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Sail Date: January 2013
We originally booked to go to Buenos Aires on Adonia but felt that the ship had limited facilities/entertainment so we transferred our booking to Arcadia but now including Chile & the Pacific Islands to Australia. We are first time ... Read More
We originally booked to go to Buenos Aires on Adonia but felt that the ship had limited facilities/entertainment so we transferred our booking to Arcadia but now including Chile & the Pacific Islands to Australia. We are first time cruisers & knew that we were taking a risk but we saw it as a romantic adventure travelling with a well established company, P & O Cruises. Our first disappointment was the cancellation of the visits to all the Argentine ports. We were not able to pull out without losing our deposit but our primary reason for going had been removed from the schedule. The 4 days missed were replaced with one day in Salvadore & an extra day in Montevideo - hardly a generous substitution. When we embarked at Southampton there were long delays in the process and we took 2 hours to get on board. Our cabin was quite adequate, but what a tiny TV screen and the bedside lights were archaic, placed behind the head. Lets hope that the planned refit sees to some upgrading of the cabin fittings. Our first days were an eye opener. Everyone seemed to have cruised extensively and many had done world cruises several times. They were only too pleased to relay their experiences, but most ended up with a litany of complaints, especially against P & O, which seemed odd as they were returning cruisers. We determined not to moan but to enjoy the good parts. But the cruise turned into a curate's egg - good in some parts but poor in others. The good parts were that the ship was very stable and although we rocked & rolled a bit she comfortable to travel on. The whole vessel was very well maintained and the cabins and public rooms were very clean & cared for. Our cabin girl, Jocelyn was first class. Likewise all the staff were approachable and cheerful - none more so than our waiters in the Meridian who were quick and efficient, cheerful and nothing too much trouble. We found that this extended to all the other service areas. First class gym and amazing Palladium theatre. Very good shows at night and plenty of activities to choose from during the sea days. Good sail away parties and pool events like the crossing of the equator. We felt that the Entertainments Team worked very hard and maintained an incredible cheerfulness in all circumstances! Also some of the more ad hoc shows such as the Arcadia Pantomime and talent show were well recieved. The food was good in the Meridian - not over-facing and the Belvedere self service offered a good choice. The daily Horizon was well produced, informative and always on time. But the down-side starts with the Arcadia cough - well catalogued from previous cruises. In the Palladium theatre the coughing & wheezing had to be heard to be believed. Whilst most of the germs were probably transmitted person to person there has to be a question about the air conditioning. How often are the ducts & filters cleaned? Is this an item that will be followed up on the refit? One boards the ship in good health and disembarks with a barking cough which some 3 weeks later still persists. Someone at a senior level should take responsibility for sorting this out. Perhaps the ship should have a red cross painted on her to designate a hospital ship until the cause is found & rectified! The ports that were missed have already been mentioned, but the turn round & flight from the Falklands was another disappointment. Easter Island was a slow cruise by, too far out to see much. The excursions were well planned and executed, but there was always the time pressure to get back before the ship was due to sail. The internet facilities and cost were not appreciated. Often very poor connections (we were advised to use our Notebook in our cabin with the door open to get better reception), and from time to time the ship left the cover of one satellite before coming to another. We needed to stay in touch with family & business in the UK throughout the cruise but were often frustrated. The exodus of passengers and staff to use the WiFi facilities at the ports was noticeable and this was sometimes free or charged at modest rates. As the majority of passengers nowadays have laptops, notebooks, Ipads etc could not the internet facilities be charged in the ticket price? Most good hotels provide WiFi foc nowadays. And will a better internet facility be installed at the refit? Overall we enjoyed the cruise but there are so many frustrations not least all the queuing and short tempers that then ensued. For a first timer it was an experience. We are glad that we did it and we saw the periphery of South America & some South Pacific Islands that we would never have seen otherwise. Would we do it again? I am afraid not because we found that we lost our independence. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, ... Read More
There is so much to say about a cruise of this length, being on the same ship, the positives like the itinerary, the food, the entertainment or the negatives - the wait in line at the embarkation process, missing some ports, excursions, many delays and the integrity of some parts of the ship -- so a rather long review! My Grand Adventure begins: Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale embarkation was a mess, unlike any other we have experienced. The Captain was apologetic and tended to blame everyone but the ship. The port authorities relegated this ship to one of the least desirable piers and the delay was so bad, everybody was complaining for days after sailing. No shade, no creature comforts like water or towels until guests had been standing for 2 hours in the sun. Cabin: C103 forward, Starboard side one from the bow: This cruise was booked out some 2 years before sailing and this cabin was one of the last choices at the time for all three sectors. I couldn't find too much information about this cabin anywhere even on Cruise Critic. So I will give a thorough description for future reference. Size: Normal interior size no bonus space. Layout: Same as all other balcony cabins, lacks decent wardrobe space for extended cruising, cupboard space half that of other ships we have been on. Brought my own plastic hangers to double up. Good sized mini fridge with soda and water to buy. Cramped writing desk, as both chairs were located in that area. Balcony: Larger than Baja or Aloha, room to move around with footrests, reclining seats and one of the best features on this deck. Overlooks the mini suites below but C103 had no neighbours above only crew quarters - more on that later. The usual rubber matting has been removed on all balconies leaving the water to slosh around when wet. The bridge is above, indirectly adjacent cutting out some sunlight and direct forward views but otherwise OK. The wind whistled and blew more this far forward on some days. Bathroom: A bit more space in the shower than other ships to alleviate the risk of falling out through the shower curtain to pick something up! Bought my own cheap plastic baskets to use underneath the vanity. This space is difficult to use, as the bottom shelf is too far back to reach down in comfort - a bad design fault. Had a few loud gurgling noises in the shower drain but it wasn't everyday. LCD TV: this is much better viewing than the old box type. It took quite a few days to get Scan on the screen to see where we were etc. A few random days of dodgy satellite reception both in calm or rough conditions which also affected BBC, FOX etc Internet: Depending on your onboard status and if you can afford it, there is useable Internet in the cabin with your own device. Routers are along the corridor but even that was useless and appalling on some days throughout the 49 days. People were sitting in the corridor just to see if logging on was better. There were lots of Elite and Platinum passengers and with each having a truck load of free time, some days were congested for Satellite use. Too bad if you had value added or had a prepaid plan -- very agonising! Noise: Gripe one - Most annoying neighbours ever-on one side -- thumping around, slamming drawers all throughout the voyage. Should have politely asked them to be more considerate but didn't have the courage! Gripe two -- Didn't find out until three quarters through the voyage that even though no passengers above, there are crew quarters. Spoke to Pursers desk, they couldn't find the solution. Went up one deck to see for ourselves and yes, two crew cabins, and one directly over us. Early morning, midnight thumping and dropping things suddenly got a lot better once we told the Purser's Desk about our sleuthing work. Gripe three: C103 is one cabin from the bow and we knew that we would get some noise or rolling motion in swells. What we hadn't expected was the shudders heard and felt starting at the feet up through the legs during a cross swell - a huge bang each time. Positives: quiet corridor area except for the whistling noise from the adjacent crew door (plus some paint smells). In the fire drill we were sent down that way to the Theatre. The laundry is about 12 cabins away, stairs half dozen or so and easier then making the long trek from the middle of the ship. The Grand only has stairs at either end of the ship -- no middle stairs only elevators. Loved the extra space on the balcony. Conclusion: If you are desperate for an Itinerary and this cabin is the only one left -- go for it. If you have a choice and want a bit of levity, more stability or a quieter cabin -- pick something else. True, you can't choose your neighbours but a cabin you can -- for us, never again on this ship. Shows, Entertainment, Food: Food: Apart from one meal in Da Vinci (nothing special) we dined entirely at Horizon Court and the incredible International Cafe. We did not tire of the self-serve effort and to be honest; the food was the best quality with so many choices of hot and cold items. One of the good features of this ship is the ability to have a Panini, soup, sweet dessert or decent espresso 24/7 or a good little continental breakfast in the morning at the Cafe! The only problem was, it's so popular there is not enough table and chairs! Entertainment/Shows: Did not go to one show with the Showtime dancers etc. Saw a violinist, and a Brazilian troupe in the theatre and the rest we watched in the Atrium and the bars. Thought the Tango duo were great (on the ship until last) and a Tango Quartet (best entertainment for us) and one or two excellent piano players. Bingo was run well, the Casino should have more non- smoking days (seemed to have them on Formal nights only. Topside deck parties seemed to be about the crew dancing all over the pool area rather than getting the passengers involved. Nearing the colder areas, it was not possible to have many open deck activities anyway. Itinerary, Ports, Tours, Ship, Crew, Delays: Itinerary: One word -- fabulous - except for the last leg in the final week of the cruise. Not enough ports, too many sea days. Tours: With the exception of one tour being below standard due to a late arrival in Port (reimbursed - small percentage) and another major tour dropped because of possible airport delays, we found the tours to be of a high standard - Coquimbo and Lima stood out the most for us. Be sure to book early online once available, you can cancel most with no charge and you can save some angst and wait time at the tour desk. There was a never-ending line and waitlist for 99% of tours on offer. Ports: Two huge disappointments - not unusual - missed the Falklands (Malvinas) due to tender conditions as well as Nicaragua. Otherwise the selected ports were great. Even got into Buenos Aires and Ushuaia without too many hassles due politics (that we heard about). Exception - once our tour to Quito was cancelled for airport reasons, Manta was a 14 hr wasted day with little to do. We were there to wait for passengers on tours to Machu Picchu or the Galapagos. Ship: It's an older ship, refurbished in the Atrium area, not in the cabins except LCD TV, the ship design is for some, a bit of pain with no stairs in the middle, the integrity of the pool area was awful at times. Many leaks from somewhere meant sloshing through soaked carpets inside Aloha deck on Starboard and many other leaks around the interior corridors. The smell was what you would expect wet carpet to be even though there were fans blowing it dry. Many times we had to walk gingerly across the pool deck to get to Horizon Court. No wonder the Grand was used for a cruise of this length! Crew: For the most part all crew were polite, courteous and helpful in some tougher situations. Had a change of cabin steward during the cruise and the difference was significant. Purser's desk exceptional but it's the Showtime dancers & singers, casino and some concession staff that were the most inconsiderate. On trips ashore that needed a shuttle off the pier, these folk ignored some passengers with infirmities and did not give up their seat. They were also first off the shuttle with little regard and treated their employment as their own personal vacation. Call me old fashioned but courtesy and kindness is valid anywhere. The most well mannered staff along with the hospitality guys were the 'below decks crew' that are never seen from day to day. Delays: Late out of many ports for one reason or another with some like Fort Lauderdale and Buenos Aires quite significantly delayed. All care, no responsibility by the Bridge but some did affect the quality time in the next port. Finally: Thanks for staying the course with this review. It was a long cruise with a lot to comment on. Hope it helps in some way next time you cruise the Grand. There are some negatives but overall this was an exceptional cruise both in length and itinerary. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2013
We've just returned from a really wonderful cruise on Arcadia. Yes it was very disappointing that we could not Tender off the Falklands, but the sea was far to rough to attempt a safe transfer and I for one woudn't have trusted ... Read More
We've just returned from a really wonderful cruise on Arcadia. Yes it was very disappointing that we could not Tender off the Falklands, but the sea was far to rough to attempt a safe transfer and I for one woudn't have trusted the sea not to have got worse and those who thought otherwise, must have been crazy. I do think as others have said that P&O are losing sight of the people that keep them in business ie The Passengers!! they should have had time to at least put another Port of call on the Itinerary when Acapulco was withdrawn, as they new well before departure about the trouble. Adonia never went into Argentina either in 2012 and the trouble between UK and Argentina has escalated since, so there was no chance we were going there, so this was purely a Marketing ploy, as clearly many people would have cancelled. The other point the maintenance on the ship, although I know is an ongoing necessity, this time it was like living in a steel works, with constant chipping away at the metal work ( that was very annoying) especially on the promenade deck. The nasty stuff done with, we thought the rest was brilliant Food Entertainment especially the staff were great. I think people expect 5 star but only want to pay 4 star prices, perhaps they should sail with another cruise line, instead of making satisfied customers miserable, with their constant moaning. Neil Oliver Cruise Director who only joined in Sydney was amazing and so much energy, he made the sailaways really special and unmissable. The people on our table were so lovely, as we opted to have a singles table, we weren't sure what to expect. On the whole everyone was extremely pleasant, except for the few. This is the 3rd World cruise I have done with P&O and yes I would do another Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
We sailed from Southampton in early January and headed South. This ship is the oldest in the Fred. Olsen cruise fleet but, despite this, is well maintained, comfortable and stable in rough seas. I had an outside double cabin on a single ... Read More
We sailed from Southampton in early January and headed South. This ship is the oldest in the Fred. Olsen cruise fleet but, despite this, is well maintained, comfortable and stable in rough seas. I had an outside double cabin on a single occupancy basis. It was clean, comfortable and had plenty of storage space. The air conditioning was flexible and effective. It had the additional bonus of a bath tub. The cabin stewardess kept the cabin spotlessly clean by servicing it twice daily. I found the food excellent throughout this long cruise. Normally I ate in the main restaurant but I had the occasional early breakfast in the Garden Cafe and the odd lunch at the Marquee Grill. The speciality evenings (Indian, Thai etc) in the Garden Cafe were most enjoyable. Wine prices remain very competitive. The daytime entertainment followed the normal cruise pattern. There were some very interesting talks by guest lecturers.The classical concerts were of a high standard. Evening cabarets were mixed, some good and some pretty poor but it is very much a personal taste. The occasional local shows brought on board at ports of call were most entertaining.Who could forget the belly dancer in Egypt? The ship's group of singers and dancers put on some lively and enjoyable performances. I booked several shore excursions prior to leaving home. Most of these proved very interesting, some were memorable. I have particularly fond memories of a day trip sailing on the Gambia River, the deserts of Namibia, Robben Island and the parks in RSA, the backwaters in Cochin India, Al Ain and the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi, Oman, the gorgeous beach in Aqaba Jordan, the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and the visits to Ephesus in Turkey and Seville in Spain. The security arrangements on board to protect it when sailing through the dangerous waters close to Somalia were most impressive. Happily, there were no attacks by pirates. As usual the staff on board made the cruise as far as I was concerned. They are friendly, efficient and always cheerful. Whether it was in the restaurants, bars or or in the cabins the service was first class. I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have ... Read More
We greatly enjoyed the 2013 HAL Grand World Voyage (115 days) on the ms Amsterdam. It's a little sad getting back to the real world after the adventure, the glamour, and the pampering over the past four months. However, we do have some fabulous memories. In case it might be useful for anyone else, the following is a wrap-up of what this incredible journey was like for us. When we started the World Voyage, our hunch was that 115 days might drag on forever, but it didn't -- the time actually flew by. We felt very comfortable with the daily schedule and began to think of the ship as our home that was being magically transported to places around the world about which we had always dreamed. Many other destinations that we thought we would never visit in our lifetimes turned out to be equally intriguing and exciting as well. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. General Impressions The ms Amsterdam is an excellent sized ship for a world cruise. It's big enough to contain everything a person could possibly need in a home-away-from-home: several excellent dining venues, lounges, theatres, classes, deck chairs, etc. Although it's classed as a medium-sized ship, the Amsterdam had many of the advantages of a small ship: we recognized most of the passengers and staff (and knew many of them by name), and it wasn't a long walk from one end of the ship to the other. Our stateroom (Verandah Suite) never felt confining; there was enough room for everything we brought with us. The ship's staff and crew always reacted positively to passengers' comments or requests. We frequently observed them going out-of-their way to ask if guests needed assistance. Especially striking was the positive, helpful attitude of the "Front Desk" (Guest Relations) staff on this Grand World Voyage. Without exception, they were always friendly, always cheerful, and always willing to help. We have never encountered anything like this on other cruises. Bravo! The Cruise Director, Bruce, seemed to be especially attuned to the special needs of guests on a long journey such as this one. We understand that Bruce has been with Holland America since 1992 and has served on 18 Grand World Voyages -- nine of them as Cruise Director. We can't say enough about Bruce; he is undoubtedly one of a kind and a real asset to Holland America Line. We packed almost exactly the right things to bring on the cruise, due to our reading of numerous message boards on the Internet, including CruiseCritic.com. Pre-cruise assistance from Holland America was almost non-existent. Perhaps they believe that pre-planning should be simply personal preference, even for people who do not cruise often. For this itinerary, both us brought too many cold-weather clothes (e.g., sweaters and jackets were not needed). The weather was beautiful almost the entire four months -- remarkably good luck! - We never had seriously rough seas -- a few days of gale force winds, but nothing serious. That's really amazing for spending this much time on the open ocean. - Temperatures were moderate to warm the entire time, with the exception of early in the cruise along the west coast of Peru until we left the cold Humboldt Current. There were also cool rainy days in Cape Town and Richards Bay, South Africa. However, it needs to be said that these "cool" periods meant temperatures were in the low 60s. - During the early part of the cruise we missed two tender ports -- Easter Island and Rarotonga -- due to windy conditions and moderate swells. However, as we went along, local people in many ports told us that we must have brought good weather with us, because "the day before you arrived it was terrible weather." - In Asia and Africa, we had a few days with brief rain spells that didn't spoil our enjoyment in visiting these locales, including Nha Trang, Sydney (Day 2), Albany, and Cape Town (Day 2). The rain for our mini-safari from Richards Bay was uncomfortable and limited wild-animal viewing, but we liked the experience nonetheless. - Captain Mercer always kept us updated on meteorological conditions and any future weather or sea problems that we should anticipate. Things We Liked No decisions, no work, no worries for four solid months Free time for us to do as little or as much as we wanted to do We went places we never thought we would ever see (e.g., Tasmania, Sri Lanka, Namibia, Devil's Island) The two weeks we spent visiting New Zealand & Australia (actually 3 weeks, if sea days are included) were absolutely great. These two countries made a very favorable impression on us -- wonderful ports and wonderful people; we left reluctantly, wishing we could stay longer. Touring some of the most renowned cities of the world (e.g., Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Cape Town) with free time built into the schedule was exciting and enjoyable. The desert experience in Namibia of riding in 4x4 vehicles on the very tall sand dunes was a thrilling adventure beyond our expectations. Professional entertainment in the Queen's Lounge almost every night aboard ship for four solid months was enjoyable. There were at least 60 different acts; some were hits and some were misses -- that's understandable. We did hear complaints from veteran world-cruise travelers that there were no "big-name" entertainers this year as they had seen in the past. Nonetheless, we went to the shows almost every night. That's something most people can't do at home. The 6-person Amsterdam Orchestra was superb. The orchestra remained intact (no changes in membership) for the entire four-month journey. Their challenge was to accompany each of the visiting professional singers and solo artists nearly every night, with a different style and tempo. They were always the perfect complement to the guest performers. As we understand it, the orchestra members receive their music the day of the performance and then do one rehearsal. We don't know how they managed this so well. Outstanding meal programs -- a wide variety of selections, superb preparation, wonderfully presented and served. Preparing 5,000 excellent meals per day for passengers, crew members and officers for four solid months in locations all over the world must be a huge challenge. Holland America delivered supremely well. The main dining room and Lido buffet offered consistently excellent food served by correspondingly excellent staff. We were very lucky to be assigned to a table at dinner in the main dining room with two other couples with whom we were compatible and whose company we enjoyed for the entire voyage. Other passengers were not so lucky. Pinnacle Grill is an excellent specialty restaurant on the Amsterdam. The atmosphere, staff, and food quality were always superb. Much of this can be attributed to the managers -- Kim & Tina -- who are first-class professionals. The ship has a particularly good library, including two librarians on-duty for the full cruise, as well as a book club, and a book exchange. There were many special benefits (perks) for cruising on a Holland America Line Grand World Voyage that we greatly appreciated. These included the following: - Pickup and delivery of luggage from our homes by FedEx one week before departure was a brilliant and prized benefit for Grand World Voyage guests. At the end of the voyage, our luggage arrived at our home by FedEx one day after cruise disembarkation. - Complimentary shuttle busses available at every port where it was needed - "Good Morning Amsterdam" TV show taped before a live audience every sea day - Special gifts for all World Voyage passengers on many formal nights - Ship-board activities, including photo contests, HAL Chorale, book discussion groups, exploration speakers, sit & knit group, and many qualified instructors on varied topics such as dancing, tai chi, watercolor, arts & crafts, bridge, etc. We heard someone say, "If you're bored on a HAL world cruise, then you're a boring person." - Special events in the Pinnacle Grill -- Captain's Dinner, Murder Mystery Shows, Le Cirque - Special educational emphasis on regions where we were traveling was especially well done. We clearly felt a cultural immersion at many ports, and we thought it greatly enhanced our experiences. These included Travel Guide Barbara's presentations, selected local menus in the dining rooms, country-oriented pool deck parties, as well as folkloric shows or local performing groups brought onboard the ship for entertainment. - Several-day visit by Holland America's CEO indicated to us the importance the cruise line places on the Grand World Voyage and on its guests. - Very big, labor-intensive (for the crew) special party in Bali, arranged to coincide with the HAL CEO's visit, was just amazing. - Two highly talented dedicated florists were onboard for the entire cruise, and they created beautiful, artistic fresh flower arrangements all over the ship which were refreshed frequently -- wow, they were great! - On this long voyage, crew members seemed to enjoy getting to know the passengers, including their drink and food preferences. - Medical and dental department on board for the entire cruise. One of us had an abscessed tooth and might have had to leave the ship if the dentist and his equipment had not been available. We were aware of other passengers that were treated by the medical staff for broken limbs and other ailments. Travel Guide Barbara has been a staff member on 15 world cruises and has worked for Holland America for more than 20 years. She presented a 45-minute lecture in the Queen's Lounge several days before every one of the port calls on this cruise. The insights she passed along were always pertinent, useful, and based on her experience. She never pushed shopping at particular stores, rental car companies, etc. The Digital Workshop (sponsored by Microsoft) was very well done. "Techspert Tom" was an unusually good asset for the cruise. He is one of the best personal computer teachers we have ever encountered -- relaxed, patient, knowledgeable, and always current on new technology. His classes were informative, and he even tailored some of the material for the world-cruise experience. We congratulate Holland America and Microsoft for developing this relationship. Areas for Improvement For passengers, use of the Internet was expensive, and reliability was spotty during long stretches. We were very happy that some access was provided, especially for this lengthy cruise when it was essential for many of us to stay in touch with family or to communicate in the event of an emergency. We were frustrated with the limited bandwidth onboard ship. We understand why reliability is so bad when we are in the middle of the ocean or in less-developed parts of the world. However, that doesn't mean that we were happy with the situation. Holland America was very late in sending detailed information to passengers in sufficient time before the cruise. Even though most of us made reservations more than a year in advance, they waited until the last minute to give us the details we needed for advance planning. As an example, we would have preferred knowing the themes for the 19 formal nights at least 3-4 months in advance, for shopping purposes, but that didn't happen. We talked to passengers who never received advance information, and many others who received theirs only days before their departure from home. We didn't understand the need for 19 formal nights on this voyage. That's too many, for myriad reasons. Perhaps we could understand having one formal event per week. The Grand World Voyage was 16 weeks long, so 16 formal nights should have been the absolute maximum number. We paid a lot of extra money for a stateroom with a verandah we couldn't use, because guests in the adjoining stateroom used their verandah for cigarette and cigar smoking many times during each day. Spending a day on Easter Island was one of our reasons for booking this particular Grand World Voyage. Getting so close, but not being able to go ashore due to choppy seas, was a big disappointment. That much being said, we believe Captain Mercer made the right decision to curtail tendering passengers to the island; we don't fault him in any way. We were just frustrated that the opportunity eluded us. We found this hard to believe, but apparently fellow passengers could not be trusted. Early in the voyage we put refrigerator magnets, from the ports we visited, on the outside door frame of our stateroom. Our Bora Bora magnet disappeared after a few days (obviously stolen), so we removed the magnets off our door. Down the hall, another room was doing the same thing, and despite their magnets also being stolen, they continued displaying them. After about 2½ months, five of their magnets had been stolen. They put a sign on their door asking that the magnets be returned; but, of course, they weren't. By the end of the voyage, eight magnets had been stolen from their door frame. Unbelievable! Summary Holland America's 2013 Grand World Voyage was everything we had hoped for, and more. We had wonderful experiences that will remain with us forever. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2013
Assuredly a very damning summary - but we disembarked from Arcadia on the completion of this voyage very disappointed at what we had endured for so long. We are not new to cruising, nor are we new to Grand Voyages - but this was our first ... Read More
Assuredly a very damning summary - but we disembarked from Arcadia on the completion of this voyage very disappointed at what we had endured for so long. We are not new to cruising, nor are we new to Grand Voyages - but this was our first experience of Arcadia and of P&O -and it will certainly be our last. Anyone who has booked, or is contemplating booking a 'Grand Voyage' cruise on P&O's Arcadia should very seriously think again. The Cruise : The first half of the cruise from Southampton to Sydney was a nightmare - by the time the ship reached Sydney the morale of the passengers was such that as well as the 600 plus Australian passengers who were desperately glad to be disembarking, the vast majority of those remaining on board would have joined them if they possibly could. Particular details of all that went wrong can be gleaned from the vast number of adverse reviews and comments already on the Internet relating to how passengers on the Arcadia were treated on this voyage. In short, no-one likes feeling that they have been duped, cheated, short changed, commercially exploited and are being treated with dismissive contempt. Moreover, the dismissive contempt continued once back on dry land. Communications with P&O regarding their gross negligence in NOT complying with their own 'Booking Conditions' were replied to 'cut and paste' responses consisting of sequences of platitudes and gibberish totally unrelated to the issues raised IF P&O had fulfilled its contractual obligations and the ship's management had treated passengers as if they were on a Cruise Liner rather than as interlopers on a Cargo Vessel - would we have enjoyed the cruise ? - Definitely not - and here are some of the reasons why : The 'Grand Voyage' : The Arcadia carries well over 2000 passengers - and at any one time 75-80% are on board for only one or occasionally two sectors of the 'Grand Voyage' Arcadia is one of the newer breed of 'Vegas' resort ships designed to provide the mass market with relatively short 'fun' cruises with lots of alcohol,gambling, mindless loud music and very dim lighting in all public areas from 1800hrs onwards, holiday camp/end of pier quality entertainment and singalongs coupled with the provision to gorge for 24hrs a day on mass produced,low quality meals typical of a works canteen or supermarket cafeteria. The so called 'Grand Voyage' was nothing more than four such 'fun' cruises (sectors) strung together. When the first sector was complete everything (menus, entertainment, lecture topics, films etc - even the errors and mis-spellings in the daily entertainment guide were for the most part repeated on each following sector. The 'Ship' ; Consistent with the 'resort ship' model large areas of Arcadia are devoted to revenue generating activities in contrast to the minimal space afforded to non-revenue services addressing the interests and comfort of passengers. eg: the small library with cramped seating for 10, the 30 seat 'cinema' and the ridiculous laundries are 'not fit for purpose'. In contrast the casino,totally unoccupied for most of the day has an enormous floor area housing four card tables, two roulette tables and 65 slot machines and boasts a seating capacity for 112 passengers. Public toilets are small in both space and number, are often 'out of order' and very basically equipped. The buffet restaurant has the ambiance of a motorway cafe with formica topped tables,unset for breakfast and lunch - pick up a tray,plate and cutlery, join the long queue to choose your food and then search for a seat !! Again consistent with the 'resort ship' model all vestiges of past elegance and refinement associated with cruising - particularly on Cunard - and to a lesser extent on P&O - have disappeared from Arcadia and been replaced with pretentious nonsense which fools but few. The most glaring examples relate to evening dining in the main restaurant: To gain access one must adhere to the ship's 'dress codes' - Problems occur when the dress code is 'Smart' - interpreted by P&O as meaning 'gentlemen must wear a jacket' - Hence, males wandering around the decks in trainers, baggy trousers and T-shirts can grab a jacket and gain access unchallenged whilst gentlemen elegantly dressed for dinner in tailored trousers,smart shirt and tie are refused entry! Upon gaining entry you will be presented with a menu adorned with dishes described in mouth-watering language with lots of 'juz' and 'drizzles' which bear little relation to what eventually appears from the kitchen. Set plates are augmented by 'silver service' - consisting of never more than potatoes cooked in a different style from those already on the set plate plus one other,usually overcooked and tepid vegetable. On the topic of food, apart from the general low quality of what is provided in the 'set menu' restaurant, prospective passengers should be aware that many items- particularly fruit, salads and cold meats and seafood - displayed in the 'buffet restaurant' are often well past their 'sell by' date - photographs of heaps of sweating, rotten bananas, pears etc are available on request. Also on view in the buffet from 3.00am onward would be tray after tray of pre-cooked fried eggs left to rubberise until being reheated when the restaurant opens!!! I could go on and on but .....!!! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price ... Read More
We were on the December 5, 2012 Panama Canal cruise.I booked the a category FF for this cruise through HAL last summer. When the price dropped, I asked for and received a price adjustment. Two days after I made the final payment, the price dropped on higher-category cabins to $300 pp below what I had paid. When I called and requested an adjustment or shipboard credit, I was offered a Veranda for an additional $599 pp as the only option. After much discussion, they offered me an full ocean view guaranteed cabin for an upgrade - I took it. Just before we sailed, we were assigned a C category cabin, which is on the Promenade deck, with views of the lower part of the lifeboats, ship's railings, deck chairs and other passengers - not exactly a full ocean view. After much arguing and two calls, we were given a D category with a true full ocean view. We were notified before going to the dock that boarding would be delayed due to the Norovirus and special cleaning of the ship. When we arrived at the dock, we were given a letter offering us the chance to cancel the cruise if we so desired. We were committed to sail and looking forward to the cruise, so we declined the offer. Our cabin was very nice, but wasn't fully stocked with items until day 7. Our bon voyage gifts did not all arrive until day 2. We had to ask our cabin attendant for our bathrobes, replacement soap, replacement bath gel, washcloths, and ice. The only way to contact him was by dialing 90, which was rarely answered. We got his card with his name on it on day 10. The self-service laundries were closed until day 15. When we inquired about the ship's laundry, we were told to use the bag in our cabin, which was not there, so they gave us one and told us it would be $20/bag. After much arguing, we got it down to $5/bag, but found out later that if we had argued longer than that, it would have been free (per some fellow cruisers). Smoking rules were not enforced; not were the rules about no non-toilet trained children in the swimming pools. We were in a "Code Red" and babies who could not even walk yet were taken into the Seaview pool by their parents for several days without even swim diapers on (which were also banned from being in the pools). There were also two children on board who were totally out of control and their behavior ignored by their parents. They ran through the formal dining room shrieking many nights; climbed in the windows of the dining room; ran around the tables eating with their hands, and pretty much disturbed anyone unfortunate enough to be seated near them. That was us one night, and I had to ask to be moved in the middle of our meal due to the noise from those kids. They also appeared at almost every 10pm show in the theater, again running throughout the theater and shrieking. I never saw one crew member or maitre d' say anything to that family. When we were at the Atlantis hotel in Reno, there were some children acting similarly in the buffet - in no time, the manager was there telling the parents to control their kids or leave the restaurant. HAL has published rules about what will not be tolerated on their ships - smoking outside of designated areas, babies in pools, and disruptive guests, to name a few - they need to either enforce them or revise them to lower the expectations of their passengers. I have never been on a ship that ran out of food. The Amsterdam did. In the buffet with 1 1/2 hours left to serve, they ran out of potato chips, tomatoes and olives, and were unable/unwilling to replenish the supply. Oh the last formal night, they ran out of the featured Surf and Turf, and it took us 2 1/2 hours to have dinner. At least that got us out at 10:30pm, too late to attend the 10pm show and have to listen to the screaming kids. With Room Service, we rarely got all the items we ordered, and once got 2 carafes of coffee, but only one cup. They had the same five groups of musicians for the 17 night cruise, playing the same music every night. On other cruise lines, we usually get a variety of musicians cycled in. The "Sail-Away" parties on the aft deck were a joke. The single guitar player played riffs and improvised pieces at every Sail-Away - the music in no way reflected either the cruise or the port we had just left. It was not conducive to a party atmosphere. Very few drinks were offered or ordered. Actually, that was true most days on the aft pool deck - not many waiters available for drinks or people asking for them. People were going into the buffet and bringing out their own water or iced tea, unfortunately in real glass, so there was a bit of breakage out by the pool with all those bare feet around. The entertainment in the theater was marginal. One performer, a pianist, brought out a blow-up doll to dance with while he jiggled her buttocks and bounced her breasts-pretty cheesy. Another performer balanced a flower on his chin. And they each performed more than one night! Anyway, you get the picture, not really first-rate entertainment. The Art auction emcee gave an informative talk early in the cruise to explain the different styles of art available, to give us a brief history of his life, to introduce us to his assistant, and also to let us know that he was sleeping with her - too much information! Overall, the food in the dining room was good, nothing special. The first week the food in the buffet was not very warm and the pork and chicken was dry and tough. Some of the beef in the dining room was very tough, but seemed to improve later in the cruise (maybe they took on a new supply?). I think the Code Red for so many days really put an extra stress on the crew and prevented them from performing as they would have liked. If extra crew were not brought on board, perhaps they should have been. A cabin steward on our deck told me that he was responsible for 30 cabins, which seemed a little high to me, but I don't know what the average is industry-wide. Also, if you sail into Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, be prepared for incredibly long waits at the taxi stand. We waited 1 3/4 hours for a cab, and we started out #4 in line!! By the time we left, there were maybe 150+ people in line. Everglades needs to fix their transportation issues when 7-8 ships come in at once. Our cabbie said that this is a common occurrence. They did call for larger shuttles to take people to the airport - that took the pressure off the taxis, but we still had a long wait to get to our hotel. Anyway, we love NCL and Princess, and only booked HAL because of the ports they visited on this cruise (and the ports were lovely!) and because some of my cruising friends raved over HAL. I guess either different strokes OR we just hit an unbelievably poor coming together of many problems on the Amsterdam. Good Luck if you decide to sail with her. I hope your experience proves to be better than ours. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2012
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and ... Read More
We have been on quite a few cruises, mostly Caribbean, Bermuda, etc but never to the Europe. Have traveled with Norwegian many times, mainly due to the costs per itineraries- we find they seem to offer as good a deal as anyone else and better than most. Lots of stops on this cruise. First the positives- Great deal, around 50 bucks per night base price. Great ports. Less structured freestyle dining equals more flexibility in most cases. Crew was excellent for the most part ( some exceptions noted later ), Helpful and Friendly. Check in at Venice was a breeze compared to some other embarkation points we have visited. The Spirit is the oldest ship Norwegian has but is in great shape for her age. Next the Negatives- The food in the main dining rooms(once again Norwegian) was not really up to par. It sees as if they are trying to steer you to their pay, specialty restaurant options which are all very good. We did have dinner in the Bistro, Cagney's and The Italian place on board. All very good- VERY good. Food in the main dining rooms was average at best. Food on the buffet, average at best. Next Negative - On several occasions I felt like some ships personnel had lied to me from the shore excursion desk. We rarely use the ship's shore excursions but since we had never ventured into this part of the world we were curious about getting back safely. We had already made arrangements for some off ship activities (not through the ship) but were still curious about our options. So I stopped in the shore excursion desk on two different occasion to ask some questions. Was told by one young lady on the shore ex desk that Athens Greece had no public transportation available on the days we would be in port so if we wanted to get around, we had to buy their shore excursion. We had heard of similar experiences from other cruisers. Also, on our trip, we had to verify our time many times- for some reason some of the ships people couldn't get the time right. Had this same story again a few days later for a stop in Turkey, shore ex desk people told some areas were not open for tourists unless we booked passage from them as it was a holiday. Perhaps I misunderstood, but we did talk to some other couples with similar stories. I hate to just make the statement that we were intentionally lied to, but it sure seemed that way. After we actually got ashore, a nice 10-12 min walk to the public train station and a 4 euro pp ticket ( all day ) got us easily to the Acropolis sites and back ( this versus 149 pp for a Norwegian tour of the same ). Summary of my story, do your research first, for each and every port, days you will be there, bus & train schedules, locations, etc. and do not completely 'trust' the ship's people to give you advice. Compare notes and ask for second opinions. Now if you have an extra thousand dollars just laying around and don't want to go to the trouble to do an hour of research, then the ship's sponsored shore excursions are for you. Once again about the time, as this cruise does cross a time zone you must triple check your time before you leave the ship and with more than one source. We had a printed daily newsletter stating the ships time change and a loudspeaker announcement with an update and a clock at the front desk showing another time. PLEASE verify the time. On our cruise some passengers were left behind at each and every port ! The time confused staff and announcements may have played a small part. OK next negative- The ports, all are very historic with a lot to see and do. Having this said you should not try to see or do it all. That is not possible and you will stress yourself out. Most of the ports are not exactly close to the sights that most came to see- so a lengthy ride on a bus or train is needed. Example, Florence Italy is a great, MUST SEE city, but it is about 1 HR 20 mins by train from the port. OK - that is 3 hours travel time taken away from your in port time. so don't be fooled by the time in port listed on the itinerary. This is not Norwegians fault that they cant drive the boat that far inland but it must be taken into consideration when you book this cruise. Florence has many beautiful and historic sites so my suggestion is pick one or two must see places and stick to those and spend the appropriate amount of time to enjoy them. Another example is Rome, over an hour inland by train from the port. Rome is a really big city with too much to see in 6 hours, so once again pick one or two things, don't pressure yourself to do it all, because you cant see it all in a week. This is not the fault of the cruise line that the ports are not very close to the sites, but the way it is advertised it can be a little misleading. Please take into account the travel time, distance and costs for these ports before you book this cruise. you will find that you have about half the time available that you think you have. A little tip about money, most European countries use the EURO, Turkey still uses the Turkish Lira. Most places in Turkey will accept Euros or even US dollars but you can usually make a better deal if you travel with the correct local currency. We exchanged money at our home bank BEFORE we left getting EUROS and LIRA. We got a better exchange rate doing it this way versus using the ship or a port side agency. Then when we did make local purchases we were able to negotiate a better price. I estimate we saved about 20% doing it this way. Just watch the exchange rates to make sure the vendors don't un-do your savings. Another tip, I think the Turkish government requires that all ship shore excursions must include a portion of that tour for a hard sell. In IZMIR we were required to sit through a leather fashion show and sales pitch at a leather store- about 40-50 mins of the sore excursion. In ISTANBUL we were required to sit through a carpet demonstration and sales pitch at a carpet store.( once again 40 mins or so ) Purchases are not required but participation is required if you book the shore excursion from the ship. So be prepared if you book an excursion from the ship. Getting off the ship in Barcelona- easy, smooth, trouble free. Plenty of available taxis. We had a taxi for 4 from the port to the airport for 36 EU . The Barcelona is beautiful and wished we had most time to explore. We did arrive 3 days prior to the cruise in Venice and spent a few days getting acclimated to the weather and time change. 3 days in Venice was wonderful. Overall, Norwegian cruises did a good job, We will probably go with them again. If we ever do Italy again it probably will not be on a cruise as the ships cant get too close to the good stuff and you need more time to see it than a one day stop can provide. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2012
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered ... Read More
We took only the first segment, Seattle-Hong Kong, of the HAL Amsterdam Grand Cruise which departed Seattle September 21 2012, and debarked in Hong Kong Oct. 20. We flew Southwest airlines, Oakland>Seattle, and upon landing discovered that one bag had been erroneously sent by Southwest to Los Angeles, where it was discovered on the L>A> bag carousel. Southwest apologized profusely, said the bag could not be returned prior to ship departure, and would be given to the HAL airport people when it arrived, which happened. Southwest gave me a check to buy the missing items that I could recall, and also had the taxi drop us off at the ship. Boarding was easy since everyone else was on the ship. Our cabin was as reserved, dining room table was as requested and our table mates from Canada were good company throughout the cruise. The ship was excellently maintained, clean and everything worked well: elevators, air conditioning, sound system, etc. We were told that the entire ship's staff on this Grand Cruise had been specifically selected and they were the finest HAL crew my wife and I had ever experienced: the waiters, stewards, supervisors, front desk staff, cruise director ( outstanding) , officers, hotel manager, etc. We had very few unusual requests, but all were met with a smile and done well. Food: The dining room menu was the best we ever experienced, with frequent offerings of prime rib, lobster, huge amounts of shrimp dishes, superb soups,salads, outstanding desserts. We were pleasantly surprised that the Lido Buffet was equally good, breakfast, lunch & dinner ( if we chose not to go to the dining room, especially on busy Port days). The food was always varied, appeared attractive, and the friendly servers explained unfamiliar dishes for us. Many dishes in the Lido were cooked right there, as the food in the pans was taken by diners. There were several excellent outdoor deck buffets, limited only by the number of deck electrical outlets for cooking. The dessert bar in the Lido always had a great variety, breakfast pastries were superb and varied, and the breads were also quite good. There was an Asian station in the buffet with different Asian dishes at lunch and dinner. There was a sushi station daily at lunch. There was also a Pizza and pasta station daily, which my wife ( pizza fan) says was excellent. The pool deck area had a hamburger and sausage and another pizza counter, all of which were freshly done throughout the day, but hard to compete with the great inside buffet. Food service: The dining room waiters were efficient, wee eager to substitute another entree if the chosen one was not what you thought it would be. The kitchen chefs provided items not on the menu if requested in advance ( escargot, some other items). The Lido staff rapidly cleared tables, provided ice water and coffee to the tables as needed, helped people carry plates to tables if needed. Entertainment: The showroom shows were varied. We saw the same HAL musical reviews we had seen on other voyages, since HAL keeps a costly show on stage for about 3 years. The singing and dancing was good, since the shows were familiar to the performers.On other nights,the guest singers, musicians, magicians, were good, generally better than on some other cruises. The movies shown in the Wajang theater were generally poor, films that might be shown on TV. but not in movie theaters. When we were in Japanese ports, HAL showed older Hollywood Japan-themed films from the l960's that although dated were appropriate for the location. There were several musicians who appeared in the top deck bar (Crow's Nest?)who were quite entertaining. Lectures and enlightenment: In addition to Barbara the port lecturer, the ship also had Mr. Salinger, a well travelled author, who provided much background information about Japan, China, Russia, and the the maritime industry. There was another lectuer wo is a Ph.D. naturalist who provided much information about marine life, Fish in particular, as well as other talks on nature. On board shopping: Miserable. Limited stock, inflated prices, little variety. Clerks were courteus & helpful, but limited to what management chose to put in the stores. Tailoring: A Chinese tailor boarded in Japan, measured men & women for shirts, suits,etc., which would be made while we were at sea and delivered in Singapore. We did not get anything. Ports: This cruise had a full time extremely experienced port lecturer, Barbara, who provided complete information about each Port before we reached it, so that we could use local transportation, walk to nearby scenic areas, and know what to look for on the tours and excursions. Library and computer area: The librarians were knowledgeable, helpful in finding a book, even if in the off-limits storage area. The computers were slow as they often are, but the computer technician was as helpful as possible considering the incredibly slow computers. Front desk: More knowledgeable, helpful, courteous than any staff we ever before experienced. Officers, cruise director: Outstandingly helpful, courteous, honest. Captain kept passengers informed as needed. Cruise Itinerary: The North Pacific was extremely rough, with huge swells, and much ship motion. A storm prevented us from reaching our first port, Kushiro in Northern Japan, and we sailed very close to the uninhabited Russian Kurile Islands, and into the Sea of Okhotsk before reaching first port of Hakodate.The Captain modified the actual course to avoid as much of the storms as possible. Excursions: We arranged, months earlier , to take private excursions in every port and cannot report on the Amsterdam Shore excursions. Piers: In every port, the ship docked as close as possible to the center of town: In Shanghai we were on the edge of the Bund, In Nagasaki downtown and one block from the tram station, in Yokohama ( for Tokyo) we were within a few blocks of a shopping center, and a local (that weekend) German Beer and Harvest Festival. Kobe was similar. In Hong Kong, we were at the Ocean Terminal, two blocks to the Star Ferry or Peninsula Hotel. Debarkation: efficient, easy. Our luggage was on the pier and we took a taxi to our hotel nearby, since our return flight was the next day. We took an airport bus ( about $10 USD each) from our hotel to the new Hong Kong airport, about 45 mins. drive. That bus picked up passengers at three hotels, put luggage down below , and unloaded us at out airline entry area. There are numerous luggage trolleys outside the entryway to carry bags to the ticket counters. This was the finest cruise we ever experienced, on any cruise line, and one which future cruises will be compared with. We think the underlying reason is that this was a 'Grand Cruise' which is more costly than regular HAL cruises, and well worth it. The Chef and kitchen staff produced great meals consistently, which proves that "it can be done." Read Less
Sail Date: May 2012
We took the Carbival Legend out of Tampa in May and had a wonderful vacation. We paid extra for the aft cabin with the wrap around balcony and it is very very worth it. We had 270 degree views and never found ourselves fighting for beach ... Read More
We took the Carbival Legend out of Tampa in May and had a wonderful vacation. We paid extra for the aft cabin with the wrap around balcony and it is very very worth it. We had 270 degree views and never found ourselves fighting for beach chairs on the main decks. Every night we were on the balcony watching the sunset and cracking a bottle of wine with some cheese... Here are our tips when taking this cruise - On the Legend, if you are lucky enough to stay in a aft corner balcony stateroom, stay away from the 5th deck. Those rooms are significantly smaller than the other floors due to some electrical components. - The boat is a bit dirty after 10+ years of service but nothing terrible - Go to the gym any day but the 1st. Seems like everyone gets lazier as the cruise goes on but day 1 is a zoo at the gym. - Bring a few bottles of wine on board. Will save you a lot of money on board. They are pretty lax with the size and quantity rules. But dont bring a bottle you could not handle losing if you have a watchful xray user. - The cave tubing and zip lining in Belize require an hour bus ride along some bad roads. It is like spending 2 hours in a dryer. NOT WORTH IT for a few seconds of fun.. Try a beach excursion instead... - Roatan is the best island out there. There is a very commercialized beach right next to the dock but I would suggest spending a bit of money to go to one of the private beaches. We found some of the best beaches we have ever seen in Hondurus - The Caymans are very Americanized. This is the island to go do water sports, dive, scuba, dolphins, etc. You are not missing much on the beach. - If you have some time in Tampa, stay at the Vinoy Hotel in St Petersburg. Wonderful place with tons to do.. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2012
Review -- 2012 World Cruise -- Sun Princess -- 16th May 2012 -- 29th August 2012 -- 104 nights This review represents our experience before, during and after our cruise. It does not reflect the views of others who were on the cruise ... Read More
Review -- 2012 World Cruise -- Sun Princess -- 16th May 2012 -- 29th August 2012 -- 104 nights This review represents our experience before, during and after our cruise. It does not reflect the views of others who were on the cruise with us. I have tried to be as objective as possible, although there were things I was so excited about that I may have been over generous with in my assessment. Similarly there may have been things that really irked me, where I may have been overly harsh in my assessment. Hey that's what reviews are about huh. The purpose of the review is not to sway the thoughts of others, but to give us an accurate assessment of the cruise, based upon our experience, to enable us to reflect upon, as we look back on the holiday at a later date. Our over-riding ethos on this journey was that we would not allow anyone or anything to spoil our holiday. We were on the dream holiday of a lifetime, and so it would be, from the day we left until the day we got back. There were some days, and some people who would challenge this ethos on occasion, but it did hold true, and we are so pleased that our positive frame of mind enabled us to extract the maximum enjoyment from this holiday. Pre-Cruise Agent We booked through an online agent based in Queensland. We found them to be efficient, courteous and professional in every way. At the time of booking they had second cheapest price on offer, after we sought quotes from over 20 agents around Australia. We elected not to go with the agent that had quoted the lowest price as we had used them before, and we had found them wanting in both service and professionalism. We were more than happy and we would book with them again, with confidence. The Booking We will never-ever-ever-ever pre-book a cruise again. We booked a low inside cabin 14 months ahead of the cruise. The list price for the cabin was $21k, but nobody ever pays that. Once final payments were completed in February 2012, we watched the price of the inside cabin drop from $19k to $14k to $11k to $9k over the period of about 8 weeks. Now we all understand Marketing101, and how supply and demand works and how the price of a product will be reduced if you want to clear your unwanted stock -- in this case empty cabins, and good luck to the folk who got a 104 night World Cruise for $8.7K, they were rewarded for their last minute purchase with a very cheap cabin. What really stung many people, and irrevocably damaged the relationship that Princess Cruises had with many past loyal passengers was that they rubbed salt into a very open wound by giving upgrades to the people who only paid half price. So the very clear message that we got from Princess Cruises was (a) If you book ahead you will pay a premium, (b) we will save our free upgrades for the late bookers, and therefore (c) we do not value your loyalty like we say we do, it is effectively lip service. This subject was really hot around the ship for the first 3 or 4 weeks, it dominated conversations, and Princess did a lot of damage by their actions. Cruise Critic members had by and large accepted and got over it before we boarded, as there was quite some discussion on the boards about it before we left, but it re-ignited on board once it was discovered that cabin upgrades were denied to full price Captain Circle payers and given to the half price payers. So from this day forward we will not book a cruise until final payments are in, and the last minute prices are on offer, it may mean that there will be an occasional cruise booked out, but now that we have done the 'holy grail' of cruises, it does not seem so important . Princess have made a rod for their own back, and I will be comfortable to play by the rules they have put in place:) Communications We spent quite a bit of time debating what our approach would be with communications, both, back to back home, and with each other when we were separated. So what worked and what didn't? Blog: Obviously the blog updates on a daily basis kept interested family and friends in the loop about where we were and how things were going. I did wonder if I would have the commitment to do the blog for the whole cruise, but once I got started, it actually became an enjoyable exercise each day. I had not intended to do daily updates, but they seemed to just roll that way at the start, and I kept them going, although there were some that were a day or two late in publishing for various reasons. I put a link to the blog on both Donna's and my Facebook page each update, so keeping family and friends updated was achieved successfully. Internet & Email: Due to the Internet being reliant upon the ship's satellite, connection can be very problematic, so we used our Facebook for keeping up with what was happening at home. Real time contact was able to be achieved using Skype to Skype calls, but that was reliant upon folks at home being online, which did not happen a lot due to time differences. As well as using the Bigpond email, I setup a Gmail account, which was a good back up as there were times when Bigpond was Bigdud. We were able to send and receive emails throughout most of the trip, but only text as videos and photos were just too time consuming, and ship Internet minutes are very expensive (although we did have a good free allocations) Telephone: We elected not to get a travel-sim or similar, as we had seen crook reviews (which were confirmed by the experiences of friends on this cruise). We elected to have a few different approaches. (a) We would buy a local phone-card in port that can be used in a public phone in port. We did this only once, in Singapore, because it became awkward to find either the card, or the public phones to take them, or be able to understand how to use them. (b) We took a couple of Nokias with us so that we could buy a local SIM in port and use that to call home - never happened, usually because we were unable to convey to the shopkeepers, in their language, what it was that we actually wanted to buy (c) Use our iPhones using International roaming. Did not work for the few weeks because incompetent Telstra did not do what they had said they did (Thanks again Katherine for fixing for us). Once working, it worked best, although bloody expensive. (d) We should have tried Skype to Mobile calls earlier on in the holiday, as it worked really well, and was relatively cheap, but reliant on an Internet connection. Currency Again what to do with currency, decisions, decisions, decisions... cash or travellers cheques or credit card or travel card, and if so, which one??? We were guided in the main by the experiences of previous world cruisers, who were kind enough to share what their approaches were, and what worked and did not work for them. We went cash. Simple, easy, always available and flexible in the main. So prior to leaving we exchanged AUD$1,000 into US Dollars. Another AUD$1,000 into Euro. AUD$250 into British Pounds, and AUD$250 into Singapore Dollars. We also took AUD$2,500 cash with us. So at the start of the cruise we had $5,000 in the cabin safe. Now I am aware of stories about cabin safes not always being so safe, but you go with what your comfortable with. The logic of the cash approach was that in the main we usually only take ashore the equivalent of about $100. That is usually enough to buy snacks, drink, transportation and small souvenirs in the one day we have in a port. We would use the credit card for larger value purchases. The US Dollar is widely accepted, and the Euro cash would cover all the European ports. There were quite a few ports where only the local currency was accepted in taxi, or shop, or stall, and as we knew which ones they were in advance we would just convert $100 into what ever the local currency was as soon as we got off the ship. Cash offered the flexibility and convenience that is important when you only have one day in a port, as it was all about maximising our time ashore. There were only 2 out of the 39 ports where we needed local currency, and there was not a currency exchange on tap as we got off the ship, so we just used the ATM, which does have pricey exchange and transactions fees, but it was only a couple of times, so small fry in the scheme of things. If we were to do a similar trip again, we would use 28 degree MasterCard, no fees, no currency conversion charges etc etc. On board friends did tell us about this card before we left, and we saw the value of it afterwards. On Board Cabin We had E328 on Emerald Deck 6. We usually book an inside cabin up top on deck 11 or 12, and have always enjoyed them. On our last cruise we decided we wanted to try a lower deck cabin. Probably not a good idea to be trying something new for a 104 night cruise huh :) We were absolutely delighted with our cabin, it fitted with our on board lifestyle perfectly. We usually only go top deck for a swim and spa once a day, most of our on board life is lower where the theatres, lounges, bars are, as this is where all the activities and our main dining is. When we looked at the deck plan and saw that our cabin was under the Wheelhouse Bar, and directly under the band, we thought oh-oh, but it was not a worry. We occasionally heard the soft muffled tones of the band when we went to bed early, but it certainly did not inconvenience us at all. Because the cabin was located low on deck 6, the movement of the ship was not an issue for us. As there are only a small number of cabins on Emerald deck, it was only very rare did we not have use of the laundry whenever we wanted it. It is a quiet deck, with very little foot traffic, again as there are so few cabins. So the low inside cabin worked a treat for us. Staff The staff on board are in the main, friendly, professional and very helpful. Our cabin steward, Marvie, was just the best. We had him for most of the whole journey, from Singapore onwards, and he looked after us so well. The dinner waiters that we had from Sydney to New York, Eduardo and Edgar were fantastic, so attentive, and never once during that whole time was there any issue with our meals. Their replacements from New York onwards got off to a shaky start, with dinner orders mucked up for the first few nights, but they settled down and did a serviceable job. The Captain for the whole cruise was Andrew Froude. He is a good captain, kept passengers informed each day on location and progress, with clear announcements with a touch of humour. Above all, he was professional, and we always felt that there was a safe pair of hands managing the ship. When things were happening that passengers needed to know, he made timely announcements and informed everyone the whats , whys and whens. From port cancellations to helicopter medical evacuations it was the Captains voice that you heard, and I am sure most passengers appreciated that. We had two Cruise Directors over the journey. Tim Donovan was Cruise Director for most of the first half of the cruise. He was a nice enough chap, but I found it hard to 'connect' with him, his communication style was a little too self absorbed for me. He had to leave the ship due to an injury, and was replaced by his Deputy, Dave Webster. Initially Dave was like a 'mini Tim', and it did not seem to suit him, but over the next few weeks he was much more relaxed, became more engaging, connected with the passengers. The Cruise Directors staff, who ran most of the activities around the ship were all friendly and engaging, some more than others, but they were all nice folk who did a good job. Jen (whole cruise) and Paul (first half) were two that really stood out in terms of their engagement with passengers, and were very popular. The Pursers Desk staff were friendly, bar an odd exception, and were able to service our few needs. We are low maintenance passengers, so we don't need to go to the Pursers Desk very often. The Captains Circle Host, Bernadette is in the wrong job, she is better suited to a job that does not have contact with customers. She is unwelcoming, rude and aloof. The Tour office staff were friendly and pleasant, however many folk took issue with miss-information, or lack of information, that conspired to get you to use Princess transportation at inflated prices. A classic example was the Barcelona shuttle. We were told that it was a 20 min drive into town. So as we waited in the queue for buses that had not arrived at the terminal yet, we were told by friends walking past that it was an easy 20 min walk into town, and sure enough it was. When we got back to the terminal at the end of the day there was no end of cranky people venting their spleen. As regular blog readers would know, I had cause to visit the Medical Centre a number of times. I always found them to be courteous, and professional. It is comforting to know that when your are out in the middle of vast oceans, that there is a quality medical attention at your fingertips. Yes it is expensive, and some folk go crook about the cost, but it is not government sponsored or subsidised health care, and it is not surprising that it is expensive. The travel insurance motto holds true -- if you cant afford travel insurance, you cant afford to travel. The travel insurance claim ($1800) was processed and paid very promptly (we used RACV). The professionalism shown by the Sun Princess crew, combined with the skill of the US Coast Guard in the medical evacuation of two passengers was first rate, and worthy of special mention. Food One thing that constantly amazes me is how cruise ships are able to produce mass meals and maintain quality. So it was again on this cruise, the meals in the main are just fine. I am not a food critic, but all I want is for meals that are fresh, tasty and hot, and in the main, that is what I got. I much prefer dining in the Regency Dining Room, not just for service, but the ambience, and there is some modicum of portion control :) I dont find the Horizon Court dining to my personal liking as it is a noisy place, people are pushy, rude and display rather unhygienic food handling practices. I also dont like hot food out of a bain-marie, never have, on land or sea, as it is just not hot enough for me. Having said that when we wanted something quick, or wanted to catch up with folk, that is where we went. The pizzas are still as good as ever, the pasties up on Terrace Grill are to die for, and we would be guilty of the odd visit to the Ice Cream kiosk :) Entertainment Mmmm, now I come to probably the only item that consistently disappointed over the journey. I dont know if Princess have adopted a new approach to their entertainers criteria, but they had quite a few on this cruise that you would not feed. There were some great individual entertainers, who were very very good, but they were in the minority. There was many a night when there was no entertainment at all on in the Princess Theatre, sometimes they would run a movie as a filler. I am sure many of the entertainers did not find out the demographics of the audience prior to their shows as they just missed the mark completely. We had teenage toilet block humour, American gags using American characters on a predominately Australian/New Zealander audience fall flat. Jugglers and other one trick ponies that padded out a 45 minute show with inane profanities. We had three comedians who were quite good, interestingly they were the only ones who did not resort to swearing and cursing in their jokes. What is it with some of these comedians, is there some unwritten rule that you must say f**k at least three times in your show?? The Sun Princess band were quite good, and they 'saved' quite a few shows where the individual performers were clearly has beens, or never would bes. I have often raved to my non-cruising friends about how good the production shows on cruise ships are. Well not this cruise I'm afraid, We had two troupes for our productions shows. The first troupe from Sydney to New York were so disappointing. Their shows were amateurish productions performed by singers and dancers who were just going through the motions. Not having sets on stage did not help them put together a single show that was top rate. All hopes were on the new troupe that joined in New York. The standard of the shows had a marked improvement, and we actually had stage sets used. The singers and dancers did have more energy and professionalism than the first troupe, although still not up to the usual Princess standard, they were fine I thought. The house band , Derringer, were very good. They were on board for the whole cruise, and maintained a consistently good performance all the way round. They were used on deck for the sailaways, and at night for dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar. Here was an example of a band that looked the demographics of the passengers, and played music that appealed to the majority. They really engaged with the passenger group very well, and were enjoyed by everyone I think. David Crathorne held court on the piano in the Atrium each evening, and had a good following throughout the whole cruise, so that is an endorsement in itself. He also co-ordinated the passenger choir , which was really really good. There were various instrumentalists playing the pre dinner music in the Atrium, and they were all very good. There was a pretty good stable of movies being played on deck, in theatres, or looped on the TV, and there were some very good documentaries played , that were topical to the particular region that we were sailing in at the time. The Movies Under the Stars is a great innovation, and a marvellous piece of technology. However, it should used for exactly that...under the stars. During the day they play nice relaxing videos, with soft relaxing music, that fits in nicely with the ambience of the pool deck, with folks relaxing in the sun, reading swimming etc. Then for some reason , mid afternoon, they completely wreck the ambience by playing movies, or concerts at full blast. It is as if there is someone in charge who has been trained by Bastards Incorporated who has determined that passengers relaxing on pool deck, drinking from the bar and generally doing all the things that the pool deck is designed for, is a bad thing. So we will blast those bastard passengers outa there, send them back to their cabins, stop them spending their money at our bar. To rub salt in, they play often kids/cartoon movies..now guess how many kids are doing the World Cruise? There were no shortage of activities, arranged, and adhoc across the ship. Trivia always had a big following, with the Vista Lounge very full for the morning session, and there was also an afternoon session for the diehards who competed in a sector competition. Bingo had a full house on the final jackpot session of each sector, but it was almost empty on the lead up days. I think the great challenge of a 104 day cruise is to have enough variety of activities and I think Princess do have a lot set up, but we humans are always looking for something new and fresh, and that is always going to be a tough ask over such a long cruise. Ship I like the Sun Princess. It is a mid sized ship, so the passenger numbers are around 1900, which makes for a busy ship, but I never had a problem finding a quiet spot to myself when I wanted it. I think it is a well maintained ship, yeah it does have it signs of wear and tear about, which are the subject of continual maintenance. The paintbrush is always out and about trying to keep it looking fresh. Given the ships age (1995) and given that it is has been at sea almost every day since its launch (barring refits) the ship is in remarkably good nick, and I would have absolutely no hesitation in jumping back on again today -- it is still a very fine ship. Itinerary Sensational, simply sensational. 28 countries, 39 ports (was to be 40, but we could not tender at Mykonos). The itinerary was the great attraction of this World Cruise, as unlike some other 'world cruises' it did do a full lap of the globe. It will be impossible to select a 'best port' and I am not going to even try, as there were so many fantastic locations. For both Donna and I every port we visited after we left Penang was new to us, we had never been to any of them, so every port was a new adventure, a new culture to absorb, a new treasure to witness. Clearly there were some real stand out individual items, like the Pyramids, the Lost City of Petra (for Donna), Suez Canal, Anzac Cove, the moonlit gondola ride in Venice, St Peters Square, Pantheon, Colosseum, Acropolis, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Times Square, Panama Canal etc etc Visiting so many cities was just a wonder. The 'big ticket' cities , Rome, Venice, Paris, Athens, London, New York all lived up to their reputations, but there were some real surprises in the list that we just took a real shine to, like Mumbai (yes truly), Istanbul, Dubrovnik amongst them. We had an overnight stay at Venice and New York, which was just fantastic. The decision to jump ship at LA and fly to Honolulu was a pearler, as we had just a great week there. The thing about cruising is that you dont get the time in each location to 'experience' them, you are usually only in port for one day, so with logistics, and transportation time, you get to see them fleetingly and then move on. So we now have a very long list of places that we will be returning to so that we can really 'experience' them. We feel so very very lucky and privileged to have seen all these places, which I am sure we would not have done, had it not been for the cruising format of travel. Weather and Seas We were just so fortunate with the weather. We did not experience any rain, land or sea, until we reached Paris, and then it was only patchy. Similarly in London, patchy rain. The only real 'wet' day that we experienced was our first day in New York, although the evening was clear, and the second day there was fine. As usual, Asia was warm, and slightly humid, but not uncomfortably so. Egypt was bloody hot, no two ways about it, the day at Valley of the Kings will be etched in our memory as it was 45C in the shade and 56C in the open. The European summer was what we had hoped for, warm fine days. After we left Dover, and headed north things cooled down considerably, as expected, with our day at Shetland Islands being the coldest of the cruise. Iceland was not the cold spot we expected, it was surprisingly warm and sunny, as was Halifax. Of course once we left New York and headed south towards the Caribbean the weather was stunning again, and stayed that way all the way home, so we were just so fortunate. The sea gods favoured us all the way around also, bar a few days as we transited the North Atlantic where it got a bit heavy and tossed the ship around a little, the seas were generally just as you would hope for from a cruising comfort perspective. Again, having the cabin on the lower deck made for a very comfortable ride, and we will probably always cruise down low now. Shore Excursions We did a mixture of Princess Tours, Independent Tours, and our own thing. We enjoyed them all, although if given our time over again we would have done more Independent, and less Princess. Not that there was anything wrong with the Princess Tours, they were all fine, but when you do Independent tours you are usually travelling with people whom you know, everyone gets back on the bus on time, and they were cheaper for the same and in may cases, better product. On Princess tours you were stuck with selfish couples who would hog the window seats by sitting apart, and therefore force other couples to sit apart -- this happened every single Princess tour, and on one occasion Donna and I were made to sit apart -- selfish bastards. At almost every stop there was someone who made the bus full of passengers wait, and if you have a lot of stops it gets a bit tedious. This was not Princess's fault, just the nature of the beast, human behaviour being what it is. This did not occur at all on the Independent tours that were organised by Cruise Critic colleagues. When we did our own thing, we usually caught the ships shuttle into town and went from there, and on a few occasions we shared rental cars with friends which were just great days. Cool Cruisers Most cruisers would know of a website called Cruise Critic. This website has some great information resources available to assist folk planning a future cruise. It also has forums where people exchange cruise related information. One of the boards on the forum is for what is called 'Roll Calls'. Folks who are going on a particular cruise look up the roll call relevant to their cruise, introduce themselves, and perhaps agree to meet up once on board. When we booked the cruise in January 2011, a roll call had not yet been started for this cruise, so I started one. Over the next 14 months the roll call grew and grew and grew, to the point where we had 140ish people starting the cruise in Sydney joined. There was another 40 or so who were joining at other sectors around the journey. We had collectively decided to call our group the Cool Cruisers. Some of us who live within striking distance of Brisbane caught up for a lovely pre-cruise lunch, organised by a fine gentleman in Ross Anderson. There was a similar pre-cruise catch up arranged by the lovely Marie Callum, for those who lived, or would be in Sydney a few days pre-cruise. The lovely Pam Ryan from Tuscon Arizona, was kind enough to organise our first meeting on board, which was just the best. We had the Shooting Stars nightclub packed out, with officers (including the Captain) attending. It was just an amazing afternoon meeting all these people who you had communicated with pre-cruise. This was the start of what would be an amazingly social and enjoyable cruise that would last close on 4 months. We met so many wonderful people at the catch ups, and lunches arranged by Pam, and later by Anne, and some close friendships have been struck. Some with folk who live in USA, some live in various parts of Australia and New Zealand, and some who live in the next suburb from us. We did tours with some of the Cool Cruisers, we dined with some, we drank with many, and we chatted with nearly all. It was such a wonderful thing to meet so many lovely people, and if I had to name the highlight of the whole holiday, it would be meeting and befriending such a fantastic group of men and women. Disembarkation No surprises with disembarkation from a process point of view. Given this was the end of an epic journey around the world I was expecting a little ra ra from Princess, Welcome Home thingo, but nope. Luggage Ahhh, the dilemma of luggage. Well as it turned out we did not exceed our flight allowance home. However, we took far too much to start with. We did need to cater for all weathers, and we did, but we took too much (although Donna will probably not agree ?) We had a flight allowance (Bris to Syd) of 4 x 23 kg cases, and we used every bit of it on the way home. Home again In summary -- UNREAL. It did not seem real that we were going on a World Cruise when we left home. It still did not seem real when we got on the ship in Sydney that it would be home for 14 weeks. It did not feel real that it was at an end when we came through Sydney Heads when we arrived back. It certainly did not seem real when we were back home , sitting in our lounge, sleeping in our bed and doing all those household things that we all do. We have had some catchups with friend who live in Qld since we have returned, and we really do feel so lucky to have met so many wonderful people. We are even travelling with some of them again on a Xmas Cruise on the Diamond Princess leaving in two weeks on the 14th Dec. Summary We had a marvellous time on a fine ship, with wonderful people, visiting sensational cities, seeing famous locations on the dream holiday of a lifetime. We travelled in comfort and style around the world. There was many a day when we just pinched ourselves, we felt so lucky and privileged to be doing what we were doing, being with who we were, and going where we did. It was a very special way to spend 14 weeks overseas. Having said that we probably would not do a full world cruise again. I think somewhere around the 10 week mark on a cruise would be our maximum in the future. We love sea days, but there were such a lot on the last third of the cruise, after we transited Panama Canal. There was just a few too many blocks of 4 and 5 sea days at a time, and whilst they are very relaxing days, it was a bit too much end on end for us. This is not a criticism, just a personal preference. The fact that all the ports after Penang were new to us, really added to the enjoyment of the whole cruise for us, as we always had a new location coming up. Our appetite has really been whetted now, and we have all these places that we want to return to, and spend time at, plus new ones that we have not been to. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2012
Having travelled on and enjoyed the Queen Mary 2, decided to try the Queen Elizabeth, we were a little apprehensive after reading some of the reviews! however after some 22 nights on board, we left the ship totally satisfied! Our ... Read More
Having travelled on and enjoyed the Queen Mary 2, decided to try the Queen Elizabeth, we were a little apprehensive after reading some of the reviews! however after some 22 nights on board, we left the ship totally satisfied! Our Balcony stateroom was very clean, bright, and indeed very pleasant, our Steward could not have been more helpful, in fact we found all the crew and officers with just a couple of exceptions, to be most friendly and helpful, always very courteous and offered a genuine smile... The exception being the staff in the Verandah restaurant, who we found to be very surely and patronising to say the least, the food was perfectly fine but the whole service was dreadful, but we did not allow this to spoil our overall cruise experience. We really liked the Britannia restaurant, and also enjoyed the Lido Restaurant which we used occasionally for breakfast or lunch, we enjoy a bottle of wine with our evening meals and found that the Cunard 'House Wine' was very acceptable and represented good value (e29.75) compared to the other vast choice on offer, sadly the 15% service charge did not really please us! The lectures were really first class, as was most of the evening entertainment, we found some of the tours on offer were a little too expensive and not value for money. To end this review, we say - Well Done Cunard, we are looking forward to our next cruise on one of The Queens! - However, we would like a 'guarantee' that we will be assured of a table for TWO, and not just hope that one will be available, after all, if you dine in a top hotel you are not expected to share a table, and it is our choice not to do so on a ship! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
Firstly may i say we are easy going people and do not expect the best in everything.We embarked in Melbourne and found that the Flight co-ordinator who was also doing the embarking proceedure had taken my photo on the incorrect pasport so ... Read More
Firstly may i say we are easy going people and do not expect the best in everything.We embarked in Melbourne and found that the Flight co-ordinator who was also doing the embarking proceedure had taken my photo on the incorrect pasport so after about 30 more minutes we boarded the ship.On arrival to our room i inserted the card to find someone else in our room,we were in touch with the persers desk and we were given another room. The interior of the ship is clean and different decor to other ships i have sailed. Meals in the buffet were just ok and mostly warm only.The dining room was much better but not as good as we previously have had on some other lines.Buffet breakfast was repeated every day with no variation and was very boring.No fresh milk was available the entire time we were on the cruise so long life milk was the only option including the coffee shop. Our room was kept very clean and no complaints in this area. A lot of disgruntled passengers on the ship who have been on since the start of the cruise.English while speaking to the crew was strange as many only knew basic words and they mostly spoke to each other in there native language. Disembarking was trouble again for us as we had transfers booked from the ship to Perth airport but when we asked why we didnt have tickets delivered to our room (once again the flight co-ordinator)she said they were not booked even though we checked 2 days prior and were told we were booked. We were also told there was no shuttles availabe and she could not do anything for us.We luckily have a daughter in perth so we had to get her to come and get us from the ship and take us to the airport as we only had 2 hours from debarking and catching our flight home. After all our debarkle we got to the airport on time for our jurney home. Would i ever cruise P&O UK again the answer is NO. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2012
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was ... Read More
We did the 30 day Hawaii South Pacific Cruise. While the Rotterdam is an older ship there is still a lot of charm. Enjoyed the library area and the lounge areas on that level were very comfortable. While we had an inside cabin, it was roomy and comfortable. The ship is due to go into dry dock in Germany this December. Besides doing refurbishing, they need to do a major disinfecting of the whole interior. People have been getting sick aboard the Rotterdam for the last several cruises. You couldn't escape the racking chest coughs that so many passengers had. Thank goodness I travel with an antibiotic, as the only thing the ship offered was Cipro which is for gastrointestinal problems. Three of my table-mates were diagnosed with pneumonia upon seeing their personal physicians when returning home. Probably my major complaint was watching them change the beds for the next cruise and realizing that they did not remove the mattress pad or the blankets for washing. I'm sorry I didn't realize that at the beginning of the cruise. The crew was a wonderful group of friendly and helpful people always ready to help. The food was very good and choices were plentiful. The entertainment left a lot to be desired. There were a few talented entertainers that offered us an opportunity for a pleasant evening. Seeing the South Pacific Islands was wonderful. The views from the boats on snorkeling trips were amazing! Moorea was by far my favorite with Bora Bora following right behind. If your a lover of poolside sunning and swimming, you better love the sun as there aren't any shaded areas to place a lounge chair - forward or aft on the ship. One pool is also not enough to accommodate the many guest, but that's OK because they only have about 50 lounge chairs around the pool. All in all, it was a wonderful adventure and good value. The 30 days at sea seemed to fly by. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2012
Lastminute.com offered a good fare on Singapore Airlines' new A380, and the long outbound flight was surprisingly enjoyable, with an amazing choice of entertainment, very acceptable food and good service. Sitting on the upper deck on ... Read More
Lastminute.com offered a good fare on Singapore Airlines' new A380, and the long outbound flight was surprisingly enjoyable, with an amazing choice of entertainment, very acceptable food and good service. Sitting on the upper deck on the Singapore to Sydney sector, albeit in economy class, was a further bonus. We had booked a hotel in (frighteningly expensive but enjoyable) Sydney for 2 nights prior to boarding and were blessed with gorgeous weather. We then had one night on board before sailing (in rather worse weather) for Noumea in New Caledonia; this first port was the least interesting of our stops, perhaps partly as we were there on a Sunday, when things were rather dead. It is several months now since we took the cruise and a bit late to go into lots of detail. I'd rather just give our overall impression, which is highly favourable. Our cabin was in the lower-priced range but quite spacious, well-equipped and beautifully serviced. The quality and variety of food were very acceptable, service in all departments was excellent, entertainment fairly low-key but enjoyable. Guest lecturers were, on the whole, interesting -- some truly inspiring -- and the entertainment staff, in fairness, did, at least, make efforts to gear their offerings somewhat more towards the non-British or anglophone passengers, who made up almost 20% of the total -- after complaints from 'foreigners' like us... The other ports of call were fascinating and the last nine days at sea, when all we saw were flying fish and some dolphins (no other ship, not even a plane), passed all too quickly; we were never bored and would gladly have stayed on to the end! As it happened, the charter flight back from Lima to Gatwick on a Pullmantur B747 was a bit of a letdown after the standards we had become accustomed to onboard. We had cruised with Fred.Olsen before and have become avid fans! Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet ... Read More
PRINCESS CRUISES DIAMOND PRINCESS When we booked our 35 day cruise, taking us some 13,000 miles from Auckland to Beijing with 16 stops in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and China we wondered how Princess could meet the standards we have experienced on Cunard and Holland America at a cost of only £140 per person per day on a magnificent ship and in a mini suite with one of the largest balconies imaginable. The answer is they can't and they make little pretence of trying to. That is not to say the cruise -- which we thoroughly enjoyed -- wasn't good value. But it's a distinctly downmarket product. One gets a sense of this with the first cup of coffee. The mugs in the Lido (or the Horizon Court as Princess calls it) are melamine, as are the plates. And the coffee is pretty much undrinkable. The food there is however, very good. Bland, of course, but varied and with simple things done well. I would rate their production of breakfast as highly as anything we've experienced at sea with first class eggs, excellent corned beef hash and lean English bacon alongside the crispy American variety. The Lido is really where Princess put most of their catering effort and, in their defence, they are responding to what customers want. Huge portions are the priority and day after day, meal after meal, we watched cruisers fill the enormous oval dinner plates with massive helpings. Not surprisingly, many of the cruisers were as massive as the portions they loaded onto their plates. But in the formal restaurant, things are disappointing. Formal dining may not last much longer on Princess. On the second, 8.15 sitting, we sat in a frequently half full restaurant where the service was very good but where the food was largely mediocre and sometimes simply poor. If only it had matched the quality of the prose on the menu. One night, between Hong Kong and Taiwan, the six of us ordered Rib Eye steaks which were huge in size but with so much gristle that not one of us would have paid for them in a restaurant. The beef was almost always lacking in flavour and the kitchen perpetually struggled to produce steaks or prime rib which met our requirements. One night, medium rare beef would be nearly blue and on another almost well done. Vegetables were sad, the soups inevitably uninspiring and everything was served with far too much salt. We drank so much water at dinner that we always left the table feeling bloated. There are good things about Diamond Princess. The ship is magnificent with six pools and eighteen bars and its size meant that it coped superbly with some unusually difficult weather including, at one point, 30-foot seas and a force ten gale. The staff are always well presented, always wonderfully welcoming, and we found the bar staff outstanding. The Crooners Bar produces Margaritas to die for. But the entertainment was generally very poor with puerile comedians and two Cruise Directors convinced that their job was all about presenting an imbecilic morning show on stateroom TV. Movies Under The Stars provided an exception. The picture quality was good, the sound quality excellent and this was a delightful way to watch the cinema late at night. The cabins are the usual high quality. We had D736 a mini suite but designed for disabled customers and with two beds which would not easily fit together. But by compensation we had a huge bathroom and a magnificent balcony of double the normal size and with views to the rear as well out to sea. We had just one cabin steward who had to cope with twenty rooms on his own and we soon realised that it was impossible for him to respond promptly or sometimes at all to additional requests. The customer base is a little different to our previous experiences on Cunard and Holland America. There was little formality and only a minority of men wore tuxedos on the half dozen formal nights. On the other nights smart casual really meant that anything goes, including shorts and lots of blue denim jeans worn by men who were old enough to know better. Baseball caps in the formal dining room were a common sight. So our verdict on Princess? Good value but this is an economy product. Nothing wrong with that. But if you have enjoyed the standards of lines like Cunard or HAL (even though they might cost more) you'll find Princess seriously lacking. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
We joined the Silver Whisper 30 days into the World Cruise which had started in Fort Lauderdale. Our parents had been on board for all that time and we were glad to be on this trip with old hands as many friendships had already been ... Read More
We joined the Silver Whisper 30 days into the World Cruise which had started in Fort Lauderdale. Our parents had been on board for all that time and we were glad to be on this trip with old hands as many friendships had already been formed. The ship was unable to dock at the V&A Waterfront as planned. This appears to be due the local authorities having security worries. The working dock is only a 10 minute walk from the Waterfront and a shuttle was provided on the 2 days we were there. We boarded at lunchtime, before the cabin was ready and were welcomed in the Panorama Lounge where we had a coffee. Our cabin had two single beds made up as a good sized double. There is a walk-in wardrobe with plenty of hanging space and drawers and a safe. The bathroom has shower, bath and two basins. Good toiletries are provided and you can choose from three different ranges. There is a balcony with two chairs and a table and a sitting area with large sofa, two more chairs, a table, a desk, fridge and TV. There is also an ipod player. We had a charming butler and stewardess who were around morning and evening and could be contacted easily. The laundry service was excellent and free to us as we have cruised more that 100 days. All the restaurants offer free seating and if you have not already made up a table with friends, Maitre D will do this for you, or you can eat at a table for two. All drinks are included at all times. The Main Dining Room is the most formal of those on offer. The menu is extensive and service excellent. La Terrazza offers a buffet breakfast with egg, waffles, pancakes etc. available or cooked to order. There is a buffet lunch in Terrazza too and Italian dining in the evening. There are about a dozen tables outside this restaurant. The Pool Deck offers light lunches of burgers, grilled fish, a dish of the day, salads and sandwiches. In the evening they do hot rocks where you cook fish and meat to your liking and it is served with jacket potatoes or fries and salads. Anyone may eat anywhere whenever they like. Reservations maybe needed in the evening at La Terrazza and on the deck. Room service is also available 24 hours a day and any dish from the menu of the day can be served. We had two excellent lecturers on board who spoke about the places we were visiting from a political and financial angle. There is a group of five entertainers who put on shows in a low key way after dinner some nights. Soloists also came on board and were excellent. There is the usual mix of bridge (with World class coaches), Trivia, Yoga, Pilates, golf putting, bingo. The trips organised by Silversea are expensive. They do keep groups to a small size when they can and queueing is not something that you ever have to do! In summary, the Silver Whisper is small enough that you feel very much at home and the over-riding feeling of fantastic service is always upheld. The crew and officers are outstanding. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were ... Read More
Overall we 'quite' enjoyed the cruise, but it has to go down as one of our least successful. I'll get the problems out of the way first before giving an overview of the cruise ship. Some of the problems on this cruise were caused by events in a previous sector, namely a major drug bust of 4 passengers carrying cocaine who were arrested in San Fransisco and Sydney, before we boarded. (Serious enough to have been reported on Sky News.)However, the result of these events meant that we were a marked ship, subject to the most rigorous screening (full cabin searches, dog sniffing and additional baggage and personal searches especially in remaining Autralian ports and in Bali. Bad luck for anybody carrying small amounts of recreational stuff for own use!)The worst aspect was that we were unable to visit Yorkey's Knob, from where we had hoped to visit the Great Barrier Reef after 30+ years of trying. This was because the Australian authorities decided that Yorkey's Knob didn't have adequate screening for such a dodgy ship, so we would have to be screened at Cairns - but our anchorage position remained the same, and it would have taken hours to tender all 2000 passengers and crew up to Cairns. So Captain decided not worth it at all - we wouldn't have got the the GBR that day. So that was the first disappointment. But there were other difficulties, including a taxi blockade in Bali preventing P&O shuttle buses leaving the pier (so going nowhere)coupled with the pontoon on the pier getting damaged by waves, so preventing tender boats coming to pick up stranded passengers. (Many of whom spent the whole day in a bar off the pier who must have thought it was Christmas birthday and anniversary all come at once.) The Bali authorities appeared to be unable to mend the damaged pontoon, such that engineers from Aurora were despatched to do the job. This took until about 3pm, by which time tours buses that had got through before the taxi blockade were returning. We got to the pier around 5.30 after our tour, to face a 2 and a half hour queue. Medics from the ship had been brought over to identify any urgent medical cases to get priority. Aurora finally left Bali several hours late, with some very disgruntled people (also some very drunk ones). The other 'external' cause of passenger fury was that local tender boats were used as well as ship's tenders in Koh Samui, and the one we were on had a completely incompetent crew incapable of tying up to the Aurora, so passengers sat or stood on open decks in 39 degree temperature stewing while senior P&O officers were sent down to sort things out. Being overheated temperature-wise certainly raised the emotional temperature too.On the ship itself, the only significant problem was the continuous dripping from the air conditioning. The sight of buckets everywhere, and dehumidifiers to dry out soaking carpets, became the butt of continuous jokes both by the entertainers on the ship and the passengers. The staff did what they could, but it was not an edifying sight. It has to be said the weather was very hot and humid for most of this sector. So having got the problems out of the way, how did I rate Aurora? We liked it / P&O a whole lot better than Cunard, which we also experienced this year. Drinks and excursions half the price, so less feeling of being ripped off. Most staff very good, especially cabin and dining room service. Loved the spa, and the gym (though gym far too small given the number of people attending classes), the pools were nice. Library was quite good, there was plenty of public area space, reasonably well kept (ignoring drips). There were some quite good enhancement offerings like art clubs, photo clubs and dance lessons. The theatre was quite nice but too small to accommodate half the passengers (i.e. all of first or second sitting) - which might not have been a problem had there been any alternative entertainment while the show was on. But most nights at 8.30 everything else shut down, so if you weren't having dinner and didn't want to watch the show (or couldn't get in) there was absolutely nothing to do, not even live music in a bar - oh, and the occasional quiz, which is fine if you watch TV a lot and can answer those type of questions. The standard of the food was mostly pretty good (much the same as Cunard, not as good as on the smaller luxury ships). However, the alternative dining venues were a disappointment. Marco Pierre White would not want his name put to what is served in his name in the Cafe Bordeaux. It was 'OK' but much the same as in the Alexandria / Medina restaurants. Te Pennant Grill was maybe slightly better but the heat and humidity made it a less than enjoyable experience up there. Overall, I think most passengers would have had a good time, there are a lot of very loyal P&O passengers. But for us, it confirmed what we thought after our Cunard cruise: we never want to go on such a big ship again. Having a large number of tender ports (over half) plus being forced to moor in big industrial docks well away from city / towns centres, requiring some long shuttle buses rides, the continual queuing for one thing or another, and fixed seating / timing in restaurants - not for us. We also would never go on a sector of a world cruise again.Too few ports and too many sea days, and a different atmosphere with some passengers doing the whole world cruise and the rest continually changing. I like embarking with everyone else (preferably fewer than 400 people) ans sharing the whole cruise in common with them. I did meet some nice people, and would not try to deter anyone from taking a P&O cruise. I just know I won't be doing it again. The itinerary wasn't that great either, once we'd lost Yorkey's Knob for the Great Barrier Reef. I haven't been able to rate all the ports because several are not on the list, and probably for good reason. The last few ports were very repetitive - basically the main attraction was the beach, which when it is really hot is maybe not where you want to spend hour after hour. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is ... Read More
This was our first cruise on Diamond Princess. We are veteran cruisers and chose this particular cruise for the itinerary it offered. The ship is especially well laid out and has elegant decor. It is well maintained and the staff is very attentive. The Calypso Pool is an especially cheerful place - beautiful mosaics and dramatic lighting at night. The food was exceptionally good in all venues. We liked the flexibility of Anytime Dining. Cabin Great location - close to the atrium elevators. While Princess calls this a "fully obstructed view" many cruise lines would have called this a "partially obstructed view." We had a good view over the top of the lifeboat. (We could completely see the Sydney Opera House over the lifeboat.) I believe you would be able to see over the lifeboats from almost any of the cabins in this category on deck 8. We also had a small view down to the water, next to the lifeboat. The cabin felt fairly roomy for its size, probably because there was only an armchair, not a settee or sofa. There was a flatscreen TV, about 36", a refrigerator, vanity with 3 small drawers and a desk chair. There was one long closet, about 7' of hanging space, which felt underutilized because it didn't have any shelf space (other than the shelf above the rod in the closet) that some other ships have. The shelves were in a separate closet, about two feet wide, and the safe (which used a keypad entry) occupied one of the shelves. The bathroom was typical in size and had a shower curtain (not doors). We liked most of the ports. The towns of Airlie Beach, Port Douglas, and Darwin, Australia are somewhat similar. There is not a lot to do, especially in Airlie Beach, unless you want to go to the Barrier Reef, which we have already done in the past. Many shore excursions seemed overpriced. Taiwan was a disappointment. We took a shore excursion, but the guide's English skills were poor. The city itself seemed less prosperous than the other cities we visited. Busan, S. Korea was one of the prosperous cities. They have the second largest fish market in the world - really a sight to see! Busan goes out of its way to make cruise ships and passengers feel welcome. Shanghai was wonderful. We toured on our own without a problem. The metro is clean and easy to use, with signage in English. We rode the fastest train in the world, the maglev, from a metro station in Pudong to the airport and back just to experience it --well worth it. We shopped at an underground market at the Science and Technology Museum metro stop, then took the metro to the Bund. The buildings look like something you would expect in Brussels. The promenade along the river goes for many blocks and offers good views of both the Bund and Pudong with its world class skyscrapers and the Pearl Tower. In Dalian, China we took a shore excursion from the ship that featured a visit to the home of a local family. That was one of the highlights of the whole trip. The cruise ended in Tianjin, China, the port for Beijing, about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour bus ride to Beijing. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent ... Read More
I joined Arcadia in Singpore for a very relaxing cruise through Asia visiting Sihanoukville, Bangkok, Phu My, Ha Long Bay, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagasaki, Osaka, Rabaul, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney. Overall it was an excellent cruise with some fantastic ports and excellent weather. I really did enjoy the cruise and found it very relaxing and entertaining. It had that laid back type of atmosphere onboard opposed to the fast paced mood of short cruises. Public Rooms - were all clean and well presented. Allot of the lounges and bars were spacious and it was very easy to find a place to sit down and relax and do whatever you wanted to do. Cabin - I had a balcony cabin on A deck which was clean and well presented. There was a little cosmetic wear and tear in the bathroom and on the walls, but there was no more wear and tear than you would find in a standard land based hotel. The cabin is excellent for a ship. It in no way compares to a 5 star hotel and if you wanted to compare it to a land based hotel you would be looking at around a 3 star + hotel. Dining/Food - Food is always subjective to the individual and what they like to eat. What I found on Arcadia was that the food served was far superior to any land based fast food chain like McDonalds, KFC, the average hamburger store, RSL/bowling club type food. If you have eaten at some place more upmarket then you will find the food on Arcadia does not compare to that. I found the Neptune Grill for burgers, hotdogs and fast food outstanding during the day and probably the best for day food on the ship. The Belvedere Buffet Restaurant was great for cold meats and salads but for lunch it was the slops line. Breakfast in the Belvedere was excellent as was Dinner. The Meridian Dining Room was always great and my selection always med with my satisfaction. As said above the food was much better than average land based places but not as good as the more up market places. In the 10 years I have been cruising with P&O the food standard has dropped considerably since the Carnival merger. Entertainment - This was excellent and the Headliners Theatre group always impress. The entertainment was run by a great Cruise Director and team who were very energetic and involved with the passengers. We had random guest entertainers to varied tastes on board. If you liked their style and genre then they were great. If the performer does something that your not interested in then obviously there is no point seeing them as you wont like it. Ship/Facilities - Arcadia is showing a bit of wear and tear. Whilst the public rooms that I described above are acceptable there are some small things that do pose a problem. 1. None of the whirlpool spas/jacuzzi's work at all. None of them blow any bubbles or have any jet pressure. They just dont work. 2. The pools are not being heated to a comfortable level. The Neptune Pool (the covered pool) is not heated due to it being under a closing roof and causing too much humidity when the weather is bad. Unfortnately the pool is unusable in cold climates. 3. Some of the decking is coming apart as well as some areas around the ship have leaks. There are pot holes in some of the carpet from the leaks. It is obvious that there are areas of the ship that need attention. It is not bad enough to ruin a holiday, but the lack of maintenance speaks volumes about the attitude of the management and their upkeep of the ship. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2012
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his ... Read More
NOTES FROM A CRUISE In February ROBIN KNIGHT* and his wife Jean spent 24 days on board the 90,000 ton Queen Elizabeth as the cruise ship sailed 9,200 miles from San Francisco to Sydney on her second world voyage. Here he reports his impressions. The first thing that hits you as you board Queen Elizabeth is the design -- somewhat boxy and top heavy on the outside, stately and classical inside. The dominant art deco theme inside the ship works as well today as it must have on the original vessel when she was launched in 1938. The centrepiece is the magnificent 18ft David Linley marquetry panel carving which dominates the Grand Lobby. But all over Queen Elizabeth one finds elegant, imaginative touches -- Great Gatsby-era light fittings, nostalgic black-and-white photos, display cabinets full of Cunard memorabilia, 1930s signage, deep pile carpeting, an eye-catching glass statue and a fine new portrait of Queen Elizabeth 11. Some facts and figures: the average age of passengers on our cruise was 75. One lady celebrated her 97th birthday and a man died of a heart attack while eating breakfast in the cafeteria. If you get exasperated shuffling behind walking sticks, zimmer frames and wheelchairs, this is not the cruise for you. On the other hand, the atmosphere is calm and civilised. Between San Francisco and Sydney the ship carried about 1,850 passengers (some 200 below capacity) including 640 Brits, 200 Germans and 100 French journeying around the world on a three-month long cruise at a minimum cost of £25,000 a head. Thirtyseven nationalities were represented among the passengers and 50 nationalities in the 1,000-strong crew. Most of the senior officers were British or Irish. Service: generally attentive, friendly, flexible, obliging. We moved our dinner table reservation without difficulty to escape a garrulous neighbour. On Valentine's Day Cunard sent us a rose and a card. Our stateroom (never cabin -- a Cunard affectation) steward was conscientious and reliable. The Purser's Desk (vital for all queries) was well run by a multilingual team of capable, polite young women. When a screw came loose on our balcony panel during a stormy spell, it was repaired quickly by a technician who strapped himself to the railings to avoid falling off in the high winds. Real dedication! Numbers: congestion resulting from the presence on board of so many other passengers was not, on the whole, a problem. Occasionally it was -- when getting into small tenders to visit and depart from Fiji, queuing up for food in the Lido cafeteria early in the morning, finding a seat in a bar before dinner and, above all, using the guest launderettes. Charges: Cunard seems bent on emulating Ryan Air. Just about everything discretionary came with a hefty price tag -- and the total mounts up during the best part of a month on board. Many drinks cost more than in the UK - $20 for two pre-dinner glasses of wine in the Commodore Bar and a minimum $30 for a bottle of wine with dinner. In Fiji and again in Dunedin, New Zealand, we purchased wine, gin, tonics and beer and were allowed to bring the haul on board. Still, the fact is that it cost $25 to buy a photograph of oneself from the photo team and $25 to attend a wine-tasting session. Shore excursions could be pricey (about $75 per person on average) but were worth it. The minimum charge for Internet access was $50 (everything is denominated in US dollars). Tips are included for every service and automatically add $12-15 a day per person to one's onboard account. Cabins: with three main categories and more than 30 price grades on offer on Queen Elizabeth it is hard to generalise. We had a light and airy balcony cabin measuring about 300 sq ft. Drawer space was rather limited and there was no bath (only a shower). But the bed was comfortable, linen was changed regularly and the furniture blended in well -- as did the invaluable balcony. Laundry: charges ($8 for a shirt) seemed set to deter usage. However, each deck has three washing machines and three driers for free use. The difficulty was that they were never sufficient. On our deck a queue of (largely female) users formed at 7.30am most mornings and the machines went non-stop for the next 12 hours. People even sat waiting for an empty machine and angry confrontations were not unknown. On a long cruise, this is a real Achilles' heel for Queen Elizabeth. Passenger behaviour: Superficially, it seemed reasonable to us. Behind the scenes Cunard was finessing numerous issues. In particular there appeared to be an endless stream of minor complaints -- about cabins, exchange rates, restaurant tables, staff service, invoices, smoking in cabins (banned), email access and so on -- maybe reflecting the seniority of many of the cruisers. Dress code: Formal evening wear was mandatory (except in the Lido cafeteria) on about one in three evenings when we were at sea (not in port). Dressing up suits the traditionalists but is a bit of a bore for anyone who imagines they are on a relaxing holiday. Activities: Cruise passengers are adept at entertaining themselves. But to help them Queen Elizabeth offered a huge range of activities starting with a 6,000 volume library, games of all descriptions (cards, board, bingo, deck quoits, life-size outdoor chess), golf nets, lectures, shore excursions, crossword puzzle competitions, seminars on iPADS, a health spa, table tennis, satellite television, choir singing, whisky and wine tasting, dance classes, clothes sales, talks about stress. One clear evening we received a brilliant, laser-guided talk given by one of the Second Officers on the night sky in the southern hemisphere. Magic! Entertainment: A downmarket trend was apparent. None of the entertainers on this QE cruise could be termed top rank. Some were American, others British, Australian, Maori and German. One of the stars, in our view, was the resident band -- a disparate international grouping that proved versatile, engaging and professional. Much of the rest was no more than average although there were a couple of stand outs -- Valerie Perri, known for her role in 'Evita' in the USA; and Bruce Morrison from the UK -- another strong all-round singer/performer with a background in musicals. For us the number one attraction proved to be a stylish young American harpist called Hannah Kuipers who played soothingly at venues all over ship most afternoons and evenings. The lectures (always an onboard staple) were a mixed bag. The main feature was a nine-talk series on the Pacific region given by an American anthropologist. In quick-fire fashion this covered the whole vast region, its history and culture. Two superior talks were given by the recently-retired head of the Australian armed forces. Port destination presentations -- crucial preparation for passengers not sure if they were visiting Honolulu or Pago Pago - were the responsibility of the efficient tours department. Food: Opinions varied about the quality if not the quantity. Feeding thousands of people several times a day -- 12,000 meals are served daily when the crew is included - will never be simple however good the chefs. Queen Elizabeth also operates a rigid, old-fashioned class system which separates Princess Grill and Queen's Grill passengers from the common herd who must make do with the 878-seat two deck Britannia restaurant. An alternative is the a la carte Verandah restaurant where main courses cost $25-30. At the Britannia level (ours) breakfast was always excellent, dinner uninspired. The best rule, we found, was to order the simplest item on the daily-changing menu and avoid elaborate-sounding sauces. In the Lido cafeteria, food was varied if routine. Rather late in the day we stumbled across a top notch pub lunch option (yes, there is an authentic British pub on board). The afternoon tea experience in the Queen's Room -- all white gloves, string quartets and cucumber sandwiches -- is not to be missed. Weather -- the Pacific is wrongly named. Based on our experience, it is anything but pacific, being enormous (one third of the Earth's surface), ultra deep and subject to strong winds and currents. We learned this the hard way. Between San Francisco and Hawaii Queen Elizabeth battled 55 knot headwinds and 16ft seas. Taking a shower became a balancing act and there were many complaints of seasickness. Outside decks were closed and evening performances by dancers in the theatre company cancelled as the stage was lurching around so much. Things were little better as we rocked-and-rolled across the Tasman Sea. Crises: leaving Fiji for Auckland, New Zealand, I received an email from home about a potential family crisis. We calculated that it would be at least five days before we could get back to the UK. This is one of the downsides of cruising, especially for the elderly. One "world cruiser" developed an ulcer in San Francisco and was hospitalized. Then he and his wife had to fly to Hawaii to catch up the ship. Travel insurance didn't cover the emergency and the couple ended up paying £3,500 in additional charges. Cruising concerns: With more and more cruise ships at sea, port capacity is becoming an issue. In Sydney (where cruising is worth $400mn a year to the city's economy) there is only one quay for a ship the size of QE. Eight times last year Carnival (owners of Cunard) had to anchor a ship in the outer harbour with all the attendant transport difficulties involved. Disputes also are cropping up everywhere over shore-based facilities such as baggage trolleys in terminal buildings -- who should pay for them? In Wellington and Sydney Queen Elizabeth was made to arrive at 5.00am before first light to avoid disrupting local ferry traffic. In American waters, there were innumerable security checks to navigate as each port of call insisted on its own inspections. At Port Melbourne the authorities made all passengers disembark from a single gangway to enable sniffer police dogs to check that no one was importing a banana into Australia. As a result it took two hours to leave the ship. Later it took the local ambulance service nearly an hour to rescue an injured passenger who had to be moved off Queen Elizabeth to hospital -- to the irritation of the Captain who made his feelings known over the public address system. Downsides: The air conditioning system on Queen Elizabeth is erratic -- alternately too cold or too warm. Many passengers (including me) caught nasty chills as a result. Over-friendly strangers are an occupational hazard on all cruises; Queen Elizabeth had her fair share. We also heard many gripes from young crew members about their lack of time off and their tough work contracts. Our Captain twice blotted his copybook by failing to respond to written enquiries about his ship. Overall impressions: After a shaky start to its cruising career the newest Cunard Queen has bedded down pretty well. Today the general experience is restful and classy if a tad more staid than on a ship like P&O's Arcadia, perhaps reflecting the upmarket retailing strategy Cunard favours. Children are conspicuous by their absence. Queen Elizabeth also is staunchly British in character, which may not appeal to everyone. Our bottom line? We returned home delighted to have had such a wonderful experience. Robin Knight was a foreign correspondent for an American newsmagazine for 28 years, working all over the world. He now runs his own corporate writing company Knightwrite Ltd Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana ... Read More
Background: We're 60 year old Australians with 10 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise on a British ship except for cruising on the original Oriana way back in 1984! The official sector of the around the world cruise was from Sydney to San Francisco but we were allowed to embark in Brisbane. This added another 3 nights to the cruise making it a total of 28 nights. British pounds which are used onboard are now only $1.50 as our exchange rate has improved. Embarkation: As we live near Brisbane we drove and left our car at a nearby car storage. As our return trip would be by air from USA, they would collect us at the nearby international airport. Their shuttle service was efficient. Arriving after 11 am, we were forced to stand in line at the cruise terminal until midday when they opened the counter. The line moved slowly as only about 3 cruise staff processed the 300 odd passengers boarding here. Gradually more staff appeared (maybe they had been on lunch?). We couldn't understand why the process wasn't started earlier or more staff used as with other cruise ships at this port. With such a relatively small number of passengers embarking here, the process should have been quicker. Once on board, we were directed to our cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch. Throughout the cruise we had 5 Cruise Critic meetings with our small group followed by lunch in the MRD. The Ship: Built in 1995, the Oriana was showing its age but the recent refurbishment helped it feel modern. Public areas were nicer than we expected. Carpets looked new and the crew were constantly painting and undertaking other maintenance. It had recently been converted to an 'adults only' ship. The recently added 'duck's tail' to the lower rear of the ship seemed to help it handle some rough weather near USA. With 1800 passengers it is a comfortable size and has a good layout. The promenade deck was very wide and great for walking. While the majority of the passengers were British, there were a large number of Australians. We did get the impression that some of the reserved Poms were taken back by the comparatively loud Aussies. As mentioned in previous reviews, passengers in the rear restaurant complained of noisy vibration. At a 'question & answer' session, the captain apologised for the excessive vibration and said it was due to the 2 propellers being slightly out of timing. He said that it was worse at certain speeds which they were trying to avoid. Fortunately we weren't in that restaurant but did find the noise from the vibration excessive when in the Pacific Lounge which is on the deck directly above the rear dining room. It appeared that certain performers were moved from here to the front theatre for this reason. After the captain's comments, the noise did appear to reduce. In the interest of hygiene we would have preferred if the public toilets had the main door left open as on many other ships avoiding the need to use paper towels to open them. Also some public toilets regularly were out of order. Cabin: The overall size of our inside cabin is not large, but sufficient for two people and our luggage. Unfortunately as we booked late (at a good price), we had a 4 berth cabin. The top bunks against the walls caused problems as we had the queen bed arrangement. Also there is no space between the end of the bed and the wardrobe on one side and the desk on the other. The shower was fairly small but the curtain didn't get sucked inwards. The flat-screen TV was a reasonable size. The a/c made the cabin freezing even on the highest setting (this was fixed after complaining). There was a small fridge which was handy for keeping our supply of Coke & snacks cold. Ice had to be requested (we had a standing order at noon each day). Also if you want a top sheet, ask for it. Food & drinks: We found the service in the main dining room to be fine but the standard & variety of food was inferior -- certainly not to the quality of food on American ships like Princess. There was a noticeable lack of seafood other than fish -- not even the usual prawn cocktails (as my DW is not a seafood lover she was reasonably happy with the quality). We laughed at their idea of tiger prawns - extremely little in size & in number. Even on the formal 'black tie' nights the food was nothing special! Our wine waiter was prompt & reliable. As this is a British ship there were strict rules on dress code in the MRD (we were aware this of pre cruise). There were 6 Black Tie & 7 Smart (jacket required!!!) nights on this cruise. This was different to the relaxed Aussie & American cruises. After experiencing the long lines at the buffet the first morning, we used the MRD for breakfast most other mornings. Also the food seemed improved and the atmosphere more relaxing for breakfast. We enjoyed the popular fruit smoothes but missed the large American style pancakes and freshly made waffles. Also fresh fruit at times was in very limited supply. We did use the buffet for lunch but wished the quality of the food was to a higher standard -- much of it looked like leftovers. Trays are still supplied. On some port days many passengers were late for the early sitting in the MRD. As a result there were long lines in the buffet as only one side was being used (the other side was kept closed in the evening as it led to one of the extra-charge restaurants on the rear deck). We did use this Italian extra-charge restaurant on the evening leaving Sydney. The view of the harbour as we sailed out was fantastic but the service was extremely slow and the food disappointing. To receive better quality food an additional payment was required! We were pleased to see hand-sanitizers at MRD and the buffet -- their use was strongly encouraged. Alcohol was reasonably priced. We used a soft drink card for post-mix drinks which only gave a small saving but was convenient and time saving. Surprisingly low-priced duty-free spirits could be bought and consumed in your cabin. Also P&O UK has relaxed views on the amount of wine brought onboard. Staff and service on board: Organization on the ship was generally excellent with the one exception at Honolulu where maybe USA customs clearance could have been handled better to avoid long lines. Tendering, which occurred at only one port, was well organised with no delays. The crew who were mainly from Goa, India were polite but didn't seem cheerful. Generally they were not up to Princess' standard. The reception staff were friendly and polite. Captain Camby, who was the youngest in the fleet, was very popular especially with the females as he was a John Travolta lookalike. We found him to be very approachable, humorous and conveyed information in great detail. Cruise Director, Michael Mullane was also popular and did a great job. Both performed well together one evening in the miming game, 'Give Us A Clue'. A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as Britain was popular and much appreciated. Prices in the photo gallery were half that of Princess. Having several laundrettes on board was a bonus. Also surprisingly they were free but this can cause problems as some passengers used them to wash a few clothes only at a time causing delays. Entertainment: The program of entertainment was much organised with a full colour 'Your Cruise Overview' printed at the start of this sector. This listed the dress code and all the evening activities for each day. On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The performers in the Headliner Company did a superb job. Also we were pleasantly surprised to find they did 8 different shows during the cruise -- certainly more than Royal Caribbean offer! These were the highlight of our evening. On 2 occasions we even saw their repeated show the next night. Unfortunately the main theatre (the Theatre Royal) had a design fault with the seating. Many of the flip-seat bases were sloping downwards causing us to slide forward. Also to increase the capacity of the theatre, legroom was minimal. The alternative entertainment area (the Pacific Lounge) was laid out like a lounge - as a result its capacity was limited. Also unless you arrived early, one's view could be blocked by supporting posts. Most of the guest entertainers were British (our favourites were a singer, Emily Reed and comedian, Richard Guantlett) and of an acceptable standard. This cruise consisted of many sea days. The program of activities was good and my DW loved participating in the passenger choir but missed not having Zumba. The many guest lecturers were popular (almost filled the theatre) and very informative -- every sea day had presentations by at least 2 lecturers. There was a cinema on this ship with good movies but we didn't have time to see any - for us days at sea go by quickly. We should mention that we were travelling with friends with whom we spent at least 2 hours each sea day playing cards. The only suitable location for this activity was in the buffet. Shore Excursions & Destinations: We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive although on this ship they were more reasonably priced than American ships. Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explore ourselves. Also as we had been to New Zealand before this worked extremely well. The other Pacific ports of Bora Bora & Papeete were easy to explore ourselves; whereas, in Honolulu we with our friends found a great guide who copied the ship's sightseeing tour for much less cost. Disembarkation: As we had been cleared by customs at Honolulu everything went smoothly and on time leaving the ship. There was the usual line waiting for taxis but this was well organised. Conclusion: P&O UK proves that you get what you pay for. In our opinion the service and entertainment are excellent whereas the food was generally disappointing. There is certainly no heavy selling while on this ship. Generally we would recommend them as long as you remember these are British ships. While onboard we didn't take advantage of P&O UK's Future Cruise Credits scheme as it was too restrictive but would consider cruising with them again. Read Less
Sail Date: February 2012
This cruise had all the ticks for making our 25th wedding anniversary great and it did, except for the very below standard food which was a major disappointment to us and many other friends we made on this cruise. At most ports we treated ... Read More
This cruise had all the ticks for making our 25th wedding anniversary great and it did, except for the very below standard food which was a major disappointment to us and many other friends we made on this cruise. At most ports we treated ourselves to a fantastic meal rather than being disappointed by the awful food on the Oriana especially in the Conservatory. Very few of our choices in the main dining room were up to expectations. We tried different dishes when the menu was repeated for the second sector from San Francisco to Southampton but still we were disappointed. But then again, this is our opinion. The ports of call were very good and some we enjoyed more than others especially Honolulu and San Francisco. The highlight of the cruise for us was the transverse of the Panama Canal, which was a whole day event and it was amazing. The ship in itself is very classically styled and well looked after by the crew who were forever scraping down the rust and painting. We made some very lovely friendships through the cc's meetings and our dining table companions. The entertainment left a lot to be desired unless you liked UK comedy which at times can be very boring. The Headliners (the ship's dance/singing group) were excellent and did a very good show of Freddie Mercury's songs amongst other performances. All the others were OK. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
I agree with all that 'graham 100' has said about his leg to Dubai. To start with the boarding organisation in Southampton was chaotic. The cabin was very clean and tidy - we had a good steward in Peter. The TV was about a ... Read More
I agree with all that 'graham 100' has said about his leg to Dubai. To start with the boarding organisation in Southampton was chaotic. The cabin was very clean and tidy - we had a good steward in Peter. The TV was about a 15" flatscreen which was pathetically poor together with the service it gave. The ship and decor could have done with some attention but overall it was satisfactory. The food in the Main restaurant was very inconsistent ranging from good to inedible. The Belverdere had fresher food but limited choice. We have cruised on Arcadia before and the food standards were much higher. Generally speaking the restaurant service was not good - the waiters were poorly trained and rarely smiled. Their supervision was almost non-existent. The drinks were fairly priced and the bar service was good. The Captain's 'Cocktail Party' was held in the enclosed swimming pool which was highly inappropriate/too small. The free wines were awful/undrinkable and we opted for a g and t. We had a glimpse of the Captain when he said a few words which was more than some experienced. We didn't bother to subject ourselves to the second 'party'. The elusive Captain was spotted twice when most of the passengers were on excursions! His officers were also rarely seen. The excursion programme was mostly a disaster according to most we spoke to. We had two 50% refunds because the excursions were disastrous. The guy that gave the pre-excursion talks was partly to blame because his information/photos were years out of date. The coaches used in Aqaba and Egypt were old and dirty - something P&O should have checked. There were some good speakers but some should never been allowed on board. The entertainment provided was mixed with a few good acts but mostly they were ruined by poor direction/sound control. The regular group The Headliners (Headbangers)danced quite well but their singing was dreadful. P&O's cost cutting I suspect was mostly to blame for this average and disappointing cruise. P&O are not the only cruise line that is falling into the same trap probably promoted by accountants! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2012
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The ... Read More
We travelled on the ms Amsterdam for 32 days from Buenos Aires to Sydney... Highlights were certainly Falkland Islands, Antarctica, The big waves near South America, Easter Island, Tahiti, and a bonus visit by Ball's Pyramid. The food for the most part was very good. Service at our table was a bit slow, resulting in cool food. We switched tables to a quieter one, and the service and food temperature improved markedly. Cabin stewards were great, as were the rest of the staff. Met lots of interesting people, and lots to do every day. Biggest downer was once we got to the hot climates, the air conditioning was on full freeze mode in the Restaurant and show lounge and Ocean Bar... and my two travelling companions came down with severe colds... which they are still fighting several days after leaving the ship. Overall... a great trip and we would recommend to anyone. Details: Background Information Since we were travelling to the Cruise in Winter from Western Canada, we left 6 days before the cruise to get to Buenos Aires on Air Canada on a 20 hour series of 3 flights. This also allowed us to get over jet lag, and see some of Buenos Aires. Hotel Info There are many Apartments available on a Bed and Breakfast basis in B-A We chose one not right downtown, which worked out well, after we sorted out the lack of breakfast service, and bought our own to eat in the fully equipped apartment. We travelled in B-A on local busses, trains, and underground, and twice on a TAXI. The local transport is very good, and very inexpensive. Need to pick up a SUBE card at post office or other suppliers, for which you need your passport, and then travel is easy, as buses only take coins otherwise which are in short supply. The scheduling program on the internet is awesome... just click in your destinations, and it shows the whole route for five busses. Ship Info The Amsterdam was on a 112 day world cruise... still is, as I write this. In booking a segment, you cannot specify your room beforehand, and our request for two rooms near each other was not heeded. We would up with the one we wanted, but out friend had an "upgrade" from an inside what we thought would be across the hall, to a porthole cabin right at the front, down a deck, and half way across the ship from us. HAL did offer a closer room, but only for an additional charge, which was not accepted. We were not impressed. The world cruise attracts those who can get away for 112 days, thus an older crowd. We saw only one guest child on board! The ship was not quite full, and thus there was only minor waiting anywhere... elevators were quick, only a couple of people ahead of you at most in any lineup for food at the Lido, and choice of places to sit anywhere. The staff were generally very happy and helpful. Activities There were lots of activites on board, and the problem was to choose. Some entertainers were a bit amateurish, and the clientèle were very vocal in the hallways about this. Others were first class, and there was a good variety. The Mardi Gras evening was an all out effort, with special entertainers from New Orleans, awesome decorations, food, and drinks. Service Service was generally great in the Lido, but was slow in the La Fontaine Restaurant. We eventually moved tables to another area, due to the very high noise level at the back of the restaurant due to the low ceiling, and some very boisterous tables near us... and the service improved also. Port & Shore Excursions We chose to organize our own port excursions, and they all worked out. Most frustrating thing was that the independent travellers get the back of the line on the tender ports, waiting nearly 2 hours till the HAL tour guests, and the 4 and 5 star mariners (who comprise a considerable portion of the travellers on the world cruise, many who have made several world cruises on HAL) have got off. We feel that HAL should allow a small percentage... like 20 percent... of each tender to have independent travellers on a first come first serve basis, rather than holding them all. Both Falkland Islands and Easter Island were the highlight ports of call on this trip... and of course the awesome scenery in Antarctica. Stateroom We had an outside cabin on the Lower Promenade deck, just a short walk to be on the deck without the cost of a balcony. Facilities were good. We had a problem with the plumbing due to the rough weather, and it was repaired quickly. Note you need to bring a multi plug adapter if you have more than one thing to plug in. Dining We enjoyed having breakfast brought every morning to the cabin. For some reason, which we never found out, we only had 5 formal evenings rather than the 9 originally planned. I would have been annoyed if I had rented a Tux... There were probably 2/3 of the men with Tuxes, and the rest in business suits...we met some who didn't bring any formal wear and just ate in the Lido on formal nights. Food was quick and hot in the Lido. Lots of choice. Food was good in the La Fontaine, but we could see the repeats on the menu as the trip continued. There were many complaints we heard about the temperature of the food, and it seemed there was some effort to improve this. The general quality and appearance and choice was awesome, considering we were in the middle of the Pacific ocean many days away from "land". Disembarkation Since there were less than 300 leaving in Sydney, and the disembarkation was spread over two days, we just walked right off the ship, picked up the bags and walked through Customs... no hassles at all. Read Less

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