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12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2015
Below the neck line, creature comforts are good. The cabin was spacious, well furnished and with an excellent bathroom, all extremely comfortable. The food was also some of the best cruise food we have experienced; there is a main ... Read More
Below the neck line, creature comforts are good. The cabin was spacious, well furnished and with an excellent bathroom, all extremely comfortable. The food was also some of the best cruise food we have experienced; there is a main restaurant, a buffet restaurant, plus 4 other speciality restaurants (no extra charge) and all of them had excellent offerings. The ship is very quiet and vibration-free. There is a very good gymnasium and a nice library, and there is a variety of pleasant bars and other spaces. So the basic needs of food and shelter are attended to in luxury. Above the neck line, I started to think that various issues contained a common thread about how the ship treats its customers. The Cruise Director made PA announcements in a formal monotone which has something of the estate agent and station announcer about it. Doubtless well-intentioned, but a far cry from the chatty, witty and informal announcements of the English Captain on our first cruise quite some years ago. The restaurant service was plentiful (lots of waiters) but seemed to be scripted, too many formulaic comments of the “have a nice day” variety. And the service can become intrusive, with waiters repeatedly interrupting table conversations. We arrived (by prior arrangement) on the second day of docking at Venice. The Reception gave us a room key and a number. No directions, no offer to carry cases. We discovered the ship had brought forward its departure time by 2 hours: no attempt had been made to contact us. In fact, reception denied that the departure had been changed, although several couples we met had booked trips ashore with local companies and had been seriously inconvenienced. The ship's excursions set new levels of stratospheric pricing. For example, docked at Livorno, “Pisa on your Own' was priced at $ 129 – basically a coach trip to drop you in a car park in central Pisa. The actual cost of a return journey to Pisa is 1.20 Euros each way bus fare to Livorno station, plus 7.50 Euros return train fare. So less than 10 Euros return or 9 dollars. The ship thus charges 14 times the public transport cost. The “Historic Pisa” excursion is the coach trip, plus a ticket to 3 monuments (not including the campanile) and costs $ 179. That's an extra 50 dollars for a ticket which anyone can buy for 8 Euros at the ticket office just behind the campanile. There is little real service for the 'independent” traveller who is not buying the ship's excursions. On two occasions, the ship announced that landings by Tender would not be possible, and docked 30 miles up the coast. Although it was easily possible to get to the original destinations in under an hour, no-one at “Destination Services” took the trouble to spend 10 minutes on the internet and post up the train times....... let alone organise a shuttle bus to the train station. Local Tourist representatives came on board with some photocopy maps of the town, but perhaps it would have undermined the ships trips to give out any information indicating that passengers could travel around on shore by other means !! The ship's disembarkation information at Monte Carlo made very heavy weather about taxi prices and waiting times for transfer to Nice airport. It recommended the ship's own transfer bus for 100 dollars each. But it failed to mention that an easy 10 to 15 minutes walk from the ship, there is an express bus direct to the airport for 20 Euros. Prices for beer, wine etc were about double normal UK prices. There was no draught ale on the ship. Bottled beer cost £7.70 per pint. (ie a 355 ml bottle for 7.67 dollars). The cheapest wine was 47 dollars per bottle. (£30.60). These prices are expressed as 6.50 dollars and 40 dollars plus a compulsory 18% service charge. As the charge is compulsory, I found it irritating:- is the intention to lull the customer with the lower “headline” figure ? Or do they think that I am not adept enough to work it out ? The best solution was often to buy wine ashore and pay the corkage charge. This was stated to be $20 per bottle in the cabin handbook, However the restaurant staff insisted on charging $25 even with the printed word in front of them. This ability to flatly contradict a customer against your own printed literature was certainly a novelty. Most people we spoke to thought that entertainments on the ship were lacklustre across the range. The “dance” group had a completely inadequate vocalist and should not have been selected for this role. There were many fewer crew “shows” than on other ships. On the last night of the cruise, there was no event, and no party......... merely a showing of “Jurassic Park”. One might be forgiven for musing “We've had your on-board spend, so now just go to bed whilst we unload the suitcases” So overall, the ship's relations with its customers appeared to lack enthusiasm or transparency, and any sense of espirit. In summary, if you require good food and a comfortable environment, this ship provides it. And if you simply want to take photographs of foreign places without getting outside the bubble and you are happy to pay maybe 1500 dollars for a collection of tours which could be achieved for 200 dollars you will have no problem. On the other hand, if you hope for more from a cruise than merely good towels and posh food, if you cannot put aside your basic sense of value for money, and if you think that a ship has some duty to “play straight” and assist its travellers (albeit with a reasonable mark-up) then there are aspects of this experience which you may find profoundly irritating. Read Less
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