1. Home
  2. Cruise Destinations
  3. Transatlantic Cruises
  4. Transatlantic Cruise Reviews
Sail Date: October 2004
Star Princess- Transatlantic repositioning cruise- Venice to Ft Lauderdale, Oct, 2004 (17 day cruise) (Note- ship was fully booked) Embarkation & Disembarkation -- Boarding & Ships departure from Venice -- Excellent. No line ups. ... Read More
Star Princess- Transatlantic repositioning cruise- Venice to Ft Lauderdale, Oct, 2004 (17 day cruise) (Note- ship was fully booked) Embarkation & Disembarkation -- Boarding & Ships departure from Venice -- Excellent. No line ups. Excellent commentary over the ships loud speaker system describing the sites as we cruised down the Grand Canal and out to sea = a memorable experience. Disembarkation -- Disembarking 2600 plus passengers is going to be a delay. They try to minimize the discomfort by allocating baggage tags with different disembarkation times. We had arranged early departure and were given red #3 baggage tags. Procedure -- Directions were to wait on Deck 7, but deck does not have sufficient public areas resulting in people standing and sitting on the floor. We avoided by waiting and relaxing in the public area on Deck 14. Disembarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was a smooth procedure where we were quickly processed thru Princess exit machine using security card they provide you on Embarkation followed by swift processing thru immigration and then directed to waiting luggage. NOTE: They never checked our departure luggage tags to ensure we were getting off the ship when we should be; and all luggage appeared to be on dock. Cabin -- Balcony cabin D327 on Dolphin Deck (Princess calls it a mini suite) -- We were celebrating our 40th anniversary and splurged with an upgrade. Good decision for a cruise of this length = gave us more room and we really enjoyed the luxury of a bathtub. Veranda -- Has two small plastic chairs and table large enough for breakfast; plus two cushioned chairs (small lounge chairs). No privacy since the verandas are stepped (like a pyramid) with Dolphin Deck being the bottom of the pyramid. Also noisy = can hear conversations of guests above on their veranda. Sitting area in cabin -- Comfortable two seat sofa and one chair with coffee table large enough for breakfast. Greatly enjoyed our many breakfasts on the veranda and in the cabin. Sitting area has its own TV and HVAC thermostat. Sliding patio doors onto veranda. Sleeping area -- Twin bed configuration made into queen. Comfortable. Desk with chair, mirror, hair dryer, telephone and two electrical outlets = which was an excellent work station for me with my laptop. Area had a separate HVAC thermostat. Would keep the room temperature at 70F. Also has a second TV but not able to use both TV's at one time since no divider from sitting area and sleeping area. Closet next to Bathroom -- Ample hanging and cupboard space. Bathroom -- Good size, large combo tub/shower. Good size counter for personal effects. Location -- Cabin on starboard side generally puts us on the dock side for each port. However, since we were cruising westward, we did not get the sun we would have if our cabin had been on the Port side = if ever cruise again for a long period of time over the Atlantic or Pacific consider the location of the sun and pick the sunny side of the ship. Noise -- No noise from adjacent cabins or hall. However, in rough seas there was substantial noise and some vibration, likely from the stabilizer system which kept us awake one night = need to collect further information as to whether this is a problem throughout the ship. Cabin Steward -- Angelo -- Excellent. Shore Excursions & Itinerary -- Itinerary good, providing us with many new ports. However, had the following problems with Princess shore excursions -- i) buses -- on the whole had uncomfortable seating and no leg room, ii) Rome and Seville were a 1.75 hr. bus ride away = shortened up the time for touring, iii) Ratio of one tour guide for every 40-45 passengers on the tour = too large, iv) Insufficient time allocated to stops on tour = were too rushed, v) Were assembled in Princess Theatre rather than go ashore to meet tour bus (except for one port) = lost 15 minutes of valuable time. Conclusion -- i) One day short stops do not do the cities justice = not the way to visit a city that may not get backed to: ii) Try to do on own unless can determine that Princess has allowed adequate time for each visit (i.e. night in Venice); and iii) Princess should reduce the number of ports and increase the amount of time in the ports (i.e. as being done by other cruise lines such as Oceania). Ship  -- i) DEcor/finishes -- Very pleasing, well done, ii) Feel- have created many areas where one can comfortably get away from the "crowd" = well done; iii) Flow- worked well, except for deck 5; iv) Elevators -- did not work well = slow doors, noticeable waiting times, noticeable multiple stops with phantom passengers (would stop for passengers and no one waiting = persons had given up and walked). Activities Aboard ship -- Size of ship permitted a multitude of entertainment options, with some nights having two featured entertainers = great for a voyage at sea such as a transatlantic crossing. Note: Must arrive at main events at least 15 minutes early for the first shows or may not be seated. Found a full day of interesting activities available for each day at sea. Line ups -- i) Into dining areas initially/first two days were noticeable, but then disappeared; ii) For shore excursions noticeable, sometimes line ups were an annoyance; iii) From time to time at Purser's desk; iv) Always at Future Cruise desk (used a number system to overcome). Dining -- Quality of food and service was a disappointment, ranging from poor to excellent but on the average good. We had some major problems in the Portofino Dining Room = slow service, some meals not that good. Lucked out by one night sitting at table #6 in the Capri dining Room and thereafter booked this table each night = excellent service and no further problems with food. Jun, the waiter, allowed us to put extra plates in the middle of the table to be shared by all = his efforts and that of his assistant waiter resulted in a memorable dining experience (screened all food he brought to table and if not to his standard would return it to the kitchen). On the average, pastries lacked quality. Three main Dining Rooms -- i) Portofino Dining Room (open seating) -- initially our regular dining room, trying to sit at a table of four or six rather than the table of 8 where found it difficult to communicate with all eight persons. Service varied depending upon the section of the dining room in which you were seated. One lunch in Portofino took 1.5 hrs to get main course -- one of the couples left; several dinners were slow, meals taking two hours to complete. Note: reportedly same kitchen is serving the Portofino and Amalfi Dining (Fixed Seating) rooms and this could be the cause of the slow service vs. Capri which has its own kitchen; ii) Capri Dining Room (open seating) -- We had two good dining experiences and settled in with table #6, Capri Dining Room serviced by Jun (excellent). Reservation possible -- We had to phone each day to book the table at a specific time = unnecessary nuisance, but gave you all the benefits of fixed seating and a more flexible time tailored to your preferences. Buffet Dining -- Horizon Court -- on the average food did not meet our expectations (bacon, greasy sausages, week iced tea, tasteless pastries). Policy of closing one of the buffet service areas leads to congestion/crowding. At time found the layout of the food in strange order, requiring breaking in and out of the line up. Bonus -- Could make special order for an omelet. 3:30 p.m. tea -- A touch of class; all waiters in tuxedos with service in white glove. Excellent Service. From time to time some of the small sandwiches dry, on average food very good. Special restaurants -- i) Sabatini -- Extra charge of US $20.00 per person. Service excellent, other than as noted. Person in charge needs further training (I had a problem with a tasteless main course of prawns. When drawn to his attention, said would mention to Chef, and five minutes later was back at the table asking how meal was). My wife's meal was excellent. ii) Tequila -- Extra charge of US $15.00 per person. Service and meal excellent; with three piece band providing background music and dancing a touch of class = a memorable evening. We had to leave for a show and as a result unable to stay for the dancing; but returned several times to a few extra tables not being used for dining to have drinks = great location and band to relax, have a drink, and dance. Fixed vs. Open Seating -- When traveling on our own we always arrange for fixed seating. This time were unable to get a fixed seating reservation and we missed the experience of dining with the same group every night, comparing our notes, arranging excursions together and getting to know the staff/having the staff provide us with personal service based on our needs. Started to get tired of meeting new people every night and forced small talk. Whether want early or late seating should be determined by the itinerary and ships departure (on this itinerary early seating would be the best. When chose late seating, for days when this would not work, could take meal in open seating restaurants). The risk of fixed seating is that you might be assigned a table with an incompatible group. Another option when you are cruising with others is to take the open seating, find a waiter that you like and then make reservations every day (in Princess case, over the telephone), which we did in latter part of the cruise to get the same waiter = gives you the best of two systems. Entertainment -- Size of ship allows you, on several nights, to see two different shows. Quality of entertainment is equal to Las Vegas = was the best we have experienced on a cruise ship (other than for the excellent specialized entertainment provided by the locals at each ports on the Tahitian Princess). Princess Theatre has good site lines; theatre level stage props (props, entertainers can entry and exit thru floor elevators). Some of the seats uncomfortable in that all seats are the same configuration, not taking into consideration the slope of the floor underneath = results in one sliding forwarding on the seat. Internet -- At a cost of $10.50 for 30 minutes was able to hook up laptop (wireless) to ship's system in one location -- Atrium. Very slow connection (lower end of telephone speed) and not a user friendly connection system -- could only purchase in 30 minute increments, when came to end of 30 minutes and tried to send an e-mail lost the e-mail, does not appear to sign off until you shut down the computer, when you run out of 30 minutes, you have to close out Explorer and sign on again. Tour desk -- Staffed by one, who thought it was appropriate to handle the passengers waiting to see her by using a numbered system rather than to expand her hours or have an additional crew member assist, as we have found on other cruise lines (RCI). A disappointment. Fitness -- Promenade deck -- Excellent for walking in quiet sea; on deck 7 & 8, with stairs up to deck 8 at the bow -- 5 times around reportedly mile. Gym -- Good. 15 treadmills, all on 30 minute reservation periods, basically same equipment as our club's fitness facilities in Thornhill. Good weight equipment. Exercise room next door with mats. OVERALL CONCLUSIONS -- Tahitian Princess Cruise, our other Princess experience, was a memorable cruise vs. Star Princess a good cruise with some noticeable problems = Star Princess -- Great Ship with management problems. This ship is capable of moving from a Berlitz Cruise Guide rating of four stars to five stars, joining Celebrity as the only large cruise ships receiving this rating. Will be interesting to monitor other members' experiences on whether they solve the problems. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
We embarked in Venice Oct 30. Embarkation proceedings OK. We were in cabin 6245 from Venice to Savonna and in cabin 6237 from Savonna to Ft. Lauderdale. First night in Cabin 6245 could hardly sleep---it wasn't a bed we were on but a ... Read More
We embarked in Venice Oct 30. Embarkation proceedings OK. We were in cabin 6245 from Venice to Savonna and in cabin 6237 from Savonna to Ft. Lauderdale. First night in Cabin 6245 could hardly sleep---it wasn't a bed we were on but a cot with about a 5 inch thick pad. I won't dignify it by calling it a mattress. We contacted the very Gracious Melanie the next day and she saw that a second pad was put on top of the pad we tried to sleep on the first night. Our cabin attendants Walter on the first leg and Archie on the 2nd leg were great. Melanie, the english speaking hostess was great as was Abra of the shore excursion section. Oh, yes, Ciro, the restaurant manager was very gracious and attentive. I can blame him for the mediocre food. He didn't prepare it. The food was mediocre. You can't have exception food if you're cooking for several thousand people. It's call institutional food. We went to the Medusa Restaurant one night. I ordered a filet well done. It was not well done when I got it. I sent it back--it still wasn't well done. I attempted to eat around the edges but the cut of meat was so tough, it was impossible to cut, much less eat. I did not have one bite of that filet. Essentially, I paid $20 and I got only a salad to eat. I don't recall what the side order was now but I didn't eat it. The ship was immaculately clean. Some of the ports of call were way too short. I attempted to listen to a featured tenor one afternoon. I lasted about 45 seconds. The accompanying music was amplified so much, I couldn't hear the tenor. I thought it was about the tenor's voice---not the amplification of the background music. I was surprised to see a $260.00 charge from Costa on my credit card when I received it. This was over and above the $2378.75 charged to my shipboard account which I'm not disputing. I've been working with Grace Butler to determine why the $260.00 was added to my credit card. The matter is yet unresolved. All in all, on a scale of 1 to 10, the cruise received a high 4 from me. And, I'm not a first time cruiser. That was my 20th cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
The Emerald Princess was definitely designed for the needs and wants of Americans.  It also had what I would call an age itinerary for this length of cruise 18 days.If you were under the age of 50 this cruise would definitely not be your ... Read More
The Emerald Princess was definitely designed for the needs and wants of Americans.  It also had what I would call an age itinerary for this length of cruise 18 days.If you were under the age of 50 this cruise would definitely not be your cup of tea.In fact I would not recommend the Trans Atlantic trip for those under 50 as you would have little to do other then play bridge,bingo,cards etc.I attended one Scholarship at Sea class about photography and learnt absolutely nothing and walked out after 20 minutes of rubbish and refused to pay for what was a waste of time.It was more like a discussion group of first graders rather than cruisers who truly wanted to learn something about their cameras and simple ideas about using the basics of their camera.I was very disappointed,and what was charged as an hour lecture, tended to be more like 25 minutes. It was a waste of time and the lecturer (the ship's photographer was not sure of all his info so would refer to the other photographer sitting on the side). This in no way lessens the total experience of cruising but does change your cruising day when little else is offered. I found the Emerald Princess to be far too big for the service given.I did not enjoy all the shows but the performers were all world class and the comedian who was an American favorite created a lot of laughs and I enjoyed that night. It is a lovely ship and some tender loving care has been put into the decorating,design of cabins whether inside or out, both were lovely and large in comparison to many ships, and very soundproof as there was no outside noise noticed throughout the entire cruise.The colors and little artistic add ons made for wonderful photos. But it completely lost itself when designing the kitchens though.The vicinity of where they were in relation to the dining rooms,in particular.We dined in the early seating of the Botticelli dining room, and I noticed there were many empty tables at the early seating,which meant that there were waiters who literally had nothing to do, if only one table had patrons at it and the other tables had none. Then there were some who had to work very hard because there tables were full.The kitchen seemed miles away,and the assistant waiters,had to walk miles to get special items from the bar,as an example, to get my nightly cocktail that I ordered.How ridiculous is the design of a ship when one cocktail takes an assistant waiter away from the dining room for 5 minutes,and how inefficient.The meals also seemed to take such a long time to arrive from the kitchen, Princess seemed to have wanted the noise of the kitchen away from the dining room, but in doing this has allowed the dishes that would have been perfect straight from the kitchen to have lost some if it's flavour.A waiter stacking plates on trays and then having to walk with them stacked on a tray to the dining room, made me feel as if l were eating from a cafeteria. The buffet room was wonderful most of the time but I found many sections of food choices to be luke warm rather than hot, which made me uneasy when thinking of rules of preventing food poisoning to the passengers.I also noticed at times many kitchen hands, not necessarily handle the food hygienically and this also made me feel uneasy about the preparation of the food itself. Other than those issues the time at sea was restful and calm, and the smile of many of the staff, as you met by them was appreciated.I would not cruise again on a big ship and with so many different dining areas, as the ship just becomes a mass of people that you might see at the beginning of a cruise and never see again. My last issue was with the need of money. The old phrase of when you cruise everything is taken care of, was not present on this ship.Everything seemed to cost extra.Even the tenders(cost!!!!) to get you too the town you were visiting, was ridiculous considering how many elderly people were on board.What was really silly was one town we visited, where we were supplied with transport to the end of the wharf and then left a good mile from the town and for many that mile was a long way,when they might not have got off the ship if they had known the distance to the town.So it is a personal choice and hopefully others will add to these reviews, as cruising is a very personal thing and each to his own. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
This was my wife and my first Transatlantic. This was our 12th Cruise, first on Princess the others RCCL, Carnival, Holland America. Both in our 50's. Pre Cruise: Flew from Miami to Rome for 2 days prior to cruise. Stayed at the ... Read More
This was my wife and my first Transatlantic. This was our 12th Cruise, first on Princess the others RCCL, Carnival, Holland America. Both in our 50's. Pre Cruise: Flew from Miami to Rome for 2 days prior to cruise. Stayed at the Hotel Alimande right across from Vatican, a little pricey but the room was great, and the breakfast is terrific. Saw the main sites, Coliseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Pizza Navona, Pizza Veniza, all by public transportation(bus), easy to get around take the 82 bus will take you every place you want to go. Food was great, buy your wine in grocery stores alot cheaper and house wines are great. Buy the ones without labels. They are the best. Day of Cruise: Took train to Venice 1st class, took 4 hours. Do not get off at Mestre. Had to drag luggage down 30 steps and then back up another 30 steps. No escalators, no elevators. Had driver meet us there and took us to port. 22 Euros a couple. (3 couples). Embarkation: This was a breeze maybe took about 20 minutes. Got on ship and went to Cabin (A738) on Aloha deck with balcony got a great upgrade from outside room. No one escorts you to room. Lets cover the ship first: Beautiful!!!! Can't say enough about the decor of the ship. Reserved, Marble, Marble, Marble!! Shops, are not abundant but enough. Lounges are very nice and the drinks are expensive. Casino rather small but adequate. Rooms are just about the same on all other lines except the showers are really cramped. Don't drop the soap or your posterior might be in the hallway. I showered up in the steam room after the first day. Big showers and they have all the amenities. The closet space is abundant with safe also. Flat screened TV and alot of channels. Balcony's are small but if you get the Caribe Deck they are bigger. Some Decks the balcony's aren't covered. No Hank Panky on those. They give you bath robes but you have to ask. The Cabin Steward was great. I'll cover Service next. Beds were very comfy. No towel animals but you do get chocolate on the pillow. Just remember it's there or you wake up the next morning with it all over your face!! You Think?? Of course you have a frig and min-bar. Extra pillows and blanket if you ask. The shampoo and soap is from the Spa so I guess it was good stuff. No razors or other goodies. Safe is easy to operate and works well. Service: Impeccable!! The service in the Buffet was great, to the Dining Room. Cabin Steward I put 20 Euros in his hand the first day and told him I needed a bottle of wine on ice at all times and never was my wine bucket empty. We had Anytime Dining and ate at 8 or so every night and had the same table. Table 254 in the Michelangelo, the waitress name is Sanda and she was a kick. The bartender in the Wheelhouse bar Mario is also great. There's a waiter on the back of the ship at the Tradewinds bar named Joel he will take good care of you. Everyone talks to you tells you to have a nice day and are so pleasant. They all remember your name too!! Dining: Buffet is disorganized!! You bump into people constantly. Princess has to fix this. Sometimes I couldn't figure out just how they decided to arrange the food set-ups hot and cold were almost different everyday. Breakfast was great, no waffles, but enough of everything else to satisfy your morning. Lunch, was great also always some sort of roast, plus different themes everyday. Pizza was New York Style, yes you had to do the fold. I wasn't crazy about the burgers. Don't ask why I just couldn't put my finger on it but they didn't taste all that great. The Brats were very good. Diner: The menus are out of this world and not once did we have to send anything back, cooked to perfection. Lamb, Lobster, Filet Mignon, Prime Rib, you name it it was very good. The ice cream is free for an hour a day, and also in the dining room anytime else you have to pay. Ice tea and coffee is free as is the juice in the morning. If you want anything else you pay for it. Activities: They got a great steam room and sauna that is free up in the SPA. They also have a Package you can buy from the Spa for other things I didn't do it so I can't comment. My wife got the works and it cost me about $290. Oh well!! They also have a Sanctuary that cost you $10 for half a day. My wife did it and liked it but I passed. Comfy lounge chairs and peace and quiet I guess?? Normal Bingo, Trivia, Art Auction, Horse Racing etc. No belly flop contest or hairy chest stuff which was OK with me. MUTTS!! This is a plus. Concerts and Movies. Hot Tubs, and the pools never seemed crowed. They are not heated so be prepared for shrinkage. Entertainment: Saw the symphony, two violinist, a great Comedian twice, but no broadway shows. They had them just to tired. This was a very port intensive cruise. Went dancing at the Wheelhouse bar, groups were OK. They had some sort of entertainment every night in the plaza which was good. All in all entertainment was good. Ports: Venice, was wonderful we got lost a couple times, took a gondola ride sang That's Amore to my wife I scored points there, had pigeons go the bathroom on me, spent 10 Euros for an expresso in St Marks Square and bought alot of things back made of murano glass. The city is magical especially at night. Nothing better than to stand on the back of the ship sailing down the Grand Canal listening to the Opera Singer singing It's time to say Goodbye!!Of course with the drink of the day!! Naples: We took a private tour 8 people in Van for 175 Euro a couple. Went up the Amalfi Coast with Marcello. Went to Sorrento, Postiono, Ravello were we had a feast for lunch!! By the time we were done 8 of us drank 12 pitchers of wine. That didn't count the bottles of Lemoncello we drank. When it was time to leave I couldn't hit my behind with either hand and we had to walk down this mountain to get to the van. The lunch was 20 Euro a couple including the tip!! Then went to Pompeii, were it poured rain but we still got to see alot. We cut our tour about a half an hour due to the weather. The scenery was breathing taking. Rome: Went to the Vatican. Can't say enough, Sistine Chapel takes your breath away. Had a tour guide from Angel Tours and she was great. Had a little rain in Rome also but only for an hour. Trick here is to have a tour guide so you don't stand in any long lines. We took the train from the Port to St Pietro stop and walked right to Vatican about 15 minutes from train station. If you decide to go on the train make sure you get the 4:30 train back. Got back to the ship about 5:15 plenty of time to get on the back of the ship for sailaway. Drink of the Day of Course. Cannes: Took a tour with a private company again and this time the tour guide was not as good (Dream Tours). Went to Monte Carlo, Monaco, Nice, Eze and St Paul de Frence, Saw the changing of the guard at the palace, went into the cathedral, and the Casino. Eze was really neat little shops on the side of the mountain as was St Paul finally had to sit at local cafe and watch bocci ball and drink a bottle of French wine. The beaches in Cannes are mostly all topless so was some good sight seeing there. Barcelona: Was there on a Sunday. Mostly all shops were closed but took the Hop on and Hop off bus. Great way to see the city. Cleanest city so far. Walked down Las Rambles and never got pick pocketed. Had lunch and wine at little cafe and was great. Gaudi has influence all over the city. Cadiz: Old Spanish town was nice did shopping and saw the city by walking the cobble stone streets. One tip do not wear heels in any of these cities. Never saw so many people with stitches from falling down. Cadiz was nice had tapas for lunch with more wine. Portugal: This was one of my favorite ports. Least expensive, and beautiful city. Went to Sinitra, Cacis, Belem, and Lisbon. Took a private van with Revelation tours. 55 Euros per couple and was worth every euro. The guide we had was an encyclopedia full of information. When you stop for lunch in Sinitra he tells you to get the Sardines. I did and really didn't like them and I like fish. We visited St Anthony's Cathedral and it was beautiful. Went to a palace on top of this mountain and was breath taking. We left the port at 8 and had to be back by 5. They were taking up the gang plank when we got there. Last one's back on the ship. Azores: Toured the city on foot. More Cobblestone streets. Bought more wine, had to have enough for the 5 days across the Atlantic. It's an old Fort and has a couple lakes and a Pineapple plantation. It's OK but not my favorite port. Five Days across the Pond: These days went really fast played the trivia games layed out in the sun, went to the steam room, relaxed from a very intensive 12 days. Lost a lot in the Casino, drank wine. You can buy wine at every port and bring it back on the ship. They say two bottles but I brought 4 in Naples and Cannes and nobody ever said anything to me. I did see them take a bottle of hard liquor from a passenger in Spain. Deck Chairs they save them but if you go up higher there's always room, mostly around the MUTTS area. In fact the higher you get the bolder the women are if you know what I mean. The average age on the ship was maybe 62. One teenager, and 6 kids(little ones). Saw them twice in 17 days. Princess nickels and dimes you to death. Alot of things you pay for on Princess are free on other lines. This was a great cruise, great ports, great food. The weather was almost perfect and only had one rough night leaving Cadiz going into the Atlantic. Taking a Transatlantic back is the only way to go. I would have hated to fly those 12 hours after the cruise was over. Will I cruise Princess again, yes, would I cruise Carnival again yes. There's good things about all cruise lines that are different than others. All are great!! Sure beats working!! Have a good cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
This is my review of our 10/08/07 sailing on the Emerald Princess from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale. We flew to Venice 2 days early via air that we arranged ourselves using FF miles. We were unable to get a non-stop from JFK or ATL to Venice ... Read More
This is my review of our 10/08/07 sailing on the Emerald Princess from Venice to Ft. Lauderdale. We flew to Venice 2 days early via air that we arranged ourselves using FF miles. We were unable to get a non-stop from JFK or ATL to Venice so we did have to make a connection in Amsterdam to a KLM flight . Encountered no problems and all our luggage arrived. We stayed at the Locanda Orseolo in Venice and were fortunate that the water level was low enough that our water taxi from Marco Polo airport was able to take us directly to the Locanda where we entered through their water window. The hotel is splendidly located 5 minutes from St. Mark's on a small canal. The accommodations are very nice, clean and the staff is wonderful. You are greeted by your first names as if you are friends visiting. Breakfasts, as many have commented before, are wonderful, especially the chocolate banana crepes! The only drawback is that there is no elevator. However, the staff carries you bags up and down so you only have to get yourself up the steps. Our room had a small sitting room and a bedroom both on the canal. It was wonderful to open the windows and hear the gondoliers serenading their passengers. We took the Doge's Secret Palace tour ( arranged by one of our cruise critic group) and did a lot of wandering around Venice. The day we arrived was rainy but we wandered anyway. The next day was glorious - sunny and mild temps. We decided that instead of taking a gondola ride, since they seemed to be perpetually involved in traffic jams on the small canals, that we would ride the complete route of the Vaporetto. We boarded near St. Mark's heading toward Lido. We bought the 24 hour ticket for 16 euros each and as we got to the Lido end of the line we were able to get seats up front. We took the Vaporetto back the complete length of the Grand Canal and had plenty of time to take lots of pictures since we were on the local. At the Piazzale Roma we had to get off and change to go back, this time on the express that runs outside. Along the way we were able to see the Emerald Princess which was overnighting in Venice with the people from her last cruise. She looked beautiful. During our two days in Venice we had 2 great dinners - one at the Osteria de Santa Marina (my favorite) and the other at Aquapazza. We also had a fantastic lunch at the Ristorante Alla Borsa. Because of the exchange rate things are not cheap in Venice but everything we ate tasted wonderful. On 10/08 we took a water taxi from the hotel to the ship around 11 AM and encountered an easy and swift boarding process. We were on by noon. As soon as I got on I called Dining reservations to book the Chef's Table for us and 3 friends. If you are interested in doing this you really must book it immediately. For the rest of my review I won't give a day-by day description because I'm too long-winded. Instead here are some comments about various aspects of our voyage. Cabin - We were in A753, an owner's suite. It was beautiful with more room than we needed. We felt no vibrations despite being aft, and during the only squall we hit with any seas on the first sea day, we felt no excess motion. Service - We had wonderful service from every staff member we encountered. Our cabin steward kept things spotlessly clean, replenished toiletries and ice and contended with our never ending stream of laundry tirelessly. Dining and Food - We had Anytime Dining and thoroughly enjoyed it. We are late diners so we always went around 8:30PM to the DaVinci Dining Room where we always had a table for 2. Godwin, the headwaiter of that venue, knew us by name after the 1st evening and took good care of us. We had tables in different parts of the dining room and encountered consistently good service. We ate at Sabatinis on 4 nights and at the Crown Grill 3 times and obviously enjoyed those as well. I actually liked Sabatinis a little better than the Crown Grill but they were both very good. We learned our lesson several cruise ago about Sabatinis "whole experience" and we don't do that. We order specifically what we want and therefore don't feel so stuffed we can hardly move when we finish. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court and thought the food was pretty good there to for a buffet. There were always plenty of choices. I was happy to see that waiters there would get beverages for you, and silverware and napkins were on the tables already. No more juggling of too many things as you look for a table. We also never had a problem finding a place to sit. We only tried cookies from the International Cafe so I can't comment on other things there. We had a light lunch one day at the Sanctuary and that was also very good. Facilities on the Ship - Despite 3000 passengers on the ship the only time we felt crowded was the night of the Captain's cocktail party in the atrium when it seemed that all 3000 were there. We loved the Adagio lounge up by Sabatinis. They had a great pianist, wonderful olives and it was far less crowded than Crooners (which was our favorite spot on other ships). On the Emerald, Crooners is part of the thoroughfare around the atrium and so always seemed busy. We don't go to shows or the casino so I can't comment on those. We did go to the Sanctuary nearly every sea day and loved it. It is one of the most relaxing places I have been to and the chairs were so comfortable that they encouraged a little nap. The Lotus pool just next to the Sanctuary was the pool we liked best, much more peaceful than the 2 pools in the middle. The Veranda pool at the aft was also very nice. The gym was very well-equipped and only on one day did I have to wait to use an elliptical machine. The Thermal Suite was very nice but probably not big enough for the number of people onboard or perhaps more people know about it now than on our previous cruises when we've had it almost to ourselves. Both of us had Bali Hot stone massages and really enjoyed them. No one tried to sell me anything, but my husband (who had never been to the spa) did succumb to buying something. I got a haircut and styling and the guy who did it was great, in fact I told my husband I need to go on the ship every 5 weeks to get my hair trimmed. Ports and Shore Excursions - We loved every port and can't wait to go back. We took the Princess Elite tours in Naples and Rome. We thoroughly enjoyed them. We had a small group of people, excellent guides and lovely lunches at 5 star places included. In Cannes and Lisbon we went on privately arranged excursions and enjoyed those as well. Without going into specifics these are the tours we took. If anyone has questions if you ask on the Princess BB I'll try to answer. Naples - Elite tour of the Amalfi Coast (beautiful!) Rome - Elite tour to the Vatican Museum, St. Peters, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum Cannes - private tour to Nice, Le Tourbier (sp), Eze. St. Paul de Vance and Antibes Barcelona - Princess tour to Montserrat Cadiz - Princess tour to Sevilla Lisbon - private tour to Sintra, Cascais, Cabo da Roca and Lisbon Punta Delgada - Princess tour to Crater lakes and scenic drive Weather - We had incredible weather. The temperatures were generally in the 70s so we basically needed no cold weather clothing. The seas were unbelievably calm. In summary, we loved the Emerald Princess and our cruise on her ( so much so that we're doing the same cruise next year). The only thing which I think she lacks is a covered pool. I can see that if we had cooler temps or inclement weather that would be a nice feature. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
Pre-cruise We flew on Qantas air points to Rome. The flights were Qantas Brisbane to Singapore, British Airways to London, Heathrow and Alitalia to Rome. Our London Alitalia connection was a potential problem as we only had ninety minutes ... Read More
Pre-cruise We flew on Qantas air points to Rome. The flights were Qantas Brisbane to Singapore, British Airways to London, Heathrow and Alitalia to Rome. Our London Alitalia connection was a potential problem as we only had ninety minutes between arrival from Singapore at terminal 4 and departure from terminal 2, and so it proved to be. Our seats on the Qantas A330 were pre-allocated - 28J &K. If you ever have these allocated get them moved. There is no window at 28K, just wall. We even asked as we were being checked in as we had checked on seatguru.com and were assured 28K had a window. It really was no big deal, just odd. Qantas service continues to improve and it was a good flight - good food and really great cabin crew. I had already checked-in for the BA flight prior to leaving home and had requested (and had boarding passes issued) for a pair of the 'two seats' at the rear of the 747-400. There are three rows right at the rear of the plain. These seats were confirmed at the transfer desk in Singapore. Waited in the Qantas Club at Changi until the flight was called. BA flight was also good, nice crew, decent food, flew through the night and it was dawn just as we arrived into London. Plane wasn't full and we each had two seats. View over London was spectacular as we came in. Arrived one minute early, was on first connection bus to terminal 2 but still didn't make Alitalia flight (dep 6.50am). Was placed on standby and flew on second available flight (about 1pm) with Business class upgrade to Rome. Caught the airport express in to Rome Termini and hotel was less than ten minute walk from station. Welcome Residences (one night) was booked through Bookings.com and was good value at EUR149 with breakfast. Big clean room, comfy (but very hard) bed. Ok brekky of pastries etc. Central location. There is a lift but we didn't use it as room was on first floor of accommodation. Would recommend. Caught Eurostar to Venice at about 1pm next day. Great trip. I love trains and have never been on a high speed train before. Had very nice three course lunch in dining car that included wine and water and even free coffee (due to slow service that we hadn't even noticed!). Caught # ? Vaporetto to San Marco stop and walked to Hotel Lisbona (two nights), again less than ten minute walk. The Bauer is directly across the canal from Hotel Lisbona. Bauer guests were paying EURXXXX, we paid EUR360 to look down on to the same canal from our room. Our room was TINY but comfortable. No lift and we were up three flights of VERY steep stairs. Again, very clean, lovely staff. Very good breakfast, with good variety. Booked water taxi to dock. Expensive but fun. Bags unceremoniously dumped on dock in the light rain. Two Costa ships, Millenium, Horizon and Rotterdam all docked at same time. CRUISE Check-in Check-in was a disaster. We arrived at just after 1pm as advised. The boarding 'lounge' was packed. We joined a queue, were asked if we had checked-in on line, said yes and were handed a card with number eleven on it. They called twenty something not long after, got to 34 and then started again. You get the idea. We were given no indication if there was a priority line for suite guests and didn't bother asking. As crowd very slowly thinned we sat down and had a cup of some fairly awful iced tea when some cups finally were found. We finally boarded at about 3.45. Really not a good intro to Holland America. Didn't need any instructions to our suite and went straight up forward staircase to deck 6. Cabin 6120 was (is) beautiful. More room than we needed, but appreciated it all the same. Worth every cent the upgrade cost. We visited some people in a deluxe - 7016 - and couldn't see where the money was unless you wanted to entertain in your room. We are quite capable of making our own bookings, don't need any more food than was already provided, had no problems with the coffee on board, already got free DVDs (didn't watch one!), did three loads of washing during course of cruise that cost us $9 and was able to choose cold wash and low heat dry (most likely not something I could be so choosy with even if the laundry was free in a deluxe). Quibbles - the valance was ripped (the actual valance had come apart from the part that goes across the bed bases), quite obviously, and I was quite surprised it was not replaced during our cruise. I certainly don't have anything but positive comments for our lovely room attendant Nai, but his supervisor should take the responsibility. In no way did it affect the enjoyment of our room, this is just an observation. - Although the bed was comfortable it was still two beds pushed together. Celebrity places a single queen sized mattress across the two single bases when room request is for a queen. - Room is designed to be a twin as evidenced by the light switches behind the bed. When made up as a queen you switch the lights on every time you sit up in bed. - had no idea there was a radio in the room until someone told us about the little switch on the wall. Compendium could do with some pages on how things work in your cabin eg. Where the radio is and how it works, how to listen to CDs through TV etc The Rotterdam had just come out of ten days in dry dock. It was very obvious in our first walk through that a lot of carpet had been replaced; there was that lovely new carpet smell. I'll say right now that the ship was in beautiful condition, sparkling even. We had no complaints ship wise at all. I know there were problems with overflowing toilets and ineffective air-conditioning, but we experienced none. One of the dividers between our cabin and 6122 came open during the first night. Was repaired late the next afternoon as we sailed from Dubrovnik. Dining Dining lower main - allocated table 125, an eight, centre at the very rear of the restaurant against the sloping windows. On the first night only one other couple, a gay couple from Puerto Rico - Eduardo and Ernesto. Great guys. Our servers were Ketut (supervisor), May (waiter) and Widato (assistant). Second night we were joined by our other three companions, all ladies, two friends Edith and Sue from Phoenix and Edith's daughter Irene from Florida. They all loved K but I always got the feeling he was looking for an 'angle', May was lovely but got confused a fair bit (wrong meals ordered, wrong meals placed on table), and Widato was great. He needs to be promoted and I said that on my guest card. First wine water was Louis who bordered on being servile, just a little creepy. Second was Pepe who was much more sincere in his demeanor. Food La Fontaine - we ate in the restaurant 23 of 25 nights (and one breakfast). Missed it after late shorex in Casablanca and attended Sommelier's dinner in Pinnacle Grill one night. Had no reason to eat elsewhere. It was great. The food was very, very good. Better than we expected. Presentation always very good. Meals were always hot. Main lower was far from full and maybe this helped with food temp. Most nights we ate a starter, soup, entrEe and dessert although sometimes missed either a soup or starter. Never ordered a salad. Ate lots of cold soups and they were all very good. Ate lots of prawns (giant shrimp) and they were never less than excellent. One ordinary chicken dish (too dry), two ordinary steaks (ordered medium rare and they were more medium-well). Steaks themselves certainly not what I'd call rib but we have very good steak in Australia but never buy a piece that would be more than 250 gram. Al even had meatloaf one night, he said good, I thought hilarious. Deserts were maybe the only let down but were never bad, maybe ordinary on most nights. Quibbles - never enough vegetables, but show me a high end restaurant on shore and I'll show you a meal with two strips of carrot, three green beans and one asparagus spear. The veggies we got were always good, never over cooked. - Always felt like we were being rushed through our meal. WE sat down, were handed the menu and within two minutes were being asked what we wanted. Sent Usually sent May away and asked for more time. Most nights we were one of only couple of tables left at the end of dinner and the whole restaurant around us was usually reset by the time we stood up. I know these goes work disgustingly long hours but didn't like the feeling we were holding things up. - No spicy Indonesian served at any stage, what a wasted opportunity. - Restaurant was way too hot but may have been confined to rear of restaurant. I never finished formal nights with my bow tie on. Night before we arrived in Lisbon we all asked to be moved to another table to try and make dinner a bit more bearable. We were moved to table 310, a six two tables forward towards the centre of the room, and it was much better. Kept same wait staff. Lido buffet - Breakfast - Swiss muesli was dismal although it improved after Lisbon. Was like drinking yoghurt with a cup of muesli dropped into it. I love Bircher muesli and I'm guessing the increased number of Europeans after Lisbon may have been the reason it improved. Food was good, great omelettes, horrid sausages and bacon although they eventually had a separate pile of both that were not crisped to death and was more to the liking of the non North Americans. Not sure why Americans like that over cooked stuff? Good porridge (oatmeal). Lots of fresh fruit, great fresh orange and grapefruit juice, horrid overly sweet other juices. Good coffee from the machine. Never a problem getting a table. Lunch - a bit repetitive, although always good quality. Great sandwiches and wraps made to order. Never ate a cooked meal at lunch. Some good alternative food (Asian mainly) out by pool on taco stand. Didn't touch the burgers or hotdogs. Pinnacle Sommelier's dinner. Food and wine exceptional. Service so so. One of the waiter's shirt tails hanging out. Thought Sean should have gone around to each table to meet guests (who'd paid quite handsomely). Not in the same league as the SS United States Restaurant on Celebrity Infinity. Pinnacle lunch - awkward. We were the only people in restaurant. Food good, service ok, waiter poured half a beer and left the can on the table. Again, Sean could have come out and said hello. He could hardly have been that busy in the kitchen. Little things that just don't make the five star cut. Room service - breakfasts were all good, also had couple of dinners that were fine. Beverage service We bought wine maybe every third night, when we didn't take one of our bottles to the restaurant. Ok it was expensive but every bottle we bought (and we bought some more than once) always resulted in us saying to each other, "that's very nice". Daniele, the Cellar Master actually calls Broadbeach home, a suburb down on the Gold Coast about an hour and a bit from here. The roaming bar staff sometimes got a little intrusive but soon got the hint if you didn't want drink. Maybe could have been a bit more variety with cocktail of the day. Public spaces and flow The Rotterdam is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are classy and elegant. Even the casino isn't the usual garish sensory overload. Starting up top - Crows Nest, a really nice space, even more useful by being able to be split up. That dance floor was way too slippery though in formal/leather soled shoes. - Lido restaurant - never seemed crowded, could always get a table, was nice to be able to go and sit out the back and look down on to the pool and out to see where we'd been. - Lido pool - how great having a retractable roof. How weird no-one was ever in it after about 7pm except us. How odd that the jacuzzis weren't uncovered until 9am, just bubbled away under their nets. There are no change facilities. Just two single toilets and two open showers. - Gym and Greenhouse spa - didn't step inside the gym and Al had one massage. - Sea View pool and bar. Once it warmed up our favorite day time place. What a view!!! Again, there are no change facilities. Just two single toilets and two open showers. - Ocean Bar - great bar, boring music, would be a great jazz bar. Shopping arcade - not intrusive, male staff aloof compared to wonderful HAL staff, but flow was interrupted every time it was formal night with huge lights, cabling, backdrops etc. - Tropic Bar/Ambassador lounge great for pre-dinner drinks and we enjoyed Jeff Warren's piano playing. - Explorations Cafe - bought a coffee from here maybe every couple of days, more on sea days. Loved the creamy cold drinks. Didn't make use of library or internet was we bought our won books and had the laptop. - Sat in Explorations Lounge for many hours. This is where I sat to type the blog and it was my favorite space on board. - La Fontaine - a beautiful room, especially during the day when the shades were open (same for Queen's Lounge). Very hot and noisy at aft end of restaurant under the upper level, against the windows. - Down on to deck 4 - Pinnacle Grill, nice room that could do with at least a couple of windows, even they were frosted glass due to lifeboats hanging directly outside. Chairs a bit creaky (same for La Fontaine). - Wajang Theatre, didn't see a movie here but went to a cooking lesson with Sean from the Pinnacle and Al went to a lecture. Didn't have a wine tasting (except with Daniele in La Fontaine), attended no art auctions, went to bingo three times which takes me into the - Queen's Lounge. Great room, really good site lines, only chairs that weren't very comfortable were the single tub chairs. Entertainment We saw all of the cast shows except one. All except Hats Off were really good. Hats Off was awful. Again we only have Infinity to judge against and it had bigger flashier shows, a bigger cast but it was a much bigger ship and had the space to do it. The singing and dancing was great. I'm always amazed how well they keep their feet and there was at least two nights we were really rocking and rolling while the show went on regardless. Both crew shows were great, loved the Indonesian show especially. Specialty acts were really good with one terrible exception - an Australian 'acrobatic' comedy act. They were worse than appalling. We, and plenty of others, got up and walked out. I bumped into Susan Wood the next day and told her that I was no longer Australian and had made the ultimate sacrifice and become a Kiwi due to how terrible the act the previous night was. Pianist, violinist, cellist, harpist, opera singer, latin singer, ventriloquist, illusionist, couple of comedians - all really good. The English comedian was hilarious and was my favorite act of the cruise. If anyone wants names we have the daily programmes and can provide this. Bar entertainment - someone told us that HAL is supposedly trying to aim for the baby boomer crowd. If that's the case they need to up the tempo of the music being played in the bars (or at least a couple of them). To our ears it seemed the same style of music was being played in the Ocean Bar, Tropic Bar/Ambassadors, Explorations and Crows Nest whenever live music was being played. One of our tablemates asked Susan why there was no jazz or up-tempo music played anywhere and her reply was "this is what our passengers want". Sorry Susan, not all of them. Christmas carols were playing out by the Lido through the piped music. ARGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! We did enjoy Jeff Warren in the Tropic Bar/Ambassadors Lounge before we went to dinner each night as he played something different each night (plus requests) but we avoided the Ocean Bar like the plague as it was the same music over and over and over. Ditto the Crows Nest. Joy needs some new music, same play list every night. JT is described as a DJ. He told us all he did was press a button as the music was pre-programmed. What an incredibly boring job and he looked bored every time we were up there. Apparently all he could do was change the order of the music. I know the Crows Nest is described as the late night disco but the discos I know usually play music from the very recent past, not disco every single night. If HAL wants to increase the bar revenue from the Crows Nest, play some better music in the Crows Nest for the after 10.30pm crowd. We do exist! While I'm on the subject of the Crows Nest, the bar staff here were the only ones we would say had an attitude. The bar staff everywhere else on board were great with special mention to Noel, Lawrence, Maria A and Marcelo. Activities Pretty lame. Horse racing twice, hole in one in the pool twice, golf around the World in the Atrium once if I remember rightly, build a ship, scavenger hunt twice, one hour long pool games in the aft pool. Apart from daily team trivia and bingo twenty times a day, that was the extent of activities. Susan has finished her tenure; maybe the new Cruise Director will actually make the activities a bit more active? I can't understand why more use of the aft pool wasn't made once we left Casablanca and it warmed up. There was definitely no excuse not to make more use of the Lido pool at any time. Maybe everything was aimed for that average age of maybe 70 although there were plenty older than that who put us to shame in the energy stakes. Ports, port info and shorex The port maps provided were too vague and information very limited. I realize HAL can't provide really detailed maps but often where the ship was docked wasn't even included. We brought books and maps with us but some people didn't/couldn't and were relying on the ship to give them this info. Ian's port lectures were of limited value. We had no expectations as we had done most of our own research. When Ian spoke of his personal experiences the information was fantastic - insightful and useful. Too much though sounded like it was just something that had been downloaded from the internet. Way too much time in each lecture was devoted to a spiel on essentials for every port visit - take the daily programme with port agent details, take sunscreen, take toilet paper, take emergency money. Better idea would be to have one 'going ashore essentials' lecture and then concentrate on more detailed port specifics before each port visit. Dubrovnik Our shorex here - sea kayaking - was cancelled due to lack of numbers. It was a bit cool and wet when we arrived so we weren't too sad! We walked to the old town from the port. It was a really nice walk. Took us about an hour I think. The old town was amazing. Walked the whole way round the walls. Had a great lunch at a restaurant overlooking the fishing boats. Millenium was in town so the old town was fairly busy but it was a great day. Malta Ship docked right below the city. I had booked a private tour with Chris and Joan Sheridan of TouringMalta. We were accompanied by six fellow CruiseCritters on our trip. We had a great day circumnavigating the island. Was a full day starting in Medina and finishing at Hypogeum and the Tarxian Temples. We were dropped off up in the town and wandered the streets before walking down to the ship. Sicily Docked in Messina, one block from the main street. Took HAL shorex to Taormina - Taormina and the Greco Roman Theatre. The weather didn't co-operate so we didn't have a chance to see Mount Etna in the distance, just the shroud of mist and rain that were hiding it. Taormina was quite beautiful. Our guide gave us lots of info on the way to and from Taormina and gave us an opportunity to leave the group once we were in the town. Bought a couple of bottles of wine to enjoy on board. Civitavecchia Lots of ships in port - a Seabourn, a Seadream Yacht Club, Seven Seas Mariner and Arcadia. We walked to the station, maybe 45 minutes although there was a shuttle to the entrance of the port area. Caught the 8.05 train in to Rome after buying two BIRG tickets for EUR9 each. Train took about an hour. Caught connecting train to Ostio Antica where we spent the morning. Train back in to Rome then Metro to Circus Maximus station. Saw Pantheon, Hadrian's Tomb, St Peters Square and then train back to Civitavecchia. Bought more wine at station in Rome. Feet were aching so we were both glad to rest them on the train and then see shuttle to get back to ship. Only port we needed our passports but neither of us was asked for them at any stage. Monte Carlo Was awake for amazing experience of ship reversing in to the tiny harbor of Monte Carlo. The harbor is just spectacular. We intended to catch the bus to Eze for the morning and then look at the old town of Monte Carlo up around the castle in the afternoon. Waited at the bus stop above the Casino for a while with no sign of bus. Went down to the info centre and on the street below and were told that there are no buses to Eze on a Sunday. Al went back up to the stop and told the fellow Rotterdam passengers there was no point in waiting for the bus. We thoroughly enjoyed Monte Carlo. Walked up to the castle. Wandered around the old town. Back down to the port area. Had a really good lunch, wandered around the marina some more and headed back to the ship with plenty of time to spare. Barcelona Loved Barcelona. Caught shuttle to bottom of Las Ramblas. Not much open when we arrived. Caught Metro to station closest to Park Guell. Entered park from end away from monument park. Was amazing walking around a corner of the path and the monument park was below us. Loved the mosaics. Visited Gaudi's house. Managed a picture of the famous Gaudi lizard surrounded by the crowds. Back down to the Metro and into the centre of town. Queue at La Pedrera VERY long so we head to la Sagrada Familia. Words cannot describe it. Fantastic!!! Was looking for a tapas bar to have lunch but somehow end up in an all you can eat restaurant that is full of locals. Great fun. Stumble across Casa Batllo. Was on our list nut not near the top. Glad we did. The brilliance of Gaudi is on full display here. Wander through the Barri Gotic and then across to the beach, past the marina and then back to the shuttle stop. Fabulous day. Valencia We spent the day with a friend of mine who had come down from Madrid. We walked (again) to Ciudad de Las Artes Y Las Ciencias. Visited the science museum and the Oceanarium. The most amazing place (architecturally) I have ever been. Another great day. Lisbon Shorex today provided by our travel agent. Although we didn't see as much as we could have if we'd been on our own we still got a great taste of Lisbon. Started day with ride on Funicular and then visit to the Institute of Port. Walking tour through part of old town. Terrific lunch provided as part of shorex. Quick trip out to Belem but not enough time to stop at the tower. Loved the exterior tiling. We will be coming back here. Cadiz Took HAL Stunning Seville shorex. Worth every cent. Seville was … stunning. Coach ride less than hour and a half. Quite comprehensive walking tour. Tour was slowed down by passenger who had two prosthetic legs. I understand that people should not be excluded but by taking a walking tour that is indicated as strenuous you should take this into consideration before booking and realize that your participation may mean that the other people on the tour could be held up by you. Flame away. Great lunch provided. Would have loved to see the old Expo 92 site at closer range than from across the river but there is only so much time in a day. Great tour and would highly recommend. Marrakech I had pre-arranged a private tour with TangierTour for the same eight CruiseCritters as the Malta tour. During the cruise to Lisbon we received a shorex booking form that indicated we would now be in Casablanca long enough for HAL to offer a Marrakech tour. We didn't hesitate to put our reservation in and were over the moon when we received our tickets. We explained this to the group we would have been touring Casablanca with and they understood our decision. We were sat at the back of the bus with a person who we soon became good friends with - Cindy Conley, head of the medical centre. A great HAL asset!!! The tour was a major disappointment. The bus travelled too slowly out to Marrakesh. Spent too long at rest breaks in both directions and way too long at lunch. The visit to the Kasbah was amazing but rushed. The Saadian tombs weren't worth the half hour wait. A visit to a craft store was in fact a visit to a rug shop that was very high pressure. Half an hour at what was for us the highlight of our trip - Jamaa El Fna Square - was an hour too little. All people who took the tour received a 20% credit. Dakar Took the Pink Lakes of Retba shorex. Another fantastic trip. For anyone who travels to Africa and South America please head the shore lecturer's advice and ask before taking someone's picture and if they ask, pay them for taking their picture, a dollar will do. If someone holds up their finger and shakes it they mean do not take my picture. Please respect this request. I will not go in to detail here about one elderly, inconsiderate, ignorant, and sadly American gentleman jeopardized our visit to the village by the Pink Lake by taking a picture of one of the villagers, and upsetting her terribly in the process, even when she indicated no. I go in to more detail of this and then his even more amazing actions on my Travelpod blog. I am amazed at the way so many of the passengers very blatantly 'looked down' on the people of Africa and Brazil. It was often very openly and loudly discussed both on board the ship and on the tour buses we were on. Very sad. Americans wonder why they have an image problem around the world? Mmm… Dakar was an assault on the senses and the mind and I was not prepared to head out in to the city when we got back to the ship. My brain was totally overloaded from the morning. Al and Cindy (medical centre head) were going to get a cab in to town but also eventually decided against it. There were reports of people being threatened as they left the dock. Whether or not that was true is open to speculation. There were lots of markets set up on the dock and we bought some great trinkets. I am a hopeless bargainer and people laughed when they heard how much I paid. In the context if what this holiday cost is was no more than a moderately expensive bottle of wine. Better in the hands of someone in Dakar than spent in the shops or beverage department on board ship (we were sponsoring the latter quite enough!). Lots of people apparently spoke to Ian afterwards and wondered why we went there. Neither of us have any regrets about visiting Dakar, mine relate to the superior attitudes of too many of our fellow travellers and sharing our moving hotel with them, but I needed to be much more mentally prepared and will be next time we venture to Africa. Sea days and Equator crossing Sea days were great although we thought the activities department could have been a bit more 'active'. Attended the bridge and engine room talk with the Captain, the Chief Engineer and the Chief of Security. It was extremely interesting and the Captain has a great sense of humor. Equator crossing ceremony was great fun but was by the lido for some reason. Recife Took HAL Igarassu and Itamaranca shorex. Had a great morning although visit to manatee centre did not occur due to being closed for maintenance. Given 15% discount before we even left the dock and offered 100% refund if we got off due to 'no manatees'. No-one took them up on the offer. Did not know we would visit beach for hour and half after seeing Fort Orange, visit was originally only 15 minutes. Sat with Joanne, assistant casino manager and ate local food and drank beer. Lots of fun. Joanne is lovely, another asset to the company. I completed a very favorable shorex comment card on this tour. Started it by saying this was a great trip that we thoroughly enjoyed. Made one small comment that the staff could have reminded us to take towels if we didn't have them. I received a call from Sylvain the shorex manager. He was extremely defensive and said his no time to do something like I suggested and that I should read my ticket more closely. I was both shocked and offended at his remarks, and disagree. How long could it take when they are giving you a sticker to stay take "don't forget a towel". They certainly had time to say there's water for sale around the corner. Mmmm… Amazingly we received another letter from him a few days later offering a 50% refund on the tour price. We found out later that there had been a large group who had objected to sitting in the bar at the beach for an hour and a half. That was the bit we loved the most! Grabbed a quick lunch when we got back to ship and caught free shuttle in to Recife. Found ATM machines - when you go into mall you are dropped off at, turn left and there is a room of ATMs on left about twenty meters into the mall. The Bradesco Bank ATM recognized Al's Commonwealth Bank ATM card as not from Brazil and offered the screen in English. My Suncorp Visa debit did not work anywhere in Brazil. Wandered in to Recife, walked through the markets, seemed like we were the only westerners there. Was an amazing experience. Stumbled on to the Casa da Cultura, the old Recife prison that has been converted into a craft market. Bought some more trinkets. Caught a cab up to Olinda. Didn't head Ian's advise and instead of using one of the licensed guides, we were taken around the town - absolutely beautiful - by a young guy who then proceeded to fleece us by charging us 100 reias each. Stood in a dark street with no sign of a taxi, we thought it wise to pay up and get in the car he arranged. We paid 20 reais in a metered taxi all the way from Recife to Olinda. His car cost 30 to go maybe half the distance back to the ship. Initially the driver pretended to have no change but eventually we got 60 change from the 100 reais we gave him. Lesson learnt!! Listen and be more careful and always have small notes, not leave yourself with just big ones and in potentially risky situations. Don't be put off though, Recife was great, we just made a couple of silly mistakes. Salvador We loved Salvador!!! Took the HAL Historic Salvador (now Salvador, City of Contrasts) walking tour. Another great tour. Caught a bus to the bottom of the old upper town and walked up through the cobbled streets to the main square and the Lercada - the elevator - then got back on the bus and went out to yet another church, this one the second most visited in Brazil. We are totally churched out. Tour drops us off at the Mercado near the port or would have taken us back to the ship. We shopped, bargained much better, had a great lunch from the restaurant up on the top level of the market. Shopped some more. Caught the Lercada up to the old city, and then back down again (for total of 20 reais). Was a great day. Captain had told us he had to open the throttles to get Rotterdam to Rio by 2am morning after next. I loved it. The ship came alive at 25 knots. Was amazing standing down at the back of deck 3 watching the churning ocean and the wake trailing out behind the ship for the day and a bit. Disembarking, post cruise Rio Woke to a grey and dreary Rio. Was the last place we expected it too. Ended up sitting in Explorations Lounge as when we got back to our room after breakfast it had already been made up as a twin and wasn't 'ours' any more. We had booked a shorex to Corcavado that ended at the Intercontinental although we were staying at a hotel on Ipanema Beach. The weather conspired against us and we got only a couple of fleeting glimpses of an un-shrouded Christ the Redeemer but the Funicular was a great ride. We were joined by a local samba band who entertained us in both directions. Quick drive along Copacabana and Ipanema before being dropped at the Intercontinental. Gee, it's a long way out of the action. Bags eventually arrived and we headed off to the Best Western Sol Ipanema. Great rate USD per night for an oceanfront deluxe booked on Ipanema.com. Room was on 10th floor, with a great if initially dreary view. Went to a churrascaria for dinner. Next day walked to Sugarloaf as the clouds began to lift. What a fabulous view. If the weather had been better we would have taken a helicopter ride from there around Rio. Next time! Taxi back and then went down and laid on the beach for a couple of hours and drank caipirinhas made on the beach. Went to Plataforma samba show. Booked through the hotel and paid a hefty premium but the show was fantastic and the transfer to and from the venue prudent. Flights home LANChile and Qantas. LANChile flight to Santiago actually left early. Great refurbed 767, good crew, good food. We had been sent a message by Qantas that the flight from Santiago to Auckland had been delayed so were prepared when they told us this at the transfer desk in Santiago. Were each given a dinner voucher (nice touch). Managed to catch a few winks on the comfy airport seats! Plane eventually left over five hours late. A340 in need of a serious update. Missed our Qantas connection in Auckland (by hours!) but we were put on next direct Auckland Brisbane flight not long after lunch. Went and sat in the Qantas Club where we also grabbed a shower and had an food, good coffee and an open bar etc. Walked in our door at not much after 5pm Read Less
Sail Date: October 2007
This review covers the Mediterranean Transatlantic Cruise originating in Venice and ending in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October 2007. As background, this was our 8th Princess cruise and we have done 15 cruises together. In Venice, we ... Read More
This review covers the Mediterranean Transatlantic Cruise originating in Venice and ending in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in October 2007. As background, this was our 8th Princess cruise and we have done 15 cruises together. In Venice, we chose to add a two-day Princess pre-cruise hotel stay in order to see the city. We stayed at the Hotel Saturnia, which was accessed by chartered vaporetta from Marco Polo airport. We were dropped off at a vaporetta stop several blocks from the hotel. We were told we could not use the water window at the hotel because there were too many gondolas in the area (?!?). This meant schlepping our carryons over to the hotel. Our other luggage, which was picked up by Princess at the airport, was promptly delivered to the hotel. In other cruises with Princess, embarkation began around 1:00PM and lasted into the late afternoon. Since we were staying in port overnight before sailing, it seemed reasonable that we could get three sightseeing days by embarking in the afternoon of Oct. 8. However, the Princess transfer to the ship was done only once, at 10:30AM from the hotel via chartered vaporetta. While there was a $15.00 shuttle back to St. Mark's Square from the ship available, much of the available time was taken up in the embarkation process, leaving little or no time for sightseeing on the day of embarkation. This was our first experience with this new class of Princess ship. We've previously cruised on the Diamond Princess, which is the same size, but carries 2670 passengers compared to 3120 on the Emerald. The 450 passenger difference calculates to more cabins on the same size ship although they have made more three person cabins. The space had to come from somewhere and it seems to have been a little bit from everywhere. The Princess Theater appears to be smaller than on other Princess ships. Also, with a primarily retired passenger group on board for the Mediterranean and Transatlantic cruise, the lack of a railing up the middle of the stairs in the theater was a noticeable omission as almost everyone touched every aisle seat as they worked their way to and from their seat. The accountants saved maybe three inches there. In fact, "nickel and dime" was a common refrain heard from passengers in all areas of the ship. Admittedly, Princess refers to itself as a Mass Market cruise line providing good value for the money spent on the cruise. It does not refer to itself as a premium cruise line, as Holland America does in its literature. For this cruise, we chose to go with Traditional Dining in the Botticelli Dining Room. Our hard working waiter and often reassigned assistant waiter did the best they could to cover what must have been 5 tables with at least with 20-25 persons total to serve. Mid-way through the cruise, our table spoke to the Head Waiter about the slow service and he added another assistant waiter. This, and the return of the often absent assistant waiter to our set of tables greatly improved the service as there were now enough staff for the number of people to be served. In many ways this ship and its services seemed to have been designed by the Carnival accountants rather than travel professionals. The food quality was very good and options abound as on any Princess ship. The Horizon buffet on Lido deck has an add-on at the back of the ship called the Caribe Cafe, which has a separate buffet menu. Caribe is also the place for milk and cookies after 11:30PM. The Movies Under the Stars theater also provides popcorn, milk and cookies for its guests on Lido deck. While this cruise population was a fairly quiet crowd, Princess has created "The Sanctuary" on the top deck of the Emerald to provide a quiet place to retreat and relax. It, however, costs $10/Half Day for some peace and quiet. We heard it contains a pool and the Spa folks do massages there. Entertainment was quite good, with Broadway style shows, musicians and comedians in the Princess Theater and afternoon shows of jugglers, acrobats and chamber music in the atrium (called the Piazza).The Explorer's Lounge and Club Fusion also had entertainment nightly. There is also the Movies Under the Stars on the Lido Deck and many of the lounges have live music. There was a daily class in different varieties of ball room dancing that seemed to be well attended and seemed to result in a good number of folks using their new skills on the dance floor in the evening. Disembarkation was less organized than we've seen on previous Princess cruises. As usual, they want you out of the room by 8:00AM. For Platinum and Elite Captain's Club members, they provide coffee, juice and Danish in Club Fusion aft on Deck 7. However, there are no announcements on the public address system or in Club Fusion to tell you when to leave the ship using the color coded luggage tags system. For example, for Green 2, you had to leave Club Fusion and go to the Explorer's Lounge to be told by a crewmember when you could leave the ship. During disembarkation, navigating from one point to another on the ship was made more difficult because 3120 other folks were trying to do the same thing at the same time! Porter service was available once you were off the ship to carry your luggage to immigration and customs. Transfer to the Miami airport from Port Everglades was not well organized. The Princess rep told us "There's not enough space for the busses and too many people getting off at once!" This is, however, all under the control of Princess and could be better organized. Ports: We used Princess excursions exclusively in the ports. Venice: The city is absolutely beautiful and easily walkable; although the streets are cobblestone, so ladies, leave your heels in the hotel. The Saturnia Hotel has an elevator and a beautiful view of the city from the roof garden, accessible from the fourth floor. Deutsches Bank has an ATM across the street from the Hotel Saturnia, if you want to get Euros. At the time of our trip, one Euro cost $1.42. This eliminates the need to carry money on your flight to Venice. Lisbon: The City by Bus and Tram excursion was great. In the old city, the streets are so narrow that ordinary busses cannot fit. We transferred to electric trams, which could run on the streets and up and down the hills. The streets are so narrow, you can reach out the window and ring someone's doorbell as you drive by! Great photo stops on this tour. Ponta Delgada, Azores: This is a very walkable city, although built on the side of a mountain. A shuttle took us to the entrance of the port and you can walk from there or take a taxi. On Rua Muchada del Marcado, there is a market that is where the locals get their fresh food and vegetables. There is also a more touristy section of the market where souvenirs can be found. This was one of the ports that I'd really like to revisit for a longer time. Cannes: This was my favorite port. We tendered in and went to Monte Carlo and Monaco. The scenery is beautiful on the way as you see both the Mediterranean and the Alps. Actually seeing the venues of the Grand Prix and The Grand Casino will never be forgotten. Naples: For us, going to Pompeii wasn't negotiable for any other venue and it didn't disappoint. The only word to describe it is AMAZING. In the afternoon we went independently to the Archeological Museum in Naples where they have many of the better things that were found in Pompeii. It is straight up the mountain from the port and the cab was probably extremely overpriced at 30 Euro for about a 10 minute trip. We chose to do Princess tours rather than book them privately. The husband likes the comfort level of knowing that the boat will wait for a late returning tour outweighs the advantage of a smaller group and seeing more of what you wanted. One couple seemed to have missed the boat on a private tour in one of the ports. The Transatlantic portion of the trip was very smooth and pleasant. The Captain found a great route, so that there were no heavy seas to disturb the crossing. So much nicer than flying back from Europe. Princess remains good value for the money spent, we'll be returning to the Emerald in January of 2008 for a Western Caribbean cruise from Fort Lauderdale. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
It has been just a week since we disembarked the Zuiderdam in Ft. Lauderdale. We are still working our way back to reality - even though, some days, we would rather not. After having spent four glorious days in Venice we arrived at the ... Read More
It has been just a week since we disembarked the Zuiderdam in Ft. Lauderdale. We are still working our way back to reality - even though, some days, we would rather not. After having spent four glorious days in Venice we arrived at the cruise terminal to unbelievably long lines for check-in. This was not a good way to begin our voyage but, as it turns out, it was definitely the worst part of the whole trip. We have done a fair amount of cruising and love life on board and were not disappointed. As we have come to expect on HAL ships, the crew was phenomenal. They work so very hard and really got put to the test this time because of the arrival of the "norovirus". The ship was on "code red" for most of the trip and this certainly led to a few inconveniences for all of us but it meant extra work for all of the crew - which they did and still continued to smile! This is the first time we had "As you Like" dining. We were not sure how it would work out but it was fine. We found a window table that we really liked and made a reservation each night for that particular table. After being there a couple of nights the dining room stewards knew, ahead of time, what we liked and would bring things without being asked. We also like to dance and enjoyed the trio that was playing in the Ocean Bar each night, as well as the ship's band that played on several different occasions. The entertainment was good. We particularly enjoyed the individual artists that entertained during the cruise. The ship's singers and dancers were quite good and the costuming has improved greatly over some we have seen, on earlier cruises. Since we were onboard for Election Day, there was mock election onboard - a nice touch for us political junkies. All in all it was a wonderful cruise ! Ahhhh - sweet memories! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Sailing out of Venice is one of the most exciting and beautiful "sail outs" in all of cruisingdom and ours on the Zuiderdam October 23, 2008 was no exception. We had arranged to have our first Cruise Critic Board member ... Read More
Sailing out of Venice is one of the most exciting and beautiful "sail outs" in all of cruisingdom and ours on the Zuiderdam October 23, 2008 was no exception. We had arranged to have our first Cruise Critic Board member "Meet and Greet" during the sailaway and were all gathered in the Crows Nest meeting one another in person for the first time and watching Venice slide by when Mark Pells, the Hotel Manager, welcomed us and announced that the bar was open and he was treating! That was only the beginning of Mark's generosity. He also gave us a Mimosa and Champagne party AND a delicious luncheon in the Pinnacle Grill. His warm hospitality was exhibited by the entire crew of this remarkable ship. Our cruise continued through fabulous ports (Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Civitavecchia, Cartegena, Cadiz, and Funchal) before sailing for Half Moon Cay (changed to Nassau) and Ft. Lauderdale. Several days into the cruise we became aware that the Noro Virus was also aboard and I must say here that I cannot praise the crew of the Zuiderdam enough even though both my husband and I caught the bug. The Medical Staff were compassionate, thorough and effective in treating us and making us comfortable but even more amazing was the entire ship's compliment as they fought this contagious bug. In spite of doubling their chores, the crew continued to smile and jump to do even small services, anything to make a passenger's day happier. The heroic and continuous cleaning were truly impressive. A friend of ours suggested that they also place Purell in the elevators. Not only did that happen right away, our friend received flowers and chocolates in her cabin for having made a good suggestion. Only about 282 people fell ill out of well over 2000 folks aboard. This is a remarkably low number when you consider we were all in a highly enclosed environment together for 17 nights. Many many thanks to HAL! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
This was our eighth cruise, the first one on Princess. We had a Baja balcony cabin, which we liked a lot. Calm seas and warm temps enabled us to use it more than any previous balcony. We paid $2,000 pp for the 18-day cruise, a bargain. ... Read More
This was our eighth cruise, the first one on Princess. We had a Baja balcony cabin, which we liked a lot. Calm seas and warm temps enabled us to use it more than any previous balcony. We paid $2,000 pp for the 18-day cruise, a bargain. That said, we are likely to resort to cheaper alternatives in the future. For a cruise in January from Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires on Carnival we have booked an inside, our first. We are in our mid-60s, have traveled a lot around the world. We had been to Italy and France before. I had been to Spain and Portugal, my wife had not. I am sure that the following statement will be greeted with sneers and flaming but people are nuts who go on a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, visiting a different port each day. In our opinion, it's just too hectic. We like a slower pace and found the sea days most agreeable, particularly the Atlantic crossing. But to each his own. Overall, a terrific bargain. Here are some random comments. We flew from BWI to JFK and then nonstop to Venice on Delta. Highly recommended. We arrived in Venice around 9 a.m., checked in, had lunch on the ship and started sightseeing. There has been some previous discussion as to whether the $15 pp Princess water shuttle from the ship to St. Mark's is worth it. Absolutely. Wouldn't recommend any other way. It was particularly useful when we returned from looking at Venice the first night, tired enough about to collapse. (We slept very little on the plane due to a passenger with a nervous condition sitting in front of us. Every 20 seconds or so he made a loud grunting sound that could be heard nearby despite considerable engine noise). We also did Grand Canal using a regular shuttle boat. Worked fine, enabling us to see lots of ordinary Venetians going about on their daily business. Did not visit any museums. Since we had lived in the Soviet Union for five years, we found it fascinating to discover how much St. Petersburg had been influenced by Venice. Similarly, buildings in parts of old Moscow look copied from Rome. No wonder. The czars used Italian architects in both cities. Naples: We had planned to take a hydrofoil to Sorrento but could not find the landing. Thinking we had found it, we bought tickets in the port area that turned out to be bus tickets. (The bus terminal is some 200 yards left of ship on the waterfront, immediately after you exit the port). Parts of the drive to Sorrento were scenic, giving us an idea about what one would see in Amalfi. After strolling around in Sorrento and having sandwiches, we took the Circumvesuvio train to Pompeii and then back to Naples. At the station there, my wife said she was tired and we took a cab back to the ship. It was not worth 10 euros. You can easily walk to the port from the train station. Had we known it, we probably would have taken a bus from the port area to Amalfi, instead of Sorrento. A Chinese couple from Canada, who were extremely well prepared, did so. Certainly the cheapest way to see the Amalfi coast. Rome: We liked Civitavecchia. Took the train on our own to Rome, where we did sightseeing from the upper deck of a HO-HO bus. An incredible city. Livorno: We had planned to go to Florence but decided we were too tired. Tried to look around Livorno, but it was a disappointment. Cannes: We had been there before so we just took city transit buses to look around. In the afternoon, I took a dip in the Mediterranean from a beach just a few yards from the tender pier. Refreshing. Barcelona: We made a big mistake. We started from Las Ramblas, which to our world-weary eyes was little more than a freak show. We then walked to the cathedral without realizing that it was not Gaudi's but an older one. It was a perfectly nice one, though, with geese parading in the inner courtyard. Cadiz: I had been to Cadiz before and will return. This splendid port city was used in a James Bond movie featuring Halle Berry as an ersatz Havana. Unfortunately, everything was closed due to Columbus day. We took a Ho-HO bus. Later in the day I strolled through the labyrinth of the old city's narrow streets and alleys and got hopelessly lost. By that time some bars were open and the city was starting to wake up. Lisbon: We took a private group tour arranged by Evie Almeida, a CC fellow traveler. Even though Antonio, with his halting English, turned out to be little more than a driver, the tour was a highlight of our trip, packing quite a bit into the few hours we had available. I had been to Lisbon decades ago. So it was fascinating to see how one-time cork forests had been replaced by suburbs and shopping malls. We got to the palace in Pena while the morning mist was still quite thick. This gave the visit an ethereal storybook quality. The tour then continued along the coastal road to Cascais, where the group had lunch at the Albatroz, a hotel/restaurant overlooking the sea. My wife and I opted for a short lunch, using the time instead for a stroll around the neighborhood. Lots of cheaper (and less scenic) eating spots. We also chatted with Antonio, the driver, who told us about his life. The tour continued with a quick drive-through of downtown Lisbon. This majestic city is a favorite of mine. Ponta Delgada: Our favorite. Colonial Portugal in Hawaiian setting. Strolled around. After lunch on the ship, I returned downtown and took a regular city shuttle (25 cents) to get a better idea. That shuttle, known as B, goes by the hospital as well as a big shopping mall. It was standing room only, but enable a dirty old man to enable the cleavages of pretty Portuguese girls of all hues. Overall: No complaints worth registering. We had a Baja balcony cabin which we used more than on any previous cruise. Warm temps and calm seas made that possible. Indeed the seas were so calm that I managed to complete the cruise without getting seasick, a predilection that I have on big bodies of water regardless of wave conditions. The Emerald's pizza on Lido deck was the best I have tasted on any ship and the grill's braunschweiger wasn't bad either. Except for one night of Indian food (which was somewhat disappointing), we took all our dinners in the Boccacio dining room. I don't think that food quite measured up to Celebrity's or HAL's level. As to entertainment, we saw the production, two MUTS. The Emerald orchestra was first-rate, a treat at the dinner dance. A final food note: My wife thinks I am nuts but I chose a cold soup each night mostly to make sure that that option stays in the menu. The Emerald's cold soups were mostly like smoothies. None rose to the level of HAL's Noordam; in fact, several attempts were quite disappointing. Our dining room servers were Gary and Mercado from the Philippines. They did as good job as can be expected from guys who have to serve a minimum of 20 people each dinner shift. Kudos to the hardworking Princess staff. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We are in our 50's and this cruise was our 39th anniversary gift to ourselves. This was our 16th cruise overall but our first transatlantic. Cut to the chase...it was our best cruise ever! We booked our Delta flight on ... Read More
We are in our 50's and this cruise was our 39th anniversary gift to ourselves. This was our 16th cruise overall but our first transatlantic. Cut to the chase...it was our best cruise ever! We booked our Delta flight on www.ticketstoeurope.com non-stop from JFK to Venice. Upon arrival we caught the blue bus (3 euros) to Piazzale Roma and from there it was a short walk to Hotel Dalla Mora which we found on www.tripadvisor.com. It was perfect for our 1-night pre-cruise stay. Venice was just as we remembered as we had lived in Europe in the 70's and early 80's and had visited several times before. This was true of all the ports we visited; the only change we could see was that everyone carried a cell phone, even the gondoliers. Otherwise things seemed just as they were then. We boarded the ship the next day and it took around 45 minutes from the time we turned in our luggage to the time we entered our stateroom. Very smooth process. Since we had cruised on the Crown, her sister ship, the Emerald seemed like home and we settled right in. Princess balcony staterooms are smaller than their counterparts on RCCL and Carnival but ours was sufficient for our needs. The ship is only a year or so old so everything was pristine and kept spotless by a tireless crew. We chose traditional late seating in the Botticelli dining room We requested a table for two and that is what we got. Unfortunately it was cafe-style seating with bench seating on one side and single chairs on the other so we requested a change to a stand-alone table and it was granted. We took nearly all our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in the dining room with the exception of a breakfast or two and lunches ashore. We found the quality and selection of food to be excellent. None of the menus were repeated. I wouldn't exactly call us gourmands but we know good food and service and that is what we found on the Emerald. We also took advantage of the Chef's Table offering and we were delighted with the entire experience. We recommend it unreservedly. Be sure to reserve early as there are only a very limited number of openings for this exceptional dining experience. Ports of call were Venice, Naples, Rome (Civitavecchia), Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Cannes, Barcelona, Seville (Cadiz), Lisbon, Ponta Delgada and Ft lauderdale. We took Princess excursions in Rome and Florence (unescorted bus drop-off and pick-up) and did the rest on our own. In Naples, we took the hydrofoil to Capri (17 euros each way) and enjoyed every minute, even the bus ride inches from the cliffside. A tip on changing money; the worst rate was at the Venice airport and the best rate in a little change shop in Anacapri. Rates vary widely. Change some money in the USA before you go so you won't be pressed to accept a bad rate. Rome and Florence offer more to do than the time available so plan ahead so you won't be disappointed. Cannes was beautiful and we ogled the many exquisite yachts along the seafront. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the Ramblas in Barcelona and had plenty of time for shopping as well as wine and tapas in a local tavern in the Gothic quarter. We enjoyed exploring the maze of streets in Cadiz rather than trekking to Seville. It was our first visit to Lisbon and we look forward to returning soon. There was so much to see and do that we had to narrow the list to a visit to the Castel Sao Jorge for the extraordinary city views, shopping for some of the local port wine and a leisurely lunch at a sidewalk cafe. By the way, every lunch was taken al fresco at every port and the weather was absolutely perfect; 70-75 degrees and mostly sunny. Ponta Delgada in the Azores was a great stop for strolling, shopping and we actually stopped at a mall. The selection and style of shops rival any in the USA. The mall was decorated in a whaling theme with a full-size whale sculpture at the entrance. After we left the Azores, we had 5 wonderfully relaxing days at sea. A little more detail about the ship and fellow cruisers. There was a significant contingent of fellow Cruise Critics aboard and we enjoyed two Meet-and-Mingle sessions. Princess provided complimentary cocktails at the first. Thank you Princess. Fellow passengers were predominantly 50-70+ and I don't believe there were more than 10-20 children on the ship. 20 and 30 year olds were nearly nonexistent and this would not have been the right cruise for them at any rate. Just a much more sedate crowd than usually encountered on Carnival or RCCL but typical of longer Princess cruises. There were endless opportunities for daytime and evening entertainment. We can't comment on the shows as we usually don't attend any and this cruise was no exception. We did however enjoy many of the performances offered in the Piazza, the Emerald's central atrium. The were jugglers, acrobats, and groups playing various types of music etc. A good selection of recent-run movies were offered at Movies Under the Stars, in the theater, and on television in the staterooms. Opportunities for dining abound on the Emerald. There's traditional dining, anytime dining, two specialty restaurants, the Crown grill (steak and seafood), and Sabatini's (Italian dining)available for a nominal charge of $25 and $20 respectively, the Horizon Court buffet open 24 hours, a pizza and ice cream bar (pizza and pasta are free with a nominal charge for ice cream), Vines wine and seafood bar, the International Cafe in the piazza which offers a variety of free and pay as you go specialty foods and of course 24hr room service. There is literally something for everyone on this ship. Transatlantic cruises have been the best-kept secrets for savvy cruisers for quite some time as they offer lots of bang for the buck and this cruise was no exception. By booking early we were able to snag a balcony cabin at an interior rate thanks to Princess' double-upgrade promotion. We went to see the future cruise consultant while on board and she informed us that the same promotion was available for the same itinerary next year aboard the new Ruby Princess. Needless to say, we booked immediately. Upon reflection we can honestly say this was the best cruise we've ever taken. The entire experience including flight, pre-cruise stay, the ship, the service, the dining, the entertainment, and most importantly, the ports of call, was everything we hoped it would be. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was ... Read More
Sanitation: poor. We departed Venice on Oct. 23, 2008, for the 17-day cruise and it wasn't until Oct. 27 that passengers were notified the GI virus had infected passengers on the preceding cruise. By that time the virus was spreading on our cruise and hundreds of passengers became ill. The extensive but belated efforts to encourage hand washing should have been initiated the first day we boarded and passengers should have been IMMEDIATELY informed of the virus danger. Being sick or weak from the illness for nearly one-third of the cruise took much of the enjoyment out of our trip. And it was insulting to hear the repeated announcements that such shipboard virus outbreaks are common. They are not, and this was the first cruise we have been on where there was such an outbreak. It was amusing that we were diverted from our scheduled port stop at Half Moon Cay because another Holland America ship was there, and instead docked at Nassau, where four or five cruise ships from other cruise lines were docked. Apparently infecting them was of no concern. Food: inconsistent quality. Sometimes the beef was wonderful, other times it was so tough it couldn't be cut with a knife. The veal would be good one time and awful the next. The baked goods (as cookies) were only fair. The dining room food often arrived cold (as did the room service coffee) and service was very slow. Overall the food quality was not nearly as good as on our previous cruises. Passengers: there were more poorly dressed passengers than we have ever seen before (such as one man wearing a tee-shirt in the dining room on formal night). Perhaps because of airline luggage restrictions cruise ships may have to entirely give up on any dress code. There seemed to be less courtesy among the passengers than usual, perhaps because of the virus. Entertainment: very good variety and quality. Embarkation/Debarkation: Both were very poorly organized. Hurriedly dumping 1,800 passengers into a processing building which had only two immigration inspectors to handle us was ridiculous. Apparently Holland America wanted to begin a belated thorough disinfecting process ASAP before the next cruise passengers boarded. One report was that their scheduled morning boarding was delayed until 11 p.m.! (I wonder if the cleaning helped?) Laundry service: slow, and my $80 shirt had a hole punched in it. The cost for unlimited service was $120! But with no self-service laundry, there is not much alternative (unless you enjoy wearing dirty clothing or spending a lot of time washing in your cabin). On-board shops: average. Prices of course are almost always better for the same items in the ports, if you can find them. Cabin: The heating/cooling vent in the ceiling blows directly in your face, and if you have sinus problems this can be very uncomfortable. We taped it partially shut to divert the airflow. Our cabin was on the Navigation Deck, immediately below the Lido Deck swimming pool and outside bar dining area at the stern of the ship. The deck of our balcony was constantly soaked with water, apparently from the crew washing the deck immediately above us. The noise from the cleaning crew moving tables and chairs on the Lido Deck woke us up daily between 5 and 7 a.m. I would not recommend this cabin location, and wave motion would have been less felt on a lower deck. The cabin furnishings were worn, dirty and needed replacing. The bed was very comfortable. The day before we docked two crew members (not our room steward) knocked very briefly and then barged in on my wife in bed before she could reply, to empty the refrigerator. Interior stairways: They only have about a 10.5 inch horizontal surface, and can often cause mis-steps/falls. Poor design. Port stops: Average; it would have been nice to have visited Mykonos, Rhodes or Santorini. But of course we knew the itinerary in advance. Venice was great as always. Crew courtesy: excellent, under difficult circumstances. Both the cabin and dining room stewards are greatly overworked, probably another sign of cost-cutting by Holland America. Our hard-working cabin steward, for example, was responsible for about 30 cabins. Summary: Will we cruise Holland America again? Doubtful; probably back to Cunard. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We sailed HAL for the first time on the Zuiderdam, transatlantic, Venice - Ft. Lauderdale. It was the cruise from "Hell" for us. Embarkation of 1800 folks was chaotic.. hurry and wait, hurry and wait.. Just imagine folks ... Read More
We sailed HAL for the first time on the Zuiderdam, transatlantic, Venice - Ft. Lauderdale. It was the cruise from "Hell" for us. Embarkation of 1800 folks was chaotic.. hurry and wait, hurry and wait.. Just imagine folks in a warehouse with 10 - 20 counters checking you in and my wife and I with advanced "registration". The number of people on canes, walkers and "scooters" was impressive although we are not of that disability.. we appreciated the older folks who dared the transatlantic crossing. Our basis of comparison was six other cruises, including a transatlantic cruise on the QE II before she was purchased as a hotel. We even bought Carnival stock during the cruise, thinking that we would take advantage of the rumored discount if you owned Carnival stock for our future cruises. As we finally entered our stateroom (not ready when we boarded - but Lido Buffet allowed us to sit and have lunch and buy the $200 wine package) we noted, casually, a letter of "welcome" telling us about previous incidents of "norovirus" and advising us to wash hands frequently from day one. By day five, the buffet had saran wrap closing it in, all trays, silverware, etc. were handed to the guests by ship employees; all salt and pepper was removed and meal service in the dining room slowed to 1 1/2 to 2 hours (including breakfast).. public restrooms were considered off limits and "code red" was in effect. Our $250 thermal package which included the spa pool and thermal rooms were closed and we watched them scrub and clean these areas due to an out of control virus.. Rooms that reported the norovirus were specially handled with masked employees - cleaned and sanitized.. it was reported there were 300 passengers who fell to the virus. Our problems occurred when my wife was tossed into the bathtub during the one day of rough seas with "possible cracked ribs" according to the ship's doctor and the last six hours of the cruise when both of us contracted the norovirus. The nurse came twice during the night, administered a shot and medication to me and scolded my wife for waiting so long to report the symptoms. The virus was a severe case of "Montezuma's Revenge" that I've had in Mexico. It was as if a hand was grasping my intestines and squeezing them with the resulting diarrhea and vomiting for 4 hours. Since it was at the end of the voyage our stateroom was quarantined prior to disembarkation and we were gather with others separately and I was wheeled off the ship, through immigration, customs and onto the bus to Ft.Lauderdale airport where I was wheeled through Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati and St. Louis Missouri airports. I was absolutely debilitated and I had trouble holding up my head. We followed up with HAL in Seattle. We had already deposited and schedule our transatlantic crossing on the Eurodam for April, 2009 and have requested full refund of our deposit and reimbursement for costs of getting to departure gates at the various airports in November, 2008. We're anxious to see how HAL recognize our "pain and suffering" during out sixth cruise. We did find many experienced travelers on HAL, the ones we interacted with, were disappointed and said this was not up to HAL standards. Perhaps staff is less available given the cost cutting. Our cabin person confessed that he no long was responsible for 15 cabins but rather 30 as of this crossing. Our stateroom was cleaned and readied by 4 p.m. daily. I'm afraid that this Zuiderdam experience has queered our future sailings. We will think long and hard before we take any other cruise during our lifetimes. We have heard recently that the Regency Cruise Lines is expensive but worth the extra - no "nickle and dime" pestering for drinks and extras as we felt was the case on the Zuiderdam. Our ship board charges amounted to over $2,000 in addition to the cruise and air costs. We learned that many others paid far LESS for similar ship accommodations which was disappointing since we had deposited and reserved six months in advance and thought that we had be treated well. Little did we know that certain charter groups from Canada especially, were attracted by extreme bargain cruise and charter air prices. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Emerald Princess 10/03/08 TransAtlantic We did basically the same cruise last year and liked it so much we sailed it again this year. We spent 2 nights pre-cruise at the Hotel Al Ponte Antico on the Grand Canal very close to the ... Read More
Emerald Princess 10/03/08 TransAtlantic We did basically the same cruise last year and liked it so much we sailed it again this year. We spent 2 nights pre-cruise at the Hotel Al Ponte Antico on the Grand Canal very close to the Rialto Bridge. We had a Junior Suite overlooking the canal and the bridge. The hotel is not inexpensive (hotels in Venice are pretty pricey in general), but it was an excellent choice. It is family run and you are treated as a member of the family from the moment you arrive. We enjoyed it enough that we are booked for a stay there next October (2009). I will not comment on Entertainment Shows or the Casino because we did not go to either. Embarkation was simple and quick and we were on board before 1 PM. I will not say much about the physical aspects of the ship since much has been written about those except to make a comment about our cabin. We had a PH suite R 406. I was apprehensive about this suite because so many people have written about the noise levels from the Lido deck above. My fears were unfounded. We occasionally heard some walking overhead during the day, but at night it was quiet. Perhaps it's louder on a Caribbean cruise but even though I am a light sleeper I had no problems AT ALL. Service on board was uniformly excellent. We had one of the best cabin stewards we've ever had. In all the dining venues we had excellent and prompt service as well. We thought the food was also very good. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court and we found there to be something for most any taste. We had no difficulty finding a place to sit. We liked that silverware and napkins were placed on the tables and that your beverage order was taken and brought to you. That meant less juggling of things for us. As for dinner, we only ate in the Dining Room (we had Anytime Dining) five nights. We like the ambiance in Sabatinis and the Crown Grill better so we ate there multiple times. At Sabatinis we begin by telling the waiter that we only want the things we order, not the whole "experience" so we never leave feeling like stuffed turkeys. We found that even the menus in both places are fixed, we had enough choices that we didn't get bored eating there several times. We did not attend any shows and the only entertainers we heard were the musicians playing in Adagios, Crooners or in the Atrium. All sounded very good. Our favorite lounge is Adagio on the Emerald. The only activity we participated in was Trivia. Our impression was that there were plenty of activities available for people during the sea days. On most of the days crossing the Atlantic we spent the afternoon in the Sanctuary. We love the lounge chairs there and the place is conducive to relaxing which was just what we wanted. Tours: We took three ships' tours and did three private tours. In Naples we took the Elite tour to the Amalfi Coast (the same tour we did last year). Although it is expensive we thought it was worth it to go with a small group. As we did last year, we had lunch at Le Sireneuse Hotel in Positano which is one of the most beautiful places I can think of and the lunch was excellent too. We didn't regret taking the tour again. In Civitavecchia we took a ship's tour to city of Orvieto. The drive through the countryside was interesting and Orvieto was spectacular! The city is a naturally fortified medieval town with dramatic views of the surrounding countryside. The streets are narrow with lots of little shops, many of them selling magnificent ceramics for which Orvieto is known. The Duomo is renowned for its mosaic façade. The tour included lunch in a local Osteria and we had braised rabbit stuffed with olives and herbs, evidently a dish that the city is known for. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour as well and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try something other than Rome itself. In Livorno we took a ship's tour to Florence where we visited the Accademia to see "David" and then did a whirlwind walk to the Duomo, the PonteVecchio, past the Uffizi, Santa Croce and had a few minutes for shopping before proceeding outside the city to a beautiful Villa Hotel on the Arno for lunch. After another excellent meal we drove on to Pisa to visit the Leaning Tower and Field of Miracles. While it was great to see the Tower, I have to say that the carnival atmosphere of vendors outside was not to our taste. I had been to Pisa many years ago as a child and I didn't remember it quite the same way. Nevertheless it was worth seeing. In Cannes, I had booked a private tour for 8 of us with Revelation Tours. We had the same driver as last year, Cecile, and as last year she did an excellent job. This year we stopped first at the market in Antibes, which had just opened up as we arrived. I have never seen such fresh produce. The most interesting thing to me however were the spice vendors with their open bins of spices and herbs for sale. The smells were a symphony for the nose. Next we drove away from the coast to the village of Tourettes sur Loup, noted for its production of violets. The town sits perched on a mountainside with the houses forming a wall down the side of the mountain. The streets are reminiscent of Eze I think without being so steep. After a short stay we were on to St. Paul, my favorite. We wandered the streets and had a lovely lunch on a sun drenched terrace. We sampled some of the local wine which was excellent. I'm not a fan of rose wine, but the Cote de Provence rose we had was very dry and crisp and I loved it. Our final stop was Eze, another medieval village. Eze is spectacular but very hard on the legs since every is built on a steep hill. After a ride along the middle Corniche road we were back to Cannes and the tender dock after a wonderful day ashore with great companions. In Barcelona I had arranged for a car and driver to pick us up at the pier and take us to Montserrat. Last year we took the ship's tour there and we noticed then that there was a funicular going to the top of the mountain and a cog railroad going down, neither of which we had time to try last year. The driver took us up to the Monastery and dropped us off. We bought our ticket for the Funicular and took a nearly vertical ride up a couple of thousand feet to the top of the mountain. The view was to die for. When we went back down to the monastery level we stopped and bought some local cheese from one of the vendors there. We had bought some last year and brought it home. It was great so we had to replenish our supply. Next we boarded the cog railroad for the ride down the mountain to our waiting driver. The train ride also afforded great views. It was an expensive trip, but we wanted to do it one time. In Cadiz we had the only rainy day of the trip. It was Sunday and Columbus Day so the tour we wanted to take to Jerez was unavailable. Instead we wandered around the city which is eminently walkable. There is a very pretty cathedral and nearby is the sea wall from which you can get a nice view of the city. We stumbled upon the market area (the market was closed) but the area was bustling anyway with people going to Tapas bars and shopping at the local supermarket. As it started to rain harder we made our way back to the ship. Lisbon was our next port and it's one of my favorite. I had arranged a private tour for 8 of us to Sintra, Cap da Roca, Estoril, Cascais and back to Lisbon. We did the same tour last year and liked it enough to go again. When we arrived at the Palace of Pena in Sintra it was foggy and it lent an air of mystery to the turreted castle perched on the top of the hill. The town of Sintra was bustling with visitors. The ride out to Cap da Roca, the westernmost point on the European continental mainland was interesting and scenic as were the rides through Estoril and Cascais. Back in Lisbon we stopped at the cafe that serves the pastais de belem and all had one (am I obsessed with food or what) and visited the Belem Tower and the Discoverers monument. It was a great day with another great group of fellow tourists. Finally we stopped at Ponta Delgada in the Azores. The new terminal is right on the downtown waterfront and very convenient. The town is easy to walk around with lots of interesting shops and wonderfully friendly people. There is a lovely church to visit, an old fort and enough to keep you busy for a few hours. The last five days were spent chilling out as we transited the Atlantic. It was calm and fairly warm all the way. We passed within 275 miles of Omar during one night and I woke up at some point and we were doing some bouncing, but it wasn't bad. One day we passed some rain squalls off in the distance and we saw a rainbow. The last four cruises I've been on I've seen rainbows so I consider that to be a good omen. All in all it was an absolutely fantastic cruise with great shipmates. We liked it enough that we are doing the same cruise on the Ruby next year. I already have in mind some different things to see so I know we won't be bored. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained ... Read More
Seventeen days on the Zuiderdam - a very nice experience. There have been several reviews of this cruise, so I will try to comment on just a few pertinent areas. First: The noro virus. Some people have written that the ship remained silent about this problem for the first week or so of the cruise. I remember it differently. I specifically remember an announcement on embarkation day that there had been some cases of intestinal disorder on the previous cruise and advising passengers to take the appropriate precautions. There was also a written note to that effect in our suite. After 3 or 4 days, it became clear to the medical staff on board that the virus was still with the ship. There were announcements every day from that point on about the situation and reminders to be sanitary, wash hands, etc. I spent a day and a half in quarantine and felt that I got excellent, professional treatment. Every member of the crew pitched in and helped, particularly in food service where, because of the virus, passengers were not allowed to touch anything until it was on the plate. This was particularly cumbersome in the Lido Buffet. As a result lunches were not very enjoyable. I thought the officers, crew, and medical staff did everything they could to deal with this problem. The CDC calls this virus the second most common contagious disease(next to the cold.) The presence of such a virus in an enclosed environment presents most difficult challenges. I applaud the crew for their hard work and great attitude while dealing with this problem Two highlights: The quality of food at dinner time on this ship was as good as, or better than we have experienced in something over a dozen cruises. I have always thought that Holland America provided good, but not great food. They exceeded my expectations on this cruise. Every evening meal on this 17-day cruise was excellent! We enjoyed the meals in the main dining room and had three dinners in the Pinnacle Grill. The food in either venue was consistently outstanding. The Pinnacle Grill quality was slightly better and the service there was as good as I've seen. We have enjoyed wonderful meals on Crystal and Regent. Our experiences on this cruise were just as memorable. What a great surprise! The other highlight was the quality of the singing and dancing troupe on the ship. These young folks were more talented than any I have seen on a cruise ship. In a cast like this, I usually find one singer with great talent while the rest are just supporting. This cast had 4 singers, and each one was tremendous. The dancing and showmanship of the entire cast brings a smile to my face even now. One "lowlight": "As You Wish Dining" doesn't work very well on Zuiderdam. Indeed, we began to refer to it as "As the Zuiderdam wishes dining." We tried advance reservations. (They don't take reservations during the most desirable dining times - so if you want a reservation you must eat before 6 or after 8:30.) We tried showing up "when we wanted to dine with whom we wanted" (as the ads say). Each appearance at the restaurant was an adventure. We were shown to tables that were already occupied. We were told that there were no tables for four, only to get to the room and see several empty tables for four. Then, on other nights everything worked very well. There may be a way to make this system work. If so, Zuiderdam hasn't discovered it. Although a problem, it was overcome by the outstanding food we enjoyed once we were seated. One final comment. I'd read in various reviews that the decor of the Zuiderdam was rather gaudy. This must have been mitigated in the ship's most recent drydock. We felt that the ship was very tastefully decorated and had no complaints at all in that regard. Summary: The cruise was excellent despite the nagging presence of the noro virus. The outstanding attitude and amazing hard work by the crew is what made the cruise enjoyable despite the big challenges they faced. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class ... Read More
We are a couple from south Florida who booked this cruise as an (early) celebration of my 60th birthday. Because of a small inheritance, we had some extra money, so we really "splurged" on this cruise! We flew business class from Miami to Zurich to Venice, and booked a deluxe suite on the Zuiderdam in the stern of the ship with a huge, wrap around balcony. We flew into Venice a couple days early and stayed at a great B&B near St. Mark's Square. It was great to have extra time in that magical city, but it wasn't near enough. We boarded our lovely ship at around 13:30 Thursday, October 23rd. It was a little disorganized and, although we went to the shorter line for suite check-ins, it didn't really matter because there was a huge line for the security scans. No matter. Even with the long line, it only took us about 20 minutes or so to get aboard. Although it was close to 14:00, a staff member greeting us as we boarded said that our rooms weren't ready. So, we went up to the Neptune Lounge to wait. But when we reached there, they cheerfully informed us that, of course our suite was ready and escorted us to our room. What a room! We'd had an SS suite before on the Westerdam, and the SC cabin was similar, but with some nice additions. Six roomy closets, half with optional shelves, cabinet space all over the room; a dressing room with a three-drawer vanity; and a huge balcony! I practically lived on that balcony. I don't know if we would have gotten so much use out of a side balcony because it was cold and stormy during some of the trip. But our completely covered balcony was out of the wind and weather if you didn't go over to the side section. I'd never had a wake cabin before and found the sound of the water hypnotic. It sounded like a waterfall (Niagara?) and I found my eyes closing too often as I sat out there and gazed at the water. The room was in good shape, though there was a slight stain on the carpet. Our cabin steward, Dedi, was fantastic, going beyond the call of duty several times during the cruise. The sailaway in Venice was breathtakingly beautiful. We enjoyed it from the Crow's Nest as we met our fellow Cruise Critic cruisers from our roll call. We had an extremely active roll call and about 60 of us showed up at the Meet and Greet. It was great to have "friends" aboard whom you'd been "talking" to online for ages as we all anticipated our upcoming cruise. Sorta like having a ready-made family aboard. It really increased our enjoyment of the cruise to have friends to hang with on shore excursions and on the ship. The hotel manager, Mark, was very welcoming to us. He attended both the first Meet & Greet, but also our second one on our first sea day. Then he surprised us with a special luncheon for CC'ers at the Pinnacle Grill. What a treat that was!! HAL has a reputation for good service, and it lived up to its reputation as far as we were concerned. We had great service in the dining room with waiter Ali and assistant waiter, Kadek. They were so sweet and went out of their way to anticipate our needs. All the crew, especially those that worked in food service, were working double and triple time because of the extra burden of being under Code Red for most of the cruise. Yet, almost every one of the crew and staff we had any dealings with were unfailingly polite and professional. We had no complaints whatsoever about the service on the Zuiderdam. We really disliked what they've done to the Crow's Nest - adding the internet cafe and library. Why would anyone put a library and nightclub in the same room?? It has completely destroyed the ambiance of the Crow's Nest, which used to be our favorite place to enjoy a drink and do a little dancing. Adding the screening room was a nice touch on deck 3, but we never got to see a movie there because the seats were always taken. There also seemed to be fewer shops with fewer choices than we had seen on the Westerdam in March 07. We both found the food to be excellent in both the dining room and lido. Loved all the ice cream choices - totally free. Nothing feels like "vacation" as an ice cream cone. And, of course, the scrumptious bread pudding with vanilla sauce!! Pinnacle Grill was great for dinner and breakfast. We didn't see as many shows as we normally do. Part of that was because the entertainers were sick with Noro virus. But mainly the problem was the change of time for the shows. We had fixed dining at 8pm. In order to see a show, we had to go to the 7pm one, which was just too early for us, especially days we were in port. We used to enjoy the 10 pm shows very much, so were disappointed with the change of times. Again, can't figure the logic of whomever made that decision. We greatly enjoyed all the ports: Dubrovnik, Corfu, Sicily (Taurmina), Rome, Cartegena, Cadiz, and Madeira. The only complaint I had about the ships tour in Rome was that we couldn't hear the tour guide on the headsets. Combination of static and a heavy accent. We used CC - especially our roll call - to guide what we did at each port. Our fellow cruisers were informative and helpful. Yes, I got the noro virus despite taking all precautions, but, thankfully, it was while we were making the crossing, so I didn't miss any of the ports. The medical staff, the Neptune Lounge, and our cabin steward all were wonderful about taking care of me and making sure we had everything we needed. Didn't like getting sick, but at least had a great room to be quarantined in! Used the spa a lot, and the quality of their services (massages, seaweed wraps, etc.) was great! Love the wrap around promenade on the HAL ships. Loved the piano bar, cigars under the stars. Too many things to count, and this review is already long. We had a fantastic time on our "cruise of a lifetime." We might not be able to afford to go all out again, but are already planning a Hawaiian cruise on the Zaandam - probably in a regular balcony room. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
We recently returned from the now infamous transatlantic crossing on the Zuiderdam and even though I have never posted a review of any other ship before, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this cruise experience. Prior to sailing, I ... Read More
We recently returned from the now infamous transatlantic crossing on the Zuiderdam and even though I have never posted a review of any other ship before, I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this cruise experience. Prior to sailing, I read reviews of the Z that were filled with complaints regarding sewage odors, disrepair of the ship, and a lack of attention from the crew. Frankly, those reviews made me apprehensive to embark on our transatlantic journey on this ship. I tried to prepare myself for a cruise that was not up to Holland America's standards and perhaps a less than stellar than usual. In retrospect, the only times that I had that were not positive were when we were told that the Captain decided to substitute Nassau for my beloved Half Moon Cay to spare the Westerdam the notorious norovirus that had been sailing with us for most of the journey—the Westerdam was sharing the island with us that day. Instead, we had to spend eight hours in Nassau with thousands of cruise passengers from five other ships rather than on an idyllic private island. The other time I was unhappy was when we were disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale and reality was setting in that our wonderful cruise was over and it was time to return to our life on land. We were part of the Cruise Critic roll call group and the ship treated us well by hosting two gatherings for us in the Crow's Nest which included drinks and hors d'oeurves. We also received formal invitations from the hotel manager, Mark Pells, to a lovely lunch in the Pinnacle Grille. Speaking of Mark, what an ambassador he is for this ship and HAL. He was very entertaining and informative along with approachable, gracious, and generous in spite of the difficult conditions he was confronted with on this sailing. Our journey began in Venice where we spent two nights prior to sailing, too short a period of time, in this magical town. While there I felt that if the cruise was not what we hoped for, I would still be content because we had the opportunity to experience the essence of what makes Venice so unique. When it came time to board the ship, the terminal became chaotic after a while with a check-in system that broke down and if fault needs to be assigned, I would have to assign it to the terminal staff who stopped communicating with the passengers waiting to check in—in some instances for a lengthy period of time. I witnessed passengers who were so irate that they kicked their carry on luggage, stomped around the terminal, and uttered expletives that made your ears blush. I guess that they were anxious to get in that line in the Lido to start their 17-day feeding frenzy! Perhaps I am being too hard on them. Some had just arrived from the States and were exhausted but I don't feel that a lack of decorum is justified even under those circumstances. We boarded after waiting about an hour and were ushered/herded to the Lido because our cabins were not ready. We had the usual welcome aboard Lido lunch and sooner rather than later, we were able to go to our cabin where I was expecting stains, tears, marks, and grime. None of the above was present. Our carpeting even looked fairly new. No complaints so far except our verandah only had one chair and an ottoman even though it could accommodate another chair. We ended up putting the chair in the cabin out there when we wanted to enjoy the verandah together. Problem solved. We opted for As You Wish Dining which we had chosen for the first time on a recent cruise on the Prinsendam and I must say that I thought it was much more efficient on the Z than on the previous cruise. The only time we had to wait was when we made a reservation so we never made one again and we were always seated immediately. We tended to go to the dining room around 7:00 or 8:00 and ended up very pleased with how expediently we were seated. Most nights we chose to be seated with others and one or two nights we opted for a table for two. No problem. We enjoyed our meal in the Pinnacle as we always do. The food and the service was outstanding, and the atmosphere peaceful and elegant. My husband had the filet which he said was one of the best he has ever had and I had the halibut and king crab leg and both were prepared perfectly. Of course my meal was completed with the chocolate volcano that is just decadent and delicious and my husband enjoyed the triple crème brulee. We rarely go to the Lido for dinner, but we experienced rough seas one night and decided to eat lightly and thought that would be a good alternative for us. It was not our favorite dining experience. I remember when that alternative dinner service was first initiated on HAL. White table cloths adorned the candlelit tables, you went through the line for your appetizer and salad, then placed your order for your entree which was then served to you when it was ready. That is either no longer something HAL offers or it is not available on the Z. There were no tablecloths, etc. and you get all of your food just like you would at lunch time. We prefer the dining room even though we observed the dining stewards and their assistants serving several more passengers than usual. One of the head waiters told us that each steward has between 20 and 26 passengers at any time. Quite a difference from the good old days when they had two tables that were on the same course at the same time. In spite of the increase in the numbers served, we were impressed with how seamless it all was accomplished. They are a hard working staff and their work became more difficult as the virus multiplied and the ship was under the dreaded Code Red. No more salt and pepper shakers on the tables, bread and butter was passed, cream and sugar was only handled by the wait staff. Everyone who worked on the ship was doing double duty. We did a double take one morning when one of the women who played the violin in the string quartet in the Explorers Lounge was dishing up the French toast in the Lido. You saw constant cleaning and polishing going on. Purell dispensers were everywhere and you began to feel like you were bathing in it. All of the captain's and cruise director's announcements included the daily count of those newly afflicted followed by pleadings to wash your hands thoroughly. Most took this seriously but there were those who felt they were immune or special and who had different rules for themselves. This was our second transatlantic and when we were in the middle of the Atlantic the first time, I don't remember it being noted by the staff. Well, that was not the case on this sailing. In the middle of the Atlantic, in the middle of the afternoon, on a beautiful, sunny day, a party was held at the aft pool that included the ugliest fish (purchased in Madeira) that you could possibly imagine grilled poolside for our eating pleasure and in spite of its appearance, it was yummy. Along with accompaniments to the fish was an OPEN BAR. When was the last time you were on a cruise that had an OPEN BAR?! For me, never. What a generous gesture and one that was greatly appreciated by the passengers. Our Cruise Director, Jason (fondly called Yason by the Captain), was dressed as Neptune and before we knew it, officers were invited to jump into the Atlantic (the pool) clothes and all! Passengers were invited to join them and we had a few Cruise Critic members who took the plunge! They are among the few that can say they swam in the middle of the Atlantic! Thank you Holland America for a fun time! I have to be honest and say that we usually are not big fans of HAL entertainment but that changed on this cruise. The quality of the performers particularly the pianist and the flautist were world class and the production numbers with the state-of-the-art sets and special effects were the most enjoyable entertainment we've experienced on any ship in a long time. We loved the itinerary which is why we chose this crossing and are grateful for the extraordinary efforts the staff put forth to make our experience the best it could be under the difficult circumstances. Would I sail on this ship again? You betcha! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
I am 61 years old and have been on several cruises before although not with Holland America. On this cruise I travelled with my wife and another couple who are also very experienced travellers. We like to dance and enjoy experiences not ... Read More
I am 61 years old and have been on several cruises before although not with Holland America. On this cruise I travelled with my wife and another couple who are also very experienced travellers. We like to dance and enjoy experiences not available in our home towns. Our first shock came when we went to the dance bar on a Saturday night to find there was no band. Instead, there was a three piece combo playing songs like Moon River. You can imagine the type of dancing you can do to those kinds of tunes. This continued throughout the trip and even when there was a band it finished at 11:30. In the afternoons many cruise ships have activities around the pool. I mistakenly assumed this was the same on this ship. To my great disappointment the only entertainment was a single piano player who entertained for one hour with such rousing tunes as Moon River. I assumed this was to not wake the dozens of people fast asleep by the pool. Even the nightly entertainment was over by 10:00 PM so we were forced to go to the 7:00 PM show before our 8:00 dinner seating. To their credit there was a disco, which I describe as an unimaginative hole in the wall with irritating strobe lights. The disc jockey could not figure out whether to play 50's, 60's or RAP so it became more annoying than pleasurable. There were many other irritants such as no iron, having to go through the main switchboard anytime you wanted the steward or other service, entertainment scheduled during your dinner hour and insulting social staff. Also, the Pinnacle Grill, which is their marquis dining room, served us the worst fish I have ever tasted. It had the texture of a rubber ball. This dining room is $10 extra for lunch ad $20 for dinner. Of course this was above the GI on board. Speaking of the GI the crew kept insisting the number was around 22 when in fact the actual number was closer to 300. The crew also refused to give any information on the spread of the GI other than wash your hands. Did you know the virus can last up to 21 days on a surface? I found this out after I left the ship. My warning is this. If you are under 70 or can actually dance something faster than a waltz, do not go on this ship. If you like to have fun and actually laugh do not go on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
DW and I are in our 50's. This was our 8th cruise but our first on princess. I booked the cruise and airfare via princess. I also paid extra for the business class upgrade. It was expensive, but well worth it for the 10 1/2 ... Read More
DW and I are in our 50's. This was our 8th cruise but our first on princess. I booked the cruise and airfare via princess. I also paid extra for the business class upgrade. It was expensive, but well worth it for the 10 1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt and then hour flight to Venice. We opted for a two night stay in Venice prior to the cruise. This was laso booked via princess. We stayed at the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal. Very nice hotel despite the room being a little small. We had one dinner at the hotel's restaurant which was a little expensive and nothing special. The princess rep at the hotel was extremely knowledgeable and very helpful answering any questions. Our hotel was right on the grand canal and a very short distance from St. Mark's Square. St. Mark's square was fantastic at night. We sat and ate some desert while we listened to some great live music. We also did a night gondola ride which was also very nice. One thing I found, via information from the local princess rep, was I could have saved a lot of money if I booked the gondola ride when I arrived instead of purchasing it online. On embarkation day, after a short water taxi ride, we arrived at the ship terminal. Embarkation, for the most part, went well. One thing that surprised me is this was the first time we had to find our own way to the cabin. We had a penthouse suite (R412) on rivera deck. Our cabin steward was average and our room was always clean. The Emerald princess was a beautiful ship. It was always clean and the crew always had smiles on their faces and did their best to ensure we had everything we needed. We had late seating traditional dining in the Botticelli dining room. Our waiter Anatoly from Romania and his assistant Maria from Mexico were great. The main dining room food was good to very good. We ate at both Sabitini's and the Crown grill. Sabitini's was amazing with tons of food offered...HINT (Go Hungry). The Crown Grill was average and really didn't wow us. The Horizon court was your typical buffet food. Cafe Caribe was nothing special. We also tried the offerings at the International cafe and I tried the sushi at Vines. All food at these two venues was very reasonably priced and good to very good. The hamburgers at the Trident grill were great and we also enjoyed the pizza. We didn't see any of the main production shows, but saw several funny comedians in the explorer's lounge. Our overall experience with the Emerald princess was great with only a couple of exceptions. I had pre bought a bottle of champagne that I wanted in our cabin for sailaway. With all our previous cruises, the champagne was waiting in an ice bucket when we arrived in the room. With princess there was a voucher and I had to call room service and request the champagne be delivered. My only real disappointment with the Emerald was for the money I spent on our PH suite, I feel I should have gotten more. The cabin itself was smaller I thought it should be. The balcony was also very narrow and made for little room for the upgraded wood furniture. Our shore excursions were all done private with other cruise critic members. All ports visited were great and we had a grand time. It was nice only having a maximum of 8 people in the van instead of a bus full of people. We had to pass on Rome however as my DW's back got overworked on our 2 hour walk through Pompeii the day prior. The stop at Ponta Delgado was also very short. We could have used a lot more time here. They also recently opened a new dock area that is very nice. The five days at sea were wonderful.. We only had one day of rough seas as we had to deviate south from our intended course as a result of hurricane Omar. All in all, with the exception of the sub par value of our penthouse suite, the cruise was a great time. Our fellow cruise critic buddies also made the cruise one for the record books. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
The Zuiderdam is a lovely ship with nice amenities, such as a 3 deck high theater, glass outside elevators, a nice view astern in the lower dining room, a large and diverse buffet, a pool area with a removable cover. The ship had evidently ... Read More
The Zuiderdam is a lovely ship with nice amenities, such as a 3 deck high theater, glass outside elevators, a nice view astern in the lower dining room, a large and diverse buffet, a pool area with a removable cover. The ship had evidently recently had renovations as the deck map available did not show the internet access area and library had been moved from the promenade deck, Deck 3, to the Crow's Nest on Deck 10. This made room for additional shop space and a small movie theater on Deck 3. The dining arrangements are either fixed dinner in the upper dining room, or anytime dining in the lower dining room. Breakfast (usually 8:00 - 9:30) and lunch (12:00—1:00, except there is no table service in port) are anytime dining in one dining room or the other. There is no fixed seating for either of these meals. I found the breakfast, lunch, and dinner anytime dining room service is completely dysfunctional. It is impossible to obtain a complete meal as ordered in a timely manner. A couple examples, I ordered the breakfast special, two eggs with grits, with a side of ham at about 9:15. I received the dish, without the ham, after everyone at the table was finished at about 10:20 and waited 10 minutes more for the ham, or another time a person at our table was told they were out of oatmeal. Later in the cruise we found that by waiting until near 9:00 pm to enter the dining room for dinner, the service was better. This may have been due to the lack of a crowd, or the number of complaints resulting in an improved effort. The service in the dining room appears intended to drive one to the buffet, at least for breakfast and lunch. There are some nice touches in the buffet, namely fresh cooked stir fry and pasta dishes for lunch and made to order omelets and egg benedict for breakfast. Dinner selections available were usually similar to the dishes available in the dining room. When GI illness is present the ability to serve oneself is removed and the service in the buffet becomes iffy, meaning it is often difficult to communicate with the serving staff to obtain what is desired, and the lines are often long. The cleaning personnel appeared to be lacking in training or experience. We were in deck chairs on the promenade deck one afternoon and were splashed by water hitting a nearby boat. Then a second splash occurred, and I got up as the third salvo hit. Looking up I saw a room steward cleaning a balcony two decks up. With the sickness on the ship it is easy to imagine the worse as to what he was cleaning and tossing off the balcony. Room cleanliness was hit or miss, an example is I wiped up a coffee stain on the bathroom floor after our room was made up for the day. Beverage service personnel are prevalent on the upper decks and in the bars and theater prior to shows. There is a wine card available that provides 20 glasses of a limited wine selection for a fixed price of about $80. The card evidently is not highly thought of by the staff as the first time I tried to use it the server took our order prior to a show, punched the card, and I never saw him again, no wine, nothing. From then on I waited to see the wine before allowing them to punch the card. The GI illness on the ship was a holdover from the previous voyage. There were no precautions taken at the start of the voyage to avoid its spread, and it quickly showed up either due to a lack of cleanliness or a carryover of sick people from the previous voyage. The state of the epidemic was given daily in the afternoon status briefing at the beginning, but soon was not mentioned after measures to stop the spread of the disease were ineffective. We had an itinerary change near the end of the voyage. The last port was suppose to the Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, which serves other Holland America ships. It was decided to go to Nassau instead. This decision was obviously made to avoid contaminating the other company ships. In response to the GI illness, after our voyage a general cleaning was undertaken prior to boarding the new passengers. Of course if the crew is infected this will be ineffective. I hope the new passenger take every precaution themselves to avoid illness. My personal defense was to avoid the gym and spa, don't touch anything on the meal table, and when in the buffet use only one hand to touch serving utensils, don't touch plates or glasses with that hand, and then disinfect hands after obtaining food and prior to eating. Even with the no touch policy in place I found myself disinfecting my hands after obtaining anything at the buffet. Since the hot tubs were closed the entire voyage I didn't have to avoid them, but this would be a good idea if they are available. Entertainment in the theater varied from non-existent on a couple nights to very good performances from some individual artists. There were also two pianists, a string quartet, and a dance band available in the bars. I'd give entertainment overall a C, as it provided what you'd expect on a cruise ship catering to an older crowd. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
My wife and I love watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel. On one show she took her first cruise. She was on her balcony sipping champagne while the ship sailed out of Venice - along the Grand Canal. Well - that was it! We ... Read More
My wife and I love watching Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel. On one show she took her first cruise. She was on her balcony sipping champagne while the ship sailed out of Venice - along the Grand Canal. Well - that was it! We looked at each other and said in unison - "We HAVE to do the same!" So - this cruise is all Samantha Brown's fault. Next step was to look for a cruise. We quickly found the HAL Zuiderdam cruise from Venice to Fort Lauderdale departing October 23, 2008. We usually book Category E but when we saw the small difference for a balcony we quickly decided to follow in Samantha's footsteps. We were so glad we did. We selected a cabin on the port side since it would be on the sunny side crossing the Atlantic. This turned out perfectly - also considering that the port side gave us the best views of Venice during the "sail away." We also liked this repositioning cruise since it was more than just a transatlantic crossing. The ports were all interesting - Dubrovnik, Corfu, Messina, Civitavecchia, Cartegena, Cadiz, Madeira, and Half Moon Cay (the latter was changed to Nassau during the cruise.) I have to admit we were somewhat apprehensive about the Zuiderdam due to some negative reviews on CC. We did not encounter the problems of other reviewers. Our cabin was well maintained, no odors, no spots on the carpet, etc. that were reported in other reviews. Of course, having traveled by land to over 90 countries and to many third world locations, we have developed the attitude that you make of travel what you put into it. I suppose we are the "glass is half full" types. If you want everything to be just like the US, don't leave home. We also look for the best experience for the money - and this cruise definitely hit the mark on cost for value, in our view. We ended up paying about $147 per day for the cruise in a VD category verandah - each. Just before departure, the cruise was discounted further from what we heard. Since we own stock in Carnival, we received $250 ship board credit which is always nice! One way airfares can be expensive but we found a wonderful deal on Aer Lingus from LAX to Dublin - $430 per person. We stayed in Dublin for two nights and then flew on to Venice on Aer Lingus - 32 Euros and 29 Euros tax!!! We arrived in Venice about 5 weeks before the cruise and spent two weeks in an apartment near Assisi and 10 nights in an apartment in Venice. We also spent a few nights in hotels near Padua and on Lake Garda. We love staying in one place for an extended period to really get to know a place. We often use www.vrbo to find apartments. The cruise was excellent in our view. There will be those who disagree but we loved our time on the Zuiderdam. This cruise did make the news due to a large outbreak of norovirus - my wife got it even though we used so much Purell that it was probably in our blood stream! We thought the ship handled the emergency well. The ship substituted Nassau for Half Moon Cay - the hot and humid environment in the tenders could have been a perfect environment for spreading the virus even more. We thought that was a good decision. The main negative in our view was the boarding process in Venice - but this was the fault of the port agent I am sure. I am writing HAL about the boarding process - along with the positives of course. The check-in process was total confusion and with many people just arriving from long flights and with jetlag, it made for a "the Perfect Storm." Dubrovnik was an excellent port - nice weather - not too hot. We found a taxi driver at the dock who took us on an hour drive around and above the city for some lovely views. His English was excellent and he told us about the war years. He dropped us at the "back" entrance to the city which was not at all crowded. There is an entrance to the city walls near this entrance that was also not crowded. This is a great city for just walking around the picturesque streets. When we left, we got a taxi quickly from the "back" entrance. When we drove by the main entrance on the way back, it was a zoo! Since the taxi was one price, it was actually not a lot more than the ship's shuttle. You can walk from the port but it is a long way and we thought it would take away too much of our time in port to walk. Corfu was a fun stop but it is obvious this is a party island a lot of the year. In late October it was calm. We rented a car from an agency recommended on a CC board. They met us at the cruise terminal parking lot, gave us maps, advice and we were off! Driving on Corfu was not a problem for us - but then again I have been driving in Europe for 40 years including a year living in England. My wife navigates and I drive. We also love the "roundabouts" in Europe. Our record is going around the circle 4 times looking for the right road! In Messina, we were only in port until 2pm so we took a tour organized by another Cruise Critic "roll caller." This was about our only day with rain but we had a "blast!" Went to the village where the first Godfather movie was filmed! Also visited Taoromina but this is when the heavens opened so we spent time in a cafe watching the world go by - one of our favorite activities anyway! We were impressed with the scenery along the roads in Sicily and want to go back for an extended visit. In Civitavecchia, we opted not to take the long jaunt into Rome, having been there several times before. The prospect of a long day on the train and fighting the crowds in Rome did not appeal. Our trusty excursions organizer, Liz, put together a wonderful excursion for 8 of the Roll Call group. We visited Bagnoregio, Orvieto, and Tarquinia. Bagnoregio is one of Rick Steves favorite places and we AGREE! Be prepared for a hike across an uphill bridge - no other way to get there. When we arrived there was fog, the bridge seemed to head straight up into heaven - we could not see where we were going! Well worth the climb. Orvieto is wonderful - we have been there before but a return visit was one of our favorites of the trip. Tarquinia has Etruscan tombs that we wanted to see but they were closed on a Monday. Of all the nerve to close when we want to be there! :) Cartegena, Spain is a new stop for cruise ships from what we know. We just walked around the city - the ship docked almost in the downtown. It is a charming place - not fabulous - but quite nice. Of course, the best part was stopping for hot chocolate (more like hot pudding) and churros. Heaven! We have been to Cadiz twice before. On previous stops we enjoyed the hop on hop off bus and then walking around the old town. This time we were in Cadiz on a Thursday - a day when the Royal Spanish Riding School has a show in Jerez de la Fontera. We bought tickets from their website on line and rented a car in Cadiz from National. Due to the starting time of the show, we were worried about the train or bus. As it turned out, the bus would have worked especially since the terminal is virtually across the street from the dock. Another Roll Call couple did this and beat us to the Riding School! Due to some road construction in downtown, our walk to the National office took a little longer than planned but it was still quite close. Finding the school was a little tough - get a good map, ours was very basic. The show was incredible! The Sandman sherry bodega is next door so we went there after the horse shore. The tour costs but it includes tasting of several kinds of sherry. We opted for the tour, tasting, and tapas! Great fun! Madeira was wonderful - again our Cruise Critic Roll Call tour organizer Liz did a fabulous job. We had the best driver/guide of the trip. Our tour included the west side of the island and some spectacular scenery. It was a rainy - no sunny - no rainy day! :) This all day (8am to about 4pm) tour was only 36 Euros per person including lunch. And the lunch was incredibly good and plentiful. The Atlantic crossing had some rough seas "here and there" but we don't mind rocking and rolling. Sea days are almost our favorites - having perfected the art of doing nothing. We were disappointed that the Zuiderdam did not have the day of the week mats in the elevators - how can we know what day it is on a transatlantic crossing? :) The substitute port of Nassau was OK - but with so many ships in port it was a bit of a zoo! Enjoyed just walking around! The entertainment on the ship was good - we love the cast shows. Comedians are not our "thing" but several of those who went liked them. Our favorite was Sally Jones who we have heard on other cruises. She really can sing....wonderful! The food was very good - we enjoyed having dinner in the Lido most nights. This was our first cruise where we did not bring formal wear - not wanting to drag it around Italy for five weeks before the cruise. We ended up liking our decision. The crew on HAL always "makes" the cruise for us. They are so friendly. I would really like to know how they remember so many names! One of the stewards in the Lido - "Hunky Dory" - memorizes at least 700 names per cruise according to the Hotel Manager and I believe it. The most incredible thing for us was seeing a steward we thought we recognized. He came up to us and said, "Hi, I'm Buddy. I was on the Statendam in April and just arrived on the Zuiderdam - isn't your name Doug?" Unbelievably we had been on the Statendam from Hong Kong to Vancouver in April/May. How do they do it? All in all - we had a great time! I never know whether I can mention tour operators or give their email addresses so I have not. If anyone is interested, you can email me at doug.clark@cox.net and I will give you this information. Doug Clark Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
The boarding in Venice was a zoo! We were there at 11:30 for a 5PM sail and there was already a crowd. No organization. We finally just got into a line and half way thru, someone asked us for a number. We explained that we never got a ... Read More
The boarding in Venice was a zoo! We were there at 11:30 for a 5PM sail and there was already a crowd. No organization. We finally just got into a line and half way thru, someone asked us for a number. We explained that we never got a number. They shrugged and passed us on. Overheard many guests comment later that that's just the way it's done in Italy! The ship was in dry dock in April, '08 for refurbishing. As we heard from many, there was no deck plan map of the ship in our welcome packet. I got a couple from the front desk - it was the map of the decks six months earlier, before the refurb. At least half a dozen public rooms had been deleted or relocated, however the old map was the only map available. At least the diagrams at the elevators were correct. Cabin was perfect - Verandah w/balcony - nothing like stepping outside when you want a breath of fresh air and to catch the fantastic sun rise/sets and the island passes. The Mediterranean was very warm for the end of October and we often couldn't get the room cool enough for comfort - reported, but not repaired. The mini-bar wasn't very cold - it was explained that it was only a cooler and not meant to be a refrigerator. It's performance degraded and warmed to room temperature about 12 days into the cruise - reported, but never repaired. The food was very good in all restaurants including room service. The lamb was often a bit overcooked but the beef was perfect - don't know how they do it. While there was Prime Rib available in the Lido & Vista dining rooms, there was no rib-eye steak in the Pinnacle Grill, but the porterhouse steak was a masterpiece! All that wonderful beef and no horseradish to be found anywhere! The Culinary Arts classes were reasonably priced, well organized, informative and just plain lots of fun! Bar staff were always friendly, exceptional! I joked with one bartender that the can of Miller MGD that was served was past the expiration date on the bottom of the can and they stopped serving it. We had a grumpy waiter one AM for breakfast in the Vista and had dinner twice in the Pinnacle Grill where service was a bit slow. The PG wine steward made a point of making you feel guilty for not ordering the PG premium wines, even tho you might have already signed up for the much promoted 3-5-7 bottle wine packages. Also in the PG, I pointed out that the after dinner drink prices on the dessert menu were quite a bit more than on the wine list for the same item, she snapped that she would charge me whatever I wanted and snatched the menus from me explaining that they hadn't been updated yet.......since April, like the deck map? Kitchen walk-thru tour was crowded, but not to be missed. Was very disappointed to learn that we would be passing thru the Straits of Gibraltar at 3:30AM. One of the landmarks of the world would be missed! They should have skipped Cartegena, passed thru the Straits in daylight, and spent more time in Cadiz! I still got up in the middle of the night and ran up to the Observation Deck to stare in wonder at two different continents, each only four miles away and the transition from one major body of water to another! Shore excursions - we took a wide variety from all day Rome tours to walk-it-ourselves. Found all arranged by HAL to be fact-filled & valuable. The Mt.Etna/Messina excursion had to be cancelled due to a stalled bus (not ours), on narrow roads. The guide was still great and tour amount was refunded. Enrichment - The lectures were well planned and informative, although I did tend to nod off at times. Presenters need to take a basic course in PowerPoint for more entertaining and detailed graphics that will play well on TV replays next day on cabin TV's. Had the second best massage of my life. Ask for Leah..... There were major problems with the communications systems: • Unequal audio levels between TV channels - a simple equipment adjustment but indicates lack of monitoring/maintenance. • Intermittent/geographical reception of some channels like CNN. Explanation given was that CNN/HAL had licensing issues by geography or we were out of satellite 'footprint'. Fox News was delivered by phone line satellite technology and often locked-up/froze. This was national election week here folks, I'm sure a deal could have been worked out so CNN could have been delivered by phone lines also and wouldn't have minded another 2500+ audience for their advertisers. This would been a good balance to present the other political bias. • It was confirmed prior to trip and we were assured that cell phones would be available by both HAL, SeaMobile and their parent company, WMS. Their website says: "Always On - Always Available" global VSAT services through its MTN Satellite Services division to insure connectivity virtually anywhere in the world, however, the cell phones worked until we left Madeira island and never worked again until we reached Nassau and connected to the land-based roaming system there. Also, I confirmed with WMS prior to sailing that cell text service would be available - it never worked. The HAL staff just shrugged their shoulders and said they would report the service & text problems. Perhaps they sold more of their own phone cards that way - • HAL phone cards were a convenient and 'inexpensive' way to "phone home". Without the card, if you called direct from your cabin phone, the charges are about $8/minute, when SeaMobile cell service worked, their charges would be $2.49/minute and the HAL cards were 12 minutes for $25 = $2.08/minute. The frustrating part was the cards were only available in 12 minute chunks, no other time amounts available. How stupid! What marketing dunce dreamed up that amount? I don't know about you, but catching up with our two kids at home takes more than 12 minutes and you get disconnected at the end. If you call and get an answering machine in 15 seconds and hang up, the card deducts a whole minute. Very frustrating - get the cell phones working. It also allows someone on the ship to call and locate someone else on the ship by cell phone, if expensively needed. • My biggest complaint of the whole cruise was the appalling and pathetic internet service. The Zuiderdam was built in 2002 with wired internet outlets and capability in each & every cabin - probably now Ethernet capable. Granted, the original was a "dial-up" service but it was wired. The wired system was abandoned at the April, '08 refurb for a wireless system, ostensibly to facilitate shipboard 'Wi-Fi hot spots'. The wireless connections, in fact the wired connections in the Exploration Cafe, are no better than the most antiquated current dial-up available anywhere. If you retrieve your e-mail as most people do when traveling, by going to your ISP and using their webmail client, in my case Comcast.net, it costs you about $1 worth of access time just to get to your messages and start reading them. Take anytime at all answering a lengthy one, or do a little surfing for an item of interest and you agonizingly wait for the pages to load, while the time/dollars click away. Regardless if the connection is wired or wireless, apparently the bottleneck is the satellite connection and it's available bandwidth. My point is that HAL/SeaMoble/WMS is making money hand over fist at an average 50 cents per minute, they could certainly provide performance that is equal to already antiquated DSL (1 MBs) speeds. I swear, at times I thought I could rate my connection at a baud rate instead of KBs. You know darn well they're not surfing and communicating at those speeds up on the bridge, or in the officer's quarters…… Last, but not least, are comments about the Norovirus GI infections. Facts from the CDC: • Voyage Dates: 10/23-11/9 • Number of ill passengers out of total number of passengers: 262 of 1820 (14.4%) • Number of ill crew out of total number of crew: 17 of 794 (2.14%) Half Moon Cay, the HAL-owned island - next-to-the-last stop was bypassed due to the possible cross-contamination of another HAL ship visiting at the same time. We went to Nassau instead which was just fine, although I wonder how the Bahamanian's felt receiving a contaminated ship. We understood from conversations with staff, and even a letter in our 'welcome pack' that the ship was "Code Red" prior to us first embarking from the Barcelona to Venice leg of the prior cruise/voyage. If so, why were guests allowed to serve themselves for the first few days in the Lido as if nothing was out of the ordinary? Was the ship given an extraordinary cleaning prior to us boarding as it was after we left? I don't think so. Don't get me wrong! While on board, it was obvious the staff & crew were trying nearly everything possible to keep things clean and working long hours and even different jobs doing it. I saw Casino dealers slopping salads and even the ship's nurse serving. For the most part, they kept a good sense of humor while trying their best at keeping themselves and everyone healthy. My spouse and I never contracted anything but were diligent in consistent hand washing at every opportunity. I always understood that Purell was anti-bacterial and Noro is a virus. Also placed around the bars were hydrogen peroxide based, anti-viral 'cloth' wipes. We used those whenever possible to wipe hands, arms, bar railings, poker/slot machines, etc…….. I wonder how effective in quarantining an ill person in their cabin and letting their spouse/cabin-mate still circulate. Not that the sick person should be allowed out, or they would even feel like it, or that the well partner should be similarly quarantined……..just wondering. The place that seems the most impossible to prevent the spread is the casino. While the machines and other surfaces were sanitized, once even shut down for 15 minutes, there are still a lot of people, in close proximity, smoking & drinking & cross-handling chips, dice and cash. Don't see anyway around all that but to close it……unlikely to close such a revenue stream…….. The most obvious neglect we observed that could certainly contribute in a major way to the spread of the disease was the co-mingling of supposedly unused silverware in the restaurants. We observed in both the Vista Dining room and Pinnacle Grill a practice of removing 'thought-to-be-unused' silverware from a guest's seating place and that flatware being put into a central location to be used at a later time on a different table. In the Pinnacle Grill, my wife did not have a salad but tasted my salad with her outside salad fork and replaced it back on the far left of her place setting. After that course was finished, all the outside flatware was collected and placed in a cart where other wait staff could access it for other guest needs during some other course, like dessert. It's not uncommon for any guest to sit down at a table and touch and move any items on the table like wine glasses, bread plates, etc, and then, when not having wine, have that "unused" but 'unclean' wine glass removed and placed on another table for another guest. Perhaps, under 'Code Red' conditions, only tableware that is needed for each course be brought to the table or all tableware be considered contaminated once a guest has been seated. We reported the above incident and concern when noticed in writing about 13 days into the cruise to the Cruise Director - but did not notice any change in procedures, in fact noticed the practice continuing to the end of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2008
WHO WE ARE. We are an active 60-something couple, making up for lost time in our travel adventures since Retirement. This was our third cruise, all on Holland-America, and our first transatlantic. We have never been to Mediterranean ... Read More
WHO WE ARE. We are an active 60-something couple, making up for lost time in our travel adventures since Retirement. This was our third cruise, all on Holland-America, and our first transatlantic. We have never been to Mediterranean Europe before, so all the ports of call were new to us. We were members of a Cruise Critic Roll Call group of 60+ people, whom we had never met in person before this cruise. I must say that traveling with a group of friends - even Internet friends - makes a cruise an even more special event than normal. CODE RED. Let's get this out of the way first: This ship was in Code Red from the second or third day onward, and this did affect our enjoyment of the cruise. There was a very bad norovirus outbreak, affecting almost 15 percent of the passengers. As a result, this was not as relaxed a vacation as we had hoped because we needed to remain so vigilant about what we touched. Moreover, the level of service was not as high as we would normally expect, since the entire crew was doing double duty. It was especially wearing on the six transatlantic at-sea days when there was no escape to ports of call. But, you know what? Bad stuff happens sometimes, and you just have to deal with it and move on. The crew worked exceptionally hard in trying to contain the problem, maintaining their cheerfulness and professionalism through it all. Their efforts were obviously not enough to contain the illness, but I don't think they could have done any more to address the problem. My hat is off to them; they were amazing. We were fortunate and did not get the illness. EMBARKATION. We traveled from our Venice hotel (near San Marco) to the Marittima docks by water taxi, which we shared with another couple. It was worth the 16€ per person for an exhilarating ride down the canal in a speedboat, to say nothing of the convenience of having a private conveyance. Our luggage was offloaded to waiting porters and we strolled about ¼ mile to the terminal building. The check-in line was long, but well organized and moved quickly. A separate line for security also moved quickly. We probably spent no more than 45 minutes total in both lines. Cabins were available shortly after we boarded at around noon. Because local authorities wanted to examine all of the luggage brought onboard, our suitcases did not arrive in our room until late in the afternoon. THE SHIP. The general condition of the ship's public areas was very good. The overall dEcor is getting a little dated. The layout of the ship is logical and not too difficult to learn. The ship recently had additional cabins added to the stern and other changes, but they obviously did not do a complete overhaul. There was no updated map of the ship available - the front desk made pen-and-ink changes to the old map when we asked for one. OUR CABIN. We booked a balcony cabin on the 4th deck, aft. We chose a portside cabin so that we would be on the sunny side of the ship as we crossed the ocean, east to west. We have sailed on a Vista class ship before, so we knew that the cabin size and configuration would be acceptable to us. Holland-America has freed up much needed space on the vanity top by moving the TV and DVD/CD player to a wall bracket above the vanity. The furniture in the room looked worn and dinged, giving the cabin a slightly shabby appearance. The carpets could use a deep cleaning. The beds were very comfortable, and the A/C worked perfectly. The bath was clean and well maintained. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. Our two cabin stewards, who worked as a team, did a good job, although they obviously were stretched thin, especially with the extra Code Red precautions. THE FOOD. We had dinner on all but two nights in the Vista Dining Room. The food was generally well prepared, using very good ingredients, and was artfully presented. The appetizers, soups and salads were fine. The entrees were often too bland for my taste. I would have appreciated having a choice of at least one entrEe with more zip. Our steward, knowing my preference and at his initiative, routinely brought a small ramekin of chili sauce for me to add to my entree. The desserts were quite often disappointing, beautiful to look at, but without much flavor. Pastries were tough, not flaky. I usually ended up with ice cream, which was excellent. I have to mention that our dining room steward Joko and his assistant Hajib made an awesome team. They were attentive without being fawning; friendly without being familiar; and completely professional without being stuffy. Kudos to both of these gentlemen! I usually purchased wines at a supermarket in each of the ports we visited. It was nice to have wines of the region with dinner, and even with the $15 corkage fee, the total price was equivalent or lower than ordering from the ship's wine list. We also opted one evening for dinner in the Pinnacle, and believe that it was well worth the $20 per person charge - more flavorful food, quieter ambience. They served the best asparagus I believe I have ever had. Very nice. We ate in the Lido only for breakfasts and snacks, which were OK. The raisin buns are excellent. The Terrace Grill near the Lido pool makes a great hamburger and fries (if you don't mind well-done meat.) We had room service occasionally for continental breakfast, and it was delivered promptly and at the proper temperature. SPECIAL EVENTS. As part of the Cruise Critic Roll Call group, we were treated to a wonderful lunch in the Pinnacle Grill. The ship's staff also provided the Cruise Critic group with two meet-and-greet opportunities in the Crow's nest, where we got the lowdown on the cruise from Hotel Manager, Mark Pells, who was exceptionally gregarious, funny and informative. We appreciated his attention to our group. The Mariner's brunch in the Vista Dining Room was also a very nice affair. There was a special barbecue for all passengers on the aft pool deck after we left Sicily. and a great deck party with local seafood and free booze after leaving Madeira. ENTERTAINMENT. I was very impressed with the quality of the entertainment onboard. The two big Las-Vegas style shows were really good, even though I don't usually care for that kind of thing. It was not over-amplified, as such shows often are. The HALCats band on this ship is really terrific, and provided excellent backup to the guest entertainers, who were all quite talented. As a special treat we got a classical piano concert by the bandleader, James, and, on our final evening, a solo concert of gypsy music by the band's guitarist, Felipe, on his seven-string guitar. We had late fixed dining (8:00 p.m.), so we attended the early performances, which left us little to do after dinner. We are not night owls, so usually after a walk around the ship, we retired for the evening. This did not bother us, but it might be an issue for people who like a lot of night life. MISCELLANEOUS HIGHS AND LOWS The GYM was well equipped and not very busy. We enjoyed using the HYDROTHERAPY POOL until it was shut down because of the Code Red. My wife loved the COOKING CLASSES, and now that we are back at home, I am the happy beneficiary of her expanded culinary repertoire. The CRUISE DIRECTOR, Jason Verner, was quite humorous and seemingly born to the job. We learned to look forward to his repartee with the Captain (and the captain's struggles with certain English words) on their ship-wide announcements each afternoon. Jason even made the disembarkation talk enjoyable. The ON DECK FOR THE CURE 5K walk was well attended, and the ship's staff went above and beyond to make it a festive occasion, with a beautiful pink cake and pink bubbly. Many of our Cruise Critic Roll Call group were participants. We were unimpressed with the onboard SHOPS. There was a tiny corner stocked with a meager assortment of sundries, and the liquor selection was small. A great deal of deck space was devoted to very high-end jewelry, and there seemed to be few browsers, and even fewer buyers...certainly not us. The PHOTOGRAPHERS were not pushy. Only on the first formal night did they insist on getting everyone's photos at the dining table. Otherwise, they asked permission, and graciously accepted a "no" answer. I don't think combining the INTERNET CENTER and LIBRARY with the Crow's Nest was such a great idea. There is no way to keep the noise level from the Crow's Nest contained and, in general, the areas' functions seem incompatible. Coffee at the EXPLORATION CAFE is a BIG step above coffee served elsewhere on the ship. It was exciting to do some scenic cruising off the active volcanic island of Stromboli, north of Sicily. The LAUNDRY SERVICE was reasonably priced but very slow, and they damaged two of our items with bleach or extra-strong detergent. PORTS OF CALL VENICE. Fabulous. We arrived four days before our cruise, and that was not enough. (Actually it was way too much for our wallets.) A few tips for first timers like us: -The Alilaguna boat from the airport to the San Marco area was an inexpensive alternative to a water taxi, albeit slower. -The Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge's Palace is not to be missed. -It's worth it to pay the few Euros to see the Pala d'Oro altar screen in St. Mark's Basilica. -Be sure to visit the basilica between 11:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. when they turn on the lights. Otherwise it's kind of gloomy inside. -Musica a Palazzo is a wonderful small-scale opera performance, held in a genuine Venice palace on the Grand Canal. It's hard to find - locate the place during the day, so you won't be rushed at showtime. I found this to be the highlight of our time in Venice. -Rick Steves' (free download) audio guide of the Grand Canal on Vaporetto #1 was like having a personal tour. Recommend this highly for an overview of Venice. DUBROVNIK. We took the ship-sponsored shuttle bus ($15 per person, round trip) from the port to the old city at the Pile Gate. We're glad we did, since it left of plenty of energy to walk atop the wall that rings the old city. It took us about two very scenic hours to do the circuit. Beware: Lots of steps. There is an ATM just inside the gate near the gift shop to get a few Kunas for the day. However, everyone seemed to take Euros, so it may not be necessary. The town is lovely, crawling with tourists with lots of places to shop and grab lunch or a snack. CORFU. A member of our Cruise Critic group graciously arranged a private tour of the island, which made for a great day of sightseeing. We saw some magnificent mountain and sea scenery, learned about the process of making olive oil at a small museum, stopped for Greek pastry and coffee at a cliff-side restaurant, sampled some local goodies at a roadside stand, and did a little shopping in Corfu town. We also did a quick tour of the Achillion mansion, which was lovely, but we really weren't able to spend enough time there to make it worthwhile. I would rather have spent more time in the town. MESSINA. We only had a few hours in this port. We took the ship's tour of Taormina and the Greco-Roman ruins, which worked well for us. After a 45 minute drive in a large coach on good roads, we arrived in the beautiful Sicilian town of Taormina, where our guide gave us a walking tour and narrative history of the place. Then we were able to see the ruins of the ancient amphitheater which is reported to frame a fantastic view of Mt. Etna in the distance. Alas, when we were there it was raining, so the mountain was nowhere to be seen. After strolling back to the meeting point, we all climbed back onboard the coach for the uneventful drive back to Messina and the cruise ship. CIVITAVECCHIA/ROME. We had a whirlwind tour of Rome, arranged by one of the members of the Cruise Critic group. It was a fabulous way to get a flavor of the city in one day just enough to whet one's appetite to return for a longer visit. The six of us traveled in a comfortable van, and our driver was courteous, knowledgeable, and an all-around nice guy. In the morning we managed to quickly tour: the Coliseum (one hour), Circus Maximus, the Forum from Capitoline Hill, the Victor Emmanuel memorial, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Whew! After a delicious quick lunch at a place recommended by the driver, we met up with a private guide for a walk through the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel. We dawdled a bit too long in the museum, so we only got a quick dash through St. Peter's before we had to leave for the ride back to the ship. Having a private driver was not much more expensive than the ship's coach excursion, and it was really good to be in a smaller vehicle that can be parked nearer the sites. Also, the loading/unloading time is much less with only six passengers instead of an entire coach-full. The driver was keenly aware of the importance of returning to the port before all-aboard. CARTEGENA. I was blown away by the beauty of this clean and friendly Spanish city. We did nothing more than get lost in the side streets, enjoying the flower market and the amphitheater ruins in town. A highlight on this cool, clear day was Cafe Valor, very near the dock, where we had the most delicious, rich hot chocolate that was almost the consistency of pudding. The chocolate is not drunk, but eaten by dunking churros think sweet, crispy doughnuts in the shape of breadsticks. CADIZ. Another charming Spanish city, perfect for walking. The city is on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, and there is a pedestrian walkway for almost the entire outer perimeter. There are beautiful parks with benches covered in blue and yellow Spanish tiles, a bathing beach, and amazing views of water, sky and city. The large cathedral is worth a quick look inside. They have painted colored lines on the sidewalks of the town, indicating various walking routes. Three is also a hop-on, hop-off tour bus available if you can't or don't want to walk . MADEIRA. We took a private van tour to see some very dramatic scenery in the west part of the island. The island is much more mountainous than I had imagined, and that terrain creates some crazy weather patterns. On the southeast side near the beautiful city of Funchal, where the ship docks, there are banana trees, tropical plants, and sugar cane. As we traveled west, and climbed in elevation, we saw remnants of the previous night's snowfall, and at one point, traveled through an active hailstorm - a bit nerve-wracking on those narrow, mountain roads. The steep cliffs and huge waves crashing on rocks were breathtaking. We spent some time strolling in a charming seaside village called Ribeira Brava and had a fabulous lunch with local seafood, across from the pounding surf in the town of St. Vincent (I believe that was the name). NASSAU. Because of the Code Red, and the weather, we were diverted from Half Moon Cay to Nassau. We were unprepared for this port, so we took the ship's excursion that provided an overview of the island and a stop at two forts and the Queen's Staircase. The highlight of the tour was a visit to Ardastra Gardens, a lovely tropical oasis with a small zoo. The most famous residents are the marching flamingos. Using the birds' natural tendency to flock, they have trained them to do a parade of sorts forward march/halt/about face. As part of this show, the trainer selects a few lucky members of the audience to come into the ring with the birds and do their best flamingo imitation, whereupon the birds will nuzzle them. My wife is a great flamingo lover and happily got to do her time in the ring. After a short time window-shopping in Nassau town, we returned to the ship for the last time before sailing to Ft. Lauderdale. (Sigh.) SUMMARY This was a wonderful vacation. The itinerary was fantastic. The ship was in generally good shape, except for some wear and tear in our cabin that really needs to be addressed. The taste of the food was a bit disappointing to me personally, but the quality of the food was high. And, overall the service was very good, which is amazing when you consider that everyone was pulling double duty. I would not hesitate to recommend this cruise or this ship to anyone. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . ... Read More
We are a Brazilian couple ,mid 50', restaurant owners in Rio who loved to work and sail. This sail with MSC Musica ,Transatlantic (Venice-Rio de Janeiro november 08) was ours 26th cruise , the first and the last with that company . Since Rio is a bit far from Europe we normally traveled some days before to have a car looking for scenic drive to the ports we will sail , so this time we came from Munich and drove to Sirmione ,Italy and then San Casciano in Tuscany for 6 days trip trough these beautiful parts of Italy. On the last day we drove from San Casciano to Venice ,2,5 hours drive , We arrived on the day before in Mestre (beside Venice) at Novotel(EU$95) Mestre is less than 7 miles from Venice, returned the car easily near the port at Piazza Roma . Embarkation- i never forgot a maxim I've heard " you never had a second chance to cause a first impression " and embarkation was CHAOS . We arrived 11,30hs and there was thousands of people waiting on huge unorganized lines , checking was suppose to start at 13,00hs,then we decided to leave ours hand luggage on a locker at the pier and return to Venice to enjoy of this marvelous city ,Venice. We return at 16,00hs and waited another half hour on line, and we heard the history of people fainting , carnal foughts, the worst checking we ve ever seen ,every guest we`ve met was horrified with that poor service. Ship and cabin- No one took us to our cabin , our cabin was on the very best of the stern ,small and dirt balcony ,average bathroom size , small and few wardrobes, outworn carpets, and chairs , shampoo and soap , no conditioner , no moisture cream. robes were available good ones, 20`LCD Tv, and a mini bar, decor was not bad . The ship does not have a nice atrium , only 3 floors high ,with a piano on the middle , stores were little and unfriendly (no refunds , no exchanges). 2 pools (salt water) was ok ,with 4 dirty jacuzzis , small area for mini golf ,sports, excellent chairs with shades for faces, but again you had to wake up early in order to reserve your chair ,specially when you travelled with German people . Ridiculous Gym academy , 6 trades mills for a 3600 passenger ship !2 bicycles , but a big saloon for paying activities , small audience for that, no sauna unless you pay a us$ 30 a day for use the spa facility , sauna , Turkish bath , and 2 small private jacuzzis . Theater was ok , not the shows ! restaurants was nice , 2 different decors , there were 2 specials restaurants us$ 30 cover charge pp, one Chinese always empty , and another "Italian" on the same place of the buffet is served on lunch !always empty too. some "nothing specials lounges" and thats it , not too many places to go or stay , minimum library, minimum cigar room ,12 computers for internet , small casino and a very classic decoration , which you will forget on the next day you will disembark, the common areas were well maintained . Service- As i said no one took us to cabin on embarkation, than on the very first day in the dining room the waiter and his helper did not salute us , not even a good evening ! then we decided to change table , a better waiter helped us during the cruise , we ve heard that more than 50 waiters embarked with us in Venice , and the cruise director and others managers embarked in the next day ,since the old ones quit ! The day we ate at the special restaurant we ve waited 3 hours to be served , there was only 2 tables to be served ! ours room steward need 4 days to understand that we wanted ice in the room ,more hangers , and more blankets , after that she only forgot small details as soaps, towels etc. we had to call twice reception for help with her . Reception desk was ok depending who attends you , lotto for a nice person to help you. I wrote a letter for Mr Franco a food and beverage manager and got no answer, although the Maitre D´assure he received the letter , so this was service. Food and Beverage- Would you believe they prohibited waiters to serve water on the tables!!!! in order to sell mineral water , I've never saw a small attitude like that in any ship we've sailed , people were offended with this. Breakfast was the same , bread , eggs, omelettes ,cold cuts, fresh fruit (good), but no salmon , milk and coffee needed to be served by waiters, I've heard people complaining about the milk quality . lunch in the main restaurant was less worst than in buffet , 3 salads plus tomatoes , lettuce and carrots thats it, sometime some cucumber. hanburgers and hot dog fries,and some hot stews, everything second class quality . dinner was better although rarely beef or a steak , everyday they said you can have salmon , chicken or beef , made me laugh when we ordered beef , it was like a"carpaccio" so thin it was , no comments. bread and butter was the best part , desserts and ice creams were surprisingly good . There was also a midnight buffet , we only attended the chocolate one , it was good , also they served tea , with 2 kinds of sandwiches ,and some sweets, no tea available during the day . also room service was charged and with small selection too. Ports- Were ok , Bari, Tenerife, Malta, Funchal, Malaga, Recife, Salvador we did not took any excursions since we ve been before to those places , excursion were an average of us$ 130 ! Shows and entertainment- No live orchestra , only play back ! , same show always ,6 females dancers and 4 mens , 45´minutes shows, second sitting shows at 23,30hs . No live band on pool although weather was fine, plenty of live music on board in internal areas , good brazilians musicians playing. Entertainment were led by a transvestite looking boy would you belive it ? Kids games on pool ! some stretching classes and dancing lessons too. There was a huge Screen showing only MSC ads ! instead of films and shows . Also you have too pay to watch movies on your cabin , during the 5 days transatlantic crossing we had nothing to watch on tv except companies ads, not even music ! Disembarkation- It was surprisingly good , no cues ,we easy found ours luggage, on time too . Conclusion- If you have ever sailed with Celebrity,Royal Caribbean, holland or Princess and also Carnival you will be extremely disappointed with MSC , although theirs prices are almost the same , don't go , but if you are a first timer and had no point of comparison ,than you will not probably notice those points I've mentioned and could enjoy more than we did. For us never more MSC. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2008
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. ... Read More
The ship is absolutely beautiful. The public rooms are simply and tastefully furnished, sleek and very stylish. There are a number of delightful bars and lounges throughout the ship, some bars have music; others offer peace and quiet. There are a few shops, but the choice of the merchandise is poor and expensive. There are two main restaurants and two á-la-carte restaurants. There is a large theatre on two levels. The seats are spacious and comfortable and wherever you choose to sit the view is good. The Musica is a dream to travel in - there is hardly any motion as she glides effortlessly through the ocean. Health/Safety/Hygiene - this area concerned me greatly - the safety drill was a nonsense and did not appear to me to be taken seriously. The event was planned half an hour before the first sitting dinner on the second day. Several guests left before the drill was finished, no doubt to get ready for dinner. Others appeared to be falling asleep whilst the drill was conducted in 6 languages and others just chattered amongst themselves. I dread to think of what chaos and mayhem there would have been in the eventuality of a real emergency. There was a big outbreak of a chesty type flu on board, passengers were going down with it from quite early in the cruise. This was a particularly nasty bug, both myself and my husband were affected by it in the last few days if the cruise and two weeks on we still both have it. The speed this virus went around really opened my eyes to the importance of hygiene standards. To help reduce the spread of viruses and infection I think that there could have been better use of hand sanitizers. The ship was equipped with hand sanitizers, but not enough of them. For instance they were not located at every entrance to the restaurants. We have been on other ships where it has been obligatory to use the hand sanitizers on entering the ship from port and entering any eating area. It is my feeling that MSC were only paying lip service to any ruling that states that they must provide hand sanitizing units. Dining - this was without doubt my biggest disappointment. The food was the worst I had encountered on any cruise ship. I was not looking for haute cuisine or fine dining just good Italian tucker, similar to what we had previously experienced on the Opera and Lirica. The food style on the Musica is not Italian; it was a multi cultural mish-mash - one night Oriental, another Spanish, another Mexican and so on all intermixed in a European fusion, for instance one night a choice was sweet and sour pork served with mashed potato. Meat was generally tough, on one occasion the waiter asked why I had not eaten the pork,I told him it was too tough and he said that I should have killed the pig first! Another time the waiter agreed with us that the steak was only fit for shoe leather. Generally speaking the food was not cooked well, it was always served tepid and with a total lack of presentation. The only thing that made going to dinner worth while was our delightful table companions who always seemed to make us laugh, usually about the food. I still have the picture in my mind of an escargot starter, it was unimaginatively called escargot in pastry and when it arrived at looked like a Cornish Pasty, only instead of the meat filling it had two lonely snails tucked in the pastry. The service in the restaurant was also poor, although there were a few waiters who were worth their weight in gold. We found one Romanian waiter who was great and we aimed to get a table in his area for lunch and breakfast when ever we could. A vast number of the waiting staff were new with little or no silver service experience. We were also told that some of the chefs were new - this may explain the poor food but does not excuse it. The food in the buffet was just ok in as much that you could help yourself to exactly what you wanted, but it was always cold by the time you got it back to your table. The buffet was always busy and generally a complete bun-fight. We did not try any of the á-la-carte dining options, feeling that if the food was in general poor was it going to be any better if we paid $30 a head extra for it? Activities & Entertainment - The entertainment team worked very hard organizing stretching exercises, aerobics and various games and demonstrations throughout the day. In the evenings there was plenty going on to cater for all musical tastes ranging from classical to rock. There were also a number of fun events, Miss Musica, a Grease evening, tropical parties on deck, etc. The shows in the theatre were not to my personal taste but a lot of people that I spoke to really enjoyed them. Excursions - There is an excursions office on board where you can book tours. The staff have very little knowledge about the tours or the destinations that you are about to visit. On the whole the excursions were very expensive, especially in the Europe. We were familiar with most of the European ports and were happy to do our own thing. Some destinations had a hop-on hop-off bus: we always find that these tourist buses are a good way of familiarizing yourself with a new area. They often go to the same places as the excursion bus and are a fraction of the price. The South American ports were new territory to us and we felt that we would be safer to go on the organized tour. We booked half days trips for Recife, Salvador and full day trips for Rio and Sao Paulo. The only tour worth doing was the full day in Rio which took in all the main sights (albeit in the pouring rain) - The half day tours in Recife and Salvador were poor value for money. Disembarkation at Santos was embarkation in reverse - complete mayhem. We had to vacate our cabins at 7am. At 11am we were still waiting in one of the ships lounges to be allowed off the ship. By 11.30am we were pushing and shoving with everyone else to find our luggage, there were people trying to get from one end of the baggage hall to the other, all going in different directions struggling with cases (no trolleys). As our flight to London was not until 18.15 we had decided that it would be a good idea to book a full day Sao Paulo City tour with lunch which would terminate at Sao Paulo airport in time for us to check in for our flight home. The excursion bus did not leave the cruise terminal until almost midday, the guide told us that there would not be enough time for the tour, she would take us to a restaurant for lunch and then straight to the airport. Having paid $75 each for this excursion we will be expecting a refund from MSC. In summary this was a 19 day repositioning cruise starting in Venice and calling in to Bari, Malta, Malaga, Funchal and Tenerife, Recife, Salvador, Rio and finishing in Santos. We were attracted by the interesting itinerary and the 6 day Atlantic crossing. Being a repositioning cruise at a good price we expected there would be some new staff joining the ship but we had no idea that it would be so many (rumor has it that it was 400+) and we did expect them to have had some basic training. It seems that the 19 day cruise was their training. The ship although too big for my own personal taste, is elegant and beautiful and extremely comfortable. The big let down for me was the food and service, which was just not good enough and therefore although the actual cruise was good value for money the food and service spoiled the holiday. Read Less

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click
Compare and book excursions for your next cruise