CruisingCM

CruisingCM
Captain

Hometown: Massachusetts
Joined: 03/23/2015
19
Cruises
14
Reviews
40
Helpful Votes

About CruisingCM

Experienced international travelers who love cruising. My husband and I are now in semi-retirement so we hunt for a good value but even more important, a super experience. We enjoy a lively and thoughtful discussion but do not appreciate judgmental responses or personal attacks. The best outcome of sites like Cruiseline is that more and more individuals become more knowledgeable and discerning consumers who take up cruising as a wonderful vacation habit. Happy Sails to everyone! Teri and Dave


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CruisingCM's Past Cruises

Crown Princess

October 2015 - Crown Princess to South Pacific

Best cruise - Relaxing and worth every penny

We booked this 28 day cruise in May/June because we did not see it being offered again after 2015.  Even though we had to eat a few bucks cancelling another trip, it was the best money we ever lost because this cruise was fabulous.

 

Embarkation: The biggest issue with this LA departure was the embarkation process. This needs to be reworked because it was insanely complex and unfair to passengers with physical disabilities. It is not just a Princess-specific problem but they can certainly influence some efficiencies and sensitivity training for the port staff.  Princess should be more accommodating for those with disability and not simply board by elite status level... and that is something they can change. Nuff said.

 

Cabin: We booked a mini suite because balcony staterooms do not offer a sofa or love seat on which to sit.  The MS was well worth the extra money because of the length of our trip.  It may not be worthwhile to book for shorter cruises but we wanted somewhere to sit other than the bed or on a stiff-backed chair for a month.  Aside from the cabin size, the Princess minis have a larger bathroom with a tub/shower combo. I abhor showering in a missile tube set up so this option was very valuable to us.  Princess does not accord mini suites the same level of benefits that Celebrity does (separate dining room, priority disembarkation, etc.) so if a sofa and larger BR are not important to you, the mini may not be a good choice.

 

MDR: Our biggest "complaint" about MDR was service efficiency. Let me be clear - the food itself was fabulous but the servers were glacially slow at times. We actually left after waiting for dessert for about 20 minutes on one night. Four of our dinner mates completely changed their dining option because the slow service caused delays in getting to shows.  

 

Horizon Cafe/Club Caribe: The buffet food options were also great. It was more convenient and relaxed to eat in these venues for dinner.  Breakfast and lunch were another issue entirely.  People seemed to put in roots when eating these meals. It was always challenging to find a table, no matter how quickly the tables were cleared and reset. Basically when someone got up, we grabbed the table and had to find someone to clear it.  This caused a few meals to cool off a bit but it was manageable.

 

International Cafe: This was my favorite early morning hangout. I got up around 4am every day and headed down for a latte and quiche. Vilmer and Mateo got to know me to the point I didn't even have to state the order.  A couple days I ran late due to having a cold (the virus ran through much of the ship). Even though the buffet changed from overnight to morning offerings, Mateo put a quiche aside for me, heated it up and brought it over to me. This is the kind of personal service that makes travel special. 

 

Excursions:

We took a couple Princess-offered excursions. At Hilo we went on a home tour/moving brunch. The group was small and the personal nature of going to people's homes was great. The food served was local produce and specialties.  Definitely recommend this one.  At Kauai, we took the Movies and Waterfalls excursion.  This was a lot of fun because the group size was limited. We watched movie and TV show clips, then visited the island location at which it was shot.  Lots of Jurassic Park stories were shared.

 

We also booked a couple things with non-Princess vendors.  On Western Samoa we did a private tour where just hubby and I were escorted around the island attractions, then enjoyed a lovely BBQ at a private beach club.  On Bora Bora we booked a boat and driver who brought us all around the island and to a private spot where we could enjoy a refreshing dip. We also found rays and black-tip sharks. We would do both of these excursions again.

 

Ship activities:  There was plenty to do but we didn't really join in a lot of the activities. There was both a passenger choir/chorus and a passenger ukulele band that gave concerts during the trip. Lots of special-interest group meetings, arts/crafts, enrichment lectures (former LA asst district attorney, naturalist, history buff).

 

Spa: If you like a nice thermal suite, you may be disappointed. I know I was. The suite was located in the bowels of the spa, there was no view, just a single room with five heated benches (always occupied), steam room, sauna, and showers.  I just wasn't enthralled with the arrangements and did not feel it was worth the money.

 

Specialty dining: We visited the Crown Grill three times, it was ab fab every time.  We tried Sabatini's once.  The vibration and shaking ruined the dining experience for me to the point that I left before the entree was served.  This restaurant is located on the top deck at the very back of the ship.  This had a lot to do with the movement and shaking.  Would not recommend going to this venue unless it's a port night and the departure is later in the evening.

 

Vow renewal: We decided to renew our marriage vows. Princess did a fabulous package and made the event very special.

Casino: We enjoy a little gambling (mostly slots, blackjack) but the machines seemed extremely tight and I gave up after a few nights of losing money in mere minutes.  I could have just stood in the Piazza and handed out a few 20's - it was just that bad.  The auto-shuffler takes the fun out of Blackjack entirely. Staff was nice but the experience was not enjoyable.

 

Disembarkation:  We booked a transfer to LAX. It was a bit stressful because there was no assistance with bags aside from unloading them from the bus.  Otherwise the process was efficient - much more so than the embarkation.

 

Princess is on par with Celebrity (IMHO). As previously mentioned, the mini suite was nice for the seating room but not for much else. On the other hand, Princess had better food quality, hands down.  I can't compare this to RCL, NCL, or Carnival experiences because none of those measure up to this cruise or crew. Highly recommend this if you have the time.

 

(Will post photos another time)

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Serenade of the Seas

May 2015 - Serenade of the Seas to Europe - Northern Europe

The crew make this tired ship great

We continued our transatlantic cruise vacation back-to-back with this 7 nighter to the fjords of Norway.  The itinerary was exceptional with the crowning experience being Geirangerfjord. The absolute beauty of this port can't be captured with words. It is something that one needs to experience. Pros: We enjoyed our cruise because of the great crew who took care of us for our entire vacation. Paola and Andreea in MDR, Pedro (Maitre d'), Marisha and Jerome (MDR), DouDou and Ricardo (stateroom). Each of these people really understood how to make someone feel welcomed and not so far away from home. Itinerary was fabulous if you wanted to see more of Norway and experience the fjords. The simple beauty of this country is breathtaking and every one we met was friendly and engaging.   I also want to give a round of applause for the entire food service department.  Honestly, the food was miles better than we had on the Celebrity Reflection a couple months ago. Cons: The Serenade needs a refurb. I've mentioned this in all my reviews. It does a disservice to the crew who work tirelessly but there is just so much one can do to make a silk purse, as they say. Stateroom: After staying in a 'deluxe' balcony stateroom for the first leg of our vacation, we looked forward to moving to a "superior" one but quite honestly, we saw no appreciable difference between the two. The website boasts superior being larger than the other but our stateroom was the same confined small space. I really don't get how RCC charges more for the same cabin ~shrug~ Entertainment: Fair quality of uninspiring entertainment.  Highlights included Segundo on the spanish guitar.  He was awesome.  

 

 

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Serenade of the Seas

April 2015 - Serenade of the Seas to Transatlantic

Lovely cruise but the Serenade is tired and needs a refurb

We chose this cruise because it was leaving our of our home port which made it super convenient. The ports of call also touched many areas of interest so it was a no-brainer. Pros: The crew of the Serenade is fantastic. The food was top-notch and consistently served at the proper temperature (e.g., chilled soups were actually chilled). This was as opposed to the last Celebrity cruises we took where every dish and beverage was served at room temp. The itinerary was fabulous and interesting. The convenience of a 10 minute drive to the gangway for boarding is unbeatable. Cons: #1 - Our biggest issue was the condition of the Serenade; she is tired.  She needs a refurb, like yesterday. I love this class of ship but she is showing her age and really needs an update. Some of the issues include... There are many elevator buttons that do not work. There were many toilet flush buttons that were missing covers. The draw pulls and wood trim in our cabin was sticky and/or chipped.  There were large (6"x6") sections of deck paint missing outside of the Windjammer. There is rust and stains on the back windows of The Safari Club. #2 - Fellow guests were grim and often unfriendly... bordering on rude. We were not the only people who commented on this. For some reason, there were a lot of guests with their noses held much too high in the air... sad that they could not come out of their superior class haze to meet some of us nice people. It may have put smiles on their faces. In all, would recommend this itinerary any day.  The other issues are variables that you really can't account for on any cruise.

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Celebrity Reflection

March 2015 - Celebrity Reflection to Caribbean - Western

Third leg of a three parter (see post for Feb 28th leg for all details)

Context: My husband and I just completed 3 B2Bs on the Celebrity Reflection starting February 28 to Mar 7 and continuing Mar 7-14 & 14-21. The review posted for the February 28th leg of our trip contains details for all three. Accommodation basics: 2 weeks in Aqua Class stateroom (1553 & 1555), 1 week in Aqua Class suite (2154). Primary point is that we loved our experience with Celebrity, so much so that we booked four more cruises for 2017. That says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves.  (continued in "Reflecting on the Reflection" post.)

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Celebrity Reflection

March 2015 - Celebrity Reflection to Caribbean - Eastern

"and again..."

Second leg of a three parter (see post for Feb 28th leg for all details)

Context: My husband and I just completed 3 B2Bs on the Celebrity Reflection starting February 28 to Mar 7 and continuing Mar 7-14 & 14-21. The review posted for the February 28th leg of our trip contains details for all three.

Accommodation basics: 2 weeks in Aqua Class stateroom (1553 & 1555), 1 week in Aqua Class suite (2154).

Primary point is that we loved our experience with Celebrity, so much so that we booked four more cruises for 2017. That says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves.  (continued in "Reflecting on the Reflection" post.)

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Celebrity Reflection

February 2015 - Celebrity Reflection to Caribbean - Western

"Changing things up a bit."

Reflecting about the Reflection

Context: My husband and I just completed 3 B2Bs on the Celebrity Reflection starting February 28 to Mar 7 and continuing Mar 7-14 & 14-21. It was our first Celebrity experience after nearly 20 years of cruising.

Accommodation basics: 2 weeks in Aqua Class stateroom (1553 & 1555), 1 week in Aqua Class suite (2154).

Primary point is that we loved our experience with Celebrity, so much so that we booked four more cruises for 2017. That says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves.

Reasons why we loved it: Crew were exceedingly kind and helpful. My husband and I are disabled to different degrees. Many, many crew took the extra step to help make our stay easier and more enjoyable. From cutting up a thick steak to holding a door open to bringing a drink back to the Alcove. Each little thing added up to a very big experience.  

When we moved from stateroom to suite, we noticed a palpable vibration which became quite annoying rather quickly.  After a call to Guest Relations, the Assistant Chief Engineer came to evaluate the situation. He agreed and an investigation was launched. We received daily updates and inquiries plus a lovely plate of chocolate-covered strawberries with a note of apology.  The issue was resolved and we had a wonderful time. To top it off, on the last day of the cruise, we each received a cruise credit certificate and letter of thanks for our business.

You might be asking "If you loved it so much, why give it a four star rating?"  Here is why:

1. The most common temperature for food/drink being served was "warm".  What should have been served chilled arrived to the table at room-temperature.  This was epidemic across venues on the ship to the point that we specified "chilled" fruit, juice, etc., and also asked for a glass of ice in case it was needed. The problem is that the drive for efficiency has a cost. Leaving OJ accessible on the counter for wait staff to pick up quickly runs the risk of it warming to room temp... which it did, day after day.  When we asked for CHILLED juice, we got it. Bottomline, we really shouldn't need to ask. This can be fixed by leaving OJ in the fridge until just before it needs to be served.

2. Variable temperature of cappuccino, lattes, and specialty coffees. At times scalding hot or lukewarm, it turned into a crapshoot. The baristas needs to be more vigilant and closely monitor the temps to avoid this. 

3. Understaffing.  Although better than other cruise lines we have sailed with, it was clear that staff was short at critical times. This is easy to remedy when supervisory staff track and report delays or more important, customers begin to complain more vocally.

4. Food prep. Specifically the proper way to cook a nice piece of steak. The Lawn Club Grille got it right every time.  Perfecto!  Tuscan got it wrong 3 out of 4 times... but on the plus side, they made it right every time.

5. Specialty restaurant noise level.  We tried each of the specialty restaurants and found Murano the least pleasing in terms of noise level of wait staff. Clanging plates and silverware do nothing to enhance the dining experience.  This is easy to address when staff take more care in performing their work.

Competitor comparison: There is no comparison to Carnival, NCL, or Royal Caribbean, which are more budget oriented lines.  The closest I can estimate is a Princess cruise we took years ago.  Both focus on customer experience and satisfaction. Both consider themselves to be a luxury cruise experience.   I highly commend the Reflection for its proactive approach to infection control and acceptable onboard behavior with overhead announcements from the Captain at the start and during the cruise.  That's a first for us. Unfortunately, the Capt can't follow people around to make sure they do wash their hands regularly or keep their children under control.  Hand washing is everyone's business and child behavior rests with the parents/guardians.  That said, Celebrity raised awareness which is more than I can say about other lines. We had a fabulous time and highly recommend the Reflection.

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Norwegian Gem

January 2015 - Norwegian Gem to Caribbean - Eastern

"Last minute but fabulous"

Last minute decision which turned out nicely

Just before Christmas 2014, my sister was talking about the great pricing for a 10 day cruise out of NYC on NCL.  We checked it out and all decided to jump on the opportunity. With competition from the behemoth Breakaway, ships like the Gem have to carve a discount niche to fill cabins. We booked at $519 but saw the price drop under $500 for a couple days the following week.

Why we liked the cruise had more to do with our traveling companions than anything to do with an exceptional ship or port. Crew was nice enough but no one jumps out as having gone above and beyond what was necessary in order to make our experience more special.

Comparison: NCL is good for what it is.  To our way of thinking, NCL is price-driven meaning that keeping the price reasonable for cruisers is key. To maintain lower consumer price means that cost for goods and services must stay below a certain point in order to derive a reasonable profit. When driven by the bottom line , there are bound to be compromises in quality. One example is that the cuts of meat aren't the highest to begin with and there is just so much a preparer can do to change that.  Sooooooo, that is a rather round about way to say that NCL should not be compared to higher end lines (e.g., Celebrity, Princess).  For what it is, NCL is a good value if you take the time to hunt for discounted fares or at least get some added value with free gratutities, a meal or beverage package. I cannot bring myself to spend over $5Gs for a "haven" experience on NCL. Honestly, I just don't know if NCL knows that market (as a small percentage of their ship capacity) as well as the lines who devote themselves solely to cultivating that customer base for their entire ship.

Specifics: The Gem had fabulous live entertainment acts. The lounge performers were just great (early January sailings). The main theatre seating was so uncomfortable that we did not attend any of the main acts. Food - We took the dining package so did not use the MDR. Cagney's did a nice job but the specialty Italian restaurant should actually go to Italy in order to learn how to prepare some of the dishes. The Brazilian steakhouse was ok but servers were a bit flustered when it got crowded/busy. Deck - The pool was uber-crowded at sea once weather warmed up and NCL did nothing to discourage saving of lounge chairs.  This is one of the most aggravating aspects of cruises which all lines could do better at. Thermal suite - anyone will appreciate this spa feature but if you have RA or other musculoskeletal issues, it just may be an absolute necessity. I LOVED the mineral hydro pool. Yes - we would cruise this again because 1. we can drive to the port rather than fly and 2. we regularly find excellent discounts which are great for last minute getaways. 

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Norwegian Dawn

October 2014 - Norwegian Dawn to Bermuda

"The calm after the storm"

First attempt at cruising after an otherwise bumpy year

Being Boston-based, taking this BOS-Bermuda cruise was a no-brainer for testing our ability to cruise following a medical catastrophe earlier in the year. There isn't much to say about Bermuda that isn't lovely although I do prefer St. George's pier to King's Wharf or the other. Because there is a 2-3 night stay over, it really allows exploring the island in a more casual manner.  A couple things we learned about scooter rentals on this cruise... - The scooter rental process (Mobility at Sea) is pretty straightforward and worked well. - The size of the rental scooter was too large for easy parking in an interior cabin. Unless you have a suite, these rentals are very cumbersome for staterooms. Parking in the hallway is clearly forbidden as a safety issue for other passengers. We occasionally left it in the hall when we were just making a pit stop but overnight parking is not an option. - Getting in and out of stateroom doorways is difficult, especially when hallways are narrow and turning radius is limited. Doors opening inward make it all the more difficult. - Rentals cannot be taken off the ship. If you want/need to check out a port, you will have to make arrangements on shore to have a wheelchair or scooter waiting for you on land.

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Carnival Sunshine

September 2013 - Carnival Sunshine to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean

"Happy Anniversary"

Loved the trip, not the ship

We took this as our second honeymoon and had a wonderful time simply due to the fact that it was our second honeymoon.  We could have floated around in a tub and still enjoyed ourselves. We selected this because of the itinerary, not the cruise line or ship. 

Upside: Great itinerary included destinations that we both really wanted to go to (e.g., Barcelona, Cinque Terra, Pompeii, Sicily). Tour guides who really knew what they were talking about and where to go to get the best views and features not ordinarily accessible. Downside: Smoking was allowed on balconies which made them inhabitable for us.  We paid to have a balcony and ended up having to go back inside too many times to count.  Getting dragged to tourist traps (e.g., cameo factory on way back from Pompeii) as part of the excursions. I would have preferred more time in Pompeii. This was our first Med cruise so comparing it to another Med cruise is not possible BUT comparing ships and balconies is definitely possible.  This ship's balconies were narrow and the chairs were rigid and uncomfortable. Compared with other ships with reclining chairs and footstools, well there is no comparison.  Also, this did not have a sliding door but rather had a window and a door.  It limited the view from inside. Surprise of the cruise: Dubrovnik.  This was a delightful day of wandering around alleys and noshing on cheese and fresh bread.  What a beautiful city!

We look forward to another Med cruise but on a different line with a no smoking policy.

 

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Explorer of the Seas

January 2012 - Explorer of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern

Convenient departure from NJ to warmer climate was just what we wanted

As I did for a similar 2013 cruise, I dug through through pictures and my personal travel log, before deciding whether to write a review for this cruise.  My husband and I travel together. We drove from Boston down to NJ and parked our car at the pier. The convenience of walking across the road and directly onboard was great.

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Eurodam

January 2010 - Eurodam to Caribbean - Eastern

Expected a lot more from HAL, especially where mobility-impairment is concerned

Took this cruise because the price was right and we wanted to give HAL a go. Had received positive comments from friends and family so jumped at the opportunity to experience HAL-level cruising.  Unfortunately, I had torn my Achilles on a recent cruise so I was a bit hobbled and needed a wheel chair.

You would have thought I was the first wheelchair-bound cruiser ever to board the ship.  Crew looked at me like I was a martian, MDR tables were unbelievably close together so getting through in the chair was impossible without asking others to get up from their seat and move their chairs.  We asked for a more accessible table three times before finally getting the matter resolved.  Seating accessibility continued to be a challenge in other venues as well and honestly, the crew (overall) was next to useless as far as assistance was concerned. By comparison, Celebrity crew could not have been more accommodating in terms of helping my husband (handicapped subsequent to the HAL cruise). Even in the cafe, someone helped him with his plate, beverages, getting him a table not too far into the cafe, etc. As far as the inside cabin, we loved it. It was one of the cabins that was positioned lengthwise so you entered along the "side" rather than from the "end".  It was roomier than other interiors we stayed in and perfect for us because of the wheelchair bulk.

The entertainment was pretty standard as far as cruises go. The one standout was a stringed quartet from Romania.  They were FANTASTIC and we were groupies for the entire cruise.

Perhaps the worst part of this misadventure was the disembarking process. After going to the special assistance holding area, an escort finally retrieved us. We got to the last check point before being officially off-boarded and pushed off to the side without explanation. We were not off to the side enough so that people dragging bags behind them didn't hit the wheel chair a few times... Most of the hundred or so passersby just gawked and a couple muttered that we should get out of their way ~eye roll~. We were left to wait for about 25 minutes and never received a reasonable explanation as to why. Honestly, I would have rather walked off in physical pain than been subjected to humiliation of HAL's complete disregard for my dignity and the disorganization of the crew. If you take the time to read my other reviews, you'll see I don't just moan and groan. I prefer to look past the small stuff and focus on having a wonderful time. Sadly, the positives offered by this cruise were the stringed quartet, our cabin, and a lovely yellow labrador retriever (service dog) named Heaven that another passenger was kind enough to allow me to meet. The chance of my husband and I ever getting on another HAL is less than 5%  

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Carnival Liberty

September 2008 - Carnival Liberty to Caribbean - Western

Mariner of the Seas

January 2008 - Mariner of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern

Jewel of the Seas

January 2008 - Jewel of the Seas to Caribbean - Western

Carnival Destiny (RETIRED)

January 2007 - Carnival Destiny (RETIRED) to Caribbean - Southern

Adventure of the Seas

August 2006 - Adventure of the Seas to Caribbean - Southern

"And now for something completely different!"

Norwegian Majesty (RETIRED)

August 2003 - Norwegian Majesty (RETIRED) to Bermuda

"First cruise "

CruisingCM's Tips

Cobh (Cork), Ireland - The port is nice but we headed to Kinsale. Found an awesome fish and chips place named Dino's. Right on the harbor. Staff were lovely. Once they figure out we were from out of town, everyone stopped by to chat a while. Great food as well.
Livorno (Florence & Pisa), Italy - We visited the Cinque Terra (Five Lands) which includes Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We had a blast visiting each village. I think our favorite was Riomaggiore where we had a fabulous lunch and Monterosso - best choice-hazelnut gelato - EVER!
Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy - The port is not immediately in Rome so plan on taking a bus or taxi into the city. People drive like fiends, so if you haven't been here before, get ready for some interesting adventures. With so much history to choose from we went with The Vatican and The Coliseum including on-your-own time.
New Orleans - NOLA is a mixed bag. Plusses, you have amazing history, stellar architecture, the Garden District, French Quarter, Cafe du Monde and Cemeteries. If you are a foodie, it's hard to find another city with more to offer. Minuses, remain vigilant of your belongings and where you are strolling around.
Halifax, Nova Scotia - Nova Scotia is a great city to explore. If you enjoy more of a nature tour, head east or north. The Tidal Bore and the Bay of Funny in general is a natural wonder. Cape Breton deserves its own vacation to truly soak in its beauty. There is a casino in Halifax proper, we were not impressed.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island - Charlottetown, as well as the rest of PEI, is lovely. Just remember to slow your pace down to leisurely and your experience will be so much better. Locals are unfailingly polite and pleasant, return the favor.
Oranjestad, Aruba - Be prepared for hot and windy (not breezy.... windy). Be sure you have sunscreen on and bottled water to keep you hydrated. You don't realize how quickly you can become dehydrated here.
Barcelona, Spain - Lots to see in this beautiful city. If architecture is your thing, you cannot skip the The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Take a guided or narrated tour (headset) to understand everything you are looking at. It is a once-in-a-lifetime destination.
Naples, Italy - So much to do in all the Italian ports. While in Naples, we toured Pompeii. It was both amazing and sobering to think what happened there. Highly recommend an excursion to Pompeii. You will not regret it.
Bridgetown, Barbados - We love Barbados. The climate is not as hot, dry, and windy as is Aruba. Can't go wrong with a catamaran adventure.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - We love old town. A historical bus tour will give you the background associated with PR. The fort is wonderful to take in as well. Sunday is not a great day to dock as many places are closed. Also check for local holidays - shops and bars may be closed as well.
Cozumel, Mexico - We enjoyed snorkeling at the Palancar Reef many years ago. Since then, a few hurricanes have wreaked havoc with the eco-system. Be sure to do some research before booking snorkeling excursions. If shopping is your thing, you can't beat the main shopping area across from the water shuttle.
St. George's, Bermuda - St. Geo is a lovely walk-around port. Small shops, decent eateries. The Carriage House was wonderful for dinner (overnight in port). Keep in mind that this is at the less commercial end of the island. If you are looking for a lot of action, take a bus to Hamilton.
Cape Liberty (Bayonne), New Jersey - This is an industrial port area. If looking for something to do, cross the river and head into NYC. Otherwise, your choices are limited.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - We really enjoy Old Town. Walking around the fort is especially nice. Be mindful, if you are in port on Sunday or a holiday, services are very limited and lots of places are closed.
Explorer of the Seas Explorer of the Seas - The Explorer Lounge is a nice place to get away to a quiet spot for reading or checking the Internet.
San Pedro (Los Angeles), California - There is plenty to do in the LA area before or after your cruise but the immediate cruise port area is a major industrial port so plan to head to LA or Long Beach for some fun.
Island Princess Island Princess - The concept of Anytime Dining is great, but execution needs some fine-tuning. Make a reservation for a set dining time once you get on the ship. Yep, that flies in the face of "anytime" dining but if you dine at a popular time, not having a reserved table leaves you sitting with a beeper waiting.
Puerto Chiapas (Tapachula), Mexico - There is literally a pool and a visitor center right off the pier. The center features a few vendor shops but it is difficult to figure out if goods were local made. The pool features a bar and was crowded the entire time we were docked. Otherwise, there is NOTHING in the immediate port area. Book an excursion if you want to actually see something. Also, this port was extremely smoky. Can't actually say why but air quality was poor, especially in the morning hours. If you have a breathing condition, this is not the port to do a lot of physical activity unless you book an excursion outside of the immediate port area.
San Pedro (Los Angeles), California - Our second poor experience getting through this port process. We were in-transit passengers and they still managed to mess it up. My disabled husband finally got out of his wheelchair and hobbled back on board. This port needs serious help.
Fuerte Amador, Panama - The smaller transports for excursions are cramped and just a smidge bigger than a mini-bus. Beware before you book. Also keep in mind that this is a tender port and often quite windy which whips up the water a bit. The tender ride is a choppy adventure and getting on/off the tender can be intimidating for the less physically abled.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica - Had to skip Puntarenas due to poor weather and port closure. Went to Cabo San Lucas instead.
Panama Canal Transit - Book a balcony cabin for this cruise. On deck 10 forward, at the very bow, there is a door on the port side. It is not labeled but it leads to an open bow area which is great for viewing during the canal traverse.
Cartagena, Colombia - The horse-drawn carriage tour books up early so book ahead of time or you will be out of luck. Also, book a tour through Princess. There were many warnings about wandering around public areas in Colombia.
Island Princess Island Princess - The concept of Anytime Dining is great, but execution needs some fine-tuning. Make a reservation for a set dining time once you get on the ship. Yep, that flies in the face of "anytime" dining but if you dine at a popular time, not having a reserved table leaves you sitting with a beeper waiting.
Crown Princess Crown Princess - MDR fixed seat dining at 5:15pm will not leave you sufficient time to get to the 7:30pm show. Select Anytime Dining option unless you don't mind going to the late show.
Crown Princess Crown Princess - Toward the front of the Explorers Lounge (Promenade deck) is a smaller alcove of a few banquet seats and tables. It's a great spot to take your coffee in the morning as their is a window view.
Crown Princess Crown Princess - Consider the dining at your own time flexible option if getting to the shows is important to you. MDR 5:15pm set schedule dining makes it near impossible to get to the 7:30 show.
Geiranger, Norway - The dock in Geiranger unfolds and comes out to the ship. If you are into if you are a gearhead and mechanical stuff or even if you aren't, this is so interesting to observe so get out of your cabin and watch the docking procedure.
Geiranger, Norway - Get up early and watch the approach to Geiranger. It is simply stunning scenery.
Geiranger, Norway - The dock in Geiranger unfolds and comes out to the ship. If you are into if you are a gearhead and mechanical stuff or even if you aren't, this is so interesting to observe so get out of your cabin and watch the docking procedure.
Geiranger, Norway - Get up early and watch the approach to Geiranger. It is simply stunning scenery.
Serenade of the Seas Serenade of the Seas - For a quiet spot during the day, head to the Safari Club. Sometimes booked for private events or art auctions, otherwise it is dormant until the evening. It's got lovely window view that runs across the entire stern of the ship.
Goteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden - Much rockier than we expected. West Coast Islands might be better to tour in the summertime. At this time of year, it was dead.
Copenhagen, Denmark - The turnaround to our next cruise got a bit confusing so we ended up staying on board and did not see the city.
Portland (Weymouth), England, Uk - We took the Stonehenge tour from here and did not see much of the port area. It looked like a great place to visit (beach area) in the summer though.
Le Havre (Paris), France - If you really want to go to Paris, be prepared for a butt-numbing bus ride in and out of the city.
Boston, Massachusetts - My hometown. Love the North End for italian food. Lot of historical interest sites.
Serenade of the Seas Serenade of the Seas - When it wasn't being used for private functions, this was a nice, quiet spot was the Safari Club with a great view from the stern.
Celebrity Reflection Celebrity Reflection - If you aren't sure you want to get off the ship while in port, check out the Alcoves. It's so quiet and private, you can veg out all day long. In port pricing is lower as well, making it a great alternative.
Eurodam Eurodam - If you are mobility impaired, please reach out to HAL before booking this (or other same class ship). It was just not laid out properly to accommodate a wheelchair.
Carnival Sunshine Carnival Sunshine - IF you have a sensitivity to smoking, check to be sure the ship is no longer allowing smoking on balconies.
Cozumel, Mexico - Depending upon your expectations, Cozumel will either be a really sweet place or a dump. Just try to keep in mind that you are in Mexico, not DisneyWorld. The center of town, across the Miguel pier has great shops and restaurants. That is where you want to go to poke around and shop local.
Boston, Massachusetts - I live here so of course it is great! That said, for visitors - go to the North End for fabulous Italian food.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Celebrity ships dock next to a bauxite processing plant which smells of rotten eggs from time to time. Not much to do in local area so this is a good port for taking a ship excursion.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Pier is next to a bauxite processing plant which smells of rotten eggs from time to time. Do not recommend independent wandering around at this port. If you must get off the ship, take an organized excursion.
Norwegian Gem Norwegian Gem - Skip the MDR and take the ultimate dining package. Well worth the extra expense or as a bonus choice.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Ocho Rios pier is located next to a boxite processing plant, which smells. The independent walking around experience just off the pier is not the most desirable option either. Highly recommend booking a ship excursion at this location or stay on the ship and relax in an Alcove for the day.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Ocho Rios pier sits next to a boxite processing plant and smells. Getting off the ship to walk around is bad option. Take an excursion or stay on board.
Miami, Florida - No rating because we really didn't do much while we were there.
Celebrity Reflection Celebrity Reflection - The Alcoves is a great option for a private deck experience. Each comfortably accommodates 4. Staff are attentive and can get what you want. Awnings for shade if full sun is not desired. Less expensive on port days. The Lawn Club Grill is the best restaurant for relaxed fun w/do-it-yourself options.

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