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Sail Date: October 2013
The cruise was fine, so I'll limit my comments specifically to the ship and thoughts that i came away with. I have always thought that a lot of weight is given to feedback from cruisers, particularly in the responses to the surveys ... Read More
The cruise was fine, so I'll limit my comments specifically to the ship and thoughts that i came away with. I have always thought that a lot of weight is given to feedback from cruisers, particularly in the responses to the surveys and that a lot of the features on new ships would result from what people like or ask for. Therefore, I am a bit mystified by several things I encountered on Royal that I find hard to believe were incorporated due to customer input. I doubt people asked for more difficult access to seats in the Princess Theatre or Vista Lounge. I doubt survey comments suggested Princess should remove the foldup trays in the Princess Theatre seats. Did people ask for less pool area in favor of a baby Bellagio fountain? How many requests were there for a skywalk? A Promenade Deck I could stroll, walk, or run on is gone in favor of limited deck areas with a few loungers for the chair hogs. How could a walking/jogging track up high in the sun and wind be a replacement? I doubt people trying to maintain a level of fitness asked for a gym with the latest equipment, but with a lack of adequate ventilation and AC. Every morning I would come back to my cabin totally drenched in sweat. At least, it made my wife think i had really been working out. What led to the decisions that brought about a minuscule library, an equally small internet cafe with bigger monitors, a Club Six that served as a passageway for people avoiding the casino, and a Princess Live that is being used for things it is not designed for? As I said, I had a nice cruise. I just wonder about the thinking behind so many things that I don't think anyone wanted or asked for. The Royal is a beautiful five star floating hotel, but in my opinion lacks the functionality I am looking for in a Princess cruise ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
This new ship simply did not cut it with us. The disappointments included: - A "Promenade Deck" that wasn't. Most of the promenade deck was closed to passengers, although it doesn't show that on the deck plan on the ... Read More
This new ship simply did not cut it with us. The disappointments included: - A "Promenade Deck" that wasn't. Most of the promenade deck was closed to passengers, although it doesn't show that on the deck plan on the Princess website. The deck is mostly taken up by the life boats, which block the windows entirely on Deck 7 (which are Public Spaces). Facets jewelry sales has great views while the Crown Grill Restaurant has no view at all. Most of the windows remained covered, which we found depressing. - The mini-suite balcony is ridiculously small. If you just want to stand on it, it works. If you want to actually use it, forget it. There's not enough room to open one of the chairs, much less both of them. The bathroom is much smaller than the mini suite on the Caribbean Princess, the shower water pressure very limp, & the rubber shower curtain blocked off all light, making me feel like I was showering in a closet & needed a flashlight. - We were unable to see the bow of the ship from any area that we could find. Perhaps the Sanctuary had a view of the bow, but we didn't pay the $425 per person for entrance to the Sanctuary. I've never liked this feature on Princess ships & judging by the amount of people I saw using it, neither do most others. The Retreat, right next to the Sanctuary, was secluded & quiet enough for us. The private cabanas in the Retreat were never used that I saw, & were a ridiculous waste of prime real estate. People began taking the cushions for use on the regular chaises. - I looked forward to trying the Enclave, but you could not access it unless you paid the full $450 fee. Even if you had a massage, you could not use it. The exception was a couples massage. If you paid the $350 for the couples massage, then for an extra $40 per person, you would be allowed in to the Enclave. The fee prices I'm quoting were for an 18 day cruise, & are what I'm remembering, so I may be off a bit. It's annoying that you can't get full, written information on fees prior to sailing. - The Sea Walk is a design gimmick that sounded nice, & IS nice to walk on, but it also blocks the views for many balconies & takes away from their privacy. Beware of choosing a balcony below or near the Sea Walks. - The "Plunge Pool" is actually a children's wading pool. The "Water & Light Show" only happened once a week, about 4 times in one hour, at 10pm. That was it. Maybe they were too labor intensive, I have no idea. - The huge buffet areas were really more of the same offerings ... not the great variety I hoped for. I stopped trying to have a hot breakfast. Cold eggs & potatoes are very unappetizing, so I stuck with the cereal. My husband doesn't mind cold eggs. The food in the dining room was mostly terrible to inedible & we stopped going there. - Embarkation was chaos. The initial check in was quick & easy, but then we had to wait for our boarding group. The room was large, over-filled with people, no seating was available, no services except bathrooms. We waited 2 hours there. It dampened my excitement substantially. I spoke with one woman who had been on a Princess pre-cruise tour & she had been "dumped" off by the tour bus - & had been waiting over 2 hours to board. - Disembarkation was delayed an hour, but otherwise was very smooth & quick. From our group being called to getting in the cab was only 45 minutes, & included finding our luggage & going through Customs. It doesn't get any better than that. We really did not like this new ship, sorry to report, & would not sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
We sailed on the Royal Princess in October on its first transatlantic cruise from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale. We are experienced cruisers and our 30th cruise on Princess and probably the worst. First of all, when we walked into our balcony ... Read More
We sailed on the Royal Princess in October on its first transatlantic cruise from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale. We are experienced cruisers and our 30th cruise on Princess and probably the worst. First of all, when we walked into our balcony cabin (deluxe) off the back of the ship the carpet was filthy, and the drapes torn and dirty.. Mind you the ship was only not even 6 months old! We asked our cabin steward what was going on here-he shrugged his shoulders and told us that our balcony was virtually unusable because the smokestacks blow ash on our balcony and when you walk out, and then back in you bring the ash on your feet onto the carpet. (this is on all balcony back off the ship cabins) The carpet was shampooed before we got there, but it still was so dirty. So we couldn't use our balcony at all. Next we sent our laundry to be cleaned the minute we got on. After 7 days I was begging our steward to find our underwear and clothes!!! This was due they said to so many elite passengers being onboard. Well, they should know in advance how many elite passengers they have and plan for that!! 19 nights is a long cruise and the cruise line should be prepared. Then for 7 days-I said 7 days we had no HOT WATER!!! They would come and fix it and then it would break etc. Not acceptable!! Can you imagine showering for 7 days in cold water? Then three days the T. V.'s were not working, just another technical problem. Also beware of where your cabin is-We were below the Vista lounge and could hear the music late into the night in our cabin-very disturbing!!! Sometimes they have very late shows and its hard to sleep when you have boom,boom going on in your cabin. Last three days no internet because it was down. Dining room service was disappointing also-ate first seating because we like to have the same waiter, so they get to know your likes and dislikes-but food was sometimes cold. The headwaiter was excellent and did the best he could to please us, but our waiter-not so good. On the plus side the Atrium was nice although they did away with the center stairs so this makes the elevators a nightmare! The Horizon grill is great-we love the way it is set up and the food and service was terrific. The pool area is too small and the fake trees a joke and a waste of good space. So is the fountain waters-stupid, and again a waste of space. The cruise director Sam is not great either-for a 19 night cruise she never had enough going on, so we spent a lot of time at the pool. Luckily for us the sailing was smooth and warm for a transatlantic sailing. I read a ton of books. Princess has a lot of work to do to catch up with RCCL especially when it comes to entertainment-It was just O.K. some nights we skipped it altogether. The T.V. system is good and is on demand and there are plenty of movies to watch-but that's not what your on a cruise to do. All in all- lets just say it was disappointing, but we still like Princess (believe it or not) and will sail with them again just not on this ship!!!. Princess really spent a lot of money on a less then perfect ship-it has so many flaws-its know wonder the prices are falling for this ship-word of mouth travels fast. Don't waste your money-go on another Princess ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
First: The staff, food and service aboard the Royal could not be better. EXTREMELY satisfied in those regards. Our issues deal with the overall ship design. They eliminated some of the most popular venues, (e.g., Explorer's) and the ... Read More
First: The staff, food and service aboard the Royal could not be better. EXTREMELY satisfied in those regards. Our issues deal with the overall ship design. They eliminated some of the most popular venues, (e.g., Explorer's) and the dance floor in the Wheelhouse. The Wheelhouse lounge is now merged with the Crown Grill: it's hard to tell where one starts and the other stops. The only entertainment in the Wheelhouse is a piano!! The Explorer's Lounge has been replaced with the most ridiculous waste of space on the seven seas named "Princess Live!". The hold game shows, etc. in this small theater. They try and hold trivia in there - but how can you play any team games in auditorium seating? The promenade deck is virtually eliminated. You can't walk around the ship on deck 7 on the Royal. And who designed the elevators? They have four elevators fore and aft, working as a set of two rather than all four working in harmony. You can stand for five minutes waiting on an elevator only to see it whiz by your floor for reasons unknown. And what is up with this "Club 6"? Who in their right mind would ever create a lounge 100 feet in length and put a postage stamp size dance floor in one far corner? What was wrong with the center of the space? The eliminated the video screens in the Vista Lounge, anchored the small tables and narrowed the isles. Once you're in a seat in the middle of a row, you'd better hope you don't need a bathroom soon. It's nearly impossible to navigate a fully populated isle thanks to tables, immovable chairs and non-existent knee room. Same for the Princess Theater. The seats have been jammed together like a U.S. Airways flight. No more drinks in the Princess Theater folks! No more trays. Sad. But they try and sell everyone on the new expanded Piazza that is supposed to allow for more centralized entertainment. Well, if you like dancing on a marble floor, you'll thoroughly enjoy yourself. But unlike the older ships, due to the open design, you can't have anything going on in the Piazza if someone is at the piano in the Crooner's bar. The Internet Cafe has been downsized due to portable, personal tools such as smart phones, etc. But the speed of the service is extremely slow and was down several times during the cruise. The ship is more for the younger Carnival crowd than seasoned cruisers. With the right bands and plenty of booze and young people in swim wear, they'll never know what they're missing. But my bet is, that crowd had better like it because most of the preferred cruisers (Elite and Platinum) won't be back - and are already cancelling cruises booked on the Regal for the reasons stated above. We'll continue to cruise with Princess on their other ships (e.g., Ruby, Coral, Sapphire, etc.) but we'll not sail on the Royal again or the Regal. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
DW & I just returned from the inaugural 18 day Western Med/Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Royal Princess. This was our seventh cruise in a row on Princess and the fourth time we've done this itinerary. I must admit that I really ... Read More
DW & I just returned from the inaugural 18 day Western Med/Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Royal Princess. This was our seventh cruise in a row on Princess and the fourth time we've done this itinerary. I must admit that I really love the sea days. We spent the previous eighteen months preparing for this cruise on a brand new ship. Our roll call was very active and was a great way to get to know everyone and to gather information. For our three night pre-cruise stay in Venice, we again stayed at the Locanda Orseolo Hotel. The "LO" as it's referred to by us regulars is a wonderful boutique hotel. There are only 12 rooms and I believe many, if not all, we're taken up by roll call members. Since there are only 12 rooms and the hotel is so popular, we actually booked the hotel about a week before we booked the cruise in March 2012. The staff at the LO is amazing. I can't say enough good things about them. During our three days in Venice, we just played it by ear. I walked around and look a ton of pictures and we had dinner each night at our favorite pizza restaurant which is just off St. Mark's Square. The weather for the three days was a little dreary. The highlight of our pre-cruise stay was watching the Royal as it sailed into Venice. I must admit that I was impressed now that I had finally seen her in person. The Royal is a beautiful ship and has very impressive lines. When it came time to make our way to the Royal, we hitched a ride on a water taxi that was per arranged by a fellow roll call member. When we arrived at the dock, we made our way into the terminal. I was dreading the embarkation process due to the absolute bedlam we experienced during the 2011 embarkation on our Ruby T/A. I must admit that I was blown away by how smoothly the entire process went. We were on the ship in no time. After boarding the Royal, we walked directly into the Piazza. All of the artist renderings and actual photos, I had previously seen, do not do it justice. The Piazza is simply amazing the first time you see it. After looking around the Piazza, we made our way to Dolphin deck aft to our Owner's suite D726. At this point in my review, I want to say that my initial disappointment with the suite somewhat clouded my judgment about the ship overall and caused me in some instances to judge rather harshly. I knew going in that all of the cabins were going to be a little smaller but when we first walked inside, I was amazed on just how small this "best suite" on the ship really was. In my opinion, the suite was nothing more than two cabins joined together. The living room area consisted of a small sofa and one chair. There was also a desk with one US plug and one European plug. In addition, there was a dry bar. There was no wet bar due to the fact the small refrigerator was directly under the dry bar. The bathroom was divided into two sections. In one section there was the toilet and a sink. The other section had a full size tub and a separate shower. The tub was not whirlpool equipped as in previous suites we sailed on other ships. The shower gave us issues flooding the bathroom on three occasions. We received prompt attention fixing the issue when I called passenger services. Our balcony was arguably the best balcony we had on any of our cruises. We were however unable to fully enjoy it due to a daily buildup of soot. To my knowledge the soot problem was also experienced by a number of fellow aft facing passengers. I cannot say enough positive and great things about our cabin attendant, "Gina", from the Philippines. She always had a smile on her face and did everything in her power to ensure we had a great cruise. Our room was always spotless and every request was handled promptly and professionally. Gina is a true asset to Princess. Interesting enough was the fact that Gina’s supervisor "Frank” was a newly promoted housekeeping supervisor. Frank was actually our cabin attendant on the Sapphire in March of this year. The new on demand television system was a little temperamental in that it was out over several days. Another bone of contention was that before the cruise, I noted that Princess was still marketing the suite perk of having a DVD player available for suite passengers. I was also told this personally when I called Princess two days before we left for Venice. When we boarded the Royal I discovered this was not the case as DVD players were not provided in any suite. I did bring a Blue Ray player that did not work when I tried hooking it up via a HDMI cable. I did remember that information was promulgated prior to the cruise that hook ups to the televisions would not work. However being a little stubborn, I wanted to see it for myself. Public areas on the ship were generally very beautiful and appealing. There were however a couple of areas I failed to understand the purpose of including. Princess Live seemed like an afterthought. I also did not understand the concept of Club 6 as about the only thing I saw it used for was daily trivia games. The previously mentioned issue of no central staircase did seem to be a problem. This seemed made worse by the central elevators that always seemed crowded and at times, seemed to go right by a floor without stopping. The Piazza was definitely the focal point for entertainment. There were two bands, along with a string quartet, that performed nightly. These groups were very good. We didn't make it to the Princess Theater so I can't comment on any production shows. I was able to enjoy Vines and the Ocean Terrace Seafood Bar. Both venues were great and had very knowledge and friendly staff. DW and I both liked the Lotus Spa. I paid the extra fee and had use of the Enclave. She enjoyed several massages and hair appointments. She stated the Steiner girls were very professional; adding the hard sell was somewhat noticeable but it didn’t really bother her. I also spend a number of days in the Fitness Center. I found a nice variety and quantity of machines that were always in good repair. I never spent much time by the pools, but saw they were being used. I never once saw a for fee cabana being used in the Retreat pool area. I also noted only a few people using the Sanctuary. It will be interesting to see how the Royal’s pool areas handle the Caribbean crowds. For the very subjective point of food, we had chosen late seating traditional dining in the Allegro dining room. The Allegro seemed to be designed differently than the Concerto and Symphony rooms which appeared to be more of the old traditional style. The Allegro was also the location of the Chef’s Table. We never got a chance to try it, but heard it was a very enjoyable experience. We only ate in the dining room one time. We found the food and service very good. On other days we ate at Sabatini's, Crown Grill, Alfredo's, and the Horizon Court. Since we were in a suite, we also ordered several dinners from the dining room menu. We also enjoyed the suite perk of breakfast in Sabatini's on a number of days. We found food in Sabatini's, Crown Grill, and Alfredo's to be very good to excellent. We especially enjoyed Alfredo's as the head waiter, "Franco", was a true gem. The dining room food we had in our suite was very good as well. The food served in the HC however was not so good. Again with food being very subjective, I thought 90% of the HC food was truly terrible. I noted that a majority of hot dishes were barely warm at best. Many of the dishes also, to me, appeared to be way over spiced. The presentation left something to be desired and the variety in my opinion was also sorely lacking. In the HC we also experienced some less than good service. One instance involved a waiter who tried to grab my DW's plate before she was finished. In addition to the previously mentioned areas, we also enjoyed the tasty treats served in the International Cafe and the Trident Grill. I was not however overly impressed with the "Smoke House BBQ" which was served nightly in the Trident Grill. A couple of other negatives regarding dining concerns dealt with the location of the Crown Grill and Sabatini's. On the Royal, the Wheelhouse bar is joined with the Crown Grill. In the Wheelhouse there was a piano player that performed nightly. While his playing was good it, along with the audience participation, made it hard to enjoy a quiet meal. In Sabatini's I noticed music coming from the Piazza that made it also hard to enjoy a quiet meal. Bar service throughout the ship seemed not up to the usual Princess standards. I spent a number of nights in the casino where I saw very few bar waiters. I also noted they wouldn’t ask you if you would like a drink. On another night in Crooners’ I waited over 30 minutes before I was asked if I wanted another drink. As far as excursions go I had organized private excursions for Messina, Naples, and Rome. All of the participants seemed to have a great time. We also participated in a private excursion in Maderia. We did one Princess excursion in Canne that I enjoyed but thought was overpriced for what we actually experienced. In Barcelona, we didn't get off the ship since this was our fourth time visiting this port. We had a very large roll call for this cruise. There numerous events scheduled that were well attended. In closing, I'd like to say that overall I did enjoy the cruise and the Royal itself. The only real drawback for me was paying top dollar for the best class of suites on the ship but ended up with something worth far less. Another related disappointment was the fact I had cancelled a cruise in March so I could afford the OS suite. The inability to use the balcony (soot issues) was also a big letdown. I will continue to sail with Princess, but will find it hard to book the Royal or Regal unless there was an itinerary I just had to sail.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
Was looking forward to this cruise, all the aft rooms had soot all over the balconies. Food was not good in the dining room we only ate there 3 to 4 times. Had turkey one night is was tough white meat, corn bread was bad also. They put a ... Read More
Was looking forward to this cruise, all the aft rooms had soot all over the balconies. Food was not good in the dining room we only ate there 3 to 4 times. Had turkey one night is was tough white meat, corn bread was bad also. They put a slice of sweet potato on the my plate. Desert was almost the same every night. Food was good in the Crown grill but there was a charge for that $50 a couple. Bathrooms were so small toilet paper you had to twist your body up to reach it. Had to ask for soap to wash your hands. The whole ship was boring mostly a geriatric cruise ship. Laser light show wasn't working at all. TV was constantly not working. Shows limited to 30 min. only. Princess theater has no tables in it to hold drinks or even cup holders built into chairs. Coming from Deck 12 you take the elevator to Decl 7 then walk down the hall a ways to center of the ship then take another elevator to deck 5 were the dining rooms are. Not enough people working on the ship and for sure they do not smile much at all. Would not use this cruise lines again. Ship had a lot of hipe but thats it. Just not an upbeat experience. Seems most of there passengers play scrabble and play cards thats it. Even at times the music is boring. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
I love long sea days, so I looked forward to trying a TransAtlantric crossing for the first time. The last half of this 20-day trip is mostly at sea and I loved it. Big hint: if you are sailing from Europe to the US in December, book a ... Read More
I love long sea days, so I looked forward to trying a TransAtlantric crossing for the first time. The last half of this 20-day trip is mostly at sea and I loved it. Big hint: if you are sailing from Europe to the US in December, book a port balcony cabin if you want the sun. We booked Baja 708 on the port side and soaked in a week of beautiful sun every day. The weather on all crossings varies, of course, but it is also true that the starboard side was shady every day, so keep that in mind. We had two rough sea days out of 20, and I thought that was pretty good, considering this was December on the Atlantic. The Norovirus broke out in Venice, when we boarded, and this meant that the buffet meals were time-consuming. Passengers could literally not touch anything. You were given one plate when you entered the buffet line and a staff person placed anything you wanted on your plate. A salad could take five minutes to have someone else construct, one item at a time. The drink stations were the biggest problem, as 3,200 people all wanted their coffee differently every morning and no wait staff- no matter how cheerful- can handle this for 20 days in a row. This all sounds petty but it is amazing how annoying this became after a few days. We were overjoyed when we were finally allowed (on day 18) to make our own salads and coffee. The virus is serious, of course, but we didnt get it, no one we met on the ship had it and there didnt appear to be many people missing from the diningrooms or activities, so it is hard to evaluate the true impact the illness had on this trip. The ship is very simple, which may or may not suit your tastes. There are no rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks or deluxe swimming pools. On the other hand, the Movies Under The Stars had an excellent mix of old movies and new, the ice cream bar stayed open late, the beds are very comfortable, the cabins are silent, the hot tubs that were open were immaculate and the main dining room staff was very good. Our room steward was a typical Princess steward: discreet, thorough, fast, always friendly and quiet. The ports were all great (see below)but beware of the transfer shuttle Princess sells in Barcelona: they charged us $32 for (literally) a five minute bus ride, when local cabs and buses were plentiful and cheap. I know they have to make money somewhere, but this was a blatant ripoff (the only one we experienced on this trip, and we did take quite a few cruise-sponsored excursions.) Live and learn. I loved this trip but it was too long for my husband, who likes a port every day and lots of choices on things to do. If you like drowsing in the sun, watching movies under the stars, reading on your balcony, eating ice cream and taking your time over dinner, then a long TA voyage like this might suit you. Boarding in Venice was fast and simple, and even the self-debarkation in Galveston was quick and painless. All in all, despite the Norovirus, the slow buffet lines and the rough sea days, I loved the ports, the sunshine on the port balcony and the quiet. I will definitely do another TA crossing.   Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
This was the "Cruise from Hell". My husband and one of our traveling companions were infected with the Norovirus on the ship. They sent medicine which they charges us for! The newspaper article I read said that the rooms were ... Read More
This was the "Cruise from Hell". My husband and one of our traveling companions were infected with the Norovirus on the ship. They sent medicine which they charges us for! The newspaper article I read said that the rooms were disinfected 3 times a day. NOT TRUE. Our room was "passed through" one time only. We heard many different stories about prior infected guests on many other Crown Princess Cruises. Most of the guests are elderly people and cannot handle the stress from sicknesses. We were given many different stories on what was really going on on board this cruise. No one was honest with us. We were also evacuated from our room because Life Flight had to remove a guest and were treated horribly. We were shuffled all over the ship. Told to go to the Princess Theater. We couldn't get in there because they were shootinga commercial. One gentleman was removed from his room while doing a breathing treatment and was left in the hall outside of the Princess Theater and was in need of medical help. Upon disembakation we were literally dumped in the terminal by the staff. We are both handicapped and were left in the galveston terminal by ourselves to retrieve our own luggage and get to a bus. Once we were off the ship no one cared. We have thoroughly enjoyed sailing with Princess in the past, but will have to seriously reconcider future cruises. We will NOT, however, EVER cruise on the Crown Princees again. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2012
We had a wonderful cruise for our 30th anniversary. We loved the itinerary and because it was December the ports were not crowded at all. Norovirus was onboard but we never caught it. The staff was busy cleaning daily. It turned out to ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise for our 30th anniversary. We loved the itinerary and because it was December the ports were not crowded at all. Norovirus was onboard but we never caught it. The staff was busy cleaning daily. It turned out to be a non issue for us and most others we spoke to. We had anytime dining and the food was excellent in all the dining rooms including the specialty dining. The international cafe was very good, as usual. We went to the pub lunches in the Wheelhouse Bar which had a good variety of food. There was a long line but it went quickly and was worth the wait. We enjoyed the shows and Lisa, the cruise director was excellent. There were 3 shows a night so there was never a problem getting a seat. They had some very good lectures that were packed. One we especially liked was from a man who had interviewed Titanic survivors. The entire staff was friendly, smiling, and always helpful. Looking forward to our next Princess Cruise! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
As avid transatlantic cruisers, we knew what to expect. We flew to Venice and stayed 3 nights, then boarded the Crown around noon on Dec. 2,2012. I believe the ship was pretty full since this was the first crossing that would end in ... Read More
As avid transatlantic cruisers, we knew what to expect. We flew to Venice and stayed 3 nights, then boarded the Crown around noon on Dec. 2,2012. I believe the ship was pretty full since this was the first crossing that would end in Galveston, TX. Needless to say, it was a Texas cruise all the way. Our room steward was the best we have ever had. Our unit was spotless and always placed back in order in a timely manner. We had breakfast brought every morning to our cabin. We also tip the delivery person. We ate in the Davinci diningroom and the food was excellent as usual. We also had wonderful service there as well. On Transatlantic cruises, you are privy to wonderful lectures and concerts as we were this time with John Maxtone Graham. He is a ship historian. We have been to his lectures each time we have a chance to go. Don't miss him if you get the chance. The ports of call were fine but it was bitter on some days and rainy, so we did not get off the ship. We love the at sea cruises because you have a chance to relax instead of up and out each day. When you get home you need another vacation to recovery from the busy cruise. The ship had an outbreak of Norwalk virus. It was a small outbreak as compared to the transatlantic in the spring where I caught the virus. Don't let anyone tell you that this virus is a piece of cake. Body fluids take over for 48 hours. They give you motion sickness meds along with a form of anti diarrhea meds. You are down for the count. Each day the crew would come in and strip everything and disinfect your entire cabin. My biggest gripe is that they do not use hand sanitizer in the casino. At one time they offered those little packets to clean your hands, but now they have crew with buckets and gloves wiping down the machines. Where they do not get the soapy water is on the buttons used to download money into your machine or cruise account. I believe the casino is the biggest problem on the Crown for spreading the virus. The ship's stores also do not sell hand sanitizer. I bought a bottle while in Barcelona and carried it with me. Take a small hand sanitizer bottle for each passenger going on a Cruise to protect yourself. We had people leave the ship early and someone was so ill that they were air lifted off the ship the day before the cruise ended in Galveston. All in all, we had a grand time as usual and will definitely sail on the Crown again. I have sailed on 23 cruises and I have to say that Captain Andy of the Crown is one of the finest Captains we have sailed with. We have been in 30 foot waves, black out fog, with no stablizers. I always felt safe knowing he was sailing the ship. Having sailed on 7 other lines, he is still our favorite.TIPPING: All of the cruise lines now charge a daily fee for gratuities. This is so that folks who take care of you get tips. It was started because so many people did not give gratuities. If you contact the pursers desk and cancel your daily gratuities, at the end of the cruise, your waiter in the dining room will not be paid any gratuity. They will flag the accounts that choose not to have the daily amount taken and penalize the crew associated with those accounts. Also, if you do that but give your waiter say $100 tip, he has to turn it in to the head waiter for it to be split. So please, do not take the gratuities into your own hands because those you thought you were tipping will not get what you gave them. If they do not turn it in, they can be fired and put off the ship. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2012
We flew into Venice with Princess E-Z-Air, using United and Lufthansa, Tulsa - Houston - Frankfurt - Venice. Princess offered a better price than I could find online, trying to put together our own itinerary; all went smoothly. We stayed ... Read More
We flew into Venice with Princess E-Z-Air, using United and Lufthansa, Tulsa - Houston - Frankfurt - Venice. Princess offered a better price than I could find online, trying to put together our own itinerary; all went smoothly. We stayed at the Santa Chiara Hotel, near the bus station at Piazzale Roma, and there was no noise at all from the Piazzale. Our room was very satisfactory for the reasonable rates (Room 305) and when we put our heads out our side window we had a nice view of the Grand Canal. We were so glad we had opted for three days in Venice before embarking on Crown Princess on Dec. 2nd. Some of the many people we had met on the CruiseCritic roll call, were staying at this hotel as well, and we made many wonderful friends even before we embarked. Although the weather was quite cold with grey skies, Venice was magical for me, a unique city not to be missed. My poor husband was exhausted with all the walking around (no cars, only water buses, i.e. vaporetti) that I compelled him to do over three days, but was happy he'd done it, later on! Embarkation: Although the ship did not leave until 11pm, at 4pm we shared a minivan from our hotel to the terminal, although it was not far. I would not want to walk it with luggage (this includes taking the "people mover" from Piazzale Roma). There were no long lines at 4:30pm, and everyone we were with walked right on through with very quick check-in. We however, got to cool our heels for 45 minutes, waiting while Princess made new cabin key cards for us, as they had lost ours when we went to check-in. We were Platinum category, and had paid to upgrade our oceanview cabin to a balcony on Baja deck mid-ship (this was done before we left home). Stateroom: We were happy with our location as it was about midway between the aft elevators and the midship (Atrium) elevators. We needed the walking! Our stewardess, Khantiya from Thailand, was friendly and efficient and our special requests (not many) were met promptly; we enjoyed her very much. Princess obviously had not got to our cabin yet as far as refurbishment went. The mattress was fairly tired, and we requested a thick mattress pad to place on our king bed. Khantiya had not one, but two, on the bed in under three hours, and it made all the difference. The fridge was not cooling at all well, but I let it go for the first week. Then it practically stopped cooling at all; our request for repair, to the Passenger Services desk, resulted in a repairman coming within an hour. After an inspection, he left and returned promptly with parts, and the job was done. He even returned in two hours to see if it was cooling the contents alright. Our only other problem was a bad knocking in the wall behind the fridge whenever we had rolling seas, and it was annoying enough to keep me awake for awhile for several nights. One carpenter came and could not discover the problem; however he returned later, and although we were out of the cabin most of the day, by the next night and from then on we did not hear it.... well done. Dining: We were able to enjoy Horizon Court buffets with no restrictions for the first week, but then as the dreaded Norovirus struck, we had waiters helping us to whatever we wanted, and no salt & pepper on the tables. Although the portions were not always what one wanted, the staff did as well as they could under the circumstances. This was our first time for Anytime Dining, and we had no complaints. We ate at various times, either 6 or 7pm, and always had a satisfactory table, with waiters who did quite well. We were able to eat dinner with many different friends we had met both before and during the cruise, and this was a pleasant difference from our fixed seating/dining time on our previous cruises. The food was of a good standard, although I was surprised to see the Fettucini Alfredo on every evening's menu (along with a varied choice of pastas as alternatives). The Parmesan basket for the F.Alfredo was delicious. My husband was very disappointed to see that a sirloin burger had replaced the filet steak "medallion" as a choice available for every meal. I know Princess is looking for ways to cut corners, but most cruise lines seem to have cut just about as much as they can, without compromising their standards we have all come to expect for our money, and this was a sad one indeed. I have a sweet tooth, and looked forward to the wonderful variety of desserts we have had in the past on Princess cruises, but it was noticeable this time that the variety had very much decreased. The escargot were as tasty as ever, but the lobster tail was much smaller and not as tender as on previous cruises. Entertainment/Activities: I enjoyed the book club meetings, and we were very fortunate to have a well-known author on board, so quite a few of us were reading her books as well as the Princess Book Club choice (Gone Girl; not my cup of tea). One accomplished lady who works for one of the three top mobile carriers, gave a most useful talk on using the iPad and iPhones; this was great, I hope Princess snaps her up as a permanent lecturer. My husband and I love the Trivias, and this cruise did not disappoint; it helped to have great team-mates, lots of fun. The lady with the craft classes was also very good, and one had to come 30 minutes early to find a seat. The evening entertainment has slipped a bit. It's been often mentioned in reviews, that the shows have been cut from 45 to 30 minutes. We are active over 65's, and the 30 minutes seemed quite short; even 40 minutes would be good. Port tours: Mostly, we went on tours with friends which were privately arranged; we do enjoy the smaller groups. The weather in the three Italian ports was quite cold in December and we were glad we had brought our long-johns, hats and gloves. As ports go, once stopping at Cannes (Monaco & Monte Carlo)was enough, although I thoroughly enjoyed the medieval hilltop vollage of Eze, just not enough time there. We did this trans-Atlantic in April (also on Crown Princess, 14 days) from Ft Lauderdale to Rome, and the stop at Marseilles had more tours of interest in our opinion. The stop in the Azores was a first, and we would love to go back; what a beautiful island. The four hours we had in Lisbon was much too short; what a great city. At least on our April cruise we had a whole day there, and enjoyed the hop-on hop-off bus for overview; and a long stop at St Geronimo Monastery and the excellent Maritime Museum there. Our culinary tour in Rome was also excellent; Eating Italy Food Tours, with Sarah as a guide. There was a lot of walking around the Testaccio area, where most tourists don't go. The shops with delicious samples were interspersed with other historically interesting places. Most remarkable to us was Monte Testaccio, a large manmade hill consisting of two-thousand-year-old broken bits of terracotta olive oil amphora-like containers tossed away on the "trash heap"(this was a market area from Rome's earliest days). The train round-trip from Civitavecchia to Ostiense station in Rome, was on time, and we bought our tickets online before we left home. Overall: We enjoyed both of our Crown Princess trans-Atlantics in 2012, and were fortunate enough not to contract Norovirus. The staff were taking all the right precautions and spraying and disinfecting everywhere. We washed our hands constantly, used only our cabin restroom 98% of the time; and I brought a spray can of Lysol which kills viruses as well as bacteria. Twice daily I sprayed the doorhandles on both sides, the light switches, and the john. I would highly recommend everyone to do this. Norovirus is spread mostly by touch (keep off the bannister rails and slot machines if poss!) but the cold virus is spread by thoughtless people mixing in when still contagious, going on tours etc., coughing and then touching everything.... despite our precautions we both came down with very bad colds, and spent three days keeping to ourselves in our cabin; we brought the common meds with us, and ZiCam lessened my symptoms a lot. Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed our long cruise, and met many outstanding people. We may do it again next Nov. or Dec.! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2012
Embarkation ========== We transferred from our Lido hotel to the Musica by Aliliguna vaporetto, arriving around a little after 11:00. It was a fair walk from the water bus 'cruise terminal' stop to the cruise terminal building ... Read More
Embarkation ========== We transferred from our Lido hotel to the Musica by Aliliguna vaporetto, arriving around a little after 11:00. It was a fair walk from the water bus 'cruise terminal' stop to the cruise terminal building but once there, MSC did well to get us through the various stages of checkin: luggage drop off, cruise card issue and credit card authorisation, security and finally boarding. All the time there was the usual ambience of chaos around us. While many nationalities are capable of reading instructions in advance and following the prescribed system with the briefest of questions and exchange of pleasantries, other nationalities can exist in a swarm of endless confusion, non-stop questions and every possible attempt to circumvent the system. The party immediately in front of us were all waving their arms and shouting at passport control. Apparently they believed that being Europeans, they had no need of passports - even to go to Morocco and Brazil. Eventually, security escorted out of the building and this is one cruise that they would miss. The information sheets we were given indicated that our cabins would be ready at 1pm so we made our way straight to the Gli Archi buffet on deck 13 for an hour. The Maitre D made himself available from 1pm in the Sala Viola for table assignments. As we were in three separate cabins on two bookings and our table(s) had not been allocated, we were keen to ensure our dining arrangements were as we wished - second sitting on a table for eight and preferably in Le Maxims MDR on deck 6 (due to comments shared on CC). We had been first in the queue and now we were being dealt with, the minions were struggling to hold back some crazy latino women hell-bent on being served next. One particularly determined woman had to be dragged back twice. It felt more like crazy fans desperate for the autograph of a retired Italian pop star they were smitten with in their youth. Next the three of us all went to find each of our cabins in turn. Angela had a disability cabin on deck 12. It was a very generous size and she was broadly pleased with it. She was surprised to see two shower stools. It was because the UK MSC office said there were no shower stools on board that they suggested she had a disability cabin. My mother and I had both been allocated category 5 "obscured view" outside cabins on deck on our guarantee category 1 bookings. Unfortunately in my mother's case the view really is obscured, even standing on her bed she could only see the orange of the lifeboat outside. Still, she knew when it is light or dark outside and there is a little more space than an inside cabin. I was luckier being forward on deck 8 where they have two smaller lifeboats and I have an almost unobscured view. It is interesting to note that the MSC deck plans regarding the positioning of the lifeboats in relation to cabin numbers appears perfectly accurate in this regard. Most people found the muster drill irritating and many let their feelings show. We were shown and told how to fasten our life vests in excruciating detail in six different languages (in order): English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese and German. I would have thought that something so obviously visual would suffice in one or two languages. Despite having checked in at 11:30, our luggage did not arrive until almost 18:30. If we had been on the first sitting at dinner we would have spent the first day without our luggage. I can only understand that they must load the luggage on to the ship in a gigantic pile and because we were early on, our luggage was at the bottom of the pile. It was also very cold in both our cabins despite setting the heating to maximum and we really could have done with some extra layers to keep warm. The heating/cooling goes off completely a few minutes after removing the key card from the slot. Ports ===== We docked in Valetta around 08:00 and were off shortly after 09:00. We were directed by MSC staff on an unnecessarily long route out of the port despite Angela's walking difficulties. We then climbed to the 'summit' of Valetta - the plateau around St. John's Cathedral - via a couple of hundred steps. We should have taken the first taxi offer of â,¬10 but by the time we thought about it the rates increased to â,¬15 and they continued to increase as the drivers passed signals to each other down the line as we approached. Taxi drivers Worldwide have a certain reputation. We sampled more of Valetta during the climb and appreciated more views than we would have done otherwise. There is no doubt about it, Valetta is a stunningly beautiful, medieval 'city on a hill'. However we had been spoilt somewhat by our time in Venice immediately prior. We sensibly took a taxi back and were happy to pay the â,¬15 to be taken all the way to the ship instead of the port gate. We docked at the new ferry terminal in Barcelona, built since my mother last visited there by ship. On that occasion it was on the QE2 and Cunard provided courtesy shuttle busses to the start of La Rambla - pedestrianised heart of Barcelona. MSC is not Cunard and the shuttle bus tickets had been heavily promoted in advance at â,¬8 return available only onboard. I was naturally suspicious of this and when I saw dozens of crew being released for some time ashore making a bee-line for the "T3 Port Bus" alongside cruise guests my suspicions were confirmed. A mere scratch of the net reveals that it is possible to buy tickets on the T3 bus for ¬3.50 return. The ladies were dispatched to look at handbags or whatever they do, while I elected to remain on board and appreciate a beautiful and then quiet ship. It was so much enjoyable without the constant prattling and pushing of twelve-hundred Argentinian grandmothers. My apologies to Argentinian grandmothers everywhere. Let me just say that the peace just was sublime. My priority of the day was to have a civilised lunch at L'Oleandro's. This commenced as they open at 12:00 because the masses would surely start to return in dribs and drabs at first then like a torrent, flooding the restaurant. I then intended slipping out into Barcelona for a wander but the ladies returned in the rain with tales of most things being closed so I gave Barcelona a miss this time. The port of Casablanca is industrial and far from picturesque. Then it was for the port that the French colonial power originally developed Casablanca. It is therefore reassuring that Casablanca is still very much a working port and not just a stop for cruise ships. The taxis nearest the ship wanted to take us on tours and were not interested in a short trip into town. We could however see regular taxis and their drivers beyond the first gates, already engaged in a brawl at the sight of us approaching and watched over by two policemen. One of the drivers crossed the line of the gate as we got near which immediately caused an uproar among the others. I asked "How much to the old medina?". "Ten Euros" he shouted over the din. One of the policemen now near us immediately said "Five!". There was considerable commotion as the first driver withdrew and others offered us various suggestions on where to go, "First time in Casablanca?", "2 hours - 30 Euros", "I will take you to the mosque" etc.. Finally a quiet man stepped forward from the rear and offered us the 5 Euro fare to the medina. The main road of the medina was in the process of being resurfaced. It was reduced to rough hardcore with raised manholes etc. which just added to the scruffy, disorganised appearance. We managed to buy a a pair of leather sandals (â,¬10) and a wooden desk organiser (¬8) though we tried and failed to negotiate several other items. The problem with arriving anywhere by cruise ship is that prices rise the moment the ship docks and do not resume until after it has left. We had been followed into port by P&O's Oriana this morning, I gather also repositioning, and so for the sellers of Casablanca medina, their boat really had come in that day - twice. We were back onboard and at the entrance of L'Oleandro's for lunch at 12:35 - five minutes after opening. In Tenerife, we walked the mile into town, bought some Spanish brandy which security didn't bother about when boarding, and I availed myself of free wi-fi to upload some photos of the cruise so far. I had been quite recently before and so I didn't do anything particularly touristy. Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, was our final port of call before leaving in Rio. According to the Daily Programme, it was 2,842 nautical miles since Tenerife, our previous port of call. After crossing the equator, we were now in Summer and, around 13 degrees South in early December, about as close to the Sun as it is possible to be without leaving the Earth. And it was hot, hot, hot! We docked around 9:30 and the first in the queues were allowed off around 10:15. My plan was to stay on the ship, appreciate it when quiet, have a civilised lunch then venture out this afternoon as the masses started returning. I was overruled and regretted not doing my own thing. If you like being part of a large crowd, loads of sales hassle, noise, queuing for everything and being ripped off for everything then you too should try to get off the ship as early as possible in every port of call. If you are a little more like me, hold on and wait at least until the balance of people traffic to and from the ship is against you then venture out slowly. Salvador is colourful, historic, beautiful in the centre and interesting. I am sure had I being staying here before the MSC Musica arrived, I would have been horrified at the transformation for the day and headed for the beach instead. I grabbed a few photos, we did the essential items on our plan - cash machine (not easy!), the 'arts and crafts' market, lift to the old town and a walking tour at the top. The heat was oppressive and we retreated to the shade in the main square where there was a samba band playing and other acts laid on for us. I felt a tourist and uncomfortable with it. I may return on my own terms. Food ==== The first dinner was a mad scrum to get in when they opened the doors around 20:50. There had been many attempted incursions before then, skilfully seen off by attendant staff. We waited until the way was clear and were seated shortly after 9pm. At 9:30pm, we were still waiting for the first drop of wine. No food was sighted until after 10pm and this was just a sliced tomato with a spoonful of mozzarella. When there were only two starters to choose from, not having these ready and wine ready to go when we arrived was poor. We were asked by one of the head waiters if everything had been alright. We expressed our reservations about the long waits and he admitted that this was due to a lot of staff being new to the ship and to each other. Breakfast in L'Oleandro could not have been a bigger contrast. It was peaceful, relaxed and well-staffed. The coffee was free-flowing and staff always available if and when required. On sea days early on when the weather outside was windy and moderately rough, the interior public spaces all felt busy and congested. I am sure these are good days for the numerous onboard shops. People seemed to be buying all sorts of useless tat just for something to do. Also lunchtimes at the Oleandro MDR tended to start quiet at tghe opening but get ever busier through lunchtime. It was a challenge to find any sort of table and the crowds kept on coming in right through to the 14:00 closing time. Once installed they were not going to leave. This was clearly their intended resting place until they were forcibly moved on. They drank, ordered more drinks, another desert, more drinks, more deserts etc.. The waiters were literally rushed off their feet and their tempers visibly fraying at the edges. It was clear to see that the occasionally tardy service was not the fault of the waiting staff, there were simply not enough staff to cope with the numbers of guests and the way they behaved. We took early lunches at sea whenever possible from then on. Lunch in Oleandro's while the crowds were ashore was always sublime. When they are not rushed, it is possible to exchange a few humorous and enlightening words with each of waiters. From then on, we never never missed lunch on a port day. On the Captains's welcome gala night, Angela, my mother and I met in our finest in the Tucano bar, immediately aft of the main level of the theatre around 18:30. The staff were clearing away the residue of the 'welcome cocktails' event which, had we not been on the Allegrissimo package, we would have attended if only for some sickly sweet free alcohol. As it was, normal bar service was suspended for that hour and we had to recover from lunch and mentally prepare ourselves for whatever the first gala dinner would entail. As is usual on formal nights, the staff were smarter-dressed than the majority of the guests. I thought the proportion of men wearing dinner (tuxedo) suits was to lowest I had experienced on my three cruises to date. I know most men don't like dressing up but it does improve the atmosphere and the experience when everyone has made the effort. I keep suggesting to my family that we have one or two formal nights at home but they have never taken me seriously, so far. I can happily report that the dining experience was as good as any gala/formal night on a cruise ship I have experienced except for the slightly longer waits and slightly less personal service. If it is only 'slightly' worse in some narrow regards and better in others - e.g. the appearance and design of the ship - that makes this cruise and perhaps, by implication, MSC a good bargain. Things continued to to improve at dinner. Our regular waiter managed to keep our glasses from going dry, timings were slicker and generally the service machine operated much more smoothly. There is the regular British irritation of hot food being served lukewarm on lukewarm plates, but that is just us. Our table became so jolly that we could no longer hear the 'nosy latinos' around us - the same ones that we found deafening on the first night. In fact, trying to avoid being the last out of the dining room again, I looked around to find that we had already frightened them away before we had finished our cheese (blue, by request and superb). Somewhere, probably on a Spanish or Italian cruise blog site somewhere, there will complaints about the noisy English on the Musica. We are actually English, Swiss and Dutch but we speak English at the table, when we are not laughing that is. The Swiss couple admitted that they requested not to be seated with fellow Swiss but with British for because they preferred "the British sense of humour". As I recall their tearful faces and their attempts to hold on to themselves in some vein attempt to stop their bodies from laughing, I believe they may have got what they bargained for. One morning, we took the lift to deck 13 to investigate the buffet breakfast in Gli Archi. In particular, the ladies wanted to know what, if any, extra choices are available and I wanted to see how busy it was. I think this was 'the grass is always greener' syndrome on their part - yes there were baked beans, fried mushrooms, baked apples and pancakes at the buffet but not found on the L'Oleandro menu but there were no herrings or smoked salmon, no service of course and it was very busy. Even at 8 a.m., there were only two free tables - though we neglected to survey the aft 'Il Giardino' section which joins the buffet during the day. They convinced me to try a buffet breakfast one morning but it was at 7 when they first opened. At breakfast, I value peace more than baked apples and pancakes. The Gli Archi, in common with the main dining rooms, spans the width of the ship and one side is the mirror image of the other. At peak times there are identical buffets in operation on both sides. It is a pleasant enough space with full-height outside windows running the full length and the buffet running in parallel on the inside. As this is deck 13, the views are impressive when in or near port. The seating area is at most two tables wide. As with the main dining rooms, most tables are for six, with the few tables for four and even fewer tables for two being highly-prized as, inevitably, any spare capacity at a table will be taken up later by uninvited others as Gli Archi crowds up. At dinner, the buffet menu is identical to the main dining rooms except for the addition of fast food including pizzas, chips and burgers plus the 24-hours self-service coffee, tea and water station at the forward entrance. Drinks are waiter-served from the bar and we found this aspect faultless. Compared to the main dining rooms, you get what you expect: self-service food, waiter-service drinks, scruffy crowds and plastic plates. It is not my idea of a quality dining experience but if you are hungry it should more than suffice. My advice would be to find a table to match your party size, ideally at a window in the day for the view, and not near to an operating part of the buffet due to the swarming crowds. At dinner, you can still dress up as you will mostly be looking at each other and this would improve your personal ambience. My personal but considered view of the food is a little at odds with most of the people aboard I discussed food with on the ship and who have considerably more cruising experience than I. Their general consensus is that MSC food is below par. I believe it is not so straightforward and that there are two main factors coming into play. 1) There is excessive choice. MSC food is not an American, nor is it European. It is multi-cultural and MSC tries too hard to please everyone by offering a greater variety of dishes per meal than anyone would ever encounter in any shore-based restaurant in their own country and certainly more than on any American line. There are, day-in day-out, many items that any given person aboard would never order out of choice - if they knew what they were ordering..... 2) The printed menus are appalling. The names and descriptions of the dishes are sparse at very best but mostly totally misleading and some completely incorrect. As a result people think they have ordered one thing but something completely different arrives. The food consistently does not meet their expectations and they conclude that MSC food is poor. This is a translation issue not a food issue. Airlines take the opposite approach. Upfront in business class there may be some choice but not too much. MSC should concentrate on fewer, quality dishes of which I have had many as good if not better than on Royal Caribbean and Cunard. However, unless one experiences and memorises the names of a large number of dishes aboard, we are choosing blind each time we order. If they took the crud away and improved the information and translations, we would be more impressed with MSC food. Activities ========== After Valetta, the weather much improved. The sun was often out in a clear blue sky, the sea calm and there was much activity on deck: the walkers on the jogging track, fat ladies in the jacuzzis, fat men playing ping-pong, smokers on the tables by the bar and an increasing number of people laid out on the sun beds. All this was set to a soundtrack of nostalgic, international piped pop. On a sea day activities were a little thin, e.g. a "Culinary demonstration: pacchero funghi porcino gorgonzola" followed by "Dance lesson: Bolero". I assumed the latter was the Torville and Dean routine where one tosses oneself on the floor at the end. There was also an "Afrodisiac cocktail demonstration". Coupled with the Bolero and new culinary skills, I could have acquired all the tools I need to 'pull'. I gave them a miss. The Spa is a quiet and cool haven all the way forward on deck 13. It has a small and underused bar with just two tables and seating for just 10 plus half a dozen bar stools. Opposite the bar is the Aurea Spa reception and the whole bar area was used to display beauty products which, thankfully, I had no need of. Forward of this area is the gym area with a collection of treadmills and cycling machines mostly occupied by people who appeared to have eaten too much. There was also a small collection of unoccupied weight machines and some free weights. Half the floor area was used for paid-for exercise classes. (The free exercise sessions were organised by the entertainment team either on deck or in the Tucano lounge). The most outstanding feature of this space however was the wall of glass facing forward over the ocean. You became immediately aware of the pitching of the ship and perhaps it is not the best place to be if you are prone to seasickness, unless you particularly want to be sick that is. Aft of here outdoors was the madness of the Blue Marlin bar. All the tables were generally in permanent occupation. People sat playing cards, reading, drinking, people-watching but mostly they are talking, very loudly. They competed with the piped music system of the bar and whatever entertainment is taking place on the stage further aft which involved music of its own and often very enthusiastic animators. Not my scene. There was always a generous multitude of live music in the evenings but during the day none at all. Royal Caribbean always has at least one live venue through the sea days even on their smallest ships. Cunard, of course, have their sorely-missed 'enrichment' lectures. I feel MSC could spread their musician talent around a little more effectively - but I enjoyed it all the same. One day, I heard applause emanating from the Teatro La Scala. Quickly checking the Daily Programme, there was no event listed there so I popped to the entrance to have a look. The Maitre D was on stage with an audience of several dozen white-jacketed waiters. There was a slide on view entitled "Staff Training and Development - Body Language". That would have been infinitely more interesting that the daily talks there intended for guests. Sadly it was the final slide and the waiters were starting to leave. However, I found the constant clashes of culture by far the best entertainment onboard. It is often hysterical. If you ever saw Peter Sellers in laughing fits in the outtakes of the lift scene from the Pink Panther film when somebody in the lift releases bodily wind, then you may have some sympathy with my condition. When I pressed the lift call button, I never knew what comedy the doors were going to open to, or take place once the doors were shut. Often it was just a gaggle of short, fat, latino women chatting away apparently totally unaware that they were in a lift until the doors open. Then the doors would open and I was there. They had to rapidly finish off what they were saying and talk about me quietly, "Who's he?", "Where's he going", "Did he press a button?"' "Do you think he speaks Spanish?", "I think he is going to my floor!" or similar then naughty laughs. I kept a straight face and looked at my own reflection to encourage them to say more. As often, I would encounter one of the above in the lift alone and lost but not for words. The occupier would already be talking as the lift doors opened. She would immediately direct her words at me asking a series of rapid-fire questions in a language I needed at least a few seconds to compose any sort of response, "Where is the ", "What floor are we on", " Are we going up/down", then what sounds like personal statements as if I were a family member and knew all the names she was talking about. More often than not, people vacated the lifts looking lost, not knowing which floor they were on, where they were going or how they came to be in the lift in the first place. I started off trying to use the stairs as often as possible for the free exercise but the incentive for my own personal sense of humour to use the lifts instead was often over-powering. The facial muscles that stop me smiling at inopportune moments grey very strong on this cruise. I could write an entire book about my lift experiences aboard but I should move on. I will even have to pass on other cultural mis-matches for now. They were a total hoot often analysed and discussed at dinner with the resulting involuntary tears of laughter. All sorts of muscles achied but at least the tear ducts were kept clear. Cabin ===== This, as you may recall was an outside 'partially obstructed view', category 5 cabin on deck 8. I had the beds in my cabin seperated. To me this makes so much sense with an ocean view cabin and especially so with MSC as they tend to have one or two pull-down bunks on the wall either side of double bed arrangement interfering with the space above. Separated, one can walk all the way up to the window to look through it and the daylight shines over the floor instead of being on the the bedspread. My cabin immediately felt more spacious and light. Storage was mostly provided by the wardrobe at the entrance. This had four equal-sized doors the first two of which were the hanging space with life jackets stowed on the shelf above. The next door concealed shelves and the last a shelf, the safe with drawers beneath. The safe had the simplest operation I have ever come across. When it is unlocked you key in any number followed by enter and it locks. You have to key in the same (and enter) to open it. If I wished, I could have had a different code each time I used it! The downside to this simple operation, as I discovered, is the possibility of mis-keying when closing the safe. The safe is then locked with an unknown code. It was a simple matter to call reception and request someone to open it - but it was embarrassing all the same. The shower rooms were a little larger, as indeed were the cabins, than the equivalent grades on Royal Caribbean ships. Mixer taps and shower valves throughout the ship are made by Grohe. There was liquid soap on a push-dispenser at the wash basin and shampoo and shower gel in wall dispensers in the shower. There were no other toiletries other than tissues and toilet paper. There were two glass shelves and a small cupboard housing a bin but no other bathroom storage. I actually love modern cruise ship shower rooms as examples of optimum use of space and usability. Consequently they do tend to be near-identical. There was a hairdryer concealed in one of the two dressing table drawers. The flat screen TV is fixed above the minibar and received CNN and Euronews in English we lost reception mid-Atlantic. There was a wide range of other 'intelligent' functions' including the ability to order room service (at extra cost). These extra functions resided in another menu system which was poorly designed and responded very slowly so I didn't bother with it. Bedding was poly cotton sheets with woollen blankets and bedspreads removed and folded after the first night. The fold-down bunks featured their own ceiling-mounted individually switchable reading lights. My cabin service was perfect. I barely saw my cabin attendant. She introduced herself on the first evening back in Venice as "Joseph". I told her than is a man's name. She laughed and said "I know, it is my father's name". I am not quite sure from which country or delightful culture she originates or indeed whether I should have called her Miss Joseph or Mrs Joseph, rather than just Joseph. Either way, it was a memorable name and Joseph always serviced my cabin when I was at breakfast, which I attended as it opened at 7:30, and at dinner for which I usually left around 8. I found myself always returning to an immaculate cabin. The times since the introduction that I met her had been elsewhere by chance. I could not have asked for better cabin service other than perhaps Cunard's nightly chocolate left on the pillow. Allegrissimo ============ The Allegrissimo package was even better value than imagined. It is not just the price of the drinks to take into account but the number and diversity of the venues. Hotels designed, built and managed to be all-inclusive have far fewer for the number of guests than the Musica. Had the Musica being designed to be all inclusive, guests would almost certainly have had fewer bars, less bar service, had more restrictive opening times and had to walk further. I have long noted that the best all-inclusive hotels are those who have guests on other board bases. The Allegrissimo package also works a little strangely. It is possible to order more than one person's drinks on one card but there is reasonable diligence to ensure that the people you are with at the time are also on the same package. Typically this involves allowing no more than two or three drinks on one card and asking at least to see another person's card before accepting a larger order. At dinner early on, all cards were requested at the table, I suspect as a check on our settled table group. Each order must be signed for and a receipt is given. If an item is not included in Allegrissimo, there will be a non-zero total on the bottom line of the receipt. It is worth checking each time just in case of an error on either side. I was disappointed by the quality of the two red wines included in Allegrissimo. The merlot is almost without taste and the montepulciano just acceptable. Wine is intensely personal but I favour bigger new world wines. These two are as far from those as imaginable. The rule here is that as soon as you pay a fixed priced to drink as much as you want, the quality drops. As primarily a wine-drinker, I would veer towards pay-as-you-go on my next MSC cruise over Allegrissimo. However, if you are a heavy cocktail or spirits drinker then Allegrissimo at current rates would be the way to go. Also I hear that the Trebiano d'Abruzzo white wine is like a good Chardonnay. White wine is wasted on me so I cannot comment. Fresh orange juice was only available at La Laguna bar, centre of the pool deck. We obtained it once at breakfast in Oleandro's early on - i.e. before the staff had been trained to tell us, literally, where to go. We asked at other bars and the buffet but since consistently received the same reply. The stuff at breakfast is not even concentrate, it is sugary cordial. The Bloody Marys were fabulous. I have always loved a good Bloody Mary and the ones aboard were consistently superb down to the fresh celery stick. Where do they get fresh celery in the middle of the Atlantic? I usually ate some of the celery that came with the Bloody Maries and I don't believe it had been frozen. They bake bread every night, it is entirely possible that they also grow celery. (I also note that, if you are paying, their Bloody Marys contain two shots of vodka for considerably less than the cost of two shots of vodka!) Also the Allegrissimo drinks package was made available with a 15% 'Grand Voyage' discount, bringing the price per night including service charge down to â,¬23, a little less than the 20 we paid by pre-booking and pre-paying. We mostly met up for pre and post dinner drinks in the wine bar - the most pleasant evening space on the ship. Although primarily a venue to drink bottles of expensive wine from around the World along with nibbles, snacks and entire meals to suit, they also serve the Allegrissimo choice of wines by the glass. The furnishings are leather and wood, the lighting is in atmospheric, ambient pools, the music last night was trad jazz classics at a easy talking volume until a classical pianist took over, the service perfect and they knew what temperature to serve even included wines. Each to their own but this is mine. The Cheers package was advertised on board at ,¬14.30 + 15% service = ,¬16.44 per night. This comprises wine by the glass, draft beer and water at lunch and dinner only. However, this is a few cents more than the cost of two half-litre carafes of wine ,¬7 each + 15%). If you won't drink a litre of wine per day per person and/or want to drink wine outside the dining rooms then pay-as-you go would be more cost-effective. I can confirm the tap water in the cabins was safe to drink and tastes fine. The first gala night offers free cocktails and if you are a repeat MSC guest there will be at least one repeat guest event with free drinks. I think next time I would opt for pay-as-you-go and have the occasional alcohol-free day for health purposes. Other ===== Before lunch one day, we overheard some Australians complaining that it was impossible to find out what films are showing on the TV on what days or even what today's or tomorrow's films are other than by watching. I must agree that the poor quality of information, certainly in English but also perhaps other languages, to me is the single biggest failing of MSC. Things could be an awful lot worse but never really knowing what is going on or what we were ordering to eat is a constant source of irritation. The Daily Programme contained so many glaring errors and dubious uses of English that its usefulness and credibility are extremely limited. There were so few English speakers aboard that there is no way to spread the knowledge required to compensate for the poor quality and lack of information through the official channels. We shouldn't need the informal network. MSC please take note! I cannot understate the usefulness of my iPad while I was aboard. Apart from the obvious uses of keeping in touch by email and catching up on the news and other interests, it can bring up a map of the port and pinpoint our exact location within it, it showed our location while making passage without internet (using GPS and caching the maps), I could find out about local transport arrangements, obtain inside knowledge from the cruise forums and others, check credit card spending online, take advice on and book third party trips and tickets. I had a good stock of films to watch, things to read, my photo and video apps to edit as I went rather than be over-faced with the task when I returned and Skype to video-call home when there was free wi-fi ashore. Then, of course, I was able to write a live blog which this review is based on and is consequently full of little details that may be of use to future cruisers but which I would otherwise have forgotten by the end. I succumbed to the onboard wifi offering. Prices were: ,¬10 for 60 mins, ,¬15 for 100 mins, ¬50 for 8 hours or ¬120 for 24 hours. The ship wi-fi behaved oddly. Once signed up to a package (requires name, d.o.b. and cabin number), you are given cryptic a username and password. Signing in requires selecting the "hotspot" from the list of wi-fi networks, entering username and password, then immediately re-selecting the hotspot again before there is any internet connection. Most of my first hour was lost because I did not do the last and time was ticking away before I tried to sign-in again. To sign out, direct your browser to "logout.com". I did this twice to make sure. Another random observation, public loos on MSC are discreetly tucked away and initially take some locating. The symbol for the gents is also quite ambiguous and has confused both the ladies and gentlemen of our dining table. Never mentioned before elsewhere as far as I know is that there are no urinals aboard the MSC Musica. All the public gentlemen's loos are cubicle only. I applaud this as it avoids countless awkward situations. Also, there are no hand-dryers - just paper towels. Again this a sensible move after the trend over years of going for the convenience of the establishment over basic hygiene. Signs invite guests to open and close the doors with a paper towel too. Disembarkation =============== We were informed by an insert in the penultimate day's Daily Programme delivered that we had a meeting in the Crystal Lounge to impart important information "for passengers disembarking the ship in Rio on Tuesday, 4th December". Somewhat Monty Pythonesque, the meeting began with the words "This is for passengers disembarking the ship in Rio, Tuesday, 4th December". It was then reinforced by telling us that it was not for anyone else. Half of them left! Information onboard in English was poor but what there was is also poorly understood. In the meeting I took note of the pertinent points: luggage out by 2 a.m., out of our cabins by 7:30 a.m. (howls of disbelief), pay or sign for accounts by 9, be in the Crystal Lounge by 9:30 a.m. when "you will be escorted to the exit". Given that the itinerary when booked was for a 10 a.m arrival in Rio, the premature ejection was not well received. All my cruises have had this feel. The staff are so pleased to welcome us aboard then, on the last day, when we start to have warm feelings, we are released from the institution of the ship into the harsh reality of outside. Except we had other plans. We stayed for lunch in the buffet with the new boarders at Rio. We never even thought when we boarded at Venice and sat in the buffet waiting for our cabins that there may have been one or two hangers on from the previous cruise in there with us. Contrary to many reports on Cruise Critics taking 45 to 90 minutes depending on traffic, our taxi ride from the cruise terminal to the international airport took a mere 13 minutes. The 70 Riale agreed fare in retrospect was a little on the high side for Rio. We had planned on spending 4 hours or so in a paid airport lounge on the airside but it is an old-fashioned airport with check-in desks assigned for each flight and these don't open until 3 hours before departure. Instead, we established camp in the 'Palheta Air Cafe' on the first floor before enduring the 11 hour flight back to the UK. That's it. I hoped you found this review useful. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2012
We have been cruising with Oceania, and her sister Regent for a number of years. Ships, and service are always great, never a problem, great Butlers, we don't bother with the others except for the Paul G. for Tahiti, and its sister ... Read More
We have been cruising with Oceania, and her sister Regent for a number of years. Ships, and service are always great, never a problem, great Butlers, we don't bother with the others except for the Paul G. for Tahiti, and its sister T. Moana in the Caribbean. Riviera, is a great, no grand ship. I could find no fault with her, except her entertainment which was sub par (check who her contractor is), and the crew transparency, particularly the officers, on the second leg of the cruise was lacking. We were one of 14 ships ship that got a CDC certified NoroVirus outbreak in 2012. It was pretty obvious what was going on, yet the the staff would say nothing, although towards the end of the cruise, all medical services were free. All four of us, including one who is a doctor got it, and yet they would said it did not exist. It affected the crew, and passengers, and we spent two days restricted to our cabin. The room service was great, as my wife had it, but I didn't get it until after the trip, on the plane home (not good). I can't explain why what happen, happened, except that this was the ship's first trip to the US, and they would have to under go both Public Health Service, and Coast Guard review. Three life boat drills in 29 days, I will give them credit for the practice, which is necessary given the really stupid evac procedures on larger ships. Do you really think I am going to sit quietly in the assembly area, and not go to the life boat if the darn ship is going down!!!! All in all it was a superb cruise, but crew/officer transparency really was bad. They knew they had a virus outbreak, but suppressed it, charging passengers who got sick initially mega bucks for treatment, which I am sure was refunded, at the end. They knew they had a problem yet suppressed it. I had a very heated conversation with the Captain, and Doctor, which resulted in nothing, which leads me to believe that as wonderful as these ships are, they will go to any length to suppress the fact that any thing is amiss. Why don't you just be up front, and say there is a problem? I love these cruise lines, and have more cruises booked, but if you think I'm getting on a ship with more than 1250 passengers, forget it it. I have been crossing the ocean since 1960, and my parents had to "abandon" the Andrea Doria. So I am a little more sensitive about ship safety than most. Still cruising, still loving it, but I know where my life jacket, and boat are. Forget the assembly areas, go to the boat, or the crew will beat you to it!!! Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
We have cruised several times before with different cruise lines. Celebrity is until now our favourite cruise line. We took two consecutive cruises: one from Venice to Barcelona and the other one from Barcelona to Miami. Below is a ... Read More
We have cruised several times before with different cruise lines. Celebrity is until now our favourite cruise line. We took two consecutive cruises: one from Venice to Barcelona and the other one from Barcelona to Miami. Below is a review of our positive and not so good experiences during both cruises. Hotel in Venice: We have stayed at the NH Manin which is located few steps from the Saint Angelo water stop. Location was very good. The hotel itself was OK but nothing special despite good reviews. We have stayed 3 nights in Venice previous to our cruise. We had the chance to see Venice-center flooded. This was an interesting experience for us, but we felt sorry for the Venetians who, although used to it, were not amused. Embarkation: We found embarkation in Venice absolute chaotic. Nobody seemed to know exactly how to cope with the large amount of people. There was a joung girl from Celebrity requesting for passengers to wait until the ques get smaller. Although many passengers did wait for a while, they soon realised that they were going to wait for hours because there was not an organised system to deal with the waiting passengers. It took us about 2 hours to be able to board. There was a similar lack of organisation in Barcelona (our first port for the second cruise). The ship, cabins and public areas The Reflection is beautiful. The cabins and closets are small, better suited for short trips but not for long journeys. Our main problem was that next to the bed there are no drawers. Many times we ended up looking under the bed, because our glasses, watches or other small things put on top of the tiny furniture next the bed felt during the night. Many passengers have commented already on the reduced size of the sky lounge. We agree that this is a pity. Our main concern is however, that we did not found the dancing spot located next to the guest relations a nice place to dance. There were always people walking through, specially the ones using the stairs. Also on formal nights, the photographers occupied one part of the "dancing floor" making it more difficult to dance. Other venues on the ship, we found very nice. We have absolutely loved the art works displayed all over. We have enjoyed the spa, the solarium and the swimming pools. We have also appreciated how clean all the areas were. We both felt very comfortable and did not have the feeling of places being too crowded. The crew, staff and fellow passengers: We have enjoyed talking with officers and crew members several times. The captain Nicholas Pagonis made a professional impression. The ship had some technical problems during the first leg of our cruise and we did not receive enough communication about the problem and solutions. This should have been better. We are not sure if the insufficient communication was the captains mistakes or that from headquarters. In any case we felt safe with captain Pagonis, his officers and crew members. We wish to praise the work of people working in several positions. These are Chandru ( captain club host), Anna ( next cruise sales office) , Edwin and his assistant ( please forgive us for not knowing your name) who were our cabin attendants during the first leg of our cruise, Roman and Reynaldo (our cabin attendants for the second leg) and Martens and Edelbert our waiters during the select dining option who took. To all of you a big thanks! We have enjoyed meeting other cruise critic members, who we met in other cruises. We have also made new friends with passengers from different countries but specially German speakers. Unfortunately there were also some impolite people on board, but we will forget those soon. We appreciate the efforts of cruise critic members Linda, Kasie and host Joe, who in one way or other have contributed to our get togethers. Ports of call: We had wonderful experiences fast in all ports of call. Only in Kusadasi and Malaga we met people who were not so friendly and eager to sell ( the latest specially in Kusadasi were some unfriendly people made so a frustrated impression because they said this was the Iast ship of this season and cruisers were not buying). We do hope next time we come we will have better experiences in those portsSummary: We had a wonderful time on board the Celebrity Reflection. We have enjoyed the ship, the ports of call, the service, the food, meeting old and new friends and just doing as much or as little as we wished. We will not hesitate to sail again on board the Reflection if the itinerary suits our needs. In the mean time we will continue to cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2012
Here are some thoughts. Pros Most beautiful ship we have ever been on. Captain Nick is awesome & very friendly & approachable. Almost a smoke free ship. Staff & crew very attentive & fun to interact with. Lawn ... Read More
Here are some thoughts. Pros Most beautiful ship we have ever been on. Captain Nick is awesome & very friendly & approachable. Almost a smoke free ship. Staff & crew very attentive & fun to interact with. Lawn Club restaurant the most fun & entertaining ever. iLounge is a Apple store with excellent prices. Captain club drink tickets. Allows to visit almost all the bars & lounges. Excellent staff & equipment in the fitness center with lots of activities. The Oceanview restaurant is excellent and staff really go out of their way to help. Cons DOGs Have no place on a ship at sea, really. I saw 5 on our 4 week cruise. Premium drink package way too expensive. You could never drink enough to equal cost of $14.00 per day unless you are breaking the single person rule. This maybe why it is so high. Cost of some speciality restaurants a bit high at $40.00 per person. Excellent food & service but too expensive. Back to back two week cruises are exactly the same even though we had different destinations. This was disappointing. Same shows, food and specials. Suggestions Add morn movies in the Celebrity Central Less paper receipts & printed papers. Offer off line via iPad, iPhone or touch & tv. Use the technology. Take a look at the wall computer on Freedom for daily activities & updates. Makes it easier to plan your day. Less paper. Need clothes line in the bathrooms to hang wet cloths like swim suits. Fire proof doors are noisy and heavy. Banging doors cause walls and pictures to fall. Try using mineral wool as a fire retardant. 3 hour rating by ulc. Contact Metl-Span in Lewisville, TX Consider another level to Captain Club and Elite members. This cruise had over 2400 members. Need a Gold level. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was our first cruise on a Princess ship but we have cruised on other lines many times. It is not my intent to compare Princess with other Cruise lines. This trip was from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale, transatlantic. We arrived a few ... Read More
This was our first cruise on a Princess ship but we have cruised on other lines many times. It is not my intent to compare Princess with other Cruise lines. This trip was from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale, transatlantic. We arrived a few days early in Venice and totally enjoyed the extra time. Embarkation was somewhat slow. After checking in and receiving our cruise cards we were given a number and waited for over an hour to board. When we did board the cabin was ready and our luggage was delivered soon after. The Ruby Princess was staying overnight in Venice and not sailing until the next afternoon so there was time for further adventures in Venice. On the negative side, there were tours during the morning and the muster was held at 1:00 and the dining room closed at 1:30 that meant that all the people who toured Venice was sent to the Horizon Cafe since the dining room had closed. Needless to say that dinning venue was a zoo. The sail away was awesome, down the Grand Canal. Ports and tours: All the ports were as expected. Princess tours were handled very well with the exception of Casablanca. More on this later. The one down side was the cost in several ports of having to take a shuttle bus to the city center. Princess charged for this service, from $5.00 to $8.00 each way. That is a case of nickel and diming. Seems just like the airlines. Now for Casablanca. I don't know if this was true on other tours in Casablanca, but the one that we were on was a disaster. At one stop the tour company sent our bus, with belonging on it, to another location. When we went back to go to the next stop the bus was not there. It took 45 minutes to find it and return it to our location. Beyond belief our belongings were still there. However, the rest of the tour was very rushed and not at all enjoyable. It took many complaints from the passengers to get Princess to take action and they did refund part of the cost of the excursion cost. But passengers had to demand it rather than having them identified and the refund posted automatically. We had to divert to the island of Madeira instead of Ponta Delgarda to avoid a tropical storm. This little island in the middle of the Atlantic off the coast of Africa is a jewel. Well worth a visit. Dinning: The food on this trip was uniformly excellent. Service in the dining room was great. Down side, Princess has a dress code for evening in the dining rooms. The problem is they don't enforce it. Where smart casual was mandated men in tee shirts and hoodies were allowed in. On formal nights, open collared shirts were permitted. If you are going to have a dress code, please enforce it or don't have a code. At the start of transatlantic portion of the trip it was announced that Norovirus had been identified on the ship and the number of cases tripped the CDCs protocols. All the signs seem to point to Casablanca as the place where the virus came aboard. This caused extra work for dining room staffs and they were over taxed. We were not allowed to even touch a salt shaker. The outbreak also curtailed activities during the long transatlantic days. We were even not allowed to get playing cards in the fear of spreading the virus. Disembarkation: This was a total disaster. 3,200+ passengers were herded into the arrivals hall without any organization. Speaking to the Head of Station in ft Lauderdale, she blamed the Port and a faulty gangway, then the Captain of the Ruby Princess for wanting to get all the passengers off the ship so that decontamination could began and not impact the next cruise and then the US Custom and Immigration for not having enough agents in place to handle the situation. Princess did a poor job in this situation and many people missed flights because it took over 90 minutes to clear Customs and Immigration from the time you left the ship. This situation almost ruined a great experience. In summation given the few problems the cruise was well worth the effort and I would give Princess a chance to redeem its reputation as a upscale cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
I booked this cruise as a follow-up to a 35 day South Pacific Cruise on the Westerdam which was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, the Nieuw Amsterdam had a lot more negatives than positives. I was traveling with a friend and we left ... Read More
I booked this cruise as a follow-up to a 35 day South Pacific Cruise on the Westerdam which was very enjoyable. Unfortunately, the Nieuw Amsterdam had a lot more negatives than positives. I was traveling with a friend and we left Ft.Meyers,FL on October 2nd on AirBerlin. The flight was uneventful with a connection in Dusseldorff and arrival in Venice was on-time. I had booked a private transfer with Sun Transfers and was met promptly and taken to Plaza Station Hotel in Mestre. The hotel was adequate and very convenient being directly across the street from the train station. I had visited Venice before but thoroughly enjoyed the extra two days prior to boarding on October 5th. I purchased the 24hr. pass on the Vaporettas and spent an enjoyable time just riding around the city. Embarkation was efficient and we were on-board in less than thirty minutes after arriving. The cabins were also ready which enabled you to stow your hand luggage prior to having lunch. The cabin was roomy and the balcony adequate, nothing special but acceptable. Harry and Ricky (stewards) were at the door as we entered, introduced themselves, and made sure we didn't need anything. After this pleasant start I was looking forward to a great cruise, little did I know that it was downhill from this point. Lunch in the Lido could best be described as chaotic. The layout is very inefficient with tables along the walkway where you line up for service. This added to the fact that people wanted to see what was available and stopped in this narrow pathway. This made moving about difficult along with getting bumped into while trying to make your way to a table. HAL had their mandatory health rules in effect so there was no self service, including beverages. This created another backup and by the time you had a beverage and found a table the barely warm food you had been served was now cold. This was a big complaint I heard from many people over the entire cruise, the food just wasn't kept hot and I finally started asking for my food to be heated again. With a couple of exceptions when I asked for the food to be heated I was told it was already warm...sorry this wasn't the answer you give a customer. The dining room was very slow and again the food was at best lukewarm and when you asked for it to be reheated you could expect another long delay, very poor and one of the reasons I say this is not a five star ship. It seemed that we were constantly under some type of health alert with very few days when we could actually have any self-service in the Lido. This severely limited your enjoyment of the buffets. During the transatlantic portion I had purchased the Thermal Suite for the thirteen days. On more than one occasion individuals had reported to the Spa desk that the Thalossotherapy Pool was dirty but nothing was done. Then without any notice we were told four days before arriving in Ft. Lauderdale that the Thermal Pool was closing at 5PM and wouldn't be available for the rest of the cruise. I asked at the spa desk if there would be a price adjustment given and was answered very curtly that there would be no refunds. Since I had paid for the entire time I went to customer service and was told that they would talk to the Spa Manager. Later that evening I was called and told that I would be given a small credit. I responded that I wasn't satisfied and that since I had paid for full access for the entire time a full prorated refund should be given. It took a lot of effort but I persisted and was given what should have been offered at the start. Again, proof that the Nieuw Amsterdam is not a five star ship. It seemed on several occasions that there was not good management in place as a lot of these situations could have been avoided. A good manager would have immediately sent out a notice of the closing and stated upfront that a refund was being given. As it was the guests had to take the lead and spend an hour more of their time trying to get answers. One other thing that really bothered me was after buying the Admiral's Wine Package based on the list of wines that were available in that offering. After puschasing I learned that two of the wines I especially wanted on the list were not available. Instead I was told they were out of stock but more would be loaded at the next port. It never happened and instead we were given substitutes they were inferior wines and certainly weren't what had been advertised or for which I had paid. I could continue on for several more paragraphs about instances where Holland America failed to live up to their reputation as a luxury line, for me I just did not experience the service or quality I have had on other true five star ships. It would be unfair not to say there were some examples of people really trying to do a good job. I'll list some of them: 1. The Pinnacle Grill is excellent and worth every cent of the surcharge. The food is outstanding and the service was impeccable. 2. The room stewards did an excellent job of keeping things in order and fulfilled any requests that were made in a friendly manner. 3. A couple of the ladies on the serving line in the Lido did a good job and were glad to reheat your entree. Thanks to them as this attitude was not reflected by the others. This was a difficult review to write as I don't like to be negative but there were just so many things that could have been improved with very little effort but instead were allowed to become issues that really took away from the whole experience. I hope Holland America and the Nieuw Amsterdam can get their act together and get the health situation on board corrected along with getting some good managers. If not, things will just continue to deteriorate.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
We boarded the Ruby on Oct.09/12 in anticipation of an extra ordinary experience and were rewarded with ''just ordinary.'' Our cabin was not as big as a lot older Celebrity ship we had sailed on a few years earlier. ... Read More
We boarded the Ruby on Oct.09/12 in anticipation of an extra ordinary experience and were rewarded with ''just ordinary.'' Our cabin was not as big as a lot older Celebrity ship we had sailed on a few years earlier. Our Celebrity cabin had a sofa and a chair as well as a decent sized balcony. The Celebrity bathroom also had a bigger shower and glass doors. This ''newest Princess'' cabin had two small chairs and a bit larger balcony, but had curtains in what I believe was a smaller shower in a smaller bathroom. After eyeballing our not so luxurious Princess cabin we proceeded up to the Horizon buffet for lunch. The buffet had less choices than other cruise lines we had been on and after eating we decided to get acquainted with the Ruby while we waited for our luggage to arrive in our Cabin. As we left the Horizon buffet we were approached by a crew member trying to convince us to pay extra for an adults only area known as the ''Sanctuary.'' He told us that for a mere 10 dollars we could spend 4 hours in the Sanctuary, or we could spend 20 dollars for a whole day. I told him that the Sanctuary sounded a lot like an adults only area that all Celebrity ships have that is called the ''Solarium'' that is free of charge to adults. It seemed like every time we turned around a crew member was trying to sell us on ''Coffee cards, booze cards or Soda cards. You could have gelato, but you had to pay extra for it also. If you are a nostalgia buff, the Ruby has an ultra large screen adjacent to a pool that reminds one of going to a ''drive in theater'' in days of old. That was probably the only oddity that may differentiate it from other ships, but it wasn't enough to make the Ruby stand out in crowd. I don't think I can recall of another cruise where we were as inundated with as much of a sell, sell hype atmosphere that continued throughout the cruise, whether it was around the ship or in your cabin. The in cabin television channels were also a maze of Princess self promotion that continuously prompted the watcher to buy this, or buy that. I felt sorry for anyone that was in quarantine as a result of a an outbreak of ''Noro-Virus'' that left very little choice of entertainment on the Princess's telly. The ''Botticelli'' dining room on the first formal night featured ''Chili'' as one of the entrees which prompted one of the cruiser's at our table to comment: ''we spend thousands of dollars and travel half way around the world for Chili? I could have stayed home and had Chili for a lot less than we've spent to come here!'' Another dinner menu evening featured ''Mac and Cheese'' which also was greeted with some derisive comments. Having said all the previous; we did enjoy all the stops we made and the crew were pleasant enough, but for the dollars spent we expected to be dazzled by the ''Ruby'' and were instead left wanting a lot more for what we had spent... Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was our 8th cruise, 2nd on princess. We arrived in Venice 2 days before the ship sailed, staying in Mestre. The cost of the hotel was a lot less than staying in Venice. It was only 10 minutes to Venice by train. The hotel Tritone had ... Read More
This was our 8th cruise, 2nd on princess. We arrived in Venice 2 days before the ship sailed, staying in Mestre. The cost of the hotel was a lot less than staying in Venice. It was only 10 minutes to Venice by train. The hotel Tritone had the best breakfast I have ever had at a hotel. They put out the kitchen sink. We spent 2 days touring Venice, naturally going to the rialto bridge, St. marks square. We also went to the back street behind St. marks square, and bought gifts for the family. Venice was the highlight of this cruise. Of course we did a gondola, right under the bridge of sighs. The ship was all you can ask for, having being only 4 years old. The decor was very ornate and beautiful. We had great service for the crew and we found the buffet and dining room food to our liking. The menus were different and interesting. Since the age group was so advanced, at about 8 o'clock in the evening the ship was a ghost town. One night We went to the sky walker and there was only about 3 couples in there dancing. In livorno, We hired a taxi to take us to Pisa. I had been to Pisa 50 years ago, and the tower did not look that good at that time. It was dirty and had a green appearance. This time it was pure white and was beautiful, I was really impressed. The driver gave us plenty of time for shopping, and took us back to the ship. Casablanca was a disappointment, a hodgepodge of shanty towns and garbage heaps. It was a good move that we had a ship tour to Rabat, which was a lot nicer than Casablanca. I am glad I saw Casablanca, but again i was not impressed. I would never go back there again. All in all this cruise was a cruise of a lifetime, 19 days on the ship very interesting ports, 7 days across the Atlantic. One more comment, Instead of going to the azores we went to madiera because of the storms at the azores. madiera turn out to be a better port, we loved it. In summary, everything on this cruise was to our liking, and I would take this cruise again in a heartbeat. Princess cruises are one of my favorites. Spent quite afew euros,but saw what we wanted to see.Get me on a ship! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
We found the Ruby Princess to be absolutely gorgeous! The Public areas particularly are fabulous. The Itinerary for this trip was great in that the ports visited with one exception were excellent, and since we love sea days, the TA and ... Read More
We found the Ruby Princess to be absolutely gorgeous! The Public areas particularly are fabulous. The Itinerary for this trip was great in that the ports visited with one exception were excellent, and since we love sea days, the TA and the days at sea were perfect. The Port we did not care for was Casablanca. We did the ship excursion to Rabat and found that city very nice, but Casablanca was like an open sewer. We realize the movie was shot in LA, but we still had expectations that were not met. We were glad we stopped there and had the experience, but we do not care to go back. This is a great cruise for those who love to do TA's. As for experiences on board ship, we found the food in the main dining room with traditional seating to be very good as was the service. We did not care for the food in the horizons buffet, and found the set up for the food line to be cramped and cumbersome. We ate there only two or three times and very much enjoyed our lunches in the dining room. The menu was varied and the service was very good. When sailing Princess, please do not miss the Pizza. They have absolutely the best Pizza in the Cruise Industry. A disappointment for us on the trip was the Theater. It is small compared to experiences we have had with Celebrity. Also, we found that apparently, the any time diners arrange dinner timing to better coordinate with show times so that when we finished our late seating and attempted to make the late show, the Theater was standing room only. The ship simply does not have the capacity to handle the number of passenger's in this venue. We also found that the entertainment was not up to the standard we experienced on Celebrity. We experienced some management level staff problems on this cruise. On multiple nights, we met friends for drinks before dinner and found bars staffed with only one bartender and one waiter. Although the staff worked very hard to overcome this, it was impossible and poor service resulted. One evening our friends waited an hour for a drink. You would think the management on this ship would realize what a profit center the bar is and properly schedule staff to maximize profits while providing excellent service. Another management level staff problem that had a dramatic negative effect on our trip dealt with the handling of our toilet that often failed to flush. For about the first three days we were told that the problem was a result or our putting tissues or foreign objects in it. We explained that because we had cruised previously, we understood not to do that, and after three days, five phone calls for help, and a demand to speak to the Hotel Manager that contact was made with the Manager of Guest Relations. Although expectations were raised that this might help expedite the solution to the problem, just the opposite happened. We found the Manager of Guest relations to be a person quick to make alibis and attempt to pass off problems as being just ordinary. After about a week of problems, and another repair that did not work, extremely loud plumbing rumblings were reported to the Guest Relations Manager. Without any investigation she responded that I should not worry, and these sounds were normal. My continued pleading for help resulted in a complete toilet replacement according to our cabin steward. If the sounds were normal, then why the replacement? So that this review does not go on forever, please know that our toilet failing to flush or delayed in flushing was experienced up to the last day on board, nineteen days. I also learned that other guests on my deck, as well as the crew also experienced this problem. In short this is a problem on this ship, and one that is not healthy. When this was pointed out to the Guest Relations Manager, she denied such. When the crew tells me that they have to wait to use the toilet because they do not flush without a delay, and I experienced this as well, this is not an isolated problem. IF YOU ARE IN CABIN A642, be prepared for a toilet that at best delays flushing. This delay may be 30 minutes or more. The way the management level staff on the Ruby Princess handled our stateroom problem will cause me not to sail Princess again. Denial and inappropriate excuses is not the way to handle a problem so basic to a positive cruise experience. Although I asked that my concerns be sent to Land Headquarters, I have had no contact from Princess since the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
This was a Mediterranean + Transatlantic cruise -- we started in Venice and ended up at Fort Lauderdale for a total of 19 nights. At the outset of this review we should say that we were very appreciative that Princess corporation and the ... Read More
This was a Mediterranean + Transatlantic cruise -- we started in Venice and ended up at Fort Lauderdale for a total of 19 nights. At the outset of this review we should say that we were very appreciative that Princess corporation and the Ruby's Captain successfully kept us away from hurricane Rafael and navigated the ship around Sandy so that we only experienced some roughness the last night of the cruise. Keeping the passengers safe was their first priority and they performed excellently. Any other comments and criticisms are minor in comparison. The main problem with the Italian ports Venice, Naples, Rome, Florence and Pisa was that they were swarming with tourists even in mid-October which was nearly low season. For example, during our visit to Florence the crowds were so thick we could hardly move. Cannes is a nice place but not really all that interesting to visit -- Nice would have been much better. Barcelona now has a very pleasant new cruise ship port and we spent hours just walking around and enjoying the Ramblas. Casablanca was very much a third world city but trying hard to develop there wasn't much to see and it was a shame that some on the Princess sponsored tours to Marrakech apparently got food poisoning. We were pleased that we stopped at Madeira instead of Ponto Delgado - it was just a lovely place to visit.Generally the food was good but not great. We ate at the Crown Grill for dinner one night and found it to be excellent. Since we were in a suite we often ate breakfast at Sabatini's which again was excellent. Generally the food at the Horizon was reasonable but the self service restrictions imposed after the Norovirus appeared made it a much less attractive place to eat. The Trident Grill had good hamburgers and hot dogs and we thought the Pizzeria was very good. The International Cafe in the Atrium was very pleasant but no one we met could understand what the Vines concept was intended to be. Sushi plus tapas with wine wasn't an appealing combination and after it seemed to be implicated in the Norovirus outbreak it was pretty dead at Vines. It needs to be repurposed or dumped. Mostly the dining room was OK but like others we grew tired of it after a couple of weeks. How many of us eat out at restaurant every night at home? We took the "Anytime" dining option but found we still needed reservations which took away some of the flexibility it was supposed to have. The cruise lecturers were very good and we thought that making up a program guide and having an introductory session were really good ideas. Mr. Scott's talks on aspects of the NASA space program were authoritative and interesting because he had personally participated in many of the events he talked about. Mr. Dalton's "adventures" were a bit tame in the sense that the hype was more than the actual content deserved but somewhat interesting. The best talks were from Dr. Detrich particularly on ports. He was honest and forthright in his comments and certainly wasn't selling tours. We took particular note of his negative view of Casablanca (turned out to be true) and his prediction of the long lineups for St. Peter's in Rome (also true). This information was very helpful in making our choices of shore excursions.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2012
A good cruise experience, we love Atlantic crossings and we loved Venice, Italy. The worst stop was Casablanca; we are too Western in our taste and do not have the adventure spirit to enjoy the stop; Casablanca was dirty, disorganized and ... Read More
A good cruise experience, we love Atlantic crossings and we loved Venice, Italy. The worst stop was Casablanca; we are too Western in our taste and do not have the adventure spirit to enjoy the stop; Casablanca was dirty, disorganized and traffic seemed dangerous. Recent labor actions left buses abandoned in the streets with broken windows. Tour staff on the ship want to sell tours; do not look for much help if going independent-do your research before traveling if going independent (on your own when touring). Naples Taxi drivers represented a disheartening gauntlet; especially in Naples, make your arrangements prior to arriving in Naples. Venice is very easy to do while on the independent self directed tour mode (don't miss Burano and Murano), Vaporetto are excellent and economical, water taxis are for the wealthy among us. Barcelona was excellent for going it alone; easy to use public transportation; Los Ramblas and market should not be missed. Funchal, the tour bus was a economical and efficient way to get a quick tour of the Island; we stayed aboard and took both routes in the same half day. Anytime dining, service levels below regular dining; however, great opportunity to meet different people. Sick Bay: out of pocket, you file your own insurance, two routine visits about $300; that included meds for a cold that was turning into a upper respiratory problem. Kudos to the Captain for avoiding rough waters from Sandy as long as he could, the ship altered course several times and changed the itinerary from Azores to Funchal, nice surprise, to avoid rough waters. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
The pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/4con It was the worst prelude to a trip I've ever had - 30 hours without electricity! I even had to go to the gym at 2 am to shower in hot water before I left. Venice Venice was ... Read More
The pictures are at http://www.pbase.com/wwll/4con It was the worst prelude to a trip I've ever had - 30 hours without electricity! I even had to go to the gym at 2 am to shower in hot water before I left. Venice Venice was bright and sunny when I arrived. I booked a boat directly from the airport to San Marco but it was a long walk to the wharf. After I got off the boat I had to cross two short bridges which now thankfully have ramps for rolling suitcases. The Hotel Campiello is a real gem. There is a chandelier in the room. The shower has multiple heads and sprays all over. But the room was tiny so I had to unpack everything and stow the suitcase. I was three alleys east of the Palace of the Doges and 50 meters from the Grand Canal and vaporetto stations. At the big vaporetto stations there are multiple piers. There is an electronic board that tells you which pier to go to for the next ride. Very civilized. The Hotel Campiello staff was real helpful. They made dinner reservation for me and told me about an excellent wine shop nearby. Following Rick Steves's suggestion, I had dinner at Antica Sacrestia. It was just around the corner from the Hotel Campiello. I had the three-course tourist menu. My first course was lasagna. It was a huge portion. The mixed fried seafood was the best I ever had. The batter is not even visible. The various seafoods were perfectly done. I had a half bottle of Pinot Blanc house wine for 12 euros. I had just one bite of the custard dessert. It seemed like every table spoke a different language but this is no tourist trap. It was very nice. From Hotel Campiello I walked the 50 meters to the San Zaccaria vaporetto station and took vaporetto 5.2 which left me directly underneath the People Mover. It was a short walk to the baggage drop-off point. Check-in did not begin until 12 noon and I thought it was clumsy. I was in my balcony at about 1 pm. I went back to Piazza Roma to buy a bottle of wine. The Star Princess The Star Princess was in dry dock in Trieste, Italy for three weeks before our cruise. All the staff had stayed on board. There are new appointments such as our cruise director Frank. The ship is a living and complex system so it was not too surprising that after three weeks in dry dock it still has little problems. Overall it was in very good condition. I had a surprise upgrade to a balcony. The room itself is the same size as an interior but the floor-to-ceiling windows makes it extra nice. My steward Jose from Portugal was very attentive. The capacity of the Star Princess is 2600 but on this cruise there were only 1055 passengers. This makes the passenger-crew ratio 1:1. It is very pleasant never having to wait for anything. FOOD I thought the food was just so so. There were occasional extra nice meals but for the most part the dining room fare was mediocre. In my pictures I show one particularly nice meal. The soups and breads are fantastic on this cruise. Because there were so few passengers, at first there was only one anytime dining room open and half of Horizon Court was closed. I had all my dining room meals at Portofino. There is a new layout at Horizon Court. Desserts and breads are served on a separate island from the main part. Now there are essentially eight different lines so no long lines. Sometimes the food at Horizon Court can be better than the main dining room. Crown Grill is the new addition after the dry dock. It is on Deck 6 midship and it features an open kitchen. Just walking by you can see the kitchen in action. The cover charge is $25. A group of seven of us tried the Crown Grill one night. The server took a while to get to us. Then he introduced the meats. I made the Mussel Pot my first course. It is a huge order which would be a main course in Europe. The sauce was excellent. However 5 of the mussels would not open. My second course was the Black and Blue Onion Soup. It was one of the most intensely flavorful soup I ever had. For the main course I had the rack of lamb, eight ribs. The outside of the meat was a mustard and rosemary crust. I asked the rack not be cut so that I can cut it myself. It was excellent. I provided a 2007 Camins del Priorat by Alvaro Palacios. It went very well. As a diabetic I do not eat dessert but I had the sampler. The rest of the table rushed to photograph the beautiful presentation. I did like the one bite of the cheesecake. Vines is a wine bar on deck 5. One day I had a glass of white wine and two plates of tapas which were complimentary. I really like the idea. GYM I used the gym almost every day. Most all of the machines were working and needed repairs are made promptly, which is rare on ships. The sauna and steam rooms are very nice. The changing rooms were overflowing with thick towels. The showers are a little bigger than the shower in my room. ENTERTAINMENT For such a long cruise the Star Princess had nice entertainment. There were four production shows. They had four singers who also danced. There were two apprentice singers. The production shows had a sameness to them. From beginning to end they sang at the top of their lungs. There was no crescendos. The best was flutist Bettina Clemen. She plays several flutes and show videos of herself playing for animals. She did a total of three shows. I enjoyed them all. Caroline Harris is a classical pianist who also sings. She was very good too. Music was everywhere. Often an Argentine tango group played in the atrium. This is my first encounter with Movies Under the Stars. This is a giant screen at the outdoor swimming pool. The contrast is good enough to see during sunlight. However, the noise around me made it difficult to hear the dialogue. At night blankets are provided. I never made the effort to take in an entire movie. PORTS Dubrovnik, Croatia Our first port of the cruise was Dubrovnik. Princess offered a shuttle for US$15 round trip to Old Town. I got off the ship, found an ATM and bought 2 local bus tickets for 20 kunas, about US$4. The bus got me to the Pile Gate of Old Town, just like the shuttle. It was bright and sunny so I got a ticket for the City Walls, 70 kunas. But I apparently took the wrong entrance and found myself in a very steep climb in the northerly direction. So I came down and walked the Placa, the main street of Old Town to the other end. I did some internet, had a beer and went back to the ship. I went to a money changer and tried to change the remaining kunas. I got some euros but they do not change into US$! Corfu, Greece The Star Princess docked at a container port and Corfu had complimentary bus rides from the ship to the entry of the port. From there I caught Bus No. 16 into town, 1.5 euros each way. Most of Corfu was closed for the tourist season. After a short walk I found the Museum of Asian Art. It has a surprisingly good collection of Chinese art. Two men who started buying towards the end of the 19th century donated their collections. You might agree if you look at my pictures. There were some nice bargains, like a belt for three euros. When I got back to the port I found that I had lost my key card. I had to be escorted from the port to the ship in a Mercedes. Valletta, Malta We had a spectacular entry into the Grand Harbour in a sunny day. One can see all the centuries old buildings from the ship. I went with a tour organized by our Cruise Critic group. Amy, our guide, was excellent. First we went up to a fort high above the Grand Harbour to look back at the Star Princess. We drove out to Mdina, a fortress where some of the old families have their mansions. Malta has distinctive architecture. Houses have blue doors and a small balcony over the door. The balcony is to see who is at the door. The main door have openings through which one can see a courtyard with a tall tree. It was Sunday and we dropped into a church with a service going on for only a couple of minutes. In Malta all the signs are in English although the official language is Maltese which stems from Phoenician. Towards the end of the day we went to a fishermen's wharf. It was interesting to see local life other than the glitzy parts. Amy says tourism has declined and now the economy depends on high finance. Is Malta the Cayman of the Med? Tunis, Tunisia Entry into La Goulette, the port for Tunis, is a very long channel. There was real confusion about entry into Tunisia. We had to use our passports for entry and had to fill out a form. I was on an all-day Princess tour. We had a very excited tour guide. He was literally yelling, about us coming and about Tunisia becoming a democracy. After a half-hour drive we were at where the jasmine revolution took place a year ago. There were still some demonstrators camped out. There was minimal police presence. Driving through Tunis I saw vendors on the streets selling toilet paper. That reminded me of seeing old ladies selling used plastic bags in Russia ten years ago. We walked to the Medina, an old-fashioned shopping mall. Here you can buy anything from jewelry to perfume to everyday needs. We stopped in a perfumery. That was fun. Next we walked to The Chateau of the Medina. This is a department store. They sell everything that a tourist might want. After drinking sugary mint tea, we were shown piles of carpets. From my eye, most of these were machine made. In another showroom they sell everything from tiles to clothing. One woman wanted a shawl. The asking price was 750 dinars. She got it for 50. The highlight of the day was certainly the Bardo Museum. Here one sees wall after wall of Roman mosaics. Some are complete while others are missing small parts. Some of us wondered if we should be walking on these mosaics. By now it was 2 pm and we drove to Carthage. We had a five course lunch which was not very filling. The restaurant was next to Hadrian Aqueduct, 132 kilometers long to supply water to Tunis and over 2000 years old. Carthage turned out to be a disappointment. There was just a little bit of ruins visible. The nearby Roman bath was more extensive. I cornered the guide and asked him what does the future hold for Tunisia. Where does future development come from. They do not have oil, though they have plenty of sand. A country of 10 million does not offer much in terms of labor. He replied he does not know. They are trying to sort this out. They first have to learn how to trust each other in a democratic society. Middle aged, he voted for the first time this year. Gibraltar From my balcony on starboard I had a terrific view of our approach to Gibraltar and watched a 109000-ton ship being parked inch-by-inch. I walked into town and just bummed around. Local buses are free. I walked the length of Main Street and at last found the wine shop. Main Street is full of liquor stores but only this one serious wine store. I bought four bottles of Spanish wine which I greatly enjoyed. Gibraltar is a little like Hong Kong Island. It is hilly and rocky. Streets are narrow. Gibraltar is now the last British colony. After Gibraltar we entered the Atlantic Ocean and we were immediately hit by a major storm. For 12 hours the ship rocked and rolled. The second day in the Atlantic we heard announcements called dishwasher so and so to report. Soon the captain was making the announcements. At noon the captain came on and said this dishwasher is missing, and we are doubling back to try and find him. The ship backtracked at high speed. A little later the captain said tapes of closed-circuit TV showed the man had jumped. We spent another six hours searching but found nothing. Two days later at 12:30 am the ship lost power partially. The announcement woke me. Electricity was restored shortly. Recife, Brazil After six days at sea we all wanted to stand on terra firma. There was a free shuttle from the ship into town. I immediately found a Citibank and got some reals. I walked into town in search of internet. After much searching I found one. Recife is a third-world city. The nice looking water is smelly and full of garbage. While in Brazil one has to have coffee so I stopped in DeltaEspresso and had a cap. I should have stopped here first because there was free WiFi. Rio All nice things must come to an end. This voyage ended in Rio. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We booked this cruise more than a year in advance, when we were aboard the Star, cruising the Eastern Mediterranean (Oct., 2010). Our first experience with the Star wasn't good (there's a review covering it), but we booked this ... Read More
We booked this cruise more than a year in advance, when we were aboard the Star, cruising the Eastern Mediterranean (Oct., 2010). Our first experience with the Star wasn't good (there's a review covering it), but we booked this Future Cruise in the second day, we could not anticipate the problems we had - if we did, we wouldn't have booked it, for shure. But we kept the reservations up, and then we flew into Venice this December, 2011, to our second cruise aboard the Star Princess. We were excited because it would be the first cruise after the Star had a 30-day dry dock period. We kept a Cruise Log here at CC and many of the facts and opinions here below were first decribed there. By the way, regarding to cruising after a dry dock period, we deeply agree with an user who said he never cruises right after a dry dock, for there's always unfinished work during the cruise. True, and we learned it the worst way. EMBARKATION - Check-in at Venice harbor was quick. Ok, this cruise was only 70% full, there were no lines (only at X-ray scanners) but time spent at the counter was minimal - everything was ready and we made our way to our stateroom in few minutes. STATEROOM - As I said, we booked this cruise when we were aboard this same Ship, so we asked for the same stateroom - B326. I have to point out that we've done it with 14 months in advance, This also means that Princess knew, with 14 months in advance, that cabin B326 would be occupied in December 2011, right after dry dock. So, it was a bad surprise when we saw a tecnician still working in the communication system at cabin B326 - things were not ready, yet! With so much time in advance, how could Princess assign us to a cabin that they knew was not fully functional? The tecnician left, minutes after, without saying a word. TV was working, but phone was off. In the following two days (At Sea and Dubrovnik), we had that same tecnician coming to our cabin many times, trying to fix the system. We could not have an afternoon nap. And, needless to say, things didn't work. We could not place a wake-up call and we lost a shore excursion at Corfu, the following day. After that, we demanded a solution from Passenger Services, and then they moved us to another cabin... B330, right next door!!!!!!!! They could have done it since the beginning of the cruise, that cabin was empty!!!!!!!!!!!!! Reminder: never take an after dry-dock cruise again. FOOD - We had a great dining experience during our 2010 cruise and that repeated this year. We had fixed seating at Amalfi, we had great service from our Italian Waiter and from our Portuguese Head Waiter. They made everything to keep us satisfied (we were 4 people in a family trip) and they were responsible for the best moments onboard. Food quality and presentation were excellent. On the other hand, our experience at Sabatini's Specialty Restaurant wasn't worth the $$$ they charged. Believe it or not, dining at Amalfi was a far better experience than doing it at Sabatini's. It's a don't go. We didn't go to the other Specialty Restaurant - Crown Grill. Everytime we crossed it's door when it was opened, we got "smoked" - there's obviously a problem with smoke exhaustion, there. And they just came from dry dock... Another good food experience was the Horizon Court Buffet, better than last year. Prego Pizza wasn't that good. Burgers and Hot Dogs at Trident Grill kept good quality. For those who are wine lovers, please consider the Vines Bar, deck 5 midships. They had a nice staff, there, and very good service. Hope they kept them. ENTERTAINEMENT - I believe that a Trans Oceanic cruise is a challenge to any Cruise Director. Things are different when you have ports of call every one or two days, but a six-day crossing... I have to confess that I'm fed up with those onboard, Broadway-style, after dinner shows. They are the same, no matter the ship, no matter the company. What else do we have? Line dance classes, bingo, trivia - that's entertainemet (?). The most original thing we had was a (very good) guy doing freestyle bike presentations right at The Piazza, deck 5 - a very tiny space. We also had Flamenco Dance presentations. And one Under the Stars party. But this was a 16-day cruise... PORTS OF CALL - Dubrovnik, Corfu, Tunis, Malta, Gibraltar, Recife and Rio. This is a beautiful itinerary. My personal considerations are: Dubrovnik: don't book the Brandy Tasting/Cavtat/Old Town tour if you're not an extreme brandy lover. The Brandy Tasting session, although located in a beautiful place, is far, then you'll spent a lot of time in Cavtat (it's only a photo-spot small city) and, in the end, you won't have enough time to visit the Old Town (it's a World Heritage!). Corfu: lost our shore excursion. Skipped. Tunis: we've been in Tunis during our last cruise. It was my first experience in Northern Africa and I didn't like it. Anyway, I gave Tunis another try. Worthless. Princess could move this stop to another place - Morocco, for example. Malta: we've also been there, a year ago, and we loved coming back. Our tour was for wine lovers (and we are) - the Meridiana Winery wine tasting. We brought very good Maltese wines. Wandering at the waterfront, by the harbour, for a cold beer and some souvenirs were a nice option for the pre-"back on board" moments. Gibraltar: we went to Europa point and to the top of the Rock, by cable car. Nice views, from both. We also visited the Great Siege Tunnels. Interesting - a lot of history and good photos. Recife: as a Brazilian citizen, I'd prefer stopping at Salvador. Recife is not ready to receive cruiseship passengers with comfort. The ship docks at a cargo terminal and the surroundings are old and dirty. SERVICE - Star Princess crew was very warm, throughout the cruise. Ok, there will always be one or another in bad mood, but the overall impression was very good. CLEANLINESS - even after a dry-dock, there are many points that still show rust stains and other marks. Despite this, the ship is kept clean all the time - there's always somebody keeping things bright. DEBARKATION - as fast as Embarkation. No lines, no rush. Good job. Now, packing for the Sapphire Princess Hawaii from LA cruise. It's only 70 days away... Read Less
Sail Date: December 2011
We travelled from Venice to Rio de Janeiro (18 nights) in December 2011. Check in was fast (we had done web check in which speeded things up), and were shown to our cabin much earlier than most cruise lines would allow. There had ... Read More
We travelled from Venice to Rio de Janeiro (18 nights) in December 2011. Check in was fast (we had done web check in which speeded things up), and were shown to our cabin much earlier than most cruise lines would allow. There had been an error with our dining request, but this was rapidly sorted out on board. Our category 11 cabin was clean and comfortable with good quality balcony furniture, and the cabin had ample storage space for 18 nights. All the public rooms on the ship were very stylish and spotlessly clean, and service everywhere was of an extremely high standard, although you may need to be patient when it comes to language as this is not primarily an English speaking ship. We were impressed by how many languages most staff spoke - we are not used to waiters who have a reasonable knowledge of four or five languages on top of their own. We particularly like the way the ship was organised regarding noisy and quiet areas. If you wanted to get involved with activities then that was easy, and if you wanted a quiet area (both inside and outside) then this was possible. The food in the Buffet was the best quality and with a lot of variety at lunch of any of the 14 or so ships we have been on. The main dining room (Maxims in our case) was not so successful, with food ranging from excellent to poor, Music around the ship was well controlled and of a good standard in areas like the atrium. We liked not being permanently bombarded by loud piped music. There was a fair variety of entertainment in the Theatre with 17 different shows over the 18 nights, including classical recitals. Multi-lingual announcements can get a bit boring, BUT all credit to MSC for keeping these to a minimum. We will most certainly be looking to use this cruise line again. We only went on one shore excursion, but this was well organised with a knowledgeable guide, and was most enjoyable. One Warning. If you want a fully American experience then don't come. If you are American and want to meet and mix with people from a range of countries/cultures and enjoy European style dining and entertainment then give it a try. This was our first time with MSC and it was much better than we had expected. Read Less

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