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Sail Date: November 2011
We are from the UK travelling on our second Cunard cruise out of about 30 in total. We tried the QM2 in her inaugural year and been slightly underwhelmed, nothing to put us off Cunard particularly but we felt it lacked the value for money ... Read More
We are from the UK travelling on our second Cunard cruise out of about 30 in total. We tried the QM2 in her inaugural year and been slightly underwhelmed, nothing to put us off Cunard particularly but we felt it lacked the value for money of, say, NCL, Princess or Celebrity. However, we bought some cheap one-way airfares with the intention of doing a westbound transatlantic cruise this year and when we started to compare the itineraries on offer the QV itinerary stood out a mile, by calling at both Madeira and Bermuda it took a southern route with only 4 days at sea to cross the Atlantic (I don't mind a few sea days if it is calm and sunny but not too many at a time, especially if the sea gets choppy). Price-wise it was only slightly more expensive for 16 days than most of the other lines were offering for less interesting 12/14 day voyages and we were pleased to have the chance to give Cunard another try. Sadly it got off to a bad start before we even left home. First, shortly after booking and a couple of months before departure, we got an 'emergency notification' that the unusual port of Charleston has been cut out apparently due to lack of customs officers to perform the US immigration procedures. We later found that the same thing had occurred on the QV's eastbound crossing earlier in the year. I fully understand that many guests were put out about the substitute port of Nassau, after all that is a much visited port for the American guests in particular, but having never been to either Nassau or Charleston we were not particularly bothered - any cruiseline changing itineraries after taking bookings gets a big black mark from me on principal, but in this case a beach day quite appealed. However, one of the big attractions of this itinerary was the late arrival into Fort Lauderdale at 11am, we had thought how lovely it would be NOT to be thrown off the ship at the crack of dawn for a change especially as Miami-London flight invariably depart in the evening. Now the substitute of Nassau meant that we were scheduled into Fort Lauderdale at 6am to clear customs there so no relaxing last day after all - oh well, we cancelled our airport shuttle that had fitted beautifully between scheduled arrival and earliest possible flight and booked a hire car instead so that at least we have somewhere to keep our luggage, and I will now be able to take advantage of some of Miami's shopping opportunities. Next communication from Cunard was that departure from Venice was brought forward from 9pm to 5pm on the 2nd day. Oh well, we thought, we have been to Venice a few times, not a problem but a shame for anyone visiting for the first time to have their time cut by 4 precious hours. A week or so before sailing another 'emergency notification' this time regarding Madeira, apparently QV had originally been scheduled an afternoon and evening in port on the first day there, which I had seen on some documentation and thought it odd as our schedule said 6pm arrival, but apparently this was another change for the early bookers - oh well, it does not affect our expectations. At this point I noticed that the Bermuda stop had also been extended by an hour until 5pm and that our guarantee inside cabin which had already been upgraded to an obscured view outside had now been changed again to a 'proper' outside so emergency notifications are not always bad news. So the evening before departure we were packed and ready to go and I logged into our CC rollcall for the last time and what do I see but a Cunard Emergency notification - yes another one but we had not received it - saying that Venice is fogbound and the ship is in Trieste and that we have to proceed to Venice port as normal and a shuttle coach will be provided from there. By this time the UK office was closed so I phoned the US office (not inappropriate as we had booked through a Canadian travel agent friend, a fact that had caused Cunard's UK office to tell me they could not help me when I phoned with a simple query just after booking). The person I spoke to told me curtly and word for word exactly what the kind CC person had already posted, I asked whether there would be a shuttle into Venice on the Monday but he just kept repeating that the ship is in Trieste and will depart at 5pm on Monday. Oh well, we have been to Venice before, Trieste will be a new port for us, but anyone taking a long flight in the hope of seeing Venice must be very disappointed. In fact on arrival at Venice airport about 8pm, nearly 2 hours late, we were met by 2 very pleasant Cunard representatives who confirmed that the ship was indeed in Trieste, 2 hours drive away, apologised for the inconvenience and told us to leave or luggage with the porter and wait about 20 minutes for the bus. In fact it was quite a lot longer until the bus came but there were only a dozen or so of us so we were soon underway and the time soon went, check in was smooth and we were on board shortly after midnight. Very hungry by then, we found our cabin, which was very nice and larger than most, dumped our carry on bags and headed for the lido buffet, to find everything covered in clingfilm. I took this to mean it was closed but in fact one section was open with staff serving over the clingfilmed-off displays meant for self service. It soon became apparent that this was because of an outbreak of norovirus on the ship. This cruise was starting badly. By the next morning our luggage had arrived (along with somebody else's, inexplicably intended for deck 4 - they were delighted when we reported it as they had waited up most of the night for it). After breakfast at the 'buffet' we headed out to explore Trieste, along with most of the ship, to find that it was freezing cold and most shops close on Mondays. But it is an attractive city, we wandered around for about 3 hours, found a couple of department stores and some supermarkets open, saw the Roman amphitheatre which is right in town, admired the typical Italian architecture, and generally enjoyed being somewhere different - but Venice it is not, of course. It was indeed very foggy and we could understand why a big ship could not safely navigate into Venice. There was no shuttle bus back to Venice and, surprisingly, the only tours on offer were a walking or bus tour of Trieste - cancelling the Venice tours must have cost Cunard a fortune. The next day at sea was cold and wet and got quite rough as the day went on.We attended the first of an interesting series of lectures about the Olympic games which, along with an ex-BA pilot who spoke about navigation, kept us interested throughout the voyage. Our allocated dining table was right by the aft windows, above the propellers, unfortunately the position I could most feel the ship's motion and also very awkward for DH to weave his mobility scooter through the tables and people to the back to the restaurant. I would have liked to have moved but it seemed so rude to our table companions, who were delightful so we opted not to leave them. We arrived into Katakolon to find that the weather had improved and the sun was shining. My research had led me to have low expectations of this port, the main attraction of course being nearby Olympia, but we long ago gave up on visiting ruins with the scooter. However Katakolon itself is a pretty village with a street of quite a few tourist orientated shops and several bars and restaurants long the seafront. We set off somewhat ambitiously towards the 'best beach' of the area at Agios Andreas. Surprisingly we made it, although the beach was nothing spectacular and nothing was open there, it was a truly beautiful walk about 2 miles each way through peaceful quiet countryside edged by orange, lemon and olive trees. One elderly lady saw us admiring her garden and presented us with a freshly picked orange, which was amazingly sweet. We walked back a slightly differerent route along Katakolon beach itself, which is compressed enough to take the scooter without getting stuck in the sand as the locals, bizzarely, drive their cars along it. Nice sandy beach but covered in washed up seaweed and large jellyfish, some the size of dinner plates, not somewhere I would want to swim even if it was warm enough. Our short morning call at Gibraltar was pleasant, Cunard surprised us by NOT collecting up duty free alcohol purchased ashore, maybe redeeming themselves slightly for the unforegiveable faux pas of stating in the previous 2 daily programmes that we were (I quote) "en route for Gibraltar, SPAIN" ! We got back on board to find the norovirus precautions ended, so the buffet was back to normal and the other food outlets - Cafe Carinthia, Todd English and the Lido burger bar - open for the first time. Actually we struggled to see why they were ever closed as none of them have the same potential for cross infection as does the buffet, I suppose just to minimise the number of places to be sanitised each time. Madeira was also very nice, we docked at 6pm on the first day, at the furthest berth from the city, there was a free shuttle bus into town but it was complete choas, we walked/scooted there along the seafront and got back on board just in time for our evening meal. On the Monday we used the shuttle, explored Funchal town, market, 3 or 4 shopping malls and 2 lovely parks and then walked/scooted back to the ship. Funchal has developed almost beyond recognition since our last visit about 10 years ago, another lovely day. The Atlantic crossing passed quite well, some days pleasantly sunny and others windy with rougher seas. It was particularly rough when we arrived in Bermuda and some doubt as to whether we would be able to dock. After a few attempts and with the aid of a tug and a rope taken across by the pilot boat we made it into Heritage Wharf, part of the old Royal Naval Dockyard. This was another itinerary misdescription by Cunard as it was listed as Hamilton but we had long ago checked the Bermuda Port Authority website (thinking it unlikely that a ship the size of QV would get into Hamilton port itself) so we were prepared. However I was furious to find that our departure time had been brought forward to the original 4pm rather than 5pm as it had been extended to following the loss of Charleston. There was no emergency notification, in fact no notification or explanation at all, just the all aboard time printed in the daily programme delivered to our cabin the evening before. I rang pursers desk to see whether it was another printing error (as had happened in Gibraltar) but no, we sail at 4pm and they did not know why it had been changed. We wanted to see as much as possible so joined with 2 other couples and hired a taxi van for the day which cost $40 each,it was supposed to be a 3 hour tour but we left at 10am, drove to several beaches along the south cost, the lighthouse, a couple of the best hotel, a private golf course, nearly to St Georges, then had a free hour in Hamilton and got back to the ship about 2.30pm, our driver was called 'Hop', he is 79 and a really fantastic guide to his beautiful island. It is over 20 years since we went to the Bahamas on our first ever cruise, it was grotty then and does not seem to have improved much, judging by the condition of Nassau. That said we spent most of the day wandering around the town, looking at the shops and the Straw Market, and a couple of hours on Junkanoo beach, so not such a bad day. Things we liked about the Queen Victoria: The air conditioning - it sounds stupid but my sinuses invariably react badly to the cold air on a cruise ship, the QV temperature was comfortably warm and not the usual fridge-like temperature in the public rooms (except the front fews rows of the theatre) and it was the first cruise for ages that did not give me cold-like symptoms - wonderful ! The winter gardens - a really nice (and not air conditioned) seating area for when the weather was not good enough to be outside. Entertainment - good mix of original shows, guest acts, classical music, lectures, quizzes and comedy - probably among the best cruise entertainment we have experienced, not to mention the famous themed balls, which we did not really experience much as they seemed to be aimed mainly at early sitting diners. Things we disliked: DH hated having to wear a jacket every evening, even on 'casual' nights. The 3 gentlemen on our table all became uncomfortably hot on most evenings and DH felt it discriminatory that ladies could and did wear blouses or low cut dresses but he could not wear a smart shirt without a jacket. The most unnecessarily pompous part (in our opinion) is that the dress code applies in all public areas from 6pm, so in effect rules out staying out beyond that time in daytime clothes and making it a very long evening of hanging around waiting for late sitting dinner. On most lines we would not go to our cabin to shower and change until about 7.30pm. Fixed seating dining - I know, of course we knew about the dress code and the dining arrangements when we booked, and we could not have asked for nicer tablemates than on this particular cruise, but it made me appreciate the benefits of flexible dining times on other lines and that would certainly be our preferred option for the future. Cunard seem completely clueless about disability issues. We informed them we were bringing the scooter and that we did not need a wheelchair accessible cabin. We did not need or expect ant special treatment, but surely it would have been common sense NOT to allocate a scooter user to the least accessible table area in the entire Britannia restaurant ? In Madeira we were repeatedly told that we should use the deck 2 gangway 'because it is a slope' (even though it was 2 storeys high and an incline of close to 45 degrees that no scooter could possibly cope with) rather than the few tiny steps from deck 1, which as we demonstrated each time was dead easy for DH to walk and me to carry his folded scooter. On return in Madeira the low gangway was closed and the steep ascent was very difficult for him. Ok close a gangway during quiet times but surely keep open the more accessible one ! Now to the food, which is certainly not a dislike, we thought it was roughly on a par with Princess/NCL but nowhere near the standard of our all time favourite Oceania. The desserts, in particular, were disappointing. I usually struggle with too many sweet choices but on the QV I skipped dessert completely many times in both the buffet and restaurant because everything contained fruit, which I do not like. Once the buffet was properly open it was quite good, we liked the freshly made pizza and pasta stations. Cunard make a big fuss about afternoon tea in the Queens Room and it was nice but we have been spoilt by Oceania's far superior afternoon tea offerings. Evening meals varied from excellent to fair but our waiters were both always very pleasant and efficient, as indeed were all the crew. Will we book Cunard again ? Possibly but they are certainly not my line of choice and it would have to be a good enough bargain to be considered a ''mystery cruise" as I would not trust them to honour a published itinerary. Naturally the Venice situation was not anyone's fault, last minute changes happen occasionally and I think overall Cunard handled it very well. My problem is that they clearly have no qualms about substituting less desirable ports or changing shore times after bookings have been taken, airfares arranged etc leaving guests with no real option but to put up with the changes. We got a refund of $11 each on our account which we put down to the Trieste port tax being less than Venice, but would have far preferred to have followed the itinerary we booked and paid for. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
The embarkation went smooth; we waited only a couple of hours. When we entered the boat, I was really surprised how strange it was, almost to say ugly. The interior is colorful, with so many different designs, a lot of plastic and ... Read More
The embarkation went smooth; we waited only a couple of hours. When we entered the boat, I was really surprised how strange it was, almost to say ugly. The interior is colorful, with so many different designs, a lot of plastic and lights. We did not even bother to go to the front office as it was crowded. The staff spoke very poor English so we managed to get around due to our previous cruise experience. The entertainment was cheap and too fussy, only the light show in the main theatre was great. The SAMSARA SPA was nice (the interior), a bit crowded, but really liked it. But the pools were just awful. It was cold so they were all closed on the ceiling. The entire interior was yellow and green, full of plastic and linoleum and awfully plastic flowers. Even I am a smoker, I found it really strange you could smoke in a closed pool area. Also there was food served in the area (as well as prepared somewhere close by) so the smell of chloral, grilled food and smoking was not a great pool experience. The outside area of the top decks was as if you were on a ferry - empty blue steel all around and some chairs bucked up. Nothing special and really not appealing to spend your time there. The rooms were great, we had a balcony one and was really happy with it. The food in the main dining room was mediocre, the service was good. I really like trying out new food but there were often moments when I just did not even want to taste what was given on the plate. Not to mention the food in the self service restaurant -- was just like a company cafeteria. As I cruised the Royal Caribbean before, I expected to have a variety of food throughout the day but this was not the case -- you had it at specific hours and if you could not make it, you were to order room service or wait for the next meal. Also, there were no free soft drinks on the boat -- except water, and you could not find it in a lot of places -- guess they are trying to increase the beverage consumption on board. We spoke to some of the bar staff -- they were not happy campers, all coming from third world countries and some of them earning less than 1000 USD per month including tips for all the hard work they do! The ports we visited were ok -- our choice, but would definitely move Bari out of the list. The place we liked the most, in Greece, we stayed really short, only for a couple of hours. All in all, a pretty average cruise experience and if I have not cruised on other companies before, I would be pretty disappointed with cruising and would probably not do it so soon again. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2011
Having read all the previous reviews, I found that all the positive experiences and observations about the fabric of the ship were borne out on this transatlantic cruise. Cunard's pricing policy on beverages encouraged me to take ... Read More
Having read all the previous reviews, I found that all the positive experiences and observations about the fabric of the ship were borne out on this transatlantic cruise. Cunard's pricing policy on beverages encouraged me to take care of my liver function, although it was really good that Cunard are relaxed about guests having a private supply in one's cabin for a pre-dinner snifter. We chose to travel White Star steerage class, and we found Brittania dining perfectly acceptable. The segregation of Grills and Brittania facilities/guests is not discrete; it is not my 'cup of tea' and will influence whether I cruise with Cunard again. Embarkation was disrupted by matters outside of Cunard's control. Because of fog the ship couldn't berth in Venice and went to Trieste, and guests were bussed from Marco Polo to Trieste (2 hours). The difficulties were further aggravated by fog and delays to flights from the UK and continental airports with guests boarding from 2 hours to 3 days late! In the circumstance, matters were handled reasonably well BUT communication could be much improved as well as the reorganisation on the ground. Disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale went smoothly. I think the FL home security services must have gone to a better class of Charm School than at other US ports/airports! Getting onto buses and then transferring from the 'holding' hotel to airport was again somewhat disorganised. One wonders how the Americans managed to put a man on the moon (or was that a spoof event as some suggest.) I cannot fault the cruise experience itself, but I have come to the conclusion that No Fly cruises from the UK has great attractions. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Returned on a transatlantic cruise a week ago and did not seem to be on the same ship as the previous cruiser. Had a wonderful but short time in Venice, staying in a boutique hotel on the mainland in Mestre (the Best Western Bologna)This ... Read More
Returned on a transatlantic cruise a week ago and did not seem to be on the same ship as the previous cruiser. Had a wonderful but short time in Venice, staying in a boutique hotel on the mainland in Mestre (the Best Western Bologna)This hotel is directly across the street from the train station (ideal for visiting Venice) Embarkation was lengthy, but we arrived on the ship and were led to our cabin by pleasant staff. Our cabin steward Danielo was great, and should be the employee of the month. The ship itself was not as great. Anytime dining should be just as it implies. No luck on the Ruby. So many people had the same table at the same time every evening, that it left many people standing around with a beeper (waiting to be called).People wanting this arrangement should have been accommuodated in traditional dining rooms. When the maitre de was asked how this could happen we were ignored. Many passengers we spoke with complained about line ups for meals in dining rooms,for gym equipment,coffee,and excursions.Can you ever imagine a ship this large running out of tomato juice and certain fruits on day three? Must have gone for groceries on day four,since they reappeared. The menus appeared to be wonderful however the food was only mediocre.(the quality of Princess has slipped over the last couple of years) I attempted for 4 consecutive mornings,to have a poached egg (be it Florentine,benedict,or poached alone) and even when sent back, it always came out the same...RAW. Lunches in the dinng rooms were better than the evening meals. When the presented meal was of poor quality, there was no problem getting a second different selection, We had breakfast with unfamiliar passengers and this turned out to be a beef session for most of us (in regards to how the Princess line is slipping). Several people said their list of complaints were too long to talk about. The Ruby appears to have too many passengers for the layout of the ship. Prior to excursions, passengers with excursion vouchers were herded into small lounges to wait for the next move to the theater. At times, there were people pouring out into the corridors far from earshot as to what was expected of them next. The International cafe is in a poor location, with only minimal seating (passengers must take their lattes elsewhere to find seats).My husband wanted a beer one day and the waiter recommended "Blue Moon" as a great one. One sip and my husband was disappointed. When my husband spoke to the waiter about it,he was told he would have to pay for a replacement (NOW REALLY!) We have decided there are enough cruise lines to choose from without being loyal to Princess ( besides, unless you cruise an astronomical number of times,the rewards for loyalty are trivial) Bon Voyage Princess...three times with you are enough. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Ok... this is going to be a tale of what you might expect to consider , encounter or anticipate if doing a 20 day cruise starting in Venice Italy and comprised of first a 12 to 14 day eastern med cruise and a 14 to 20 day transatlantic ... Read More
Ok... this is going to be a tale of what you might expect to consider , encounter or anticipate if doing a 20 day cruise starting in Venice Italy and comprised of first a 12 to 14 day eastern med cruise and a 14 to 20 day transatlantic cruise. First is the getting there: the best way into Venice is by Train arriving at the Mestri station not the Venice central or terminal station. It will cost 35 euros to take you right to the ships check in... no water taxi, drag the bag hassle. Only Mestri has real auto cabs. Make note that no Italian train station has lifts for baggage or porters. This is unlike the rest of Europe. Where to arrive: either Frankfurt or Zurich because of the fact they have baggage and the train station in the airport next to each other. Both cities offer better air connections, schedules and fares than do Italian. Finally, both Germany and Switzerland are far cheaper then anything in Venice... like 1/2 the price. If you fly in and take a hotel then next day a wonderful trans-alpine trip before the ship which I thinks adds to the variety and spice of the adventure. What class of cabin:....... Because of 2 factors the trans Atlantic potential for big seas and seas up to 30 ft and the heavy port schedule, I choose main deck and an inside because if the extra space , ease of access to everywhere on the ship and the lower you go the lower the price and the less the motion. Clean clothed: Holland has an excellent laundry service for$7 a day, unlimited if you buy it in advance. On board it will cost 30% more. its the best value on the ship and a 30 day cruise...or any cruise. Excellent!!!! Shore Excursions: When the ship has to tender in for a port..take the ships tours, if not take the your own. Be aware that in these hard times there are no more free shuttle bus service to towns from the pier. Expect to pay $6 to $12 per person each way in many ports. The ship: ...... There is nothing on this ship that is not first class if not outstanding, food, cabins staff, service, decor....well everything for that matter. Go read an other review if you want to get super details of every square inch. As you read those reviews you might consider that complaints are more based on, I think personality rather than reality. I could find nothing after being on the ship for over a month. On the subject of food... after trying every restaurants on the ship at every time I came to the conclusion that the best place to eat is the Lido. Why? ..... Well because the food quality is the same as the Main Dining Room, but doesn't take the 2 to 3 hours to get fed. They have everything including Lobster and best of all you can pick and choose. Mix and match way better to your tastes than the menus offer. Trimarand is excellent too but they have an Asian section of the Lido.. Italian as well.. And you can dress up or down as you and the time feel like. Remember that in half the ports you will be doing flat out touring 9-5 and get back to the ship beat. Several nights we just had soup and a small salad rather than getting all fixed up for the dining venues.. I am sold on the Lido for all future dining... all in all you cant beat it.. and I am a foodie with cordon bleu tastes... The lido is real not faux. Now the passengers:......... There will be 2 distinct sets. The first will be on the eastern med. They will be well traveled, outgoing and well, behaved, polite and mannered fellow spirits. The cruise will seem much like you were with old friends, even if you just met. These passengers will be paying about $2000 per person for 12 to 14 days. Then the Trans Atlantic portion begins, and 3/4 of the eastern cruise get on . Many new passengers will be there because of the fare that are in the 700-800 per person for 17 days . Some will be there for the free food, others the cheap room and others just saw it as something to do . Suddenly there were people shoving in lines everywhere, publicly berating and cursing staff members and insulting them shaking plates,saying more-more loudly to staff, Many carried 2 plates overflowing with food and then going back for more.. like an animal house. Some even saw a lady going down the main deck feeding and ice-cream cones to her pet dog !!! and bringing it to the dining table. Manners ceased to exist it was amazing to see such a stark change in a ship overnight. In the lounges and around the ship acts of vandalism, name carving, prying picture off walls, stealing fake flowers...everything ! This went on and on, even to the extent that several days ,the Captain and Cruise director both had to come on the PA to call attention to these events and threatened to close some of the public spaces.. .An older man prying open desks of staff and during one game of trivia, We all observed ,a lady who boldly walked quietly by us and stole all the prizes, This ,while the game was going on ! Several people too had phones and computers they left unguarded ( including Barante) stolen. In my 20 years of cruising these types of incidents were a first! Maybe its a sign of the times.. but the tone of the cruise sure changed the second half. Even the staff commented on it. Just be aware that as prices come down so may the experience you hoped for. In the latter half security patrols were stepped up and made very visible.. things eased a bit. So, IMO my simple opinion, I would be very aware of , on your cruise, who might be your fellow passenger. They might not be what you expect...I didn't. As price comes down get your guard up. you do get what you pay for. So...Take the Ship...I have spent almost 7 weeks on her, and have nothing to complain of NOTHING.. not about anything what so ever But be aware the passengers can make or break any cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
My wife and I joined the Nieuw Amsterdam in Venice for a Collectors Cruise, 11 days cruising the Eastern Mediterranean followed by a 17 day cruise that started in Venice and terminated in Fort Lauderdale. We had a Balcony Stateroom on the ... Read More
My wife and I joined the Nieuw Amsterdam in Venice for a Collectors Cruise, 11 days cruising the Eastern Mediterranean followed by a 17 day cruise that started in Venice and terminated in Fort Lauderdale. We had a Balcony Stateroom on the 8th level which was small but comfortable and were looked after by very friendly cabin stewards. The first thing that struck us when we boarded was the average age of the passengers, with more over 70 than under 60. At 55 I felt like one of the kids but this didn't bother us as we like things pretty quiet. The first 11 days went very smoothly with calm seas, light winds and warm days. The ports of call were of great interest to my wife and I as we don't get to see any old ruins in Australia and the excavated sites at Ephesus, Delos and Olympia were simply amazing. On the day that the first cruise ended we spent the day in Venice. The city is very interesting but spoiled by the attitude of the locals who on the most part were rude and very anti tourist, a bit strange when almost the entire city survives on tourism. When we boarded the ship for the second half of our cruise we were in for quite a shock. We went straight to the Lido Deck to have a coffee and were confronted by what looked like a school canteen after a food fight. The staff were doing their best to straighten the place up but were fighting a losing battle. While the passengers on the first half of the cruise were mostly well spoken and polite the passengers that boarded for the second half of our cruise and the Atlantic crossing seemed very different. For a start the average weight of the passengers went up by at least 50lb with many unable to fit into the very generous dining chairs. One lady came on board with her pet dog which she allowed to eat from the dining table. One "lady" stood behind me while I was eating and broke wind driving my wife and I out of the Lido, very classy. The attitude of some of the passengers to the staff was disgusting yet the staff took it in their stride. We did strike a hurricane in the Atlantic but compared to the conduct of some of the passengers it was easy to handle. Unfortunately for the second half of the cruise, 17 days, we were unable to use our balcony due to having a chain smoking cigar smoker in the cabin next to ours. We did complain to the front office but they said he was allowed to puff on his cigars for 24 hours a day and they would move us to another cabin if one became available. At least 2 cabins did become available when 2 gentlemen were sent ashore for medical reasons but we were not offered their cabins. The Captain also stated the ship was at 100 passengers below capacity so it would appear the offer to move us was not genuine. Overall we did enjoy the cruise but we will not be cruising with Holland America again until they change their smoking policy and we would never consider another relocation cruise no matter how cheap it is. From Fort Lauderdale we drove to Orlando for 4 days at Disney World where our faith in the American people was restored. In 4 days we never struck one obnoxious person, most being more polite than the average Australian. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
My wife and I are just just back from a Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise Venice, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, Florida - October 19 to November 6, 2011. Our primary motivation for taking this particular cruise was its origination from ... Read More
My wife and I are just just back from a Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise Venice, Italy to Fort Lauderdale, Florida - October 19 to November 6, 2011. Our primary motivation for taking this particular cruise was its origination from Venice, Italy and to the transatlantic crossing, both of which were new experiences for us. This was also our first cruise with Princess cruise lines, our most recent prior cruise being last year on a Celebrity Constellation Panama Canal full transit cruise. Venice was as wonderful and beautiful as we anticipated, and certainly the highlight of the trip. We did a pre-cruise stay for a couple of days in a B&B, the 3749 Ponte Chiodo, which was fortunate as the ship's overnight at Venice was accompanied by terrible weather. The six sea days of the transatlantic crossing were enjoyable. We had less free time than we thought that we would have. Given dining, entertainment, gym exercise, lectures, etc., we had far less time for reading than we anticipated - Boredom was not a problem. Princess' port stops in the Mediterranean were too hurried. For example, Lisbon was only a 5- hour stop. Princess' target demographic may like as many ports as possible, even if the stay is brief, but my wife and I would prefer fewer ports for longer durations, preferably always an overnight stay. We loved Lisbon and would have really liked an overnight stay. Also, Barcelona deserves an overnight stay, preferably more. We found the food comparable to that of other mass market cruise lines - similar to good quality hotel catered food, such as for a wedding. However, in our experience, Princess' anytime dining didn't run as smoothly as our experience on other cruise lines - long lines were commonly encountered. The entertainment was generally mediocre, but I have read that this is often the case with a relocation cruise. This criticism is caveatted by the fact that my wife and I are not fans of the broadway-style musicals that are so common with all cruise companies. Nonetheless, the alternative entertainment of comedians, magician and juggler were definitely mediocre. We know that better entertainment exists on the seas because we experienced it with, surprisingly, NCL. I should mention that the lecture series was excellent. In summary, the cruise was good but not great. There was no cruise killer problem but rather an accumulation of irritants that got in our way of total enjoyment. On a scale of 1-to-10, we rate the overall cruise experience a 6. Now, given our recent cruise on Celebrity's Constellation, we naturally compared our experience there with what we experienced aboard the ruby Princess experience. Ruby Princess versus Celebrity Constellation Observations: Given that we did a Panama Canal full transit cruise on the Celebrity Constellation one year earlier in a comparably priced cabin (Celebrity Concierge Class vs Princess Mini-Suite), a comparison is appropriate. The ships are similar in size (within 20%) but Princess squeezes in 22% more passengers per ton of ship tonnage (tonnage/passenger_capacity). This means that, on Princess, more people compete for similar sized common spaces: Anytime Dining - In our experience Princess' anytime dining was poorly run with long lines and waits to even get a beeper so that you can wait more - we regretted switching form early seating to anytime dining. Our only salvation was to establish reservations for 6pm for every remaining night through tips to the head waiter - effectively recreating traditional-like dining. Food - The general quality of the food in the main dining room was, on average, comparable to Celebrity if maybe a notch lower. The buffet may be a notch better than Celebrity. Coffee - Celebrity has brewed coffee everywhere. Princess has terrible coffee, made from a concentrate, everywhere except at the extra charge restaurants, and even in the main dining room on formal night. Freshly brewed, real coffee is only possible if you purchase coffee cards for $31. The problem is that the ONLY place that the 3,000 passangers can easily get the brewed coffee is at the one small coffee bar on deck five and it frequently has slow lines. Room service has the same from-concentrate coffee. All dining venues can fetch real coffee (when shown your coffee card) but wherever they go to get it adds an unnecessary delay - the delay at the Horizons buffet is fifteen minutes from some waiters but most simply say that brewed coffee is unavailable. In my opinion, brewed coffee should be available everywhere and the deck five coffee bar should be limited to extra-cost specialty coffees, such as Cappuccino, lattes and espresso Cabins: Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin versus Princess mini-suite: These were comparably priced cabins. The Princess mini-suite is larger than the Celebrity Concierge Class balcony cabin and is a very nice cabin and the Ruby is six years newer than the Constellation. However, Celebrity's amenities are superior. Celebrity - welcome bottle of champagne; Princess - welcome glass of champagne. Celebrity - plush, full-length bathrobes in the cabin upon arrival; Princess - no robes unless requested and they are thin waffle weave, short length with 3/4 length sleeves. Celebrity - nice fruit basket in room upon arrival, automatically refreshed every day; Princess - no fruit basket until requested and then a skimpy affair and never refreshed unless requested each time. Celebrity - afternoon canapés every afternoon; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - several Concierge Cabin class events on a 2-week cruise, such as a party/gathering , special galley and bridge tours, etc.; Princess - nothing. Celebrity - special Concierge Class embarkation and debarkation (the debarkation was VERY useful); Princess - nothing. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
Our October-November 2011 cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam was our second transatlantic crossing and probably our last. The reality of a major storm on top of day after day of rough seas is sufficient to convince us that there's a good ... Read More
Our October-November 2011 cruise on the Nieuw Amsterdam was our second transatlantic crossing and probably our last. The reality of a major storm on top of day after day of rough seas is sufficient to convince us that there's a good reason for the discounted pricing on these repositioning cruises. We left Venice on a beautiful, sunny day and had great weather in Dubrovnik, Corfu, Sicily, and Rome. We hired our own guides in these ports and had very good tours with plenty of time to shop and dine. I am always amazed at people who pay hugely inflated prices to go on cruise line excursions on big buses with no say in your itinerary when it is so easy to book a private tour before you leave home via the Internet or simply hire a driver at the port. We were 7 adults traveling together and were therefore able to secure a very good tour for about 25% of the HAL tour fares. Embarkation in Venice was very slow. It took 2.5 hours to get from the water taxi to our cabin. I heard that the ship had arrived late because of fog so that would explain the delays in boarding. Our aft-facing cabin was clean, spacious and tended by a wonderful steward with 14 years experience. No lunch in the main dining room was available so we ate with the mob in the Lido. Our first dinner was lovely and we secured a fine table for 7 at 8 pm every night in the anytime dining area. This arrangement worked out well as we knew our waiters and wine steward well before the 17-day cruise ended. Food was sometimes good, often only average with very good salads. Most dishes were overly salty and otherwise unremarkable. Wine was of the grocery store variety priced at roughly 4 times above what you would pay at home. We brought 6 bottles of very good wine we had purchased in Umbria and simply paid the corkage fee of $18 to drink it with dinner. Dinner was slow and leisurely; we finished by 10 pm in time for the late show. The entertainment was uneven in quality; the string quartet was the best. The big show performers were about what you would expect on a cruise line. The piano bar man was simply awful. That said, he was a good conversationalist and really schmoozed it up with the people sitting on bar stools around the piano. These folks seemed to love him. His playing was adequate; his singing was not. As he said himself the first night, "I know I suck!" The piano trio in the main lounge was hardly any better. The pianist was an older gentleman who looked like he felt awful every night. He never smiled, never made eye contact with the audience or the other musicians. They were a young drummer and a young bass player. None of these folks showed any enjoyment at all for their jobs. In 17 days I never saw them speak to each other or do anything more than phone it in. The cruise director was the youngest I have ever sailed with. He was just okay with little personality. Trivia games were bland with very little banter or laughter. Interviews with the captain and crew members in the mornings were well done and very interesting. Two lecturers gave talks each day that were so-so. Boy I wish HAL had given these guys a PowerPoint 101 class before they signed them on. The speciality restaurants were good, especially the Pinnacle Grill. The Tamarind was interesting but almost empty each time we dined there. The Silk Den across from the Tamarind was the best spot on the boat and never crowded. Service there was fine with complimentary sushi accompanying cocktails. It was a lovely place to watch the few sunsets we experienced. On the first Sunday of the cruise we attended a large Meet and Greet of CC posters. It was nice with tea and cookies and held in the Crow's Nest. But that was also the location where the travel guide on board was giving commentary on the Stromboli volcano as we sailed past. The meet and greet guests, about 250 people, of course made noise visiting and the folks there to hear about the volcano could not hear a word. Many complaints and justified ones. Why hold the two activities in the same place on such a big ship? Now to the storm. The captain warned us on Wednesday night, Nov. 2, that we were going to sail into a major storm in 24 hours. The system was so large we could not avoid it. On Thursday we stopped at Cadiz, Spain. We left early and headed into the Atlantic. We went south toward Africa to avoid the biggest waves due west, but we still sailed into a massive storm on Thursday night. As the captain explained, winds were just below hurricane level. Wow, it was something with flying objects, banging doors, rolling waves. The next morning the captain addresses the passengers in the Crow's Nest and said it was the worst storm he had experienced in his entire, long career. While he spoke, a rouge wave hit the Lido deck, toppling the entire food line on port side into the tables, breaking hundreds of dishes and the lamps across the room. Below on 2, the kitchen suffered a fallen wall cabinet, also breaking massive amounts of glassware and dishes. Cabinet doors in the bars flew open and more glasses and broken bottles across the halls. All bars, the spa, and the lido deck were closed for the day. I do think the Lido reopened for dinner. Our waiter told us at dinner that hundreds of crew members were very seasick as many had never done a transatlantic crossing or experienced that sort of storm. We missed our last stop at Madeira although we anchored offshore there to remove injured folks to a hospital. This was a small number including a passenger who had a heart attack. The storm was over by Sunday but the skies were cloudy and rainy, although warm, and the seas rough for the next 6 days. On day 7 of the after-storm trip, the sun shined, much to the joy of a thousand bored, seasick passengers. (The ship holds just over 2,000 passengers but was not full.) After disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale, we evaluated the crossing and decided our captain and crew were heroic and brave and got us through a very bad situation with few serious injuries. One passenger succumbed to a stroke, but who can say if it was storm related? But we also cancelled a crossing on another line next fall from Rome to Rio. My husband is 76 years old and decided he could not do another trip of so many sea days with the possibility of storms and the reality of not enough to keep us occupied all those days. We did walk 2 miles a day and read some great new novels on our kindles, but we do not gamble and thought the spa treatments were overpriced and full of hokum. Electric shock for cellulite removal? Oh please. The funniest cruise moment was riding the elevator with an employee of the photo shop. "I am so bored I could scream," she told me. "What is there to do on my day off on this big, boring ship?" Ditto. We will cruise again, but perhaps the South Pacific islands with no crossing next time. It was indeed the weather that spoiled this cruise. But a higher level of entertainment and better activities with more talented crew in the entertainment department would have made the experience less tedious by the last, long week. Still, huge kudos to Captain John Mercer and his crew who suffered seasickness, damage to a beautiful new ship and other unpleasantness to keep the passengers safe. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
DW and I are avid cruisers. This was our fifth cruise in a row on Princess. It was also the third time we did this Western Mediterranean Trans Atlantic itinerary and our first cruise at platinum level. We really love the six sea days ... Read More
DW and I are avid cruisers. This was our fifth cruise in a row on Princess. It was also the third time we did this Western Mediterranean Trans Atlantic itinerary and our first cruise at platinum level. We really love the six sea days at the end of the cruise. I spent the previous eighteen months planning this cruise with many other roll call members. Our group was known at the Red Hot Rubies. We had an absolutely fantastic roll call that was very informative and a great way to get to know other roll call members. For our pre cruise stay we flew to Venice and spent two days at the Locanda Orseolo hotel. The Locanda Orseolo is a wonderful boutique hotel. Absolutely outstanding staff that did everything possible to ensure we enjoyed our stay. During our two stay in Venice we walked around, had some great food and wine and took in a Gondola ride. Venice is a truly magical city. As many say you don't need a map, just get lost. A truly magical moment was watching the Ruby Princess sailing down the Grand Canal when she arrived in Venice. The day of embarkation arrived and a wonderful roll call member had arranged shared water taxis to the Ruby for everyone in our hotel. The entire hotel was taken up by roll call members. When we arrived at the dock we made our way to the cruise terminal. The actual embarkation was a total nightmare. Very unorganized with arranging the priority embarkation status of suite, elite, and platinum members. I was told by terminal employees that there were so many priority embarkation cruisers they ran out of priority boarding cards. Their chosen solution was to give out high numbered cards and treat them as priority cards. Needless to say this caused confusion when people I saw with lowered number cards thinking they should be boarding first. We had AC mini cabin D732. This cabin is at the aft port side end of the dolphin deck. The balcony of this cabin has a larger balcony as it partially wraps towards the very aft portion of the ship. Our cabin steward James from the Philippines was great. He always had a smile on his face and did his best to ensure all our needs were attended to and our cabin was always clean. The Ruby is a fantastic ship. All areas were spotless and the entire crew always had smiles on their faces while doing everything under the sun for their passengers. Our cruise director Sam and her assistant Eric did a good job as well. Sam however lost her voice towards the end of the cruise. We enjoyed late seating traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room. Our table wait staff did a great job to make sure we enjoyed our dining experience. I found the food to be good to very good. Never saw our head waiter so I can't comment on him. Only saw Generoso (matri di) a couple of times at the desk upon entrance into the dining room and never saw him walking the floor. We also enjoyed dinner in Sabatinis and the Crown Grill. The service in both venues was great. The food in both was also very good. I personally like the reformatted menu in Sabatinis. I found it didn't take as long to finish dinner nor was I as full as during previous dining experiences. I found food in the Horizon court to be very good. This was a great improvement over my experience on the Golden this past February. I also enjoyed some great pizza and burgers on the lido deck. In addition, I also enjoyed the pub lunch in the wheelhouse bar. The international cafe had some tasty treats that I enjoyed over the entire cruise. My one negative comment about the IC was that in the morning it took a great deal of time to get a cup of coffee. The entertainment on the Ruby was acceptable. Even though we enjoyed the production show Once Upon a Dream, I think that since it's been running for the past two years it's time to rotate it out. We also enjoyed another show called Ballroom (sorry I can't remember the second part of the name). We also saw a comedian in the explorer's lounge that was not very funny. I did have a run in with a seat saver that ended up with her yelling at me. The Piazza had some great music entertainers. Other than the showroom and lounge entertainment, there was a great deal of activities on the Ruby to keep you busy. Our fantastic roll call also had a great meet and greet that was well attended. We also had a great roll call Halloween party in Skywalkers as well as a luncheon. We enjoyed private excursions in Naples, Rome, and Florence. In Naples I had arranged for three vans to tour Sorento, the Amalfi Coast, and Positano. Our entire group had lunch near Positano at a restaurant called La Tagliata. The lunch was out of this world good. In Florence (Livorno) I had arranged for one van to tour Siena and the Chianti region. We also had lunch at a great little restaurant. In Rome (Civitavecchia) we participated in an excursion wherein we visited Assisi and Orvieto. I took tons of pictures. We skipped Canne because it was raining heavily and I had come down with the sniffles. In Barcelona we took the Princess shuttle and just walked around Las Rambles. In Lisbon we just walked around a little but it was hard to find stuff as we were docked in a different area than our stop in 2009. In Ponta Delgada we just walked around a bit and stocked up on supplies for the six day crossing. One downer for the entire cruise was the weather. On our two previous crossings we left the first part of October and enjoyed terrific weather the whole cruise. This crossing left on the 19 of October. Our sail away was quite windy and cold. It also rained heavily when we stopped in Canne France. The seas were also quite rough on a number of days. During our six days crossing the Atlantic Ocean we only had one real quality day of sunshine and smooth seas. In the future I will definitely take the time of year into account when choosing another transatlantic itinerary. All in all it was a great cruise. The best part of it was meeting and having memorable times with the greatest roll call members out there. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
Transatlantic for 17 days. What should we expect. Good Food - yes, Lovely Ship - yes, Entertainment 24/7 - no, everybody satisfied - no, complainers - yes, theft or damage - never heard of this before on a cruise. I was on the ... Read More
Transatlantic for 17 days. What should we expect. Good Food - yes, Lovely Ship - yes, Entertainment 24/7 - no, everybody satisfied - no, complainers - yes, theft or damage - never heard of this before on a cruise. I was on the transatlantic crossing on the Nieuw Amsterdam Oct. 27-Nov 13/11. Never sailed Holland America before but had done a transatlantic going the other way, from Miami to Barcelona. My expectations are always small so I can enjoy whatever comes along, but it blows my mind when I see what some people think is rightly theirs because they "have paid for it". No consideration for the other 2000 people on board. It's all about me isn't it, but you can't let this spoil your trip. Yes, we had a long wait to get on the ship but you can't do anything about fog. We were in Venice for 3 days prior to getting on the 17 day transatlantic, had a wonderful time in the rain, with 7 inch deep water in St. Mark's Square, watching people with bags over their shoes to keep them dry and seeing how the Venetians have to cope with this all the time. They actually put platforms all around the flooded parts and you walk from platform to platform until a dryer part appears. All the merchants just go along like it happens all the time, and it probably does. We took a Vaporetto (which we had bought a 3 day pass) to Piazzale Roma and got the people mover for 1 Euro to the ship's terminal, very easy with our luggage. Rick Steves' book is a great source for all info on Venice. Once we got on board our room was ready so we were able to take our carry ons and free us up to go for lunch in the lido. I thought compared to other lunchtime embarkments, the lido was very civilized. We were able to get a table right away. Our luggage came in a timely manner and unpacked for our 17 day journey. Cabin We happened to get a handicapped room on the 1st deck, because we needed to accommodate 3 people and that was the only one left. It was a little larger and a larger shower, we liked it very much. It had a King Bed and a chair that pulled down to a single, very comfortable. Service Wonderful. Best service we have ever had on a ship. Broke my shoe and our room steward took it and had it fixed, free of charge, a lifesaver when it was the only formal pair I had with me. Anything we asked for (and we don't ask for much) was done with a smile. Our dinner waiters were personable and helpful with our needs. Food Excellent food. So good it was hard not to order two different appetizers/desserts. I will say the lido is excellent for breakfast and lunch but was a little disappointed the night we went there for dinner. Sometimes we just don't feel like spending 2 hours eating dinner and I just don't find the lido steps up to the plate. The night we went it looked and tasted like the food had been warming on the trays for about 1 hour. The duck was very dried out and the breading on the shrimp was not crisp. The breakfast/lunch buffets seem to be better than the dinner for some reason. Maybe because they don't have as many people eating then, the food stays on the trays longer. So you have to make your choices, timeframe or better food I guess. Entertainment Everyone has their likes and dislikes. Could some of the shows be better, maybe, but you were entertained for an hour every night, free of charge. Make the most of it. Excursions We have never taken outside excursions before because I was always nervous about getting back on the ship on time, but the excursions were so expensive on the ship I decided we would have to go outside or not go at all, and we had come too far to miss touring the wonderful places we were stopping. Thank you Cruise Critic for all your wonderful information about excursion companies. I had researched on here for two months before we travelled because we wanted the best trip we could afford. Dubrovnik, Crotia Went on our own for the day. Took the shuttle to town and enjoyed very much. Corfu, Greece We used Corfutaxiprivatetours in Corfu and Christos was our guide. We left it up to him where he took us and enjoyed all of it. Took us to the top of the mountain, right down to the bottom. Took us to a little town of 500 and bought some local wine, and they had bread with olive oil and oregano for us, it was delicious and a small taste of wine. Highly recommend this excursion. Taormina/Messina, Sicily, Italy We were supposed to go to Taormina but the captain said there was a bike race going on and the streets were all closed, so we were going to Messina. Our first thoughts were great, our excursion is set for Taormina, I guess we are on our own. I emailed Sicily Tours telling them we wouldn't be going to Taormina and he emailed me back, don't worry I will pick you up in Messina, it happens all the time. Terrific! Ignazio was waiting for us and he drove us back to Taormina (45 minutes away), terrific service. He took us to a tourist area that had about a 2 klm walk down a street covered with shops, restaurants, etc. Lovely. Bought the best gelato in Italy so we were told, delicious, and then he took us back to Messina and showed us a town clock that at 12:00 noon every day a lion, rooster and people move on this tower, all painted in gold with music playing. Spectacular. Lasts about 10 minutes. The square is full of people watching this. Rome The first thing to say about Rome. Buy your Coliseum and Vatican tickets on line before you go. There was a 3 hour wait for the Vatican and a long line for the Coliseum as well. We were told to buy them ahead by RomeInLimo and we just walked in through the doors when we arrived. What a relief that was, when you only have a day to see Rome. RomeInLimo was our excursion choice as suggested by CC and they were wonderful. Our driver was Franco and he more or less took us to what he thought was the best places. Dropped us off at the entrance to everything, even helped us to the right entrance at the Vatican and Coliseum and we just walked in. Made all the difference in the world. Even had water in the car for us to drink. I talked to someone on the ship afterward and they took the ship tour for a 12 hour tour and they said it was horrendous. They lined up for Vatican tickets for 3 hours in the sun with no water and they were all getting desperate. The bus dropped them off and they had to meet it at a certain time and place, and there is so much walking in Rome, the people were exhausted and were not allowed to stay on the bus if they wanted to, they had to get off. So be careful you know what is best for you. All the excursion operators get you back to the ship at least 1 hour before the ship is leaving, so you don't worry about missing it. Cadiz, Spain We have been to Cadiz before so we stayed on the ship that day, threat of rain. Madeira, Portugal We had to miss Madeira because of high seas and winds and the ship's captain couldn't go fast enough to get there on time. We only stopped to let off sick passengers and the entertainment that had to go to another ship and we left again, probably 1-1/2 hours total around 5:00 pm. Cruise Director I thought he was great. Wasn't in your face all the time and informed you when he needed to. Always pleasant with a smile on his face and saw him around the ship more than any other CD. Sea Days I know people like to be entertained, and I realize 17 days is a long time to be on a ship, and longer if you caught the tour before us), and I know 7 days of sea days in a row is a lot of sea days, but what should a ship do about that. I didn't particularly join many of the activities on the ship (my choice), but they had trivia almost every day, lectures every day, bingo every day, free computer courses every day, "chats" every day with people working on the ship, towel animal making, flower arranging, bridge, games, cards scheduled most days, even free lessens in bridge and I could go on. Just because these aren't the things you enjoy, I don't think it is fair to say there is nothing to do on the ship. They had an excellent library selection, the best I have seen, they had a really nice area where you could sit and read with views of the ocean on two sides with comfortable chairs. Don't pay $800 - $1,000. for a 17 day cruise and expect to be caudled every minute of the day. The itinerary was the best I could find on the transatlantics, Venice, Rome, Sicily, Greece, Spain, Portugal, isn't that good enough; beautiful ship and an experienced Captain that kept us safe. He not only had a huge storm off of Spain, he had two tropical storms developing in the south Atlantic as well to keep an eye on. It is hurricane season until the end of November, so not unexpected. I don't think you can ask for more. We cannot control the weather. Our seas were fairly rough the whole crossing and the weather was mostly cloudy, but you can't do anything about that. When we travelled in April on our transatlantic, we were going from Florida to Spain and the seas were very calm, but that isn't to say the next time we could be averting a storm, luck of the draw. Damage on the Ship I have never heard of this happening before. I can't imagine people can be so low, but unfortunately times are a changin'. Let's hope this doesn't happen again. I thoroughly enjoyed our crossing. I don't like rough waves either, but am I going to stop cruising, not likely. Thank you Holland America for a wonderful vacation. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
Having received a wealth of valuable info from Cruise Critic, I felt the need to provide my thoughts about the recent Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise. I realize there have already been several reviews, but hope my perspective may ... Read More
Having received a wealth of valuable info from Cruise Critic, I felt the need to provide my thoughts about the recent Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise. I realize there have already been several reviews, but hope my perspective may assist others looking for info as they plan future cruises. Some preliminary thoughts: I have on multiple occasions on cruises had someone I had never met tell me that their absolute favorite cruise line is (the name doesn't matter) only to have within 24-48 hours someone else I had never met tell me that "one thing is for sure; they will never cruise on (the very same line mentioned by the first person). Conclusion is obvious that different people have different likes and dislikes and points of view. But I believe there is more to it. While some lines may have hairy chest and belly-flop competitions and some don't; some may emphasize fixed seating dining and some emphasize come when you want dining and many other differences, the various lines seem to have a lot of similarities as well. I believe that comparisons based on folks saying they have been on several cruise lines, or even several ships, can lead to a bit of apples and oranges comparisons unless you compare cruises (and cruise lines) sailing similar itineraries at similar times of the year on similar size ships with similar passenger demographics, etc. Even the very same ship sailing a 7-day Spring Break Caribbean cruise and an 18-day Fall Transatlantic cruise will be very different; have different quality food, etc. So comparing one cruise line based on short Caribbean cruises with another cruise line sailing longer Asian or European cruises is problematic, for example. The weather, the people we meet, any loss of luggage, the dinner companions, etc, etc, will all color anyone's review of any cruise ship or cruise line. The real question for me is whether or not a cruise is worth my time and money, not whether it is better or worse than some other cruise or cruise line. I look at cruises (and any other vacations) in terms of whether or not my expectations have been met or have been exceeded. An important factor is to establish appropriate expectations in the first place. So I will review our Oct/Nov Ruby Princess Transatlantic cruise from the perspective of whether my expectations were met or exceeded. I hope that something I say will be useful to someone planning a cruise in the future. Pre-Cruise: We flew into Venice several days early to better ensure we had time to see the things we wanted to see in Venice, plus get over any jet lag. The weather was great when we arrived and on the first few days of our stay. We loved Venice; had a great time. The weather deteriorated on the day we boarded the ship and was very bad the day the ship sailed, but we had already seen what we wanted to see, so we were not troubled by the weather. Those who arrived and went straight to the ship probably were somewhat disappointed that the weather hampered their sightseeing opportunities. For us, research was key to understanding things like People Mover, Vaporetto schedules, museum hours, how to get from airport to our hotel in Mestre, which restaurants were good, etc. Lesson is to always go a few days early or stay a few days after in Europe. Boarding/Embarkation: The whole process MET, perhaps EXCEEDED, my expectations. We arrived at the terminal about 11:15 expecting to wait a while for boarding. We sat comfortably in the waiting lounge enjoying coffee, juice, and pastries until we were called to board around noon. We were in the first groups to board and were in our cabin within minutes. I believe there were some people who reacted to some confusion about boarding numbers and seemed to be stressed. We tend to have a "well, things happen, and we are sure we will all get on pretty soon" attitude so don't let things like that bother us. We were on before we expected to be. Weather: EXCEEDED our expectations. It was cold and windy on sail-away, but not raining and was beautiful. At this point I might have said my expectations were not met if the weather had remained the same the rest of the cruise, but it did not. We had heavy rain and winds while in Cannes, but perfectly fine weather in the other ports and on the transatlantic crossing. Fall in Europe and we only had one bad day of weather along the way seems pretty good to me. I realize there were folks on the cruise who had done this same cruise before and said this weather was worse than on past cruises, but I think they should just have been grateful for the great weather on previous cruises and realized our weather this time was perfectly satisfactory. I used my balcony often, particularly on the transatlantic portion of the cruise. Could the weather have been better? Yes. Was it just fine for what we wanted to do? Yes. Waves: MET our expectations. Several people have asked me if the crossing was rough. Fall cruise in the Med and across the Atlantic - - we could have encountered much rougher seas. Not once did we have a "have to hold on to stay upright" condition. I actually had hoped to encounter some rougher seas just for a short while to see what they looked and sounded and felt like. We never got any seas that rough. Have other cruises had calmer seas. Probably. But we were fine with what we experienced. Dining: The basic system: Barely MET our personal expectations, but clearly DID NOT MEET expectations for many of the other 2900 passengers. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good. They worked hard, were knowledgeable, friendly, and responded well to any and all requests. They probably exceeded our expectations. However, we asked for 6:15 early seating and were instead given 5:30 seating. That time is just too early. Apparently many others had asked for the 6:15 seating and so we were wait-listed for many months. Also, many people asked for Anytime Dining and a very large percentage of them wanted to eat at about the same time. Their experience was really "Anytime to get your buzzer and wait until a table opens Dining." And that wait was longer than they wanted. When more people show up at a restaurant than can be seated, folks have to wait. We all have this experience at our local restaurants all the time. This is not everyone's expectation on the ship, however. I have always felt that if you have fixed seating and do not make it, you should not be allowed to go to Anytime Dining. I also believe that Princess should "max out" the early seating, and "max out" the late seating, and "max out" the anytime dining. I do not know if they do that. In other words, there should be a limit on anytime dining just as there is a limit on fixed dining. Their remaining problem then would be to deal with whoever is given anytime dining. They need to look at this problem because we have seen it on other ships, as well. Princess has created an expectation they are not meeting by making folks think they can eat "anytime." MDR food quality: MET our expectations. Some was really excellent. Some was not so great. Most was satisfactory. Variety of dishes was good. Overall, perhaps a bit less good than we had experienced on several other cruises. Sabatini's: DID NOT MEET our expectations. Just so-so. The "old style" Sabatini's where you got to try several different things has changed to an order what you want system pretty much like the MDR. This actually caused us to eat too much, but waste a great deal because the only way you can try anything is to order it, and if you order it, you get a full portion. So there are many things you do not order, and you probably cannot eat all of what you do order. Food quality was generally good. Service was really not very good. It took a very long time to eat with too much time between courses. Crown Grill: EXCEEDED expectations. Perhaps because we went to the Grill several days after our Sabatini's experience we were apprehensive about what we might experience. In fact, the service was superb. The food was very good. The overall experience was great. Who knows why the two were different. The "system" seems to work the same in both places. Different days? Different folks? Who knows? We really enjoyed Crown Grill; did not really enjoy Sabatini's. International Cafe: MET expectations. The food is great. Enjoying a nice cappuccino or latte is fun. Allowing folks to line up and get regular coffee at any time slows the process greatly and results in sometimes less than timely service. The generally-considered lousy coffee in the Horizon Court tends to push people to the IC for brewed coffee and makes things very slow at certain times. Horizon Court: MET expectations. Some good, some not so good. Overall, I thought it was a good place for breakfast, was satisfactory for lunch, and could substitute for dinner in a pinch. People's tastes will get you many different opinions about HC. BTW, I kinda like what some people call the "chaos" of bumping into people as you move around to get food. Yes, you will encounter the pushy or the impatient folks who would be happier with a more structured setting. We tried the Caribe Cafe a few times for lunch. It was a good alternative. Food was just OK, but usually had some sort of International theme so was a fun change. We would like to have known a few days in advance when the Caribe Cafe was going to be open and what they were going to be serving. Cabin Steward: EXCEEDED our expectations. As good as we have ever had. Cabin: MET our expectations. We had a mini-suite; had a mini-suite before and knew what to expect. It was great. We love the extra room in the bathroom and the separate sitting area. We are in the group that is just fine with a completely exposed balcony. We have done covered, half covered, aft-facing, various decks. They are all fine with us. Key is not to be under or above a noisy area. Never had any problem with noise from neighbors on either side, above or below. Our cabin itself made interesting creaks and moans when the seas were 8 feet or higher, but we found them to be a kind of natural part of being on a ship in the ocean. We slept right through them. Shore Excursions: Private tours EXCEEDED our expectations. Princess excursion DID NOT MEET our expectations. We did private tours while in Naples, Rome, and Barcelona. They were always superb!!! Our Princess excursion in Livorno was satisfactory, met our expectations. In Cannes, our Princess excursion was modified by the tour guide and did not go to the location it was supposed to visit. This troubled us because several other groups did go there and had a fine time. Weather is Cannes was rain and cold, as forecast, and as predicted by the Captain. We had our warm clothing and our wet-weather gear and were happy to experience things in the rain; have done it many times before in much worse conditions. Many passengers, however, were unprepared and were somehow miraculously surprised that they got cold and wet. This tour did not go where advertised so clearly DID NOT MEET our expectations. Princess excursions in Lisbon and the Azores were satisfactory, the Azores excursion hampered by fog, but there is no way anyone can control the fog. These things happen. Overall lesson is one we have always known. A good, reputable private tour is better than a Princess excursion - - is a smaller group and provides greater flexibility and gets you to more places - - generally for the same or less money. The Gym and Thermal Suite: MET expectations. The gym had good equipment, well maintained. Going at times to avoid the crowd is a good idea. The Thermal Suite is something we do on many cruises; always relaxing. Entertainment: Overall, MET expectations. We never went to a show in the Princess Theatre so cannot comment. We did not take this cruise for that purpose. John Maxtone-Graham was a very good lecturer; probably exceeded our expectations. Other lecturers were OK, but not great. The various piazza acts (jugglers, magicians, etc) were just OK. We enjoyed the violinists and piano player several evenings while we had a pre-dinner cocktail. Disembarking: MET expectations. Although the process seemed to be about 30 minutes behind scheduled times, we enjoyed juice and coffee until called, exited quickly and efficiently, found our luggage quickly and passed very quickly through immigration. We took a taxi to the airport. There were many available. Cost without tip was about $12.00. We experienced no problems with disembarkation other than seeing the occasional impatient passenger. Overall Assessment: Cruise MET our expectations; probably would have exceeded our expectations were it not for the dining and shore excursion problems. We clearly enjoyed the cruise and would be delighted to do it again. Advance planning/research is key. There were actually passengers who got on the cruise not knowing that we were in Rome on Sunday and the Vatican would be closed. Lots of cruise critic and Red Hot Ruby Roll Call research enabled us to get a great hotel, book wonderful private tours, and develop reasonable expectations for the cruise. There are many other things I did not cover, but this is already very long. If there are questions, feel free to ask. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2011
This was my first and last Transatlantic cruise and my last cruise with Princess... While the ship is beautiful and the crew is the best I have ever seen the overall experience was a nightmare, because... 1) There weren't old ... Read More
This was my first and last Transatlantic cruise and my last cruise with Princess... While the ship is beautiful and the crew is the best I have ever seen the overall experience was a nightmare, because... 1) There weren't old people on this cruise, there were old people's parents. While many were nice there were an equal amount that were rude, demanding and obnoxious and it affected my experience. 2) The food was disappointing, a lackluster performance at best. Bland, boring, and obviously geared to the senior sect. 3) Six sea days trapped on a ship with old people sucking any youth I have left. 4) The entertainment on board was plain horrible. We saw two comedians one who clearly got all his jokes off the Internet. The production shows were mediocre at best The one high point was Gareth Oliver from Britain's Got Talent, he was a Ventriloquist a magician a comedian and an overall great entertainer. He was the only one I saw that I would pay to see again. 5) Princess has their own shore excursions, they were all over priced for what you got. Changes to itinerary were made with no notice or offer of compensation. 6) Our cabin was very, very noisy. (R701)Located directly below the Horizon buffet while trying to sleep we could hear the restaurant staff moving carts around as though they were in our room. 7) And the unforgivable sin was they allowed people to smoke cigarettes in the Cigar bar. Cigarettes give off a foul odor due to the chemicals and paper. I'm in there trying to enjoy a $30 Gurkha and the experience was totally ruined, thanks for having your head up your butt Princess! Now if you're 80, you've found a home on the Ruby Princess... Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
We sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam Trans-Atlantic Cruise on October 27, 2011. We actually flew into Venice two days early to enjoy the city. We've been there twice before and really love it. We flew British Airways from Philadelphia ... Read More
We sailed on the Nieuw Amsterdam Trans-Atlantic Cruise on October 27, 2011. We actually flew into Venice two days early to enjoy the city. We've been there twice before and really love it. We flew British Airways from Philadelphia International Airport via London. The connection in London wasn't as bad as I feared - you have to go through security before getting to your connecting flight. We reserved a room at the Hotel Bonvecchiati - they arranged for a private transfer from the airport to the hotel. So, as we exited the secure area at the Venice airport, there was someone waiting for us. The gentleman and his helper grabbed our luggage and took us to a van for a very short ride to the airport pier. There, we boarded a private taxi which took us (& luggage) directly to the back door of the hotel. The ride was very scenic, especially when we came down the Grand Canal passing under the Rialto Bridge. Pre-Cruise Check-in at the Hotel Bonvecchiati was very quick. The gentleman from the Front Desk escorted us to our room. The room was a typical Venetian hotel room - very small but adequate. No great view but who spends their time in Venice looking out the window of their hotel? The bed was comfortable, there was plenty of hot water, and good water pressure. The hotel provided a free breakfast buffet that was awesome! It had everything you can imagine including made-to-order omelets. It rained both days we were in Venice but we toured nonetheless. We didn't get to do two things we had planned... 1) sit in San Marco Plaza in the evening listening to a band; 2) take a gondola ride - hopefully next time. The second day, the streets of Venice flooded making touring very interesting. We came across the Hard Rock Cafe the second day and stopped in for T-shirts and a couple of beers. We arranged for a taxi to the ship with the hotel. On embarkation day, the hotel staff brought our luggage to the lobby where we met our taxi driver at 10:15 am. The taxi couldn't get to the hotel's private dock due to high tides. So, with the help of our taxi driver, we schlepped our luggage several blocks to the Grand Canal where our taxi was parked. The taxi ride to the ship was very enjoyable, sailing the Grand Canal and passing under the Rialto Bridge. Luckily, it was a warm, sunny day. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the dock. Embarkation Upon arriving at the dock, porters took our luggage right off the taxi and loaded it onto carts bound for the ship. We walked to the terminal. They were already checking passengers in. We had Priority Check-In, so we got right in line (behind one other couple) and were checked in by 11:05 am. A sign indicated boarding would begin at 11:30 am and it did. We had Priority Boarding so we were on the ship at 11:40 am. The cabins were ready so we went right to our cabins on the Aft of the ship. The Ship This was our first time on the Nieuw Amsterdam (NA) so it took us awhile to find our way around. It is laid out a lot like the Oosterdam which we've been on. The ship was very clean and staff were constantly cleaning it day and night. I liked the Ocean Lounge layout on the NA versus the Oosterdam. The Crow's Nest is one of my favorite lounges on all the HAL ships. I was a little disappointed that they moved the Library and the Exploration Cafe into some of the space normally used for the Crow's Nest. It made it harder to get a seat in there. They have some really comfortable recliners lining the front window of the Crow's Nest but it is almost impossible to find one available. People reserve them like deck chairs - they lay a book on it and maybe show up for awhile. In the Lido Pool area, they have Cabanas that they rent. Each one looks to be about 100 sq. ft. I don't know how much it costs and what time period they rent - the promo material in the cabana said to check with the Front Office. Throughout the cruise I only saw someone use a Cabana two times. Despite the space taken by the Cabanas, we rarely had a problem finding lounge chairs around the Lido Pool. There is plenty of outside deck space with plenty of lounge chairs but my favorite is the steamer chairs on the side decks (Promenade Deck). The side decks are very wide where the chairs are located and they have towels available on the side deck. All the other public rooms were pretty typical HAL - comfortably furnished, pleasantly decorated, and plenty of antiques. The Service Although service is always somewhat variable and each person's experience is driven by the specific staff they come in contact with, overall I believe HAL provides the best service in its class. Service on the NA was no exception (except the Pinnacle Grill). All of the HAL staff we came into contact with were friendly, courteous, helpful, and quick to serve. They actually anticipated our needs - we didn't have to look for them. We had Anytime Dining and had a different table every night. We experience the same great service at each table (in the MDR). The same was true in the Lido Restaurant where we ate breakfast and lunch. The staff were quick to clear/clean tables to make them available. As usual, the Lido was very crowded and finding a table can be challenging. But, the staff made every effort to make tables available. The one exception was the Pinnacle Grill. Upon arriving, we were forced to wait to be seated despite there being plenty available tables. Then, we were handed menus and the waiter disappeared. I had to flag someone down to get a Wine List. And there we sat for over 20 minutes - no one came. Finally, we went out to the guy at the front door to ask when we would be waited on. It took him a few minutes to find someone to send to our table. The attitude of the server was very haughty, almost like he thought we should be thankful that he was there to serve us. The servers there were not Indonesian (not sure why). The Food Everyone has their own tastes in food and opinions will differ. For me, the food on-board was some of the best that I've eaten on a cruise ship. I have taken over 50 cruises so I have a lot to compare. For breakfast, practically every main entree is made to order... eggs, omelets, waffles, pancakes. And each day, they had a different kind of breakfast potato. They even had an Eggs Benedict station - one of my favorites. At lunch, there were always a number of entrees to choose from and they were always hot and juicy - not dried out like a lot of cruise buffets. The Pasta Bar, which was open almost all afternoon, was incredible. I'm not a huge pasta fan but I couldn't help but eat pasta on this ship. They also had a Taco Bar every day and the Terrace Grill with a variety of grilled sandwiches. And, most of the day, there was always ice cream available (for free!). Food in the Main Dining Room was equally good. I usually ended up eating every course, Appetizer, Soup, Salad, Entree, and Dessert. I just couldn't pass it up. The menu varied every day. Though there was always seafood, beef, pork, pasta, and vegetarian entrees, they were always different. We ate at the Pinnacle Grill and the food there was good but not much better than the Main Dining Room. A few areas that need improvement: the Pizza and the "Before Dinner Munchies". The ship has this awesome pizza kitchen on the back deck but they can't make Pizza worth a darn. I think they use pre-made crusts like you buy in the grocery store. I never saw anyone tossing a pizza dough. In the lounges before dinner, they serve hot appetizers (usually they're hot). There are usually two or three different appetizers on the plate. Almost every day, one of the choices is a Pot-sticker or a Spring Roll. Both of these are horrible. Bar Service On this ship, they had Beverage Cards that were like gift cards. You could buy a $50 or $100 card for 10% off (i.e. $90 for a $100 gift card). We used them throughout the cruise. It seemed like many staff didn't know how to work the cash register when selling a new card and charging a drink order. Consequently, it would take them a long time to get the billing straightened out. We expected to see a lot of errors on our bar bill but I only found one error - when I got home. The purchases made with the card are not detailed on your bar bill. So, unless you keep all your receipts and track the balance of your card, you never know if you got your money's worth. In the evening, they have this "Happy Hour" where you get two of a certain drink for the price of the drink plus $1. It's a really good deal if you like to have a few drinks before dinner. The problem is that the Happy Hour is literally an hour but that "hour" occurs at a different time in each bar. So, it might be at 5 pm in the Ocean Bar; 6 pm at the Queens Lounge; and 7 pm at the Crow's Nest. This caused a migration of people from bar to bar. Whenever the Happy Hour was in session, the bar was packed. When it came to an end, the crowd would move on to the next bar having the Happy Hour. It was really a pain because it was hard to enjoy the entertainment in the lounge when this huge mob showed up for Happy Hour. They paid no attention to the entertainment and were so loud that you couldn't enjoy it. The Ports Dubrovnik, Croatia - The old walled city is a must-see and do walk the walls if you are able. The ticket for the walls is 10 Euros. A taxi from the ship to the old city costs 10 Euros and you can fit 4 people in a taxi. It takes 10-15 minutes to get from the cruise port to the old city. Corfu, Greece - It is possible to walk to town from the cruise port but it is a serious hike. There is a free shuttle from the ship to the terminal but you can easily walk it. There you can get a taxi into town for, yes you guessed it, 10 Euros. The taxi drops you off at Platia Georgiou II. The ship provided a great map of the old town. It a really nice place to walk around, shop. and maybe have a drink. You can also tour the Old Fort which is very scenic. Messina, Italy - This stop was supposed to be Taormina but there was a road race in that town and many streets were closed. The ship would have had to tender passengers to shore which the Captain didn't like (takes too long). So, the Captain changed the stop to Messina - just down the road from Taormina. For some unknown reason, the Shore Excursion Office cancelled all shore excursions previously scheduled and asked passengers to re-book them if they still wanted to go. The original tours, in most cases, were still available. We had a tour of the Greek Theatre scheduled originally, They cancelled it and refunded the cost. We were pretty beat from all the touring in Venice, Dubrovnik, and Corfu so we didn't re-book - Their loss; our gain. We did walk around Messina for about an hour or so. There is a cathedral right near the docks that is pretty awesome. It has a clock tower that puts on quite a show at Noon. Leaving Messina, we got to sail past the Stromboli Volcano which is currently erupting - a pretty awesome sight. Rome - Actually Civitavecchia. We booked the tour of the Vatican Museums (we had been to Rome before and already did the ruins). The bus ride from the port to Rome is two hours. Our tour was supposed to provide three hours of free time in Rome during the morning and then the tour of the Vatican Museums in the afternoon. In reality, we didn't arrive in Rome until 10:30 am and needed to meet the bus for the Vatican Museums at 12:30 pm - so we only had two hours. Rome was very crowded. We were there on October 31st, a Monday - our tour guide explained that November 1st was an Italian Holiday so a lot of Italians took the day off to make a long weekend. And, a lot of Italians travel on long weekends. We wanted to walk through the Roman Forum but the line to buy tickets was huge. Instead, we walked to Trevi Fountain, then to the Pantheon, and ended up eating lunch near Piazza Navona (where we were initially dropped and where we met to continue the tour). The lines at the Vatican were unbelievable! Being on a tour, we were able to get right in but were elbow to elbow with the crown. We had a special Vatican Guide to take us on the tour of the museums which lasted four and a half hours. Our special guide was able to get us into a lot of rooms that were not available to others. We saw a lot of amazing stuff but it did get boring at times (I don't normally tour museums when I travel). The museums were very crowded and we had to struggle to keep up with our tour guide. We had a half hour to shop in the stores near St. Peter's Square, leaving Rome at 6 pm. We were back on board at 7:15 pm - not sure how we made it so fast! Cadiz, Spain - We didn't want to ride a bus for two hours to see Seville so we just walked around Cadiz. The old city is right by the pier - you just walk off the ship, exit the gate to the pier, and there you are. Cadiz is a pretty town and there are two forts (aka castles) that you can visit. We spent about three hours walking around, seeing the sights. Funchal, Portugal - Because of rough seas, the Captain had to cancel this port. Then, there was a medical emergency that required immediate transfer of the passenger. The Captain headed back to Funchal and arrived there in the late afternoon of the day we were scheduled. But, he didn't dock. By this time another medical emergency occurred so a second passenger was dropped there - along with some entertainers who were supposed to get off in Funchal. The Crossing - Days @ Sea Our "fun" really began when we were en-route to Cadiz. The Captain warned everyone of bad weather and rough seas ahead. A day out of Cadiz we began experiencing the rain and the rough water. We sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar at Midnight. It was an awesome sight. It was very dark but the towns on both sides of the Strait were all lit up. There is only about 8 miles from Spain to Africa at the narrowest point. From the ship, it looked even less. I bet that is a real sight during the day. Leaving Cadiz is when the ride began. The Captain indicated that we were experiencing 30 foot swells and 70 mph winds. After breakfast in the Lido, we sat and watched the waves - it was incredible! The waves were building just like you see at the beach. We saw one huge wave topped with white water continue to grow bigger and bigger as it approached the side of the ship we were sitting on. We had no idea of the impact it would have. It finally crashed into the starboard side of the ship and sent the ship rolling to the side. Everything on the tables in the Lido slid off onto the floor. We grabbed the few dishes left on our table; I grabbed my wife's chair which began sliding across the floor. Plates, cups, and glasses in the kitchen/buffet area slid off onto the floor. You could hear the glass breaking all around. The Captain changed course to nose into the waves and protect the side of the ship. The outside decks were all closed for days. Eventually the seas got a little calmer and we made our way to Funchal to deal with the medical emergency. I'm not sure if that emergency was related to the ship getting tossed around. Our cabin was apparently not designed for rough seas. The drawers at the bottom of the bed did not have a catch so they opened and closed all day and all night. It was dangerous, especially the first night, because, when we got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, we didn't expect to have the walkway blocked by an open drawer. The closet door also didn't have a catch so they opened and closed continuously. I have no problems with seasickness and I actually enjoy riding the rough seas. But my wife does get affected by really rough seas. Leaving Funchal, it wasn't bad that evening but we once again hit rough seas - not as bad as before. The outside decks were open but it was rainy and the ship rocked & rolled. The temperature during the crossing was around 70 degrees and it got a bit warmer as we neared Florida. The sea also got calmer for the last day of the crossing. The Entertainment The entertainment on board was mediocre at best. We had the normal cast of characters... ships orchestra, ships show cast, impressionist, juggler, comedian, and singer. We also had an acrobat. The best of the bunch was the Nieuw Amsterdam Orchestra (aka the HAL Cats). They played for all of the musical shows and were awesome! A show would end and the orchestra would continue to play while the crowd left the lounge - many in the audience stayed to listen to every last second then gave a standing ovation. The HAL Cats played with a singer named Rachel. Rachel and the HAL Cats didn't play often and usually only played for one hour. Often times they were scheduled to play but never showed up. The show cast, consisting of four men and two women, did several productions but usually only a few at a time. The best production by far was "Cantare" performed by the four male vocalists. That received a standing ovation by all. The female vocalists were no match for their male counterparts. Each production show seemed to feature one or two male vocalists, one or both female vocalists, and one or two dancers. I would have liked to see more shows with the complete cast performing. I don't usually enjoy jugglers and impressionists. so it's not fair for me to say they were boring - others seemed to like them. The audiences loved the acrobatic couple - a young virile guy lifting up his pretty female companion. The skimpy costuming didn't hurt that show either. There was a three-piece jazz band playing in the Ocean Lounge. They looked like they were bored to tears doing their show. They certainly bored me to tears! The guy in the Piano Bar was not the best. He could really play the piano but couldn't sing well. He really enjoyed talking to the folks that sat around the piano. He loved to take requests despite the fact that he couldn't play them. That doesn't mean he didn't try. It was pure torture! One night, there was no show in the main lounge after dinner so we went to the Piano Bar. We had already stopped in late on several nights so we knew he wasn't the best - boy, we found out he was a lot worse than what we thought. The Crow's Nest had a Guitarist playing every night (but not usually late). His name is Matt Murphy. We had seen him play on the Veendam a year ago. He is very good and very entertaining. He passes out his song list so that people can request their favorites. The Adagio Strings sounded good whenever I heard them but I didn't spend a lot of time in the Explorer's Lounge. I thought that there could have been a lot more entertainment given the number of entertainers on board. I couldn't believe that one night after dinner the show in the main lounge was a movie. Our Cabin The cabin was not well-lit. When you walk in the door, there are closets on the right and the bathroom on the left. There is one recessed light at the doorway. It is great for looking in that first closet but, because it is recessed, it doesn't provide light for the other closets. Most of the lighting in the cabin was recessed which made for a lot of shadows. The verandah was a nice size but there was no lounge chair. Instead, we had one nice chair and one small straight back chair. The beds were very comfortable, there was plenty of storage space, a nice sized tub and a great shower. We had a little trouble with the toilet running too much and overflowing but that got corrected in a day or two. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2010
We were very pleased, my wife and I with the great ports visited, the Greek Islands plus Split and back to back return to New York, it was very convenient. We experience waves on deck 8 in the Tequila bar that came up as high as the ... Read More
We were very pleased, my wife and I with the great ports visited, the Greek Islands plus Split and back to back return to New York, it was very convenient. We experience waves on deck 8 in the Tequila bar that came up as high as the middle of our window. This was an exciting event to say the least. On three occasions plates and furniture hit the floor and some passengers were hurt. It was worst on the 12th floor and it had to be closed down. This event although a bit dramatic, was a memorable experience and a first for us. It also brought a significant number of passengers to the main dining rooms. Freestyle works when all of the dining areas are open. An event like this one brings utter chaos because sitting procedures and choosing a table are much more time consuming than fixed table seatings. Thus for myself I just went to the Blue Lagons instead of waiting for hours. We ate tomato soup and hamburgers and this continued next day. One can say that Freestyle dining contributes to occasional chaotic table service but is pleasant when it works (70 to 90% of the time depending on the dining area. By the way the cafeteria style of the Garden Cafe would also require cafeteria style trays. Getting up every time to fetch food is a pain and requires constant attention because staff very rapidly remove your empty plate and others can very easyly take your table... Although pleased with the personel and the ship the smoking policy permitting smoking in the cabins was a very important draw back. On the very first day of the second leg of my back to back cruise, I was surrounded by a pack of smokers. We complained about the smell and very prompty, the staff cleaned the room sprayed the carped with perfumed stuff and made our day or so we thought. We unfortunately stayed in the room to read and after an hour plus we became lightheaded and nauseated (excuse my English my French is better). We were feeling ill enough to tell personel at the front desk that we would get off at the next port. It was impossible to change rooms (sold out cruise) and we tried an electronic air purifier. The smell of cigarette was replace for the next 14 days by a strong smell of ozone but we accepted this. We were pleased with the cruise but felt ill in this envirement. Runny nose, smokers cough, red eyes...WE WILL MAKE SMOKE FREE PERSONAL LIVING SPACE A MUST FOR OUR NEXT CRUISES. NCL SHOULD STOP EXPOSING THEIR NON SMOKING CUSTOMERS TO SECOND HAND SMOKE. Their courageous personel would surely benefit from smoke free corridors and cabins. I know that selling tax free cigarettes is a big motivating factor for them but is also very bad for those who smoke in a rapid fire fashion in their smoky cabins. Non smokers be ware! Good and healthy cruising. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
My husband and I cruise frequently and are the highest tier on Celebrity and Princess. We had a great experience on the Zuiderdam a few years ago; we thought a new Holland America ship would be fun. We were wrong. I believe Holland America ... Read More
My husband and I cruise frequently and are the highest tier on Celebrity and Princess. We had a great experience on the Zuiderdam a few years ago; we thought a new Holland America ship would be fun. We were wrong. I believe Holland America has cut every corner imaginable in building there new ships. Everything has a glossy appearance (the ship is new) but the years will not treat her well. My husband, who is in a wheelchair, and I booked a 13-Day Celebrity cruise and followed it with a 30-day Transatlantic cruise on the brand new Nieuw Amsterdam. We assumed (our fault) that a new ship would not have so many issues with handicapped passengers. His electric wheelchair had broken in the airport in Rome, but we were told that would not be an issue in Venice. It was. The shore person at the hotel assured us that someone would meet us at the pier for embarkation and help with the wheelchair. When we arrived by water taxi (which works fine for mobility impaired people) we waited for over 45 minutes for assistance - this is in the hot sun with no cover. The ship's representative was also frustrated and told us she'd been calling the ship all morning and was getting no help. I walked to the embarkation area and was told they simply had no staff to help. Embarkation went well - I think they realized I was more than a little irritated. We went to the Guest Relations, staffed by people whose primary job is to say, "no, can't be done, absolutely not." We rented a manual wheelchair for $425 for the 30 days and were told there was no way to get an electric scooter. Of course, that was inaccurate. After several emails to our travel agent in the States (when the internet worked), we were finally able to pick one up in Barcelona. When we then asked for a refund on the manual chair, they said it would still cost $320 because the rental is for 1-10 days and 11 - 30 days. Of course, the first leg of the cruise was 12 days. We then went to our stateroom. Do not book 4051 if you are in a wheelchair. In fact, guest relations is well acquainted with that room and ensured us the ADA attorney had measured the room. That should tell you something. Using a manual wheelchair, you cannot move the chair between the bed and the wall because there is not room for your hands to manipulate the chair. There is nowhere to sit but in your chair. When I was drying my hair, my husband had to sit on the other side of the bed and watch TV in the mirror - the TV is wall mounted and doesn't move. I've never seen such a cheap remote. If I then wanted to use the bathroom, he had to move the scooter for me to get into the bathroom. The entrance to the veranda is uphill - a steep incline and it's impossible for someone in a wheelchair to roll up the incline and then open the door. No sliding glass doors here; they open like a regular door going outwards to the veranda. There was a small table and two chairs in the room but because of the incline, the chair teetered. I had them remove the table and chairs to provide space for the wheelchair to turn around. Then there was the closet, Apparently handicapped people don't wear long clothes. The rod on the left side was not high enough for golf shirts to hand without crumpling on the floor. The right side had the same issue because clothes fell on top of the safe. I solved that by having them bring me a rolling clothes rack which then sat on either side of the hump by the veranda. On our first roll about of the ship, we encountered three randomly placed thresholds that you cannot roll over in a wheelchair. There is no reason for that but shoddy engineering. Beware - if you don't know they're there, the wheelchair passenger is nearly jolted out of the chair. You have to stop, turn around and back over them. There are a number of wheelchair accessible restrooms about the ship. Unfortunately, the automatic doors close so slowly that it was not uncommon to see men relieving themselves before the door would close. Eating at the Lido Restaurant is an exercise in patience. The food on either side of the serving area is not always the same. Lines form everywhere and navigating in a wheelchair is hazardous. So is trying to find a table as the walkways are narrow because they've placed tables-for-two along what should have been a walkway. Passengers who rave about the food haven't been on many other cruise lines. Ah yes. Then there's the issue with the pools. They are totally non-accessible. In fact, they had to go out of their way to design a more unfriendly pool. This is unfortunate because that's my husband's primary means of exercise. The Celebrity Solstice class ships have lifts and easy entry pools. To their credit, one of the front desk managers (when we got past the nay-sayers) then gave us a pass to the hydrotherapy pool, which worked until they drained it because of the GI problems running rampant around the ship - 12 days of Code Red. When there are so many ships that accommodate wheelchair passengers, don't spend your money on the Nieuw Amsterdam. We're staying with Celebrity and Princess. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Our ship left from Venice, Italy for a 14-day cruise to New York,with several stops before the ocean. We had no problems at the various ports along the way. In fact, we absolutely loved Porto Degado in the Azores. Our problem was ... Read More
Our ship left from Venice, Italy for a 14-day cruise to New York,with several stops before the ocean. We had no problems at the various ports along the way. In fact, we absolutely loved Porto Degado in the Azores. Our problem was not with the stops or the excursions. Our problem was with Norwegian trying to extract money from us all he time. We were "expected" to buy drinks or play bingo. It was as if whatever we spet was not enough. On top of that, we had miserable weather, at the tail of a very hard storm. A rogue wave hi the ship one day, causing damage to the gift shops and injuries to the travellers. Movies? They were not on the cabin television but we could ent them for just $6.00 per day! Current news? None, unless you were hooked on Sky News, a very sorry substitute for decent news coverage. We have sailed several times with Norwegian. We have one more booked, because we purchased the discount before we found out how greedy the line was. It will likely be our last Norwegian cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
• For our 30th wedding anniversary, we wanted something special and different. Although this was our tenth cruise (7th on Princess), it was our first transatlantic. We have done one 12-day cruise in the Mediterranean and the rest in the ... Read More
• For our 30th wedding anniversary, we wanted something special and different. Although this was our tenth cruise (7th on Princess), it was our first transatlantic. We have done one 12-day cruise in the Mediterranean and the rest in the Caribbean. We are a married couple in our early sixties. We like Princess because of the food, multiple dance venues, and a wrap-around Promenade deck for running and walking. • We flew in to Venice a few days early to do some sightseeing. We stayed in a 1200-year old hotel right on the Grand Canal. Early in the mornings we sat in our window alcove, sipping coffee and watching boats carrying school children, trash, groceries, dry cleaning, UPS deliveries, etc. We took advantage of the local seafood and pasta and even tried the local specialty drink, a Bellini (Prosecco and peach juice). Being ballroom dancers, one of our goals was to dance in Saint Mark's Square, so we headed there the first evening and danced to several dueling orchestras around the piazza. • We boarded the Ruby Princess Friday afternoon around 2 pm. There were no lines; embarkation was well organized and we were in our stateroom within 30 minutes of dropping off our bags. The average passenger seemed to be about 65-75 years old and surprisingly active. We were told that there were only four children on board. The Venice Chamber Orchestra performed in the Princess Theater the first night. They were excellent and played Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and Anderson's Syncopated Clock and Blue Tango. Sailaway was Saturday around 2 pm, complete with Sarah Brightman singing "Time to Say Goodbye". • Sunday was a relaxing day at sea. • Monday - When we docked in Naples, we awoke to a downpour, which lasted till around noon. That didn't stop us from going on a private tour arranged by a friend. 20 of us toured Pompeii and Herculaneum, with a stop for lunch in Pompeii. • Tuesday - Rome is over an hour away from the port of Civitaveccia so we opted for the ship's day-long tour. This meant no standing in line and not having to worry about the ship leaving without us if our tour bus was late returning to the port. • Wednesday - Cannes - This was an unexpected treat. Eight of us took a private tour. We had an excellent guide who drove us up the French Riviera, first to Antibes, then to the foothills of the Alps and inland to St. Paul de Vence, a beautiful walled city. • Thursday - Barcelona - Having been to Barcelona twice before, we decided to explore on our own. The Gaudi "Bone House", Casa Battlo, was the ultimate destination. A visit to Barcelona would not be complete without a stroll down Las Ramblas and the Boqueria (market) where we picked up a few gifts. • Three lazy sea days followed. Several times a day, performers entertained in the Piazza, including acrobats, singers, and a musical quartet. The nearby International Cafe had a good variety of snacks and pastries, along with specialty coffees. We took advantage of Princess' "Coffee Card" ($24), which entitles you to 15 specialty coffees and unlimited fresh-brewed coffee. Princess has no shortage of activities. Several lecturers spoke on a variety of topics (these were not your usual port shopping lectures!). During the day, the Crown Grill was designated the "Games Room" and Skywalker's night club was a quiet reading room. Movies were shown throughout the day, both on deck and in the Princess Theater. There were the usual trivia, bridge, ceramics, dance classes, Pub Lunches, High Tea, tours, so many things to do it's hard to imagine anyone being bored. • Ponta Delgada, on the island of San Miguel in the Azores was our last port. It was a beautiful green island with a lot of farmland. We took the ship's tour to a beautiful pair of lakes in the crater of an inactive volcano. • Five lazy sea days followed Ponta Delgada. Again, lots of opportunities to participate in activities or relax around the ship. On the last formal night, the Cruise Staff held the Ruby Red Ball in the Piazza, with music, dancing to Rhapsody, a balloon drop and a good time for all. General comments about the cruise: • Sam, the Cruise Director, was great, the best cruise director we have experienced in our ten cruises. She was quite friendly, very visible and full of enthusiasm. • We had one of six oversized interior cabins on the Riviera Deck. The extra storage space was well appreciated. Michael, our cabin steward, was very efficient, unobtrusive and responsive to several special requests. • Many of our fellow passengers were well-seasoned cruisers and shared stories of itineraries quite different from our usual Caribbean cruises. This inspired us to think about different itineraries for our future travel. • Ballroom dancing is an important part of cruising for us and we especially like live music. Princess always has several dance venues and bands, in addition to the house orchestra. There is always some place to dance from about 5:30 pm till the wee hours and most groups are quite willing to take requests. (Thanks a million DJ Marcus!). • We were concerned that the seas would be rough on the Atlantic crossing. The second day was a bit choppy, but overall it was a fairly smooth voyage. • Cruise food is a very subjective topic. We feel that Princess' food is not quite as good as it used to be (our first Princess cruise was in 1998). Nothing was ever bad, but the menu often seemed lackluster and we opted for the buffet on several occasions. We chose Anytime Dining because of the flexibility. Service was mixed, sometimes excellent, sometimes slow and average. • Entertainment - we enjoyed the production shows. The singers and dancers were quite talented. The house orchestra and the group "Rhapsody" were our favorites. In summary, we had a blast on our first transatlantic and we will certainly be back! A tip of the old pirate's hat to Commodore Romano and the crew of the Ruby Princess for a great overall experience. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We have sailed several times - most on NCL. We always select interior cabins because our goal is to spend as little time there as possible. We have been pleased with NCL in the past. In fact, our favorite cruise was a full transit Panama ... Read More
We have sailed several times - most on NCL. We always select interior cabins because our goal is to spend as little time there as possible. We have been pleased with NCL in the past. In fact, our favorite cruise was a full transit Panama Canal cruise in 2009. However, this was our worst cruise ever and fr at least two reasons: Embarkation, ports of call and debarkation were all "okay". Nothing to be blown away by but certainly adequate. Embarked from Venice, visited Malaga, Lisbon and Puerto del Gado. Even the very rough seas during the crossing was acceptable because the captain worked hard to avoid rough seas - unsuccessfully. What disturbed us was that entertainment was very minimal and the quality was very poor. We have never been bored on a ship before this trip and we can no longer say that. I have never played so many games of cards with my wife as we did on this trip! Crew seemed to have too much to do to be bothered with keeping the passengers busy. WAAAAY boring! The other problem was NOTHING was free! Bingo? Costs money. Gambling? Costs money. Ship tour? Costs money. Watch a movie on your stateroom TV? Costs money. Eating? Except for the buffet, main dining rooms and one quick restaurant, most venues cost money. I have a personal aversion to being offered food already paid fr in the tip cost, but having it implied that if I want GOOD food, I need to pay even more. Paying the trip cost is not really the total cost of this cruise. You will be given many more opportunities to pay . . . and pay . . . and pay. Maybe some people welcome that, but we didn't. We made a mistake of purchasing $250 toward a future cruise too early in this cruise. Now I need to decide whether to blow that off or cruise just one more time in Norwegian - then, never again! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and ... Read More
We embarked from Venice. Arrived at the port terminal at 11:30AM, and were on board by noon. No Problem. Our suite was beautiful, everything we expected and more. We particularly enjoyed the perk of being able to have breakfast and lunch in Cagney's. The breakfast and lunches were wonderful. We had dinner in five specialty restaurants and enjoyed each of them. We really enjoyed the French Bistro, and went there twice. Cagneys was good, and the Italian restaurant was OK, but the menu was lacking creativity. We had a dinner in our room one night from the Asian restaurant. Our butler service was outstanding that night and for the entire cruise. We ate in the main dining room the rest of the nights, and experienced no problems. The food was good, well presented, service was good, and deserts were outstanding. The ports we visited were good, we had done them before, and didn't use any NCL tours. We took the Hop on Hop Off bus in each port. Enjoyable. Attended two shows on the ship and enjoyed them. We visited the casino each night and enjoyed ourselves there. The casino people, dealers, etc. were really very nice. We experienced one stormy day at sea, rough seas, etc, but it wasn't that bad. That night, we at in our room from the Asian restaurant. No sense having to get your balance every 10 steps. The captain kept everyone well informed and and I believe he handled the ship and the situation well. I heard and read a lot of negatives about the cruise, mainly from the die hard Cruise Critic members. They seemed to have a lot to say about everything. Maybe we're easy to please, but we've been on Crystal cruises, Holland American, Costa, Seabourn, Celebrity and this cruise was just as good as any of them. The ship was immaculate and the workers were very amiable. Like any other cruise, they try to sell you, but I didn't think there was any pressure. We got off the ship as easily as we boarded, there was a slight delay that had something to do with the luggage, but it was worked out and didn't upset anything. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this cruise at a 9. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and would go again. We are unhappy that the Gem is no longer doing Transatlantic cruises. Hopefully it will return. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
The Gem is a wonderful ship. We been on the Jewel in February and really liked the ship, so it was an easy decision to make. Everything was very well-done, beautiful surroundings, very clean. We really enjoyed being on the Courtyard level ... Read More
The Gem is a wonderful ship. We been on the Jewel in February and really liked the ship, so it was an easy decision to make. Everything was very well-done, beautiful surroundings, very clean. We really enjoyed being on the Courtyard level and utilized that facility frequently. It was nice to have breakfast or lunch served in the courtyard, without having to even go downstairs. Cagney's is great, although after the first few days my husband would have liked to have a little more variety in the menu. The crew and service people were fabulous, very friendly, very professional, very helpful. Our butler, Roy Perez, was very competent and we appreciated the efforts of the concierge, Ruth Haggar, in seeing that we were taken care of and making reservations for us. We felt very pampered on this ship. When everyone else went ashore, we just stayed aboard and enjoyed the ship, it was that good, very relaxing. The entertainment seemed to be an improvement from most of the other cruise lines and the options available at multiple locations was really nice. Listening to the piano at the martini bar, or the strings in the star bar, was particularly delightful in comparison to other ships. We liked the shows that we attended, mostly the single performers. Even with the rough weather that we encountered, we found that the crew was most helpful and accommodating. The only negative remark that we have is that the room service food was just not that good, and it seemed we always wanted something between hours and just didn't want to take the hike to the stern for the great outdoors for just a snack. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Flew into Venice one day early to rest up for cruising. Stayed out in Quatro d'Altino which was fine. Have been in Venice before so knew we would save the city for our port day. Embarkation was easy. Was glad that we could sign up for ... Read More
Flew into Venice one day early to rest up for cruising. Stayed out in Quatro d'Altino which was fine. Have been in Venice before so knew we would save the city for our port day. Embarkation was easy. Was glad that we could sign up for spa while waiting to board as that is a priority for us. Loved all the ports on the Greek portion. Did things on our own everywhere except Santorini where we took the ship's tour that including eating, dancing and breaking of plates. Great fun. All the ports: Split, Mykonos, Iraklion, etc. were easy to get around and had so many things you could do. The transAtlantic portion was equally good and we had better weather in Spain and Portugal. Again, we did things on our own. Don't miss the Alhambra. Cadiz is great to do on foot. Loved Lisbon. Would love to return and spend more time there. Only other NCL tour we took was whale watching in Ponta Delgado and that was cancelled because of weather. Nice town for walking though. Wish we had more time on Crete. This was our first balcony room on deck 10 midship. We were on port side and that was perfect for all our ports. For the first time we used doctor's services--for back problems not related to cruise. Saw 3 different doctors. All had different ideas. Despite many tests and medications nothing worked. Hours are not adequate for this large a ship. Ship's store ran out of cough drops, tylenol, etc. You could get tylenol at main desk, but it's not strong enough. We had no problems with any of the restaurants. Usually Cagney's is our favorite, but on this ship it was Le Bistro. We used the main dining room and buffet a lot. Had no problems with waiting or food quality. One time I didn't care for what I ordered, but that was not their fault. It just wasn't my cup of tea. They offered to replace it, but I ate it and just knew that wasn't what I would get next time. Everyone was polite and really aimed to please. Loved Asian restaurant too. Being a Latitudes member helps with those extra charges. Would have liked to have done Teppanyaki, but never had a special for it. NCL has listened. We didn't see near as much selling in the shows and we try to attend all of them. Also, did not hear as many announcements of what was going on. They seemed to just do it all at once. Most of the entertainment was good. Just missed two of them during the storms. Gem band is really good. I thought all staff were incredible under difficult circumstances. They were trying to cover restaurants they don't normally work in and running room service too. It was obvious that some were overwhelmed, but who wouldn't be. The storm didn't effect us as much because we were midship on 10. NCL might consider opening up other restaurants for lunch if something like this happens again. We would have loved to have eaten Asian or TexMex for lunch on those days. We made good use of the library and also used the gym this time. Debarkation was not good. We were glad we had a late plane trip. Would we sail NCL again? Yes, we can afford it. The ships are beautiful and the itineraries are good. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Flew from the States to Venice on 10/4. Booked our hotel, which was recommended by a Cruise Critic member, in Mestre. We were advised to take the bus from the airport to the hotel. It was a smooth operation. The Starter greeted us as we ... Read More
Flew from the States to Venice on 10/4. Booked our hotel, which was recommended by a Cruise Critic member, in Mestre. We were advised to take the bus from the airport to the hotel. It was a smooth operation. The Starter greeted us as we came out of the terminal, he directed us to the bus we needed after showing him the name of our hotel. When the bus pulled up the Starter talked to the bus driver and advised him to let us know when to get off the bus. We were very grateful to him. Arrived at Al Vivit, a lovely little converted mansion on the Piazza in Mestre. We asked a woman when we got off the bus for directions, she could not understand us and we could not understand her but she pointed the way to walk and off we went. We came to a fork in the road and asked another couple who very kindly beckoned us to follow them until we could see the name of the hotel in the Piazza. It was about a 5 minute walk from the bus stop. The hotel staff were so kind and helpful. We neglected to ask if there was a lift and found ourselves starting for the second floor with 4 bags. The woman at the desk was quite adamant about us not carrying the bags. She carried all the bags up 3 flights of steps. The day we were checking out, there were 38 of us going the ship. We opened our bedroom doors and found the hotel had brought in extra help to carry all our bags down to the lobby. The breakfast staff were very friendly and we were also able to buy bus and vapparetto tickets at the front desk. There were cafes in the Piazza for drinks and coffee and watching the locals push their bambinos in their carriages with their dogs. It was lovely. Our embarkation was very smooth thanks to Annette and Lou who booked the bus from the hotel to the port. Can't say the same for disembarkation. Sharon, Future Cruise Director barked at us all morning without a mike. When my husband asked her to use a microphone she yelled "who said that, stand up so I can see you". My husband walked up to her and asked her to use the mike as we could not hear her instructions. She stated she was talking to the wheel chair people on the other side of the lounge and we did not need to hear what she was saying. We left our cabin at 8:00AM after the room steward banged on the door. We sat in the lounge from 8:00AM until 11:00AM before disembarking. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
An October cruise from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale on the almost new Ruby Pricess was a very enjoyable experience. This was our 9th cruise with Princess. Captain Giuseppe Romano ran a good ship and was always interested in talking with his ... Read More
An October cruise from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale on the almost new Ruby Pricess was a very enjoyable experience. This was our 9th cruise with Princess. Captain Giuseppe Romano ran a good ship and was always interested in talking with his passengers. His crew did an outstanding job of making our voyage one to remember. Chef Cozzoli served up a wonderful selection of meals. The only time he missed was the evening they served Prime Rib. The piece of meat that arrived bore no resemblance to any Prime Rib I've ever seen. Only God and Cozzoli know where it came from. I ate around it. Day in and day out, whether at sea or in port, the Ruby provided a long list of shipboard activities and entertainments. The library was very well stocked, both with fiction and reference books. The wine bar was a nice addition with the free snacks at lunchtime. The Intercontinental cafe with its free pastries was great for a quick breakfast. Platinum and above members were invited to a daily cocktail party in the Skywalkers lounge, 5:30pm to 7:30pm, with free snacks included. The stateroom was always clean and well taken care of. And there were plenty of laundromats with plenty of machines. The embarkation in Venice was very well organized. There was a cocktail lounge to wait in until your boarding number was called. The first night on-board was spent in Venice. If you wanted to take one last look at Venice, there was a shuttle boat available to take you to St. Mark's square. There were boarding tickets in your cabin, each costing $15. That fee was already charged to your account before you even came on-board. If you did not use the shuttle you had to return the tickets to the purser to get the amount refunded. A little sneaky, I think. From Venice the cruise stopped at Naples, Rome, Cannes and Barcelona, and Azores. The onshore excursions were a nightmare, and very expensive ones at that. The Rome excursion costs $130. For that we got a quick bus trip around town and a walking trip. Then we were dumped off at the Vatican, where there was a two-hour wait to go through. A good number of us sat on concrete benches for three hours waiting for the bus to take us back to the ship. What a waste. And the guide did not know what she was talking about. Naples was just a bus tour with a restroom stop. Cannes, we did on our own. Barcelona was a real disaster. For the four hour tour, we spent an hour and a half in a church that has been under construction for 128 years. Not much to see and certainly not worth an hour and a half. Following that ordeal, we were given twenty minutes for lunch. I ate a sandwich in SUBWAY. So much for the renowned cuisine of Barcelona. Then it was back on the bus for a cruise through town. Boring! The problem with excursions is that the cruise lines never do any quality control to see what they are charging their passengers to endure. They just charge you a bunch of money and deliver you into the hands of fools, idiots and nincompoops. I could have done Rome on my own at a fraction of the price I paid Princess. Beware of Spain. As soon as we entered Spanish waters, their government levied us with an 8 percent VAT for everything we bought on-board the ship, including drinks. I know their economy is in bad shape, but I did not know that they were robbing tourists to make ends meet. If you want a great cruise, sail on the Ruby Princess! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
This was purchased this as a 21 day, our 30th cruise-3rd with NCL. We're retired-60 and 61. I'll try to point out the positive and negative to reflect my ratings. Embarkation went smoothly and the ship definitely ... Read More
This was purchased this as a 21 day, our 30th cruise-3rd with NCL. We're retired-60 and 61. I'll try to point out the positive and negative to reflect my ratings. Embarkation went smoothly and the ship definitely has that WOW factor. It is a beautiful, stately vessel but the public rooms were all too small and too crowded. The cabin was tight but the bed was very comfortable and the sheets were crisp and ironed. Fitted sheets would have worked better, the bed was a mess each morning and at times the staff pulled up the comforter, straightened it out and left the disaster underneath. There was ample storage but the closest had those horrible hangers, not the traditional. The two person, very hard sofa, was by the balcony. When it's placed closer to the bath/closet it works far better for nightly dressing. It also presented problems when having cabin service breakfast delivered as the staff had to navigate around the bed carrying a tray in the dark. One of us was always still sleeping. The coffee maker in the cabin ++++, it was used daily. Our cabin steward and his assistant were at the end of their contracts and did as little as possible. I'm sure they were burned out. Only the top sheet got changed once without asking, the place desperately needed a good dusting and we left notes daily for what we needed, ....tissues, coffee, cabin service breakfast menus, ice, clean glasses, change sheets (after 8 days) etc. We finally just stopped by guest services to pick up things and helped ourselves to supplies off the carts in the hall. What ever happened to the days when the cabin steward anticipated your every need? Is this what happens when the tips are automatically added? They never started cleaning the rooms until after 9 and were long gone by 11. You saw them again about 6 and we usually headed out about 7 so I don't know what time they wrapped things up. The room with storage and supplies was just across from our cabin and it was crazy noisy each morning that the crew met up and socialized before staring their day. The gym was nice, great equipment and all in working order but way too small. Even with the huge senior population on board, it was a score to get any machine on sea days and no one paid attention to the 30 minute max if you saw people waiting. The majority of the programs were just a prelude to get you to spend. There was very little offered in the way of free entertainment. Cruise critics people set up a lot of activities but if you didn't participate in these, there was not a great deal to do. We went through 8 books in 21 days and that was with excursions in every port and we sailed with another couple. We paid a boatload of money for this vacation. It wasn't only the cruise, it was airfare, excursions, gratuities, hotel up front, etc. It was the most we've ever paid for one vacation and it was booked as a 21 day. Shame on NCL for all the repeat shows and menus. With almost 800 people staying on board (1/3 of the passengers) to do the crossing, NCL should have been more innovative with the food and entertainment. We were shocked when we saw a repeat performance from a comedienne who delivered the exact same show only the week before. It was not surprising he received some heckling from the audience. We already knew every line and joke. Entertainment doesn't have to be costly, offer some of the movies that you charge for in the staterooms or change up the show. There were 5 duplications and that's unacceptable when it's sold as it was. While we felt the majority of the entertainment was poor, they did have a few outstanding shows over the 21 days, a group of male singers (3X), a Celine Dion tribute singer and a pianist. They also offered on 2 different sea days, a mid-day show performed by the NCL singers. The food was pretty good and always served hot. We only wished they changed up the menu selections more often. The pay restaurants must have been slow because they offered all the people staying on for the crossing along with all Latitude members BOGO except for the Japanese. For the most part, the food in the dining rooms was just as good if not better. The Chinese was good and the French was very good. The meat in the steakhouse was not only not cooked to specifications, it was poor quality and a huge disappointment to everyone at the table. With the exception of Dennis in Magenta, the waitstaff was a bit surly, rarely engaging and more often than not - forgetful. We're just not impressed by those that take your order without writing it down. We never sent anything back nor re-ordered what they forgot, they had attitude enough. The freestyle dining does not work here or or any ship we've tried it on so far. Unless you make a reservation, be prepared to wait from minutes - up to an hour on some nights. The bonus was if you did have to wait, the bar offered 2 for 1 drinks but it did not include wine. We loved our shore excursions to Delos/Mykonos and Fatima/Lisbon. The rest were a costly disappointment but we chose them. Probably the most exciting part of the vacation was the crazy nor'easter we encountered and sailed through for nearly 2 days. While it was AMAZING, I heard quite a few people got hurt. We're in good shape and we knew enough NOT to venture out of the cabin at the peak of the storm by just looking out the window. The huge waves slammed the ship as it listed deeply from side to side. Thankfully, we do not get seasick...ever. At one point our bed slipped, the nightstand tipped and everything that wasn't secured went flying. We could hear the carts in the hall crashing over and later saw slot machines in Bliss that toppled. The captain came on regularly updating conditions and the cruise director kept in touch as well. They upped staff for cabin service delivery having to close the buffet and let everyone know that it was safest not to wander about. Suffice to say, I don't think we'll be sailing with NCL again any time soon. We're booked on the Oasis in 3 weeks and a back-to-back on the Nieuw Amsterdam in January so we are not loyal to any line. We live by the code...the more you offer us, the more often you'll get our money. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2010
Our HAL Nieuw Amsterdam trip was a huge disappointment. The food was excellent. Our dining room and cabin stewards were both excellent. Having said that, the dining room was so noisy one couldn't hear ones tablemates. The cabin's ... Read More
Our HAL Nieuw Amsterdam trip was a huge disappointment. The food was excellent. Our dining room and cabin stewards were both excellent. Having said that, the dining room was so noisy one couldn't hear ones tablemates. The cabin's air conditioner blew cold all day whether one had it set higher or not but, at night, it turned off and one would be wake up perspiring. The TV did not have a connection for ear phones which was surprising. The Lido restaurant was so disorganized that we gave up on it. For example, we were seated on the Port side of the ship for breakfast. I ordered a poached egg and was told I had to go to the starboard side as they didn't serve poached eggs on the port side where my husband ordered his breakfast. I couldn't believe it!! This is just one example of many that we encountered. The entertainment variety left a lot to be desired. There was no excitement on the ship and being on the ship for two legs, we expected the cruise director to have a larger repertoire of stories (jokes) instead of the same ones. There were no pool activities. Port info was lacking unless scheduled on a ship tour. In Venice, there were no shuttles, water or otherwise, into the city nor was there any info as to how to make our way there. The kiosk on the dock that sells tickets for tours and water taxis was closed but all of the other ships in dock had made arrangements for their guests. As a result, we had to return to the ship without making it into Venice. Not acceptable. The internet cafe was noisy and annoying due to the proximity of the coffee shop. People tended to meet and chat there for extended periods of time. The crow's nest was noisy with quiz shows taking place while one was trying to read. The ship was well appointed but didn't flow well. One had to "enter" areas rather than having the feeling of openness and inclusion. To sum up, it will be a long time before I can get my husband back on a cruise. We were looking forward to time in VENICE but, unfortunately, didn't get to see it this time. DUBROVNIK - we enjoyed our time here. Spent some time in the old city and then took an open bus tour of the area. Got some lovely pictures CORFU - rented a car and toured the island. Delightful. SANTORINI - Loved the cable car to the top. Rented a car and toured the island -Made it to Kamira Beach (black sand)- looked lovely but a little too cool for a dip. Returned to look through the shops. I rode back down but my husband walked down!! with the donkeys!! ARGOSTOLI - Not very exciting. Took the little tram around town 3.50 Euros ea. - nothing much to see. CATANIA - very old city and busy. Took the little tram through city. 5Euros ea. NAPLES - Had a 9 hour private tour of the Amalfi coast. It was an amazing day! ROME - There is a shuttle from the ship to the town. Took the train into Rome from Citatevecchia, 9E pp return - purchased the tickets at the train station which is about a 15 minute walk from where the shuttle drops everyone off. We found an internet cafe (there are lots of them) and phoned home as it cost only .6E per min. (Yes, that's right) to phone Ontario, Canada. VALENCIA Took a cab into the city center - it wasn't necessary as we found out later (information that we should have had from the ship). The Hop On Hop Off bus has two lines, a red and a blue. The blue line stops within walking distance of the ship. We highly recommend the HOHO to see this beautiful city. CARTAGENA - This is one of the nicest piers that we saw on the trip. Great for strolling. We took the tourist bus (5E ea). It was less than hour and not worth it. Walked up the lovely pedestrian only street. Has refreshment at an outdoor cafe. ALMERIA - Not much to do here CADIZ - Nice old town to stroll in. Remember, that stores close at 2pm-6pm for siesta. PORTIMAO - Beautiful beach but too cool to take a dip. Thought we would have been better to spend an extra day in Lisbon and skip this destination at this time of year. LISBON - The highlight of our trip. Eight of us had a van and driver from I HATE TOURISM TOURS.COM to take us up the coast as we had all been to Lisbon before. Had lunch on the sea wall up on the cliff at the westernmost point in Europe. Visited castles, the Tower of Belem and had custard tarts at the famous Patisserie du Belem. Our driver gave us a hair-raising but exciting ride through the streets of Lisbon and to top off the day, we looked over the city of Lisbon from the highest point in the city. We highly recommend this tour company who went out of their way to make our day one to remember! BARCELONA - Lots to see and do here. The HOHO bus is a must. With limited time, it's the best way to see the city. Then, take a leisurely stroll up Las Rambla, visit the wonderful market before returning to the ship. Read Less

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