gave us a chance to all talk about the day's events and not totally bore the other person. The food was really good and you got a great variety of items and what I liked was you had some items that were on the Carnival Classic's and those never changed thru the trip. So if you didn't like what was offered in the specials, you could fall back on those dishes for your dinner. The cappuccino pie is not to be missed, as well as the chocolate melting cake. The sushi bar was a hit with me and having it at 5:30 each evening was great to have as a snack to get me to last till dinner time. In addition, the pizzeria onboard is really great and if you are hungry for a couple of slices of pizza, they can hook you up. Next to that is a sandwich place that can do wraps and deli sandwiches. Oh and the ice cream is really great for a cool down after being in the sun all afternoon. The only bad thing is they don't have toppings for you. The shows were all really good and Steve does a mean fiddle solo and he can even juggle!!!! I was always entertained by him and his announcements were always so fun to listen to on the ship. The show band(The Ecstasy Seven) was really great and for such a small band they really had a great sound!! When I was asked by my sisters if I wanted to do this again, all I could say was YES!!! I have really enjoyed my first cruise and I am sure it will be the first of many!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: February 2009
Embarkation was the smoothest of all my cruises. We arrived around noon and were on the boat 15 minuets later with our glass of welcome aboard drink. Once on the boat our cabins were ready by 2. The cabin itself was alright. The ... Read More
Embarkation was the smoothest of all my cruises. We arrived around noon and were on the boat 15 minuets later with our glass of welcome aboard drink. Once on the boat our cabins were ready by 2. The cabin itself was alright. The bathroom smelled or urine but appeared clean. The TV remote did not work. The pillows to the bed were of the regular rectangular shape, but there were also square pillows that were very uncomfortable. Before leaving port, a person was transported off the ship for a medical reason, (hope they are doing good). Once underway, the deck party began. like I said above, the weather was unfortunately cold and cloudy. The Bahamas was the first stop. This shop arrives very early and was the first at the port, many of the vendors were not even open upon our arrival, and once again in was cold, windy, and cloudy. We were able to get to Atlantis for a $4 cab ride each way. HERE IS A TIP, if you want to see the aquarium at atlantis and don't want to pay the $35.00 per person do this,: first thing, When you walk into the main building walk through the lobby and past the stairs, go to the outside area were there is a elevator to the right, take the elevator down to the 1st floor and walk to the right, your now in the "PaY" area. If you walk to the left, you will encounter security, if they catch you just play the stupid card and tell them someone in the lobby pointed you to the elevator because you could not walk down the stairs, it worked with us cause we had kids with strollers. Basically if you walk around like your a guest they don't bother you, and most cruise ships do not get in that early so they probably think you are staying at the hotel. We ate lunch at Senor Frogs which is always fun, (but cold). and the went to the straw market. The next day we were supposed to go to Great Stirrup Cay, the trip had to be cancelled due to high "winds and seas" although during the day the seas appeared to be minimal and the wind could barely be felt. The ship spent the day at sea. According to the Capt. during this time of the year, winds are heavy out of the north and conditions are commonly no conducive to tender. The debarkation process was a smooth as ever just like getting on. Early "express" checkout was at 730 and we were off the ship and through customs at the car by 745. I arrived at my car to fin a parking ticket because i parked in a 7ft height restricted area. Thought i would be ok since my Durango is 6'10' plus we put baby strollers and luggage on the racks, but of course to fight the 23.00 fine i would have to go back to miami. All in all it was a fun trip for the money. Carnival is still our line of choice, however we would consider this again. Demographic was fairly young. I would say average age was between 23-40. Some VERY rowdy and loud girls on board. and the kids pool at the front of the boat which is heated was commonly filled with loud, drunk adults who wanted to find warm water on a cold day. Security told us that this was "freestyle" cruising and they would not ask the adults to leave, however when we took the kids in the empty adult hot tub, while at port, and no one else was even around, we were asked to leave the area. The ship needs to be updated. The food was ok in dining. The buffet needs work as was a quality and organization. we did not try any specialty restaurants, however i hear the food was VERY good. Room service was as expected, however the person answering the phone was rude on all (3) occasions. I hope the weather is better on the next one. I think thats were the vacation started going south......haha Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
I left for Galveston on Thursday morning and stayed in Houston at the Embassy Suites on Sage Rd near the Galleria Mall. The hotel was very nice and the swans in the atrium lobby was a nice touch. I began my drive to Galveston on Friday ... Read More
I left for Galveston on Thursday morning and stayed in Houston at the Embassy Suites on Sage Rd near the Galleria Mall. The hotel was very nice and the swans in the atrium lobby was a nice touch. I began my drive to Galveston on Friday with little to no traffic. I got into Galveston pretty early but was able to check into my room at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Central City Blvd near the Sea Wall. My room over looked the ocean and everyone was very friendly and helpful. I was able to leave my car at the hotel free of charge during the cruise. I took a taxi which cost about $20 w/ tip and the driver was very informative and answered dozens of questions that I had about Galveston. Check in for the cruise was fast and efficient. My only complaint at this point was when I got up to the rep for check in, she asked for the card that I booked the cruise with. I told her that I did not want to use the card, she responded that it was for ID only, and would not be charged. So I gave her my card, which she proceeded to swipe. Again I commented that I did not want the card used, and she told me that it would not be. We were allowed to board around 12.30 or so. The cabins were not ready so I took my carry on bags and went to the Lido deck and ate lunch. There were very few other passengers at this point so the food was plentiful and pretty good. Just your basic burger and hotdogs. Finally at 1.30 my cabin was ready and I got to go see it for the first time. I had booked a 1A and had no idea of what it would be like. I have to say I really liked it. I was on the Empress Deck and aft. My bags came pretty quickly actually before we even left port. My cabin was quite warm and I was trying to adjust the A/C but was not able to get the dial to move. I tried finding my Cabin Steward but to no avail. I was able to get the man who delivered my bags to fix it for me. After that I pretty much just wondered the ship, camera in hand. I took several photos and videos of the ship and my cabin. As I was traveling by myself I was able to go and see what I wanted to with out hindering others. I went to the pursers desk and established a cash account and let them know again that I did not want my debit card used. At around 4 or 4.30 we were told to get ready for our muster drill. I went back to my cabin, got my life jacket, checked my muster station location, Star Light Lounge and headed there. While on the deck near the life boats I noticed that we had set sail. I was very excited at this point. Like a kid in a candy store. I had chosen the late seating, 8.15pm, Wind Song Dinning room. So after the drill, I just wondered the ship, getting to know my home away from home for the next few days. I got dressed for dinner and went to the dinning room to see who my table mates would be. I was the first one there, and felt a little out of place. Joseph , my waiter, greeted me by name and I was very surprised. Turns out that he had already been notified of my food allergy and wanted me to know that he would be talking care of me. Gradually others began to join me. Pat, from Texas who would turn out to be who I would hang out with for most of my cruise. Tad, Candy and Jerry also from Texas, Renee from Texas (did not meet until later), Gail from Kansas and Sandy from Oklahoma. We named ourselves the divorced Medical/Educational table. All of us except Pat and Sandy were recently divorced and we were all in the Medical or teaching field in some way. I work for a health insurance company, there were 2 nurses, one medical secretary, one payroll clerk in a hospital and ohh yea, 2 were teachers. We were all around the same age, mostly in our early - mid 40's to late 50's ( I was the youngest at 43). 3 or 4 of us had grandchildren and we all had kids. So the Matri D', Hatem, did a great job of seating us. I don't recall what I had for dinner each night but I want to say it was very good and very well presented. Aniko who is Hatem's assistant came each night to take my order for the next nights dinner, to make sure it was prepared without any Dairy. I tried to pick foods that would be easy to fix or foods that would not cause to much trouble. The chef made me as special dinner of Shrimp Vindaloo one night. I love North Indian food and he was nice enough to do that for me. Totally not on the menu! I ordered shrimp cocktail and salad for my appetizers every night. Our first sea day, I spent going to different activities. I was not bored one bit and had loads of fun taking photos of the ship and learning different stuff. I have meet so many different people! The ship hit pretty bad currents and it rocked and dipped. Lots of folks were sick. I thought it was fun! I was rocked to sleep every night in my bed! We were late getting into Cozumel by 2 hours but we made up the difference by leaving later. Steve Cassell, our cruise director was fabulous. He did such a great job along with the rest of the entertainers. I feel in love with one of the Ecstasy dancers. He was tall and from England. I kept trying to figure out a way to wrap him up and put him in my luggage. I loved the shows, they did a wonderful job even with the rocking of the ship as bad as it was. Tea Time. I had tea with a lot of nice ladies. I sat with a lady named Selma and she was very sweet and we had a grand time. Digital Scavenger Hunt. I participated in this and had a blast. I did not win but it was fun anyways. Art Auction. I will avoid this in the future. I will keep why private. Welcome back party. Very nice and I got my first pin and loved the free drinks. Captains Reception and Gala Dinner. Had a blast and dressed up in a black/white formal...no shoes. The ship was rocking to badly that night to wear shoes higher then a inch or two. I ended up in bare feet after trying to wear 6" spikes...hey I am a girl. Cozumel. Me and Pat agreed to go together and to share a cab, since the ship docks at the Porta Maya pier. It was a $7 cab ride there and $7 back and we split it. Our first stop was an internet cafe for me to call home and to check my mail. I looked at my banking and noticed that Carnival had held $50 from my account on the very card that I had told her not to use, so I knew that I had to fix that, when I returned to the ship. The call to the states cost me $1.00 and the internet about the same. Much cheaper then on board at .75 per minute. We went to Sr. Frogs and had a blast! I ordered the Tequila Shrimp and a bottle of water. Our table mates, Candy, Tad and Jerry showed up and they seemed to be having a great time as we were leaving. After Sr. Frogs, we just walked around and shopped. I bought my granddaughter a pretty blue Mexican style dress and paid $20 for 4 t - shirts. I also went to the Hard Rock Cafe to get a souvenir glass, since I have collected them from all over the US and the world. The small shot glass was $13, more then what it would be in the states. I really did not care that much for Cozumel. We ended up going back to the ship only after about 3 hours. I went to the pursers desk to talk to them about my accounts and to why they had charged the card when I asked them not to. It did take talking to 3 or 4 different people at different times to make them understand what I was talking about. They were holding $50 on my debit plus $50 from my cash for my gratuities. I was fine with the cash being held that was why I had it in the first place, but the fact that they charged the debit was what I wanted fixed. They finally understood and agreed to release the debit, but was not done until we docked on Thursday the 12th. Progresso. I loved Progresso. I did this by myself. My first thing was again to find a phone or internet and call home. Again it was very cheap. I would go back to Progresso in a heart beat. I loved everything about it. I got a 45 minute massage on the beach for $10. I feel asleep laying there listening to the sound of the waves and the wind. I took the Progresso tour for $3 and it was very nice. I ended up going back to one of the restaurants that we passed on the tour and having 2 Pina Caladas's for $4 plus they brought me chips, fresh salsa, black beans and some sort of potato. All this for $4, I made it my lunch. I got back to the ship about an hour or 2 before it sailed. The one thing that I will say is that I never saw my cabin steward. My cabin was cleaned and I did get the turn down service but I had tried paging him 3 times and tried to find him a few times but never was able to. I did tell the pursers desk but they said that perhaps he just was not working on those times I had tried to find him. I kept bumping my head on the bed above me. I did not know until another passenger told me that I could move the bed away from the wall. I would have liked the CS to have shown that to me on the first night. All in all it was a great trip. I would do it again in a heart beat. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Emerald Princess that sailed on 2-8-2009. I was very disappointed with this ship compared to the other Princess ships I have sailed on. To start with it took almost an hour and fifty minutes to ... Read More
I just returned from a 10 day cruise on the Emerald Princess that sailed on 2-8-2009. I was very disappointed with this ship compared to the other Princess ships I have sailed on. To start with it took almost an hour and fifty minutes to get onto the ship. The said it was because it was an older terminal and had only one gangway to the ship. My room was an inside cabin on the Caribe deck and it was very nice. The stateroom attendant was excellent and did a great job. We left Ft Lauderdale and encountered some rough seas for the next 2 days. Gale force 9 winds and 10 ft seas. We arrived at Antigua and could not get into the port due to the high winds and seas. We spent day 3 sailing around a group of islands to avoid the weather. We were able to get into all of the other ports and they were all very nice. The front desk staff was less than helpful when I needed to contact them and one staff member was just rude. The choices in the dining rooms for the first three days was very bad and I ate in the Caribe Cafe for dinner and that was good. The food in the dining rooms and buffet was just OK not what I expected from Princess. It did improve after day 3. I had dinner at the steak house one night and it was outstanding. The entertainment was good and Fernandez a hypnotist was the highlight of the trip. The on board shopping was disappointing. There was not a great selection of watches and the ones they did have were priced on the high side for duty free shopping. One evening during dinner the Captain made an announcement that there had been an outbreak of the Norwalk virus on the ship and they were putting strict rules in place to slow the spread of the virus. All things considered I will have to think twice before booking another Princess cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
One person was from New Orleans, so we drove in 2 days early and enjoyed some of the Mardi Gras parades, favorite restaurants and meeting his family etc. We loved New Orleans! We boarded the ship on Sunday, Feb 15th. The embarkation was ... Read More
One person was from New Orleans, so we drove in 2 days early and enjoyed some of the Mardi Gras parades, favorite restaurants and meeting his family etc. We loved New Orleans! We boarded the ship on Sunday, Feb 15th. The embarkation was smooth and easy. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Windows dining room which was filled with lots of laughs, mostly initiated by our silly, fun waiter from the Philippines, Eduardo. Soon after, we settled into our staterooms. One was a balcony, but I must admit it was the smallest balcony I have ever had. I had looked forward to our other 2 friends joining us for drinks on our balcony, but there was no way! There was only room for 2 chairs on the balcony, facing each other. I must admit by about the third day, I didn't mind the size as I read on the balcony, watched for dolphins, watched other ships at night or eagerly looked ahead at out arrival ports. The bathrooms were the nicest of any ship I have been on. There were 3 sections: toilet/ sink area/ shower with a sliding glass door. No molesting curtains on this ship! The room was large enough. I never felt crowded. There was adequate closet space with shelves, though drawer space was small and limited. Our beds were extremely hard and uncomfortable. Foam was added by our room steward after I commented that I wasn't sleeping well. We never really knew who our room steward was. No one introduced themselves early in the cruise and it seemed different faces showed up at our door for various requests. It seemed we never had enough towels or ice. There was no laundry area to iron, and obtaining an iron or ironing board was a constant challenge for my roommate. The other room my friends were in was down on 4th floor with a porthole. It was what I would consider an average room with one bed on each side by the wall and the porthole in the middle. They had absolutely no complaints about their room or service except that our bathroom had tiled fish and theirs didn't- a minor detail. Dining: Food is always a subjective thing. I found the food to be better on this cruise than one year ago on another NCL cruise. We enjoyed the food, service and ambiance of La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant with a $10 surcharge. They made my birthday very special! Room service was good and came in a timely manner, though the menu is somewhat limited. I did enjoy that we could get omelets through room service, unlike other cruise lines. We ate in both Windows and Garden dining rooms. Menus were the same and no cover charge. Service in the dining rooms were good. There was a $15 jazz brunch on our last day at sea. It was very lovely and relaxing. We participated in the Murder Mystery Dinner- it was very disorganized with little staff guidance. It took place in Windows where everyone else was eating, so it was rather noisy and poorly lit to read our roles. With all I heard about Blue Lagoon- the snack place, I thought I would visit a lot. I stopped in once early in the cruise and never made it back. The pizza was good and I liked that it could be ordered in the room through room service. Having a coffee pot in the room was a really nice touch. There was no refrigerator, which would have been very nice to have. At some point we ate a breakfast, lunch or dinner in Raffles, the buffet. The food is really hit or miss. Some foods were really good, some were not. I liked that there were crepes "your way" available. The buffet also allowed for my time table if I wanted to catch a show or an activity. I really enjoyed breakfast in the dining room. Again, the service was good. We didn't eat in any other surcharge restaurants. Our options were always enough and allowed a little more "Freestyle" than last cruise when we had reservation somewhere almost every night. Also, there is no Tapas Bar on this ship. I must say that was one of our highlights last year on the Sun. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2009
PRE-CRUISE: I elected to stay in Santiago for 3 days prior to the cruise. I chose a 4 star hotel that gave me a very reasonable rate and a large room. On the down side it was not too close to restaurants. I found the people of Chile ... Read More
PRE-CRUISE: I elected to stay in Santiago for 3 days prior to the cruise. I chose a 4 star hotel that gave me a very reasonable rate and a large room. On the down side it was not too close to restaurants. I found the people of Chile very accommodating, although it would have been easier for me if I spoke a little Spanish. Most places I went shopping accepted USD or credit cards. Before I left I printed out the most current exchange rates from OANDA.COM. The little cheat sheets came in very handy. On the last day we did a tour that transferred us to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. After touring those towns we went to the pier for checkin. CHECKIN: Arriving in a small group at the passenger ship terminal had its advantages. While the large buses were trying to get organized, we gathered our bags, tipped our driver and headed inside. First thing we found out was some additional forms that we had to fill out before we could check in. They did have priority checkin for D/D+ members, so I had virtually no wait. They did take my passport upon boarding and gave me a receipt and advised me that I should have some photo ID to replace it when I get off the ship. THE SHIP: I have said many times that the Radiance class ships are the best class ships in the fleet. The Colony Club is absolutely beautiful and a great place to relax on sea days. Unfortunately on a cold weather cruise, the Solarium, as big as it is, is just not big enough. On the warm weather days of our cruise, there was plenty of room because everyone was around the outside pool and hot tubs. Some may not consider this a complaint, but I enjoy being rocked to sleep at night and did not feel any movement even when we rounded the Horn. THE FOOD: Generally I only ate a late breakfast and Main Seating dinner. I had my breakfast in the Windjammer. I found out the when you are traveling with people from South America, they also like to eat late in the morning, so the buffet was packed at 10:30. The food was varied and good, although it is hard for me to pass up the oatmeal. Almost every night I had dinner in the dining room with a group of people who were on our thread from Cruise Critic (quire bt chance). One night a couple of decided to do the Mystery Dinner Theatre which is served in Portofino's; really enjoyed the story and had a great time. Another night the whole table went to Chops Grille. All in all the food in the dining room was pretty good and if we asked for anything they would get it for us. Head Waiter was excellent and waiter and asst waiter were even better. Don't know if got treated the way we got treated because we were all D or D+ members at the table. ENTERTAINMENT: To be honest I can't remember the names of all the performers during the cruise, and I was not about to take notes. First of all the production numbers by the cruise staff were their usual excellent selves. We had a couple who did the Tango we were amazing to watch and another gentleman who sang tango music. There was a pair of aerobic performers who work with those curtains, they were very impressive and performed a second time because they went over so well. We had a Beatles cover group. A comedian who played the piano; was actually very good at it, but made you laugh. There was a Motown group that sang songs of many of the groups of Motown. A violinist and like I said and can't remember everything, but I was entertained every night. PORTS: I am going to be the person who says nothing about ports. I cruise to cruise. I did get off in all ports and did take some tours. I saw the penguins in Porto Tombo, I woke up at 5:30 AM to make sure I saw Cape Horn when we rounded the Cape, Punta de Este was probably the prettiest, I got one of my biggest thrills in Ushuaia when I was able to take a ski lift to the base of a glacier Read Less

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