glomarrone

glomarrone
Captain

Hometown: Cocoa Beach, FL
Joined: 12/26/2011
31
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18
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113
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10831

About glomarrone

I have been cruising for 30+ years. I am married, have 2 married children, 4 grand kids and am a retired teacher. After living most my life in NY, I now reside in FL. I love the laid back lifestyle here as opposed to the busy city life in NYC where I was born and lived most of my life. Every day I look out on the beach below. Instead of checking the wind chill factor, I check the tides. Doesn't get much better than this.


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Amsterdam

January 2016 - Amsterdam to World Cruise

Around the World by Cruise Ship

“Around the world in 80 days…” goes the song.  However, it took Holland America’s (HAL) ms. Amsterdam 115 glorious days to circumnavigate the globe on our Grand World Voyage 2016.  What an amazing voyage it was!  We visited 24 countries and 41 ports; some were overnight stays.  People ask us how we could stay on a ship that long.  I reply that we loved every minute and that we hope to do it again soon. We were never bored or sea sick and learned so much about the history and culture of the places visited.  It many ways, the cruise changed our thinking on a variety of subjects.  For most passengers, this was their fourth or fifth+ HAL Grand World Cruise.   For us, it was our first Grand World Cruise.  The staff told us that this particular Grand World Cruise sailing had the youngest-aged passengers. One tyke celebrated his first birthday while onboard the entire voyage.  One thousand fifty passengers including 10 children boarded the ship in Fort Lauderdale.  Seven hundred fifty passengers took the entire voyage.  Other passengers joined the voyage for segments.  Most passengers were Americans, many were Floridians but there were plenty of Canadians and Australians onboard plus other nationalities.  Our exciting cruise began January 5, returning April 29, 2016 to and from Fort Lauderdale.

Right from embarkation, things went well.  Within 20 minutes from the time of our arrival at the pier, we were on the ship.  Near the gangway, Pande our Assistant Maitre ’D from our HAL Grand Asia Pacific 2014 Cruise greeted passengers and recognized us.  He instructed a steward to carry our hand luggage and escort us to our cabin.  Wow!  It made us feel like family.  Our former Cruise Director, Gene Young from HAL Grand Voyage ’14 was also stationed at the gangway.   He, also, recognized us immediately.  It was wonderful to have him as our Cruise Director for this cruise, too.  I wonder when the man sleeps. He was involved onboard in so many ways.  

All the stateroom passageways are bright and lined with Dutch maritime art; Deck 1 has Dutch floral art works gracing its walls.  Our mid-ship ocean-view stateroom, # 2598 was in a very stable position on the ship.  It was bright, comfortable and contained sufficient storage space for all our belongings.  The A/C and plumbing worked well throughout the entire cruise.  Unfortunately, stateroom TVs were still not interactive so we often had to visit the Front Desk to get our statements printed.  For my husband, though, the lack of a mini-fridge in our cabin was a big problem. He needed to visit the medical office often to retrieve his medication that needed refrigeration.  Another problem was early morning (5-5:30 AM) noise from a crewmember working on open deck 3 that frequently disturbed our sleep.     Many other guests on our deck complained about this noise.     The public areas of the ship are all well appointed and quite attractive. The floral arrangements are stunning.   However, the very comfortable couches in the Queen’s Lounge (theater) are lower than the upholstered chairs making it difficult viewing the performers on stage while sitting on the couches. Uneven temperatures in certain areas of the ship especially in the Queen’s Lounge made carrying a sweater a necessity.  Still another concern was the slow speed of the internet connection.  We waited until we reached shore to access the Internet.  The ship does need some updating and perhaps will go in for further refurbishment soon.  This in no way detracted from our enjoyment.  The ship was well maintained and always clean. Everyone was comfortable finding their way around this mid-sized ship, which was the perfect size for entering smaller foreign ports.  

The food and service in the Main Dining Room were wonderful.  We had fabulous meals nightly especially on Gala Nights. On the off chance that nothing on the menu was appealing, we could choose Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, steak, chicken or salmon as alternatives.  Although I always am pleased with food and service on HAL ships, on Grand & Grand World Cruises they are superior.  Our Early Seating Main Dining Room (MDR) servers Gede & Berry were professional, personable and efficient, anticipating our needs and checking to see that everything was fine with our meals.   My husband received all his Special Request Meals in a timely fashion.  Gede made a point of bringing the next day’s menus to him as soon as they became available.   In fact, the entire MDR staff did a terrific job daily getting his Special Request Meals correct.    Nestor Malsi, our wine steward, brought our glasses of red wine at our table usually before we even arrived. He always had time to chat with us nightly.   After dinner, I enjoyed stopping by the cheerful door attendant, Woko’s station.  He always remembered my name and knew which after dinner treat I wanted before exiting the MDR.  I cannot say enough about how helpful the HAL staff was in general.  All the crew on board Grand & World Voyages are carefully hand chosen by HAL.

We did dine several times in the two specialty restaurants, The Canaletto & the Pinnacle Grill. The levels of service there were always excellent as were the food.  The Lido Café food was good, too and we always ate at least breakfast there.  In the Lido, wait staff members Imam and Supraman would often assist us in locating a table, brought us the Times Digest daily and remembered our preference for beverages.  They were so professional, friendly and efficient.  We always looked forward to our daily conversations with them. Many times, I enjoyed the Lido Restaurant’s wonderful sushi station at lunchtime.  Another fun place to eat is poolside at the Dive In.  The fries there are extra delicious; so are the several choices of hot dogs and burgers.  

Many other things made the voyage so special.   On Gala Nights, the MDR was festooned with colorful balloons, London-themed umbrellas, paper lanterns, banners, flags or other festive decorations.  On some themed nights depending on the theme, we received Panama or Bowler hats, beautiful masks or leis to wear and keep.  On other Gala evenings, we received heart-shaped boxed Valentine chocolates, long stemmed roses or maracas.   The servers dressed in festive attire for the theme nights, as did many of the passengers.

On many Gala nights, passengers received gifts in their staterooms such as: a nylon  travel bag, a canvas boat bag with matching toiletry bag filled with travel essentials, a moleskin travel journal, a signed paperback travel book, Tiffany & Co HAL ceramic box, HAL Crystal Candle Holder, a Royal Goedewaagen Plate highlighting the itinerary and a travel wallet.  Plus, at the Captain’s Dinners in the Pinnacle Grill, each passenger sailing the entire cruise received distinctive salt & pepper shakers reminiscent of those given on HAL very first World Voyage. To our delight, on our assigned night, we were kindly invited to sit at the captain’s own table along with his lovely wife, Karen and two Senior Officers.

The ms. Amsterdam is an older ship but quite seaworthy and is especially stable for the type of cruising that she does in open waters. Most days I forgot that I was even on a ship since the seas were so calm.   Our “Storm Dodger” Captain Jonathan Mercer was expert at avoiding high winds and storms thus earning his nickname.  I always felt completely safe under his leadership. Captain Jonathan & his wife were most charming, affable and professional as were all the Senior Officers.  

On Grand and Grand World Voyages, Grand Dollars are earned by participating in onboard activities. By the end of the cruise, we had earned over 800 dollars to spend on various items.   Activities on board were varied.  Daily morning Tai Chi classes kept us busy.  Trivia was also quite popular as was Arts & Crafts, computer classes, bridge and pool games. We attended most of the lecture series on Sea Days.  I specially enjoyed the talks on space, various cultures and photography.  We were invited to attend several wine tasting events throughout the voyage.  We loved the many Culinary Arts Demonstrations and Tasting classes, too.  I hope that we can duplicate the dishes served using the many recipe cards we received. The movies on board were fairly current and I watched a few of them.  On Location Guide Barbara Heanni and Nyron Peters, from the Shore Excursion Staff gave detailed talks about Things to See & Do in port.  These talks on the ports of call were quite useful and most informative.  How nice that HAL has someone on board to help passengers who wish to sightsee independently.  At most ports, there was a complimentary shuttle service to the center of town or to a nearby mall.  Several times, we used this service.  

The main reason I took this cruise was the itinerary.    It was so exciting to transit the Suez Canal for the first time.  We have cruised through the Panama Canal several times previously and always enjoy the experience.  One personal highlight for us was our unforgettable one night’s stay in an idyllic over water thatched-roofed bungalow in Tahiti at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa.  A Welcome drink at reception, plus a bottle of champagne and wine along with fruit and snacks awaited us in our bungalow.   We had a wonderful day swimming in the clear, aquamarine shallow waters of the lagoon, enjoying the beautiful views of the stunning mountains, strolling the white coral sandy beach and relaxing in the hammocks.  An extravagant dinner buffet with a complimentary bottle of wine followed by a spectacular floorshow ending with an outdoor fire-eaters performance completed the magical day for us.  At night, we viewed the lighted lagoon beneath us through the cutout window in the floor of our bungalow.  After a sumptuous breakfast buffet with live entertainment the next morning, we took a walking tour of the facility and enjoyed the beautiful pool before we rejoined our ship at its next port, Moorea.   It was a dream come true for both of us.

 Equally special were our visits to the lost city of Petra and Wadi Rum in Aqaba, Jordan, Chinqua Terra in Livorno, Italy and Dubai, UAE.  Muscat and Salalah, Oman were other new and quite interesting ports for us.   Everyone asks which our favorite port was and we reply whichever port we are visiting at the time.  However, while we were in Israel, we were especially moved while exploring all the biblical sights in Haifa and Ashdod.  Almost all of our shore excursions were sponsored by the ship and they were worthwhile, enjoyable and educational.  We did independent sightseeing in Sydney and in Jakarta since we had previously explored those ports extensively.   

There were so many memorable highlights during our World Cruise onboard the ms. Amsterdam.  One was the very elaborate fun-under-the-setting-sun Australia Beach Party where sand covered the Lido Magrodome pool area.  Bondi Beach lifeguards came on board along with Australia‘s most-sort-after 6-piece band, Hipnosis.  There were huge beach balls, surfboards, beach chairs, water games plus complimentary tropical drinks and food to enhance the beach theme.  What Fun!  The extra-special décor of the 1001 Arabian Sights themed pool deck party set the tone for another wonderful evening.  The Zany April Fool’s Day Costume Party in the Crow’s Nest was hilarious, while the elaborate Black & Silver Ball in the Queen’s Lounge was quite elegant.  The champagne Valentine’s Day Ball in the Queen’s Lounge was oh-so romantic.  It was fun guessing who was under the beautiful masks provided for the Masked Ball in the Queen’s Lounge, the final Gala Night of the cruise.   I was looking forward to the St. Patrick’s Day Party but was surprised that no Irish music was played although there were plenty of pots of gold and other Irish decor to be found.  I especially enjoyed the extravagantly presented monthly High Teas - Royal Dutch, Polynesian, Indonesian and Middle Eastern.  I photographed each of the lavish displays.  I wished that there were more of them.  My husband especially enjoyed the Super Bowl 50 Festivities in the Queen’s Lounge.

Entertainment in general was wonderful and quite diverse. The Bon Voyage Sail-Away Fest was a great way to begin the voyage.  We had complimentary drinks, snacks and live music with the wonderful HAL orchestra.   A similar Sail Away Party occurred on our departure from Sydney. After dinner each night, we enjoyed listening to the very personable Debby Bacon in the Piano Bar.  One night, her husband, Ron joined her for a performance and it was such fun for everyone.  Whenever we could, we also found time to listen to the beautiful music in the Exploration Lounge performed by Adagio, Attila and David from Hungary.  The talented HAL Singers and Dancers performed ten different shows and all were well-paced and entertaining.  One of my favorite Queen’s Lounge performances was the steel drum group from Trinidad, the sensational Island Magic.  I even purchased their CDs.  The cultural Queen’s Lounge shows in Hong Kong, Tahiti, Dubai and Spain were all colorful and memorable.  Often times we had an extra theater performance, Spotlight before the main Showtime Show.  The two well rehearsed Crew Indonesian and Filipino Matinee Shows were standing room only.  Who knew that Nestor Malsi, our wine steward and Filipino Crew Show Organizer had such a marvelous voice?  We attended and thoroughly enjoyed both shows.  After so many days on the ship, we knew the entire cast of both shows, which made the shows even more entertaining.  

During ports of call, we had the opportunity: to ride a camel, an elephant, a mule and horse, swim with stingrays and dolphins and see penguins in their enclosure.   We had close encounters with wild monkeys, kangaroos, emus & koalas. In Singapore, we went on a Night Safari and saw many nocturnal animals in their natural habitats.  On board, there were dance lessons, cultural emergence activities plus didgeridoo, ukulele and belly dancing classes.  I learned enough foreign phrases to get along in the various countries visited.   I tasted exotic foods from many different countries. It is an experience that I will never forget.

Yes, it took plenty of preparation and planning before a cruise of this length.  Imagine, though, touring the world and only unpacking once!    No air flights even were involved since we live in Florida. How wonderful that our price included the shipping of our four large suitcases ahead of time! Gratuities were also included.    We received excellent complimentary laundry service since we are Four Star Mariners.  We made some wonderful new friends that we hope to see again on future HAL cruises.  A cruise of this length may not be for everyone but it was a dream of a lifetime for us.  We are still enjoying our memories when we watch our ship videos and look through our candid ship photos and photo albums.   We were so pleased with the itinerary, the food, the accommodations and the service.  Our next HAL cruise will be on the new ms. Koningsdam later this year.  

 

 

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Amsterdam

December 2014 - Amsterdam to Caribbean - Southern

Amsterdam

December 2014 - Amsterdam to Panama Canal, Central America

14 Night Panama Canal Eastbound Transit - ms Amsterdam

Although we cruised the Panama Canal westbound with HAL several years ago, we decided to repeat the cruise going eastbound for several reasons.  Our main reason was to avoid the expensive flight home from San Diego to Orlando at the conclusion of our ms Amsterdam's 78-day Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage.  The 14-day Panama Canal cruise was back-to-back with our Grand Voyage.   For just a few hundred dollars more, we would avoid the hassle of the west coast flight, the jet lag, excess luggage concerns and could  simply drive home from Fort Lauderdale. Fifty passengers decided to do the same thing.   Our 14-day Panama Canal Cruise departed San Diego on December 8, 2014 visiting the ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Huatulco, Mexico, Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, Corinto, Nicaragua, Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, Cartagena, Columbia and Fort Lauderdale.  We even remained in the same stateroom. 

 

We spent embarkation  day in San Diego doing some independent sightseeing that  included the Midway Museum, Little Italy, and Seaport Village.  The destinations were within walking distance of the ship.  Embarkation for us involved simply showing our stateroom key card and a special card alerting the personnel that we were already on the ship then putting personal items through security.  It took just about a minute.  We bypassed the usual boarding process. 

 

The Panama Canal cruise had a completely different feel to it than our previous cruise. Half the crew departed and new staff came on board.  The number of passengers increased; they were much younger and there were more children.  The music around the pool changed as did the activities around the ship. Darcy and the HALcats replaced the Amsterdam Orchestra and did a nice job.   Even the lounge entertainers were different.  The room service menu was shorter and the choices on the MDR menu were different.   

 

 Some things did not change. Service in our stateroom was just as attentive. All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail.  Arif & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations.  They were very professional and efficient.  Our comfortable ocean view stateroom #2595 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers. It was fairly roomy by industry standards.  We had a sitting area with a large end table, lamp and adjustable coffee table,  a desk, a safe, a comfortable queen (two twins)  size bed, good bedside lighting and two end tables. The magnifying mirror came in quite handy every day.  The one thing that I did miss in the room was a mini fridge.  HAL generously sent to our stateroom a vase of flowers that stayed fresh almost  the entire cruise.  There was also a complimentary bottle of champagne and a plate of sweets,  rewards to us for taking the back-to-back cruise.. 

 

We chose to use the captain's Complimentary Dinner for Two in the Pinnacle Grill on Embarkation night.  We were treated royally and service was professional and leisurely.  We saw several other tables of guests from the previous cruise.  Soon after being seated, we were served the captain's complimentary appetizer; it was a delicious scallop.  Our (Jumbo) Shrimp Cocktails were truly jumbo and delicious.  Filet Mignons with Béarnaise sauce and garlic butter were cooked exactly as ordered - rare and were very  tender.  Sautéed mushrooms  and jumbo baked potatoes complemented the entrees and were scrumptious as was the bread.  Although by this time we were full, we did manage to take a few bites of our desserts. I highly recommend this  specialty restaurant.  We definitely will come again on another HAL cruise.  The only thing lacking in this restaurant are windows.

We requested the same servers and same table #330 near the windows in the La Fontaine Main Dining Room. Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us. Assistant Dining Room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways. Our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful. Although Jumbo Shrimp cocktail was no longer on the menu nightly I found plenty of other choices to keep me happy.  We found the food to be great and the chefs continued to accommodate my husband's meal restrictions.  We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane. Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water. Several times we took advantage of the Drink of the Day for $5.95 and Happy Hour: Buy 1 Drink, Get the 2nd Same Drink for $1 for Select Beverages.  Happy Hour was the best deal on the ship. 

The selection of food in the Lido also changed somewhat but was still good.  For example the large selection at the sushi station was now significantly reduced but there was still plenty of other choices.  The same ice cream station was still there so I was a happy camper. Be sure to check both sides of the buffet as a few selections are only offered on one side.   For the best fries on the ship, visit the Dive In poolside. 

We enjoyed all the nightly entertainment, especially the Amsterdam Singers & Dancers Shows: Variations, Can't Stop the Music and I Write the Songs.  The singing was excellent and the dancers were talented and energetic. For us, these shows were repeats but still enjoyable.   A few of the other entertaining shows that I recall were vocalist Jacqi Michaels, Comedian and magician Nick Lewin, Pianist, Singer, Marty Henne and Live wire (Celtic music and spirit.)   Jeff Burghart  did funny impressions.  Other Queen's Lounge (theater) shows were the lounge entertainers  Adagio, Dancing with the Stars and the lively Ole, Ole flamenco with a difference.  I missed the crew show on this cruise since it was performed at 11 PM, too late for us to stay up.  I had seen the two crew shows  on the previous cruise that were performed at 3 PM, a better time for us.

We enjoyed many of the activities on the ship especially the very interesting  talks by On Location Guide, Alanna.  She made learning about the history and culture of the area fun and educational at the same time.  Alanna had a easy rapport with the passengers.  We were very impressed with Alanna's knowledge of the workings of the Panama Canal and the port of calls even though this was her first visit to these ports and the Panama Canal.  Her research was thorough and she answered all the questions asked of her. All the on board computer Digital Workshop classes that I attended were easy to understand and helpful.  I  enjoyed the several cooking shows and brought home the printed recipes.  Board games, crosswords and Sudoku are available in the Exploration Cafe.   Just as an aside, the sweets in the cafe are complementary.  One night there was a lively Mexican Fiesta BBQ with live Mariachi music and a selection of grilled favorite.  That night was the Lido Pool Party with a night of fun, music and dancing under the stars as we sailed from Puerto Vallarta to Huatulco, Mexico.  Carlos, the Cruise Director was wonderful in getting passengers involved and up  dancing. Be sure to take the interesting Kitchen Galley Tour and learn interesting facts about how the kitchen operates on the ship.  HAL offers daily religious services and is one of the few remaining cruise lines that still does that.

Movie buffs will enjoy the movies shown in the Wajang Theater 3 times daily.  Popular ones were, If I Stay, The Maze Runner and Jersey Boys. The One Hundred Foot Journey was shown on a large screen in the Queen's Lounge.    

The ship's public areas are stylish without being trendy.  Their decor is subdued with an air of quiet elegance.  When not in use for live entertainment or presentations, the lounges with their lovely fresh flower arrangements, fine art and antiques  are inviting places for reading or writing.   They are well used by passengers.  

Of course, the biggest excitement on board was the daytime full transit of the Panama Canal.  Although this was our second full transit, it was just as much fun and equally interesting.    HAL permits passengers access to the bow so you are close to the action; there is plenty to see all day starting at sunrise.  HAL provided a continental breakfast of juice and Panama rolls as well chilled lemonade and water throughout the day to keep everyone hydrated.  Alanna gave a talk over the loud speakers that reached the public areas. Her talks were supplemented by a local canal lecturer who provided commentary from the bridge, heard on the outside decks, the Lido Restaurant, the Crow's Nest and on TV in staterooms.  Unfortunately the speakers weren't working properly even though they worked fine when tested the previous night.  These things happen and HAL worked around the problem.  We were outside on the bow as we passed under the Bridge of America, passed through the Miraflores Locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks and entered Gatun Lake and the Gatun Locks.  We also saw where the new locks were being built.  This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Historic Panama Canal.  The ship celebrated with a Panamanian Market, authentic foods, drinks and live music poolside. Your friends and family can even watch your ship sail through the locks in real time online by the live webcams located in the Panama Canal.

Ship photographer, Birdie was out and about taking candid shots throughout the transit. Throughout the cruise she always  seemed to be everywhere - in the MDR, on the pier on shore excursions and in general around the ship where something was happening.  She offered her services but never push them which everyone appreciated.  Her photos were so wonderful that we purchased all our candid shots at the conclusion of the cruise.  Although they are expensive purchased singly, $20, as a package they are most reasonable.  They bring back happy memories every time I share them with family and friends.    

The shore excursions that we purchased through HAL in each port of call were all worthwhile and enjoyable. The guides were knowledgeable, interesting and spoke English well. We were most impressed with our Huatulco (Mexico) By Land & Sea tour  and  Colonial San Sebastian in Puerto Vallarta.    Our tour guide in Nicaragua had us all laughing when he tried to convince us that our tour would be in Spanish.  Not only did we enjoy his tour and antics but we all learned lots of Spanish words.  Although our tour in Cartagena was a repeat of our previous HAL shore excursion, we visited different sights around the city and it actually ran an hour longer than scheduled. We felt that we got our money's worth on all these excursions. 

One of the nicest features on the ms Amsterdam is the dome over the mid-ship  swimming pool.   While it is especially useful when the ship sails Alaska, it also protects passengers from wind gusts and sudden, brief thundershowers in the warmer climates as well.    One poor element about the ship is that the comfy couches in the Queen's Lounge are lower than the theater chairs, which makes seeing the performers, especially the dancers' feet much harder.  I also missed the stage sets and back drops at the shows.  However, the excellent service, big smiles of the crew and the good food more than makes up these shortcomings. 

All too soon our 14-day Panama trip was over.  We watched as all the dazzling Christmas decorations were put up (there was a menorah lit each night of Hanukkah, too) in preparation for the Christmas cruise.  Hopefully another great cruise with HAL is in our future perhaps on their new ship, Koningsdam a Pinnacle-class of vessel scheduled for delivery in 2016.  This will be HAL's sixteenth ship in its fleet.   Before I end the review I want to mention the Bonus Days that HAL offers for every $300 spent, which includes prepaid beverage packages and shore excursions, gratuities  as well as on board purchases.  I do not know of any other cruise line that does this.  Through this perk, we are now only eight days shy of reaching the Four Star Level when they offer  free laundry service. 

 

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Amsterdam

September 2014 - Amsterdam to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)

What Makes a Holland America (HAL) Grand Voyage so Grand?

For many years, my husband & I discussed visiting the Far East and South Pacific. With our 50th wedding anniversary soon approaching, we started researching cruises to these destinations.  Since Holland America's 2014 Grand Pacific & Far East Voyage was a perfect match for us, we decided not to wait for our 50th Anniversary.  A major selling point for us was that there were no long flights to and from foreign airports involved.  There would be little jet lag also. 

 

Two days prior to the cruise, we flew from Orlando, FL to Seattle, Washington for some independent sightseeing.  On September 21, we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Seattle for our incredible 78-day journey.  For us it was the trip of a lifetime.  For many others on the cruise, this was their forth or fifth + Grand Voyage.  Our Ports of Call were Seattle, Washington,  Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Kushiro, Japan, Tokyo, Japan (2 overnights,) Nagasaki, Japan, Jeju, S. Korea, Incheon (Seoul,) S. Korea (2 overnights,) Xingang, China (2 overnights,) Qingdao, China, Shanghai, China (3 overnights,)  Hong Kong (2 overnights,) Phu My, Vietnam, Singapore (2 overnights,) Tanjung Priok (Jakarta,) Indonesia, Bali, Indonesia, Slawi Bay (Komodo Island), Indonesia, Darwin, Australia, Port Douglas (Cains,) Australia, Sydney, Australia (2 overnights,) Nomea, New Caladonia, Kuto (Ile des Pins,) New Caledonia, Lautoka, Fiji, Suva, Fiji, Apia, Samoa, Hilo, Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii (2 overnights,) Lahaina, Hawaii and  San Diego, California.

 

If you have never taken a Grand Journey or World Cruise, perhaps you think these cruises are just like other cruises only longer. These cruises are so much more than that; they are very extraordinary experiences.  Passengers on our voyage bonded together immediately because we knew that we would  be together for 78 days.  We soon became like a family.  The "precious" (HAL's word)  staff, which for the most part is hand picked by Holland America for these cruises is even more attentive and friendly for the same reason.  Service is far superior, more personal, although always wonderful on all HAL cruises.  The passengers were mainly seniors, American for the most part but with some Australians and Canadian;  there was only one child on board for the complete cruise.  Other children did join the cruise for a segment and more children were on board for our Indonesian stops (crew families.) 

 

There were so many extras for every passenger.  Among the most notable were, a Travel Journal (I used mine daily,)  a strong zippered lined shoulder bag including a smaller matching toiletries bag with a leather stateroom/ ID holder and lanyard, a HAL-Steiff Teddy Bear Sailor, Grand Voyage Tiffany mug, ceramic Royal Goedewaagen Grand Voyage Plate plus a sturdy roll along piece of luggage to carry all the gifts home.   Everything was of the highest quality.  Passengers also earn unique Grand Dollars throughout the cruise by participating in various activities.  I turned my dollars in for a flash drive, two compact umbrellas, HAL cosmetic case and ear phones.  MP3 Players were a quite popular choice. 

 

Many evenings there were special Gala Celebrations and formal Theme Nights such as the elaborate Black & Silver and Black & Gold Grand Balls.  Other events were equally unique only more casual such as the Halloween Monster Mash Party, Alaska Salmon Bake, Kimono Night, Tropical Paradise Dinner and Hawaiian Cookout.  Three of my other favorites were the exciting Masked Ball (I loved my gorgeous complimentary hot pink mask,)  Oktoberfest and the Red Lantern Formal Dinner.  HAL went to great expense elaborately decorating the venues for all the planned themed events.  All the servers wore themed costumes.  Of course we had the usual Captain's Welcome Reception and Mariner's Appreciation Night that are always lovely and well-attended.  Two other themed events were the Chef's Farewell Dinner and the Grand Show Buffet. 

Other exciting optional events were extra cost.  Everyone who attend these thought that they were worthwhile. There were a total of nine formal nights on the 78-day cruise. 

 

As we departed each port there was a Farewell Party with complimentary hors d'oeuvres, sometimes even complimentary cocktails and live band. Although we always regretted that we didn't have longer port stays (are they ever long enough?) we all looked forward to the farewell parties.  The ship had the usual daily Afternoon Tea at 3 PM; I only attended the most elaborate themed ones, Royal Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Filipino and English High Teas.  I photographed each lavish display of pastries. A more unusual high tea was the Cupcake High Tea.

 

Speaking of food, on our Grand Journey there were better choices at all three meals.  For example Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail was always on the MDR dinner menu.  For breakfast  crepes were an unusual offering.   At lunchtime we could always choose from a whole section of sushi, sashimi, mussels and clams in addition to other selections.  Even the room service menu had more choices.  Since the food is always good on HAL, I never was tempted to try the specialty restaurants or extra cost dinners although I had plenty of onboard credits to spend.  I was told that HAL allots more dollars per passenger for food costs on Grand or World cruises which would explain the greater variety and quality.

 

MDR service was uniformly well-paced.  We always finished dinner in about an hour or so (really, I know it's hard to believe.)  We were encouraged to linger and savor our wine.  Our servers, Adi & Fosil, always smiling, did an exemplary job catering to our needs and spoiling us.  Assistant Dining room Manager, Pandi not only kept an eye out making sure everything went well, he also stopped by twice nightly making conversation and helping the servers in various ways.   Noel our wine steward was always punctual, reliable and helpful.  Grand Voyages passengers have a unique package option of a glass of wine each night and it is very reasonably priced; we took advantage of it.  We also received excellent bar service in the lounges and poolside from Enrico, Ann Marie and Mary Jane.  Without asking, they often anticipated our requests for ice water.  

 

Service in our stateroom was just as attentive.  Our room was often made up sometimes even before we returned from breakfast.  All of our special requests were attended to daily without fail.  Arif (Lukman, earlier in the cruise) & Made always greeted us with smiles and engaged us in short conversations.  They were very professional and efficient.  Our comfortable oceanview stateroom #2695 was cheery and well stocked; it even had two hair dryers.  We requested and promptly received extra wooden hangers.  HAL also provided us with a power strip that we used daily.  A suggestion to HAL is that they install bathroom  nightlights. After being disturbed early in the morning on several occasion from crew working on the deck above,  the noises stopped after passengers mentioned the problem during a Q & A session with the officers.  Other minor problems were also fixed after this session.  HAL did listen. 

 

The Queen's Lounge (theater) entertainment was diverse and professional although lacking stage sets.  There was always a main nightly show except when there were port night excursions or when a movie on a big screen was shown in the theater.  We usually had matinee shows if there was no evening show scheduled.  Entertainers often appeared twice with a different show each time.  I enjoyed the talented singers and dancers even when they repeated their three shows on another segment.  They were always energetic.  Just about everyone on board attended the fabulous Indonesian & Filipino crew shows.  The theater was packed for both 3 PM shows and the crew was so proud of their performances - so were we. The shows really helped to bond the crew and passengers.  HAL should schedule these shows at 3 PM on their other cruises as well.  I know that my husband, I and others do not want to stay up until 11 PM to attend the late shows.  I also enjoyed the nightly live entertainment in the various lounges.  Adagio in the Navigation Lounge performed beautiful classical music on the piano and violin.  We were regulars at their pre-dinner performances. Debbie Bacon performed in the Piano Bar; we attended her nightly show at 7 PM.  It was always fun & games with her.  One night she invited her husband, Ron to join her on guitar; it was the highlight for all of us. When we were in ports overnight, Debbie performed outdoors on deck under the stars.  How romantic was that!  We enjoyed the Adagio guys and Debbie so much that we purchased several of their CDs, which they autographed.  When these performers were off, we enjoyed the Neptunes in the Ocean Bar and Larry in the Crown's Next.  They were very entertaining as well. 

 

Although we had a couple of long stretches of sea days, I was never bored.  There were so many daily scheduled activities that I couldn't attend them all.  My favorites were the wonderful Port Talks by Travel Guide Barbara who was so knowledgeable and well travelled and the Kitchen Galley Tour.  I attended most of the quality computer classes by Craig who made learning fun and easy.  There were plenty of history, military history and talks on the culture of the foreign countries that we visited.  I attended all the culinary demonstrations (with printed recipes and samples, of course) and a couple of movies.  A big thanks goes to HAL for providing various religious services throughout the cruise. Few cruise lines do this anymore.   By far one of the most unusual activities on board was the special Neptune Ceremony when we crossed the equator.  What fun the crew, passengers and officers all had poolside.   Complimentary specialty drinks, costumes and decorations added to the festive atmosphere.   

 

The exotic Ports of Call were the main reason we booked this cruise and each was exciting and memorable. My favorite, and it is difficult to pick just one, was perhaps Shanghai. We docked right in the center of the action facing a beautifully lit skyline  complete with a laser show.  The city has a lot to offer visitors.  My husband's favorite was Ile des Pins with its stunning beaches. We both thought that the most unusual port was Komodo Island to see the Komodo Dragons.  How many other cruises stop here?  We enjoyed all of the HAL Shore Excursion and found them to be very worthwhile.   One disappointment, though, was that the scheduled Tokyo stop was  cancelled due to the eminent arrival of  a typhoon.   The captain anticipated the problem, substituted two other exciting ports, Kanazawa and Fukuoka (Hakata) on the opposite side of Japan.  We did not encounter rough seas or rain perhaps just a bit of wind.  Those who had previously visited Tokyo said that these were even better ports.  Special for the Grand Voyages, HAL arranged complementary shuttles in the ports whenever it was feasible.  This was a huge help especially for those touring independently.  In only one port did I have a problem with the shuttles.  That was in Dutch Harbor where there were only two buses in service and no HAL shore excursion offered.  Many passengers resorted to roaming taxis. There were a few other port challenges mostly out of HAL's hands but with a trip this long no one expected perfection.  HAL did their best to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for us all.    

 

HAL provided us all with a plethora of pre-cruise documentation and throughout the cruise.  We received plenty of port information sheets, maps,  ship logs and multi-page Explorer Guides to the ports with things to See and Do, shopping info, dining, sightseeing  suggestions etc.  At each foreign port we receive an extremely handy card listing essential foreign words,  phrases, and a currency conversion charts that I used in every port.  It also listed emergency phone numbers of the ship in port.

 

I made a few minor suggestions to HAL at the end of our cruise.  For the Lido Buffet, I suggested adding lemonade as a beverage.  I enjoyed it in the mornings poolside. Ice tea is provided but the caffeine makes me feel wired.   Tall glasses are needed as it was hard to fill water bottles using juice sized glasses.  I missed having no fat milk available at breakfast.  I suggested more variety of music poolside. Embarkation was very slow (45 minutes,) which surprised me but we were offered cold water or lemonade.  It was just hard to drink the beverage while  moving along the line with jackets and hand luggage while trying to complete the health sheet.   A more serious problem was the fact that the very comfortable couches in the Queen's Theater are lower than the chairs.  If you sit on a couch, it is difficult to see over the heads of people on chairs in front of you.   The main problem for us, though, was the absence of flex time dining.  In ports, it was a rush to make it to the MDR for our 5:30  Early Dining Time.  I have to say that Pondi was always accommodating to our late arrivals.  Only once did we have dinner in the Lido Buffet. Many of the excursion buses in Beijing were delayed two hours  returning to the ship due to evening traffic jams.   We were all treated royally in the Lido restaurant which stayed open late to serve us.  It was nice not to have to change clothes for dinner. 

 

What I enjoyed most about the ship was the dome over the pool area.  We could sit poolside even in Alaska where the temperature was cool.  Although we experience very few rainy days, whenever it got a bit windy or cool, the dome was closed.  Also HAL adjusted time zone changes eastbound at 2PM instead of the usual 2 AM so we didn't lose any sleep - great idea! The well-maintained ship was comfortable although there were several plumbing problems on the long journey. The ship was just the right size to get into the smaller ports and it was easy to find my way around the ship.   Hopefully another HAL Grand Voyage is in my future - what a spectacular way to cruise and be pampered. One unique and valuable bonus offered by HAL is that for every $300 you spend on board, even pre-booked shore excursions and drink packages, you earn credit for a sailing day.  We reached three star level a week early due to this bonus and are now only 8 days shy of level 4 stars when you receive complementary laundry service. 

 

We booked the Back to Back HAL cruise to the Panama Canal, keeping our same stateroom.  So, our vacation lasted an additional 14 days.  Due to the high cost of our return flight from San Diego, it was only a little more money to cruise back to FL on the ship and simply drive home.  But, that is another review.  

 

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Carnival Liberty

May 2014 - Carnival Liberty to Caribbean - Eastern

Carnival Liberty - A Free Cruise is Always Great

Using Carnival Credit Card Reward points, we booked this cruise for free.  This was our second free cruise with Carnival using Reward Points.  Although this was our fourteenth cruise with Carnival - 47 cruises total, we had not previously sailed on the Carnival Liberty.  We chose this ship for its itinerary.  It had also, repositioned this year, to our local Port Canaveral.  On our seven-night cruise, we visited the ports of Nassau, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Grand Turk and Port Canaveral, FL.  Since we have visited all these ports many times, we did not take any organized shore excursions through Carnival or with any private company. The close to 3,000 passengers on this Conquest Class ship were mostly Americans of various ages - many family groups, singles, young married couples plus some seniors like us.  The ship underwent extensive renovations in 2011.  

A local shuttle van service picked us up from home on Saturday, May 24 at 10:15 for the short ride to the port.   When we arrived at the terminal, Carnival informed us that boarding would be delayed because of a higher than normal outbreak of gastroenteritis on the previous sailing.  (No one that I knew personally got sick on our sailing, by the way.)  The check-in process went very smoothly.   While we waited for the ship to be completely sanitized, Carnival provided snacks and drinks for us.  Eventually, however, the terminal ran short on chairs and staffers had to scurry around to locate additional ones.  Since we are on Platinum Level with Carnival, we were among the first to board when the ship was finally cleared just before 1 PM.  We proceeded directly to Emile’s for a quick light lunch at the big buffet on the Lido, Deck 9.  There were no lines since we were the first to board.   After lunch, we sat by the pool until staterooms were ready for occupancy at 1:30 PM.  

Our Ocean View cabin #1424 was toward the aft of the ship. It was bright, large by industry standards and quiet.  Our king bed with its peach headboard was very comfortable.  Small end tables with peach lamps on either side provided storage for sundries and additional lighting.  A shelf inside would have been nice.  The peach leather sofa with underneath storage turned into a bed, if needed.  The oval coffee table was quite useful.  There was plenty of storage in drawers and closets for all our belongings.  The blond wood furniture and window provided an airy feeling to the cabin.  Be aware that you need to use a card with a magnetic strip to access your room safe.  That means that you cannot secure that card in your safe.  Consider bringing an old room key card or some other card with a magnetic strip.   In addition, if you wish ice, you need to tell your steward.  Ice buckets are only supplied at your request.  The cabin’s A/C unit worked well throughout the cruise.  The flat screen TV was interactive.  You can check your statements, book shore excursions, view meal menus, etc… right from your cabin.  Clean wall-to-wall carpeting, gold drapes and two wall art pictures completed the décor.  

The compact bathroom was fine for our needs.  It contained a fairly large curtained shower stall with a retractable clothesline and shampoo and shower gel dispensers.   Our ample supply of white towels and two large beach towels were regularly replaced as needed.  Carnival provided two white robes for our use during the cruise.  I missed the small bottles of conditioner, hand lotion and a sewing kit that are usually standard in staterooms.  There were some Breathe Right Strips that we did not use and a box of trial size toothpaste.    Glass shelves provide storage.

The passenger corridors were all bright with spaced monochrome wallpaper panels to break up the monotony of the long halls.  I wished that they were as colorful as the panels on the Carnival Breeze.  The busy public areas have a European feel to them with lots of black ironworks throughout the ship.    The 22 lounges & bars, the atrium, pool areas and Venetian Palace (Main Theater) were quite attractive, clean and comfortable.  Check out the unique and whimsical décor of the Piano Man Bar, Deck 5, aft.  My husband enjoyed stopping in at the Sports Bar nightly for the latest scores. Another fun bar is the Alchemy Bar with its unique light-up menus, pharmaceutically dressed mixologists and unique drinks. You can even create your own drink.  A large group of us met together here late one afternoon.   The Promenade is an active place especially in the evening.  The new Taste Bar, Promenade Deck 5, aft replaced the Sushi Bar.  We tried some meatballs one night.  They were spicy.   Each night a dish from a specialty restaurant is featured.  The teen disco was popular in the evenings.  The small library is lovely but has few books. There was rarely anyone there to open the locked shelves. The Coney Island main pool area was too crowded and noisy for us.  The music was excessively loud.  Chalk it up to my age. Families and the younger generation flocked to it.  We mostly relaxed by the Versailles Aft Pool and hot tubs.

Everyone on the energetic staff that we encountered during the cruise was friendly, helpful and polite.  Cruise Director Brittany did a good job but made too many announcements.  Our steward, Mylene, was so sweet that we wanted to take her home with us.  She efficiently cleaned our cabin when we vacated it and kept it spotless.  She fulfilled each of our additional requests daily. Her towel animals brought a smile to our faces nightly.  She always addressed us by name.   Our servers in the beautiful Gold Olympian Main Dining Room, (MDR) Deck 3 Forward were equally friendly and attentive.  Ringgo, Head Team Waiter, Glend, Assistant Waiter and “Chris” Assistant Waitress were polite, addressed us by name and welcomed us warmly to dinner each night.  We were entertained by their soft singing.  They kept us informed about what was especially good from the kitchen each night.  Our beverage glasses were always refilled without prompting.  Lorena de los Santos was also quite helpful with our wine choices.  We usually arrived for dinner around 5:45 so we could be sure to secure our favorite table #133 by the last window.  Even though we were on “Your Time Dining,” we always had the same servers. Assignments for “Your Time Dining” tables are on a First Come, First Serve basis.

Our party of four was usually pleased with our dinner choices and the quality of the food served on the new American Table and Feast Menus.  We all especially enjoyed the tender Prime Rib, which were large portions, cooked to our requests. Other very enjoyable dinner selections were Escargot, Fried Calamari, Maine Lobster Tail, Lamb Shank, Stuffed Shrimp, Shrimp Cocktail and Salmon (last two were always on the menu.)  We always quickly consumed the baskets of warm breads and delicious rolls.   Usually, we just ordered Butter Pecan Ice Cream for dessert since we were full after our large multi-course meals.   Some of the pies we ordered - apple and cherry in particular, were delicious.  The Warm Chocolate Melting Lava Cake was a menu staple.   I missed not having Baked Alaska or Cherries Jubilee on the menu.   In addition, Carnival did not have any cold soups that other cruise lines offer.  Be adventuresome and try some different regional specialties such as Frog‘s Legs and Alligator Fritters.

The food at Emile’s buffet for breakfast and lunch was fine if not inspired.  I really prefer dining in the Silver Olympian Main Dining room for better quality when that option is available.  There is more variety, however, at the buffet.  At very busy times, at the buffet, dirty dishes were sporadically neglected specifically on tables at distant locations from the bussing stations.  The staff was very helpful though and did their best to keep the areas clean and well stocked.  Sometimes, the staff circulated with a beverages and cookies cart.  “Seaday Brunch” is a great opportunity to dine in the MDR.  The menu includes Wacky French toast, Stack of Pancakes, Steak ‘n Eggs, Mac ‘n Cheese, Pasta, Salmon & Chicken Diavola.  The desserts are sinful.  At our table, we ordered Banana Cream Pie and the Caramelized Cheesecake.  Brownies & ice cream are also available.  We all used our free drink coupon here.  I really enjoyed the creamy thick frozen yogurt available at several machines near the two main pools.  There were no cones until our arrival in San Juan and occasionally one of the machines was not working properly.  Still, they were delicious especially during the hot afternoon hours.    Guy’s (Fieri) Burger Joint was quite popular and the burgers were delicious and fresh off the grill.  You can choose from five choices or build your own at the topping bar.  Try the Pig Patty made out of crispy bacon, melted cheese with lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle for something a little different.  If you enjoy burritos, check out that station poolside.    Other food choices are the Deli, aft, Mongolian Wok, aft, Blue Iguana Cantina, FWD, all on Deck 9  plus the less used Fish & Chips, Deck 10 aft directly above and accessible from Emile’s Buffet.

There were plenty of activities to do throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night.   During the day, passengers kept busy on outside decks with Live Music, Pool Games & Contests, A Seaside Theater, Golf Putting and Volleyball.   For those more interested in staying in the A/C areas, there were daily Shopping Sales, Trivia Contests, Charades, Texas Hold ‘Em Tournaments, Art Actions,  Karaoke, etc…  One day there was “Groove (dance) For St Jude” to benefit the children’s hospital.   A variety of classes was offered in Towel Folding, Health/Medicine, Arts & Crafts, Walking, Art History, History, Jewelry and Dancing - nothing too heavy.  I wished that there had been an iPad class offered.  Mostly, on sea days we relaxed on lounges by the salt water Versailles Aft Pool & Hot Tubs enjoying the relatively quieter atmosphere.  The towel exchange station unfortunately was a distance from it.   I appreciated that there was a dome ceiling over that pool.  They closed it briefly one time when it started spritzing outside.  It was hard to find a very quiet spot to read anywhere on the ship.  One activity that I really enjoyed was the ice carving demonstration.  I guessed quickly that it would be of an Indian Chief. Another enjoyable activity was the cooking demonstration.  Bingo did not seem too popular, which surprised me.  Perhaps it was too expensive.

One of the reasons that I enjoy cruising besides the fine food and visiting different ports is the entertainment.  The most outstanding show in the three-deck Venetian Palace Main Show Lounge (Theater) on the Liberty was “Wonderful World” with it’s pyrotechnics, laser displays, multiple set changes and scenery, beautiful costumes and the fabulous talent of the Carnival Dancers & Singers and Liberty Orchestra.  Be sure not to miss the extravaganza that highlights the culture of various countries though song and dance.   Another enjoyable Venetian Palace Lounge Stage Show was “Just Rock” with the Carnival Singers and Dancers plus the Liberty Orchestra.  Christopher Alan Graves starred one night in his own show, Singin’ with the Big Band, “A Tribute to Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr.” with the Carnival Liberty Dancers and the Liberty Big Band.  We had seen this professional singer previously on another ship in a different (solo) performance.  The following night we had a chat with him when he attended an evening performance sitting in the audience right behind us.  He was very friendly and showed his appreciation for the performance throughout that show.  Since we have seen “The Welcome Aboard Show” so many times over the last five years on various Carnival Ships, we did not attend this performance on the first night nor did many other passengers.   I hope that Carnival changes this show soon, although it is cute.   Courtney did a fine performance in her “A Night of Music with Courtney & The Liberty Band” but I felt that this was just a filler.  Courtney had great stage presence throughout her show.  The other two night’s offering in the theater did not interest me at all.  They were fellow passenger shows called “Love & Marriage” and “Legends.”   Perhaps you would enjoy them, as they were very entertaining, I was told.  Most other cruise lines offer such entertainment after a professional performance rather than as the main offering for the evening.  This was a major disappointment for me.  I also was disappointed that there was no special observance on Memorial Day.  

I did enjoy all the Comedy Punchliner Shows in the lovely Victory Lounge, Deck 5, aft.  Wes on the entertainment staff was very friendly and helpful before performances.  I was surprised to hear that he did not have any aspirations of becoming a comedian himself.  The several comedians were all so funny and interacted with the audience during acts.  Be sure to sit up front if you want to be part of the Family Friendly and Adult only Shows.  I wished that they had these acts nightly.  On nights when there were no comedy acts, there were parties - “Mardi Gras Celebration” with bead throwing and dancing, “Blue Iguana’s Latin Fiesta” with prizes & give-a-ways fiesta style, “Red Frog’s Caribbean Beach Party” with Caribbean mood music, dancing, prizes, give-a-ways and “Meet the Captain’s Celebration” with the Senior Officers plus live music, drink specials and photo opportunities.   Lounges had live entertainment throughout the evening and the professional photographers were kept busy taking portraits.  I did attend the wonderful Past Guest Cocktail Party with complementary served hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  The event included live entertainment on stage.  

We loved the itinerary on this sailing.  Since we had been to all the ports previously, we just did our own thing in ports.  In Nassau, we walked to Junkanoo Beach just outside of town.  In St. Thomas, we shopped in the Dockside Haversight Market.  In San Juan, we visited Casa Bacardi Distillery on our own taking the ferry and a taxi van to get there.  The tour was complementary and included two drinks.  The gift shop was very popular with visitors.  We also rode the complementary trolley around town.  In Grand Turk, we relaxed on beachside lounges provided by Carnival, shaded by swaying palm trees and swam in the refreshing water in view of our ship just offshore - paradise!  There is also a huge, very lovely pool, a Margaritaville Restaurant with a D.J. and a wonderful shopping village.  I always buy something here and this time was no exception.  Carnival now has a nice Shore Excursion Best Dollar Guarantee on pre-booked excursions.  If you find a lower price elsewhere (privately,) Carnival will give you 110% of the difference as onboard credit.  

During the cruise, a crewmember needed medical attention, so the ship diverted to Grand Turk to drop him off.  The captain kept us apprised of the reason for the change in course and did so throughout the delay.  He made every attempt to make up the time and extended out time on shore in our next port, St. Thomas to compensate for our later arrival.  

Bottom line is that I felt that Carnival is cutting back in many areas, I guess to keep prices low.  Non-the-less, I really enjoyed this less glitzy Carnival ship and the fun cruise.  Carnival still gives the best value for your money.  There were some other minor things that bothered me; some that I liked.  Passengers who enjoy the more casual atmosphere on Carnival ships will enjoy the less formal attire required on formal nights.  I saw many shorts worn in the MDR especially on the second formal night that occurred the night we left Grand Turk. I appreciate that Carnival guests can bring onboard two bottles of wine per cabin and a reasonable amount of soda and water.  Even with this liberal policy, I saw plenty of guests ordering drinks - many purchased the Bottomless Bubbles Soda Program and the Cheers (spirited) Beverage Program. I also enjoyed the outdoor SeaSide Theater that shows movies, sporting events, concerts and ship programming.  The screen was bright even in strong sunlight.  The Taste Bar was a nice addition but it never opened at 5:30 as listed.  Although smoking is restricted to certain areas, the smell of smoke bothered me on this cruise. The comfortable Venetian Palace Lounge is beautiful with its large central Murano Glass chandelier but the floor is not pitched which affects the enjoyment of performances.    I can hardly wait to go on my next Carnival cruise even if it will not be free.  I have not been on the new Carnival Sunshine so I am keeping my sights on that ship.   

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MSC Divina

February 2014 - MSC Divina to Caribbean - Western

MSC Divina

February 2014 - MSC Divina to Caribbean - Eastern

A Divine Cruise on the MSC Divina

The elegant MSC Divina is the newest and largest (4,000+ passengers) of the 12-ship fleet of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC.) The MSC Company founded in 1970 is the second largest global cargo shipping company.   The MSC cruise line, however, is still not familiar to most Americans.  Originally called Fantasia, the ship was renamed Divina to honor Sophia Loren, the Godmother of the fleet.    When the cruise line first began cruises in America, I attended a luncheon aboard the MSC Lirica that included a tour of the ship. The cleanliness and elegance of that ship so impressed me that I decided then to definitely cruise on an MSC ship in the future.

 

We planned our cruise on the MSC Divina a year ago when we booked it while onboard our 2013 MSC Poesia cruise.  The 7-night roundtrip cruise from Miami, Florida, February 1-8, 2014 visited St. Maarten, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas. Our party of six traveled with a larger group of almost 800 Irishmen for tenor Andy Cooney’s Cruise of Irish Stars 2014.  There was a real feeling of camaraderie among all of us.  Many have cruised annually with this group - some for 8-10 years.   It was fun meeting Jaime, sisters Eileen and Claire all from Ormond Beach and Francesca from the Villages in FL.  

 

The drive from home on the day of sailing took around 3 ½ hours. After dropping off our vehicle at a convenient off-site parking garage, we took the complementary shuttle van to the terminal.  We arrived at 12:30 and boarded the ship within mere minutes.  We quickly headed up to the sumptuous buffet on Deck 14 for a light lunch.  After 42 cruises, this was one of the smoothest embarkations ever.  Our disembarkation went just as smoothly and swiftly.  We utilized the Self-Assist Program of carrying off our own luggage.  

The Compulsory Emergency Drill was a little chaotic at our Muster Station; so many passengers crowded in the area, all carrying life jackets and trying to put them on at the same time.   The straps were a little confusing for many passengers but we all helped one another.  The crew did their best to conduct the drill, checking attendance by scanning room key cards. The predominant language on board is English, by the way. There are few announcements so be sure to read your Daily Program for specific information about events and procedures.

Although I have read many complaints about MSC, mostly when they first entered the American market, I found little to fault the company on this cruise.  What impressed me the most was the sheer beauty of the MSC Divina.  The deco throughout the ship is inviting and elegant. Little touches that you do not first notice catch your attention later. The public rooms are tastefully decorated in a modern Italian style.  As I boarded the ship on Deck 5, I was drawn to the dazzling two deck Swarovski crystal staircases. They were a favorite spot for passengers to take photos.   I especially loved the décor in the stunning Pantheon Theater with its gorgeous silver curtain.   There are no obstructive views.  The stadium-style seating affords every seat an excellent view of the stage.  Since there were so many other live entertainment performances going on at the same time as the production shows, including our own Irish live entertainment, we were always able to get good seats even when we arrived just before Showtime.  No food or drinks are served in the theater.  In general, drinks are not pushed.  

All seventeen lounges and bar areas are beautiful and we would often stop to listen to live music either before or after the Production Shows. My favorite lounge was the Silver Lounge, Deck 6 because of its convenient location and beauty.   Many passengers including us enjoyed the beautiful and timeless classical music played by The Elegant Trio & Igor nightly from 5 PM until late in the reception area on Decks 5 and 6.    I truly felt that I was back in Europe listening to their music.  Since the clientele on board is international, so is the live music around the ship.  Many passengers enjoyed dancing to live music.  The varied dance lessons (Grease Lightning, Country, Cumbia, Bachata, Triburon and Latin - Mambo, Merengue, Samba) offered in the lounges and Aqua Park were very popular and the steps easy to learn.  The Irish passengers especially participated in the Riverdance class.

Our quiet balcony cabin # 9125 also had the same attention to detail, as did the public areas.  It had a very sophisticated décor. The lovely cabin was well- appointed with: a king-size bed, end tables with drawers, sofa with a small cocktail table, tall framed mirror, desk (with mirror) and ample closet space for our belonging.  Gray wall-to-wall carpeting, a safe, framed art and a small fridge completed the furnishings.   Our balcony furnished with a table and two chairs afforded beautiful views of the water.  I really looked forward to returning to our serene and comfortable cabin each evening.

 

The compact bathroom had a small shower stall with clear, unique folding doors that made the room seem larger when opened.  I appreciated the retractable clothesline inside the stall and the two robes.  Dispensers (for environmental reasons) held liquid soap at the sink and shampoo and shower gel in the shower.  The shower cap and sewing kit were nice amenities, although I did miss the usual small bottles of hand lotion and hair conditioner.  There was a regular clean supply of white fluffy bath and hand towels including face cloths.  

Yani did a wonderful job of unobtrusively cleaning and refreshing our stateroom when we vacated it.  I never did get to meet her - although my husband did. Yani also fulfilled our additional requests faithfully.   The ship has a small secret amber light hidden above stateroom doors that alerts the steward whether you are inside or outside the cabin. To turn on lights, you must place your stateroom card in a slot.  I always knew where my card was so I liked this feature.  It also is cost saving for MSC, which is very environmentally oriented.   This system allows your steward to enter your cabin without disturbing you.  What a neat idea!

 

The stateroom corridors were light & cheery with spaced wallpaper panels of Italian scenes.  At one point our passageway widened and we could look right down through broad curved glass walls onto the huge chandelier and the reception area below.  It is most unusual for ship stateroom corridors to have an open feeling.  Just off to the side was a lovely sculpture where we often arranged to meet before getting on the elevators.  

The same unobtrusive service found in our stateroom we also experienced in the lovely Villa Rosa Main Dining Room.  I had requested a table by a window for our party and we received it. Our servers, Putera from Indonesia and Rudy from Bali did a professional job of attending to our requests, often anticipating them.  Our wine bottle was always on our table when we arrived.  The servers replenished our beverages and breadbasket without prompting. The congenial Assistant Maitre‘d Tommy stopped by our table nightly to check on our dining experience.  Fiorentina from Romania was very prompt and carefully assisted passengers receiving Special Request Meals in our section.  She also helped the wait staff when she saw a need.

I enjoyed all the Italian dishes and loved the “flaming” Baked Alaska that the wait staff presented with a flourish. We enjoyed the food and service so much in the main dining room (MDR) that we often ate breakfast or lunch there or in the Black Crab Restaurant (another MDR.)  I especially enjoyed the delicious French toast.   The buffet on Deck 14 had a great selection of fresh produce, casseroles, Italian dishes, cheese, breads, meats & cold cuts.  We all enjoyed the pizzas.  Deserts were plentiful at lunchtime & I enjoyed their chocolate mousse more than once.  We, therefore, never felt the desire to visit a specialty restaurant.  Many passengers frequented the soft serve ice cream machines as did I, which were conveniently located on two sides of the Aqua Park available 2:00-5:00 pm.  

 

Besides the elegance and European style service on the ship, what impressed me greatly was the quality of the nightly shows.  One of the reasons I enjoy cruising is to see the extravagant theater shows and MSC did not disappoint.  Every night there was a different production show.  My favorites are Witches of Paris (French Variety,) Simply Italian (Best Loved Italian Songs,) Frank (Sinatra) Forever and The Tribute (Arias.)  If you like Michael Jackson’s music, you will enjoy Star Walker.  Children seemed mesmerized by Pirates and Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland.)  The costumes were all magnificent and the quality of the singing and dancing was wonderful.  Attending a different variety show each night was a delight for me. Often performers came down the aisles into the audience. I did not really miss hearing a live orchestra because there was so much live music elsewhere on the ship.   Since the passengers are international, it probably is a good move to make the shows mainly singing and dancing sprinkled with acrobats and other stunt performers.  There were no comedian performances for this reason, I think.   Sometimes in the theater prior to the production shows, the energetic animation (entertainment) staff performed impromptu comedy antics that surprised unsuspecting passengers to their amusement and the rest of audience.  The fun helped the wait time seem shorter.   Aside from port and shopping lectures, educational presentations were almost nil. Again, I feel the multitude of languages spoken by passengers may be a factor.  There were plenty of parties and other activities.  I attended the culinary demonstration conveniently presented poolside but wished that they had the recipes printed.  The Flower Glory Party in the Black and White Lounge featured popular music of the 60s-80s.  The MSC Factor Talent Contest was entertaining.   Be sure to pack white clothing to wear to the White Party held under the Caribbean Stars on Deck 14. The Celebrate Chinese Wealth Day in the Galaxy Disco and MSC’s Little Italy parties were other fun events.   The single women on the cruise enjoyed dancing with the MSC Divina officers.  I enjoyed the fashion show in the reception area.  All the clothing was for sale in the shops onboard.  I do not remember seeing a fashion show on my other cruises. The open-air Aqua Park screen showed Pavarotti:  The Event Live, Pacific Rim and Captain Phillips.   If you are into fitness, there is a schedule of events going on throughout the day - morning walks, stretching, Aqua Cycling, Aerobics, Zumba, etc.  Jewelry Making, Art & crafts, Scrabble, sport tournaments, napkin folding, Veteran’s Meet, bridge games, Italian lessons, bingo and trivia rounded out other offerings. On Super Bowl Sunday, football fans watched The Seahawks VS. The Broncos in the packed Sports Bar.  

 

Some extra cost events were fun, too.  The men in our group enjoyed the Formula 1 4D Simulator.  Find out if you have what it takes to be a racecar driver.  One unique event was the Winemaker Experience where you join winemaker Greg and custom blend you own bottle of wine.  Another unusual event was the opportunity to try five different “solid” cocktails in one glass.  

 

The young energetic animation team did a great job with organizing and participating in poolside games and other activities.  I answered a math trivia question and won a colorful MSC mouse pad.  My husband & brother-in-law each won one also in a ring toss game.  The lively music poolside played by our Irish group of entertainers was fantastic and quite popular with even those not traveling with our group.  Dancers crowded the limited space in front of the stage area to do Ceili dancing. For me, the water in the five pools was a little too cool so I did not stay in the water a long time.  I did enjoy the whirlpools because the temperature was not too hot for me. There are 150 fountains in the Aqua Park.   Kids loved the waterslide. Shallow areas in the Aqua Park were great for toddlers and young children. There seemed to be no organized activities for children younger than six.    The ports of call were all wonderful but I have been to most of them many times previously.  In St Maarten, we shopped in the village of stores right at the pier.  In San Juan, we rode the complementary trolley near the terminal out to Castillo San Felipe del Morro, “El Morro.”  Later we walked back to the ship stopping along the way in several shops in Old San Juan. I hope to exploere this port more on future cruises.  I understand that new terminals are going to be built.   In Great Stirrup Cay, our MSC shore excursion was an eco-boat tour.  We learned interesting facts about the history of the Bahamas, its local ecology and marine life. We were all encouraged to touch, hold and photograph many marine species.  What surprised me was the necessity of signing a waiver for the eco tour.  Later, we visited the vendor tents at the beach, relaxed on beach lounges and swam in the clear Caribbean water.  The only issue that I had with our day at the beach was the exceptionally long buffet lines that we encountered unprotected from the hot sun.  The wait took away a good portion of our beach time.  Perhaps a box lunch handed out as we departed the ship might be an option to the long lines for the buffet.  

 

One unusual thing that I noticed while on board was that there was a # 13 deck and # 13 lifeboat.  However, there was no # 17 lifeboat.  Cruise Director Andre explained that in Italy # 17 is considered unlucky; #13 is not. I especially recommend MSC to young families since children under 11 sail free when staying with the parents in their cabin.   There were many families on this cruise because of this policy.  In fact, there was a wide range of ages onboard from many foreign countries.  I spoke with passengers from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.  What an opportunity to get to know people from different cultures!

 

I have a few thoughts for MSC.  Perhaps the ship could stock non-fat milk.  We were always served 2 % at best which they assured us was skimmed milk.  Other times they served whole milk and called it skimmed.   I prefer choosing my own time to dine and this option is not currently available on MSC.  Since we were with a large group with specific entertainment schedules, we all had to choose Early Dining anyway, so this was not an issue on this particular MSC cruise for me.  Be aware that the dining room doors close fifteen minutes after the start of the dining seating.  Another issue was the early 7 AM time for vacating our stateroom on disembarkation day.  This surprised me since our staterooms were not ready until 2 PM on Embarkation Day, which is late for most cruise lines.  You may find some onboard difference if you sail MSC in Europe.  Many passengers found navigating the ship to be a little confusing because the two MDRs used the same main kitchen.  This means passengers sometimes had to go up or down a deck to get from one end of the ship to the other.  Many new ships, in fact, have this similar arrangement.   

What it all comes down to is will I book another cruise on MSC?  The answer is a definite yes. The food and service were good, the shows were wonderful and the ship was simply beautiful.  Best of all, the pricing is very competitive with the major cruise lines and an excellent value.  Special online sales offer even greater savings.    I am already a member of the complementary MSC Club for returning guests. There are several benefits to becoming a member including a complementary cocktail party and various discounts.   Be sure to join after your initial cruise.  Arrivederci, MSC!

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Allure of the Seas

December 2013 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern

Allure of the Seas - The Allure is the Journey Itself

 

When researching cruise vacations, it is mostly an itinerary driven decision for me; I want to visit new ports.  This time, however, the ship itself was my destination.  After last year’s exciting cruise on the Oasis of the Seas, I wanted to repeat the experience.  Not wanting to see the same production shows, although Hairspray Musical Comedy was marvelous, I searched for a cruise on the three-year-old sister ship, the Allure of the Seas. A neighborhood community center offered a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, December 8, 2013 on the Allure departing Fort Lauderdale with Ports of Call in Nassau, Bahamas, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten.  I quickly booked the cruise for my husband and myself and invited my sister & her husband along to introduce them to the biggest ship in the world.  For this cruise, there were 5,800 passengers onboard.

As recommended by RCCL, I pre-booked online all our reservations for our My Time Dining and shows. I have to admit it took some time for me to do all this but it was well worth the effort. You can wait to make reservations on the interactive TV in your stateroom or at the Box Office, Deck 4 but you probably will not get the times that you want. It also helps if you sign the waivers ahead of time for Zip Lining, Ice-Skating, Rock Climbing Walls or the Flow Riders.

Our journey began at the local community center where we left our vehicle for the week.  We boarded the large comfortable coach chartered to take our group to the ship. Our arrival at the terminal was around 12 noon.  It was amazing how quickly and smoothly the embarkation process proceeded.  Within mere minutes, we were up in the extremely busy Windjammer Marketplace buffet, Deck 16 where we were turned away because of sheer volume.  Finally, we ended up in the Wipe Out Café, Deck 15. My advice to you on Embarkation Day is to eat in Sorrento’s, Deck 5, as we did on the Oasis or Café Promenade, Deck 5 and avoid the overcrowded buffet scene.   Following lunch, we took a quick tour of the public areas to get our bearings.  Afterwards, we located our cabins and began unpacking.   There was just enough time to finish unpacking when the ship announced the start of the Compulsory Guest Assembly (Safety) Drill.  The Main Dining Room, (MDR) was our Muster Station and once there, staff members directed us to available seats.  The well-organized drill was over in about twenty minutes.  Then we went out on deck for the DreamWorks Sail Away Party Celebration in the Aqua Theater. After that, it was time to go to dinner.  

When we arrived at the Adagio MDR, Deck 5, the very long line was out the lobby entrance to the restaurant spilling into the Royal Promenade.  There were two lines and unbelievably the longest one was for reserved seating.  The lines moved quickly and within 20 minutes, a server escorted us to our table.  We kept the same table for the entire cruise because we were so impressed with our servers.   After 41 cruises, this was a first for us.  Thawee, our Head Waiter, Vijay our waiter, & Tsahi, his assistant waiter all did a commendable job each night anticipating our needs, helping us decide among menu choices - sometimes even bringing extra dishes for us to try.   Most of our favorite dishes were on the menu over the course of the cruise - Escargot, Prime Rib, Lobster, Fillet Mignon, Rack of Lamb, Duck a la Orange, Lasagna to name a few.  The desserts were so tempting that we never skipped them.  Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, Crème Brulee, Warm Apple Strudel, Tiramisu and the freshly made ice creams were delightful.  We never felt the desire to visit a specialty restaurant since our food and service in Adagio were exceptional.  The nightly dining room music with the Rosario Strings was most enjoyable.  The MDR wait staff also did a wonderful job handling Special Meal Requests. In fact, food in all the many different venues was excellent.  The Windjammer Marketplace Buffet was a feast for the eye.  My husband enjoyed ordering up his own special pizza in Sorrento’s.  All the bread and pastries served throughout the ship are made freshly onboard.  There are 20 Chefs & 222 Cooks onboard the Allure.

We booked Boardwalk Balcony Stateroom #10319.  Although our stay in a very quiet Central Park Balcony Stateroom on the Oasis was fine, we wanted something different on the Allure.  I have to admit that Boardwalk was somewhat noisy many evenings.  We never retired before 11 PM so it was not a problem for us.  We enjoyed stepping outside on our balcony, becoming part of the action below us. I love the carnival atmosphere of Boardwalk with Family Festivals that include face painting, balloon artistry and marching bands.  There is a cool psychic teller booth and a beautiful carrousel, which I rode and long funny mirrors to make you laugh (I liked the one that made me look skinny.) Add in freshly made popcorn ($), Pets at Sea Boutique ($), Candy Beach Sweet Shop ($), 50s diner Johnny Rocket (complementary only for breakfast,) The Ice Cream Parlor ($,) Boardwalk Hot Dog House and Broadway Donuts to complete the atmosphere.  Dressing up in costumes for photos ($) was fun for many families at the Smile Photo Studio.  I felt that I was back on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, NJ.

Our stateroom was airy feeling with light colored walls and furnishings, colorful carpet, mirrors, vanity/desk, comfortable king bed, and a big couch.  The end tables, though, were really too tiny.  If you put more than one or two items on each open oval tier, something was sure to fall off and did.  In our particular layout, the closet with its sliding doors was too close to one end table and side of the bed, which made accessing clothes a problem for two people trying to use the closet simultaneously.  There were plenty of hangers, though. They more than made up for the lack of enough drawer space. Fluffy white robes were a nice touch.  I just wished that the bathroom were large enough for a retractable clothesline. We loved our balcony and often sat out at night enjoying a glass of wine before bedtime.   Our cabin steward, Leo stopped by the first day to introduce himself and was very attentive throughout the cruise keeping our ice buckets filled with ice.   He kept our room clean & stocked with fresh towels & bath amenities.   Leo was friendly and addressed us each by name when he saw us in the hallway.  He accommodated our comings and goings when cleaning our cabin.

This ship is so huge (16 deck) that you feel as if you are in a hotel.  However, do not assume that you will get lost on such a big ship.  There are navigational aids available in different languages called Wayfinder Screens located by elevator lobbies that will show you the route to every part of ship including how to get back to your own stateroom.  I never needed to use them.  The ship is easily navigable.   The Allure, like The Oasis, is divided into seven neighborhoods, Adventure Ocean (Youth Program,) Central Park, Pool & Sports, Vitality Spa & Fitness Center, Broadway, Entertainment Place & Royal Promenade.  The lively Royal Promenade is the center of activities all day/night long.  Passengers love to congregate here to enjoy a beverage, have a snack/meal, shop, or people watch.  There are restaurant, bars, retail shops and lounges.  We sometimes dropped in for chocolate chip cookies at the Café Promenade (open 24 hours.).  Do not pass up the opportunity to ride the unique Rising Tide Bar.  If you enjoy karaoke, check out the popular On Air Club opposite Starbucks.

The staff and crew were most helpful and friendly.  The front desk solved little problems as quickly as possible.   I saw workers in the Windjammer helping passengers carry food to their tables and bringing beverages tableside.  Ken Rush has been with RRCL for 20+ years and obviously does his job well.  His Morning Rush Show however seemed to be as much about selling merchandise and spa treatments as about telling us what there was to do onboard.  This is just part of his job I am sure.

With 626 activities happening onboard, I will just highlight a few of my favorites.  Be sure to consult the Cruise Compass, a daily activity program delivered nightly to your stateroom so you get the most out of your vacation.  I used The Planner, a schedule of the top activities for the entire week given out Embarkation Day to list all my desired activities in one place.  Zip Lining, Flow Rider and the Rock Climbing Walls (200ft. above the sea) are fun to watch even if you do not participate.   They are all complementary activities.  So are the open sessions ice skating (must wear long pants & socks.)  Free Liquor Tasting is available in the Royal Promenade.  The DreamWorks Character Appearances are fun for “kids” of all ages.  I posed with many of the characters myself.  How wonderful that even the 3-D movies are complementary!  I watched several, Turbo, How to Train Your Dragon, Pacific Rim and Man of Steel during my cruise.  Other unusual activities are the Traffic Light Party where the glow beverage glasses describe your relationship status.  For runners, there is a Royal 5K in St. Maarten and a How to Prepare For a 5K Seminar beforehand.  It was a most popular event onshore.  A less demanding activity is the “Walk Through Central Park” with the Allure Landscape Specialist.  I learned many interesting facts about the plants in Central Park.  Zumba classes and the Flash Mob Dance Class were other popular activities.  Although I did not attend the Love & Marriage Game Show, I hear that it too was a lot of fun.   For kids and adults alike, the elaborate DreamWorks Parades and Special Dance Performances should not be missed.  Arrive early for a choice spot.   Try not to miss A Selection of Fountain Shows at least once in the evenings.     We all enjoyed the Aqua Theater Backstage Tour.  The Captain’s Welcome Aboard Reception with complementary champagne, The Welcome Back Cocktail Party and Top Tier Event were equally entertaining. It was fun to “Meet the Stars” (Ice & Aqua cast) at Dazzles.   Finally, I loved the big Glow Party, Studio B. The venue glowed with laser light beams and LCD glitter.  The ship sold light-up accessories and passengers of all ages packed the studio while neon-looking balloons floated over the dance floor.  Some guests wore neon tee shirts and others purchased drinks in glowing glasses.  It was such a fun night for everyone who attended.

The shows onboard are wonderful.  Let me start with the sexy R rated Chicago: The Broadway Musical Comedy performed superbly on the ship.  The Oceanaria Aqua Show in the 600 seats Aqua Theater was awesome especially when you remember that the aerialists, high divers & trampoline acrobats are performing on a moving ship.  No other ships have an Aqua Theater.  The pool is 17.9 feet deep. Perhaps the most unusual and magical show is Blue Planet Production Show.  This spectacular show includes a tree that comes to life, acrobats and more.  You will be talking about this spellbinding show long after it is over.  Do not miss it.  Another unusual show is the Ice Games Ice Show, Studio B, Deck 4 where the ice rink becomes a Monopoly Board with excellent skaters wearing dazzling costumes.  Spectators sit so close to the skaters that some become part of the show. Headliner Showtime Abracadabra was most enjoyable.  If you enjoy ABBA music as I do, you will enjoy this performance.  The talented group sings all the familiar ABBA songs such as Dancing Queen & Take a Chance on Me.  Many passengers bought their DVD after the show.  You will still be singing as you leave the theater.  Comedy Live with Jim David & Eric Lyden was most entertaining.  I was even recorded on the ship DVD during the performances.  

I did not take any shore excursions because I have stayed on the three islands many times over the years.  At our Port of Call in Nassau, we stayed onboard enjoying the now quiet Water Works area.  Usually we enjoy the Solarium (Adults Only) area of a ship but on the Allure, the three-deck area was much too sunny for us.  We did enjoy the Solarium cantilever whirlpool several times.  In St Thomas, we walked into town for some brief shopping and took an inexpensive ($4) open air taxi back to the ship.  It St. Maarten we took the water taxi to the beach and enjoyed the white sand and warm turquoise water.  

Although I was assured pre-cruise that the mechanical problem with one of the three Azipods was fixed, this proved not to be so.  The problem cannot be fixed until February 2014, Captain Johnny said.  At our port of call in Nassau, there developed an additional mechanical problem.  This faulty mechanism holds one of the lifeboats.  The problem delayed our departure.    This in turn greatly delayed our arrival in St Thomas. The earlier mechanical problem plus the high winds we encountered prevented the ship from speeding up enough to compensate for the lost time.  I have to applaud Captain Johnny Faevelen and the cruise line for how they handled the situation onboard.  The captain gave us regular updates so we knew what was happening.  The cruise line gave us a most generous fully refundable shipboard credit which most of us spent in the gift shops anyway.  I also want to add that Captain Johnny was the most visible captain that we ever had on any ship.  He was always eager to pose for photos, chat and answer questions. The captain told us quite a bit about himself including his love of golf and motorcycling.  We even found him strolling around the ship with his parrot AJ on his shoulder. He insists that the Allure is THE biggest ship in the world since it is two inches longer than the Oasis.  The captain of the Oasis disagrees and I refuse to be drawn into the discussion.  It also turns out that Captain Johnny is actually a neighbor of mine.    

One of the smallest gripe that I had did not even affect me.  I could not believe it when my sister told me that her stateroom had no shampoo, conditioner or lotion bottles.  After three days, we realized that this was not just an oversight.  Her steward told her that only repeat guests get these amenities.  Be aware that first time passengers on RCCL must request them.  There was not even a card in the cabin stating this.  I was so embarrassed that RCCL could be so petty about this.  This policy needs to be changed.  Another less minor complaint had to do with the ship charging $35 for those attending the Prohibition Party.  I wanted to attend but did not want to try to consume $35 worth of liquor included in the price.  

Why is the Allure so special to me?  It is all about the beautiful public areas of the ship, the uniqueness of the Aquatheater, Ice Skating Rink & Ice Show, the awesome production shows, unusual parties, events and activities.  It is about all the multiple varied choices you have. Whatever music you enjoy, you can hear it live on the ship be it country western, disco, romantic, piano, rock, 60s, 70s, 80s, karaoke, Mexican, jazz, soul, Island, Calypso, Reggae, Big Band, etc…  The ship appeals to all ages - especially families.  It was nice to see a real mix of passengers onboard. I did not get to do everything that I wanted to do.  There just was not enough time to do it all.  Although I paid a bit more to cruise on the Allure, I felt it was well worth the price.  I hope to take another RCCL cruise in the near future.

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Carnival Dream

October 2013 - Carnival Dream to Caribbean

A "Dream" Cruise

While searching for my birthday present, my husband found a great gift online.  It was a seven-night Carnival Dream cruise departing October 19, 2013 leaving from nearby Port Canaveral. The attractive itinerary visited the islands of Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.  Our travel agent booked the reservation.

 

 Platinum Level status in Carnival’s VIFP Club granted us Priority Boarding so we breezed through the embarkation procedure.  Within mere minutes, we were on the ship.  Another plus was that our stateroom was immediately available (11:30 AM.)   After stowing our hand luggage, we enjoyed the full buffet lunch in The Gathering and relaxed at a window table.  After lunch, it was time for a swim.  The informative safety drill was well organized; passengers were attentive and quiet.  There was comfortable seating in the Scarlet Main Dining Room.  The Sail Away Deck Party was lively and the staff taught passengers some new line dances.  After the ship’s departure from the Port, we unpacked our checked luggage and got ready for dinner.

 

We had signed up for “Your Time Dining” and it went smoothly every night.  Mostly we sat at the same table with the same wait staff in the downstairs level of the lovely Crimson Main Dining Room (MDR.)   Reynaldo, Team Headwaiter, Rogelio, Team Waiter and Ronan, Assistant Team Waiter were an attentive team.  They worked well together, greeted and addressed us by name and were very professional.  They worked hard to please us nightly.  

The food on The Dream was fine throughout the ship.  Every night, in the MDR, there were multiple tempting choices.  What a surprise it was one night to discover escargot on the menu.  This dish never appears on the menu of other more expensive cruise lines even on longer length cruises. Breakfast and Lunch choices in The Gathering (buffet) varied somewhat each day.  At the breakfast buffet, expect to find cooked to order omelets, eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, a variety of cold and hot cereals, muffins, bacon, sausage and so much more. At the lunch buffet, there is a different themed selection of food each day such as Caribbean, Italian, French, American, etc.  A plentiful selection of fresh fruits, cheeses, carved or sliced meats and salads are always available.  Otherwise, pizza is a good choice and the deli is quite popular.  Mongolian and The Grill often has long lines, go early.  When weather permits, check out the BBQ by the Lanai deck 5, Mid-ship.   My husband enjoyed ordering from Pasta Bella directly upstairs from The Gathering.  Here you choose from the menu of a variety of pastas, sauces, and baked dishes (meatballs and lasagna.)   Your order is delivered right to your table - how convenient!  If you are still hungry, The Gathering offers late night snacks from 11:30pm -1am.  There were three Sea Day Brunches in the MDR. We attended one of them so that we could sleep late that morning.    

 

 It was always easy finding a vacant table in The Gathering. The tables, though, are rather close together and seemed especially so on embarkation day when passengers had hand luggage. The staff will even serve you beverages and they often help anyone in need of their assistance.  Views out the large picture windows are quite mesmerizing.

 Besides Carnival’s great value and good food, the layout of the Deluxe Oceanview rooms is terrific.  In addition to the full bathroom, the rooms contain a second washroom with a sink and a shower/tub combination.   It made it so much easier getting ready in the mornings and evenings.  Our stateroom #2416 was bright and comfortable with a king bed, large couch, desk and plenty of closet and storage space.  One closet was never even used.  Michael, our steward, introduced himself the first day and kept the stateroom clean & stocked with amenities.  He was discrete and made up the room when it was unoccupied.  Hallways are wide with attractive full-length wallpaper panels depicting elegantly dressed men and women enjoying the good life. I photographed some of my favorites. They made walking the hallways interesting and cheerful.

 

Although there were 768 children onboard, they were never a problem. Mostly they enjoyed Camp Carnival and the Water Park/pool areas.   The majority of the passengers were young families, couples and singles all enjoying themselves in a responsible way. Many passengers hailed from FL and other southern states.  There were some international passengers, too.  Everyone was there to have a good time.  We were some of the older passengers.  The pool area sometimes got a little too noisy for us so when poolside contests were going on, we moved to a quieter area of the ship.  The comfortable Adults-Only Serenity area is a lovely retreat for those wishing a quieter atmosphere.  The younger passengers, however, thoroughly enjoyed all the pool antics and the party atmosphere.   The ship really gears itself to a younger audience.

 

The five professional shows performed in the charming Encore Theater were very entertaining.  The three production shows by the talented Carnival Dream Singers and Dancers, Get Ready, 8 More Seconds and Dancin’ in the Street were awesome.  These shows are full one-hour productions with live music, quick costume changes, multiple backdrops plus enough special effects to wow audiences.   They are fast paced, high energy and well executed.  I enjoyed them even though I have seen them all on a previous Carnival Dream cruise two years ago. The introductory Welcome Aboard Show features the Carnival Singers & Dances plus other performers as well.   Although I have seen some of that show many times previously on different Carnival ships, it was still delightful.  Las Vegas Headliner Singer Jerome Dabney performed a wonderful Sugar Sweet Classics Motown Music Show with plenty of audience participation.  Before he knew it, my husband was up onstage performing with the singer as a member of the “Temptations.”  What fun! For those who enjoy a more intimate entertainment venue, several lounges showcase various types of live music and play music requests.  

 

 Instead of attending the Love & Marriage or Legends passenger shows, we visited the Punchliner Club for two very funny Family Friendly and Adults Only Comedy Shows and the lively Fun Force Break Dancers Show up close in the glitzy atrium.  One of the break dance performers was from my hometown neighborhood in the Bronx (NY) and we had a chat after the performance.  I was even part of the show at one point.  Although we were hoping to meet Comedienne Sheila Key who is a neighbor of our nephew, she was not performing on this cruise.   Stand Up Comedian Jeff (Shaw) the Fun Dude did an excellent job warming up the audience for the featured comedians.  

Cruise Director James Charlton and his assistant Gumby (Greg) entertained passengers with their daily Morning Show televised on the Seaside Theater’s big screen.  While lounging by the pool one morning, James read out my husband’s “Happy Birthday Shout Out” to me.  Gumby even sang a short refrain from the song, “Gloria” that made me laugh aloud.  Later James sent a bottle of Champagne to our stateroom.  Thanks, James for the thoughtful gesture and “Cheerio!”   In fact, the entire staff was, as a group, very energetic, friendly and helpful. The Dive In Movies at the Seaside Theater were fun to watch because you could actually see the movies even in broad daylight.  Some of the movies that played were family-friendly ones such as Zookeeper and Big Miracle.  

 

Other activities that we enjoyed onboard were the well attended Caribbean Beach and Mexican Fiesta late night deck parties with their fun handouts of neon bracelets, beads and noisemakers, etc.  The Limbo contest was lots of fun.  How low can your go!  The staff did a great job energizing the partiers, engaging them in line dances and doing the Congo.  The Mardi Gras Party in the atrium was fun too & I danced many line dances to get beads.  James & Gumby did a terrific job with Ship’s Life Q & A.  All the passengers’ questions were interesting and we all enjoyed the answers.  James also did a great job with his Fun Ashore & Fun Abroad presentation.  Wish that I had won the excursion for two. All the passengers enjoyed themselves at the repeat guests’ cocktail party.  Unlimited beverages and hors d’oeuvres were served and the orchestra and a singer performed for us.  It was fun chatting with fellow guests sitting nearby.   I did a little bit of shopping onboard.  In the Fun Shops, I purchased jewelry, ship postcards and two glitzy lanyards.  In the photo shop, I purchased a distinctive Carnival light up frame.  Prices were fair; variety was good.  There were always special sales very day.

 

The ship’s itinerary was terrific - each port was culturally different and unique.  We have been to Nassau many times, so we did not get off the ship. Those who did had a great time at Atlantis swimming with the Dolphins or enjoying the Aquaventure Park. Many passengers took glass bottom boat cruises or catamaran sails.  There were also snorkeling and Kayak adventures.  For those who did not want to get wet, there were City and Jeep tours plus a Garden Tour.   Next time perhaps I will try Stand Up Paddle Boarding.  This time we simply enjoyed the quieter atmosphere and the ship’s many amenities.   

 

Shopping in St Thomas was excellent both downtown and near the terminal.  There is inexpensive transportation to the downtown area near the terminal.  Roadwork by the Skyride caused the ride’s closure while we were in port.  In San Juan, our excellent five hour shore excursion, “Puerto Rico Favorites” visited the rainforest and the San Cristobal Fort.  Some of us were dropped off in Old San Juan to shop the narrow quaint streets before returning to the ship docked just a few blocks away. 

  

San Juan was my favorite port until we landed in Grand Turk where we swam in the warm shallow sea alongside our ship.  There were no waves - just clear calm water.  Plenty of complementary beach loungers lined the white sandy beach many under the shade of palm trees.  A variety of music from the Margaritaville Restaurant entertained passengers, some of whom sipped tropical drinks and enjoyed the restaurant’s local food.  Later in the afternoon, we moved to the huge pool area and enjoyed the warm water while watching the Flow Riders fall off their body boards.  Just before re-boarding the ship, I shopped in the variety of boutiques.  There were excellent buys and bought many neat items.  When entering the final shop, I laughed with the sales clerk because there featured on the front rack was exactly the parrot design cover-up that I was wearing, purchased previously in the States.  Be sure to see the NASA Exhibit for a cool Photo Op.

 

Everyone I met and I spoke to many passengers said that they had a great time.  I honestly did not hear even one complaint.  Our only personal problem with the trip had nothing to do with Carnival.  We planned to arrive at the port before 11 AM using a local car service. When we reached the entrance to the port’s terminal #6, we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic for 45 minutes.  I hope that the port can correct this.  We never experienced this problem with other terminals at the port.   We keep returning to Carnival because of its value pricing, good food, good service, larger stateroom accommodations and the port location.  For a future cruise, we hope to sail on the new Carnival Sunshine when it departs from Cape Canaveral.  

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Celebrity Summit

September 2013 - Celebrity Summit to Canada, New England, New York

Celebrity Summit - New England & Canada - 14-Night Fall Foliage Cruise

 

Our 14-night New England & Canada cruise departing September 7, 2013 was the second of our Back-to-Back (B2B) cruises on the Celebrity Summit, so we were already on the ship when our cruise began.  We kept the same stateroom #3092.  A glance out my stateroom window the morning of the start of our cruise showed that it was a beautiful sunny day.  After breakfast, two dozen passengers who were all doing B2B cruises and not taking a shore excursion on Embarkation Day met in a conference room to fill out Custom Declaration Cards.  Then staff members escorted us off the ship to a shuttle bus for the very short ride to Customs and Immigration.  When the next agent became available, we were processed quickly and transferred back on the shuttle bus to the ship.  It was such an easy and quick procedure.  I then went up on deck to snap some photos of the magnificent New York Harbor, Statue of Liberty and Verrazano Narrows Bridge among other sites seen from our ship.  Although, before my retirement, I had lived all of my life in New York, I, too, was impressed with seeing the New York Skyline from the ship’s deck while docked in Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey.  What a glorious sight!

Our ship’s Ports of Call were Cape Liberty, Bayonne, New Jersey, Portland, Maine, Bar Harbor, Maine, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Charlottetown, P.E.I., Quebec City, Quebec (overnight,) Quebec City, Quebec and Gaspe, Canada.  It is a wonderful literary and if you have never seen this part of the world before, I highly recommend the cruise.  Every port is exciting, different and interesting.  For peace of mind, we booked Celebrity shore excursions in each port.  The high quality excursions were interesting, educational, and fun.  The guides were well informed and personable.  We chose the first week of the Fall Foliage Cruises because we were hoping for warm weather and we were not disappointed.  The foliage colors were just starting to turn so if the fall foliage is what you want to see book a later date.  

Our Ocean view stateroom #3092 on Deck 3 was conveniently located near the front desk and Grand Foyer, just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room assignment and the Celebrity Theater.  Our cabin was bright and quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple small pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both needed access to the closet, drawers, safe or bathroom.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella for use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.    The attractive ship hallways also seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Our steward, Joanne had a new assistant on this cruise and they again did a great job of keeping our stateroom tidy and stocked with amenities.  

We took almost all our dinners in the elegant yet understated Cosmopolitan Main Dining Room with its 2-deck tall wall of windows looking back to the ocean. Its center ceiling of glass changed from a glowing yellow gold to rose during dinner.  We requested Celebrity Select Dining on this cruise.  Sudarmika from Indonesia and his assistant Melvin from the Philippines continued to serve us throughout the journey at our same table by a window.  The friendly hostess, Gabriella told us to skip the reservations line and proceed directly to our table each night.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their knowledgeable advice.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would often chat with her at the breakfast and lunch buffets.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job of chilling our bottles and refilling our wine glasses.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had.   When Captain Theo was in the public areas of the ship, he always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone - “Hi, Steve!”

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night. One entrée, however, did disappoint me.  Instead of incorporating an egg in with the Spaghetti for Spaghetti Carbonara, the chef simply placed a poached egg on top of the spaghetti.  I could not detect any cream in the sauce.  This is not the correct way to prepare this dish.   

 We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Mexican Grill, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to frozen yogurts, sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream along with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream at the buffet or poolside.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

Celebrity offered rewards for B2B guests.  We received 15% off a shore excursion in Canada, 25% off dinner in a Specialty Restaurant and 20% off AquaSpa treatment.  A much-appreciated benefit was a free load of laundry.  Another perk was lunch in the Quisine restaurant, an unusual restaurant.  As Captain Club Members were received additional rewards for savings on AquaSpa and Digital Printing,  wine bottles, Bingo, Laundry, Coffee Drink in a Specialty Restaurant, Internet Savings and Casino Match Play,  In addition, our travel agent gave us a free dinner in any Specialty Restaurant, a bottle of wine and shipboard credit.  We chose dinner in the Normandy Restaurant. What a treat that was!  There were many servers attending us.  We received a complementary appetizer before our meal even started.  The setting was quite romantic, the service impeccable and the food was divine.  Everything was fabulous and I highly recommend this restaurant especially if you are celebrating a special event while on board.  The only hiccup was that the restaurant sent our vouchers to the incorrect department.  It took several days for the removal of charges from our bill.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance, fitness (Zumba) and language classes, trivia, arts & crafts, games, bingo and ship tour.  In addition, there were various seminars, ice carving and port talks.  I very much enjoyed the Champagne Galley tour.   We especially appreciated all the Beyond the Podium Speaker Series of lectures given by Smithsonian Journeys Geologist Professor Pat Abbott, Canada & New England Historian Bruce Daniels and Space Exploration Speaker Jim Kennedy, a retired Director of the Kennedy Space Center.    My husband and I are deeply interest in the space program.  It was why we moved to Florida‘s Space Coast.  Therefore, we attended every space talk.  Speaker Jim Kennedy used to live in my condominium complex and he is still a resident of the area.  It was wonderful chatting with him and his charming wife Bernie.   

Some of the many highlights of my cruise were: Rock the Summit and White Night Parties, ice carving, Captain’s Club Senior Officers’ Cocktail Party, Behind the Stage Doors Q&A & Moonlight Serenade with the Production Cast, Broadway Meet & Greet: Andrea McArdle and the Captain’s Gala Welcome Aboard Toast.  I enjoyed the, iClass Complementary Class for the iPad and iPad Tips and Tricks.   A couple of unexpected delights were riding elevators that looked outside onto the ocean and finding windows to the ocean on the floor of the Oceanside Grill where the restaurant juts out.  

The entertainment was wonderful.  The various lounges had live entertainment in the evenings.  The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas.  Every single night there was a different Celebrity Theater show.  I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the talented singers and dancers.  Although these were the same production shows that we saw on the previous Bermuda cruise, iHollywood, Broadway@Sea and Sirens, I enjoyed them all again.  The choreography was first rate.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.    The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  The aerialists were marvelous.  Other enjoyable shows were Comedian Michele Balan from Brooklyn, NY, Mark Preston, member of The Lettermen, Buzz Sutherland, a very funny, personable person, Doug Cameron - performer, arranger and composer and last by not least Glenn Smith, performer, musician and singer.   The only show that I, myself, did not care for but that many others thought was hilarious was Bande Artisque.  There is something here for everyone.  

There were so few kids on board since the cruise was 14-nights long that I never saw any children in the Fun Factory.  Perhaps there were six kids on board.  This was definitely a senior group of cruisers compared with the previous Bermuda cruise, which due to its shorter length of 6 nights was comprised of a younger age group, many working age singles and families with young children.  Everyone on the 14-night cruise wanted to eat early, ordered fewer drinks in the theater and partied less late at night.  

I did some shopping in the neat shops on board.  I bought jewelry, logo items and apparel. Even my husband made some purchases.  There were plenty of daily deals and special sales going on to tempt passengers.  

I want to applaud Celebrity for placing cards on the sun lounges reminding guests not to leave their chairs unattended.   Sun Chairs are at a premium in pool areas.  Unfortunately, I had so little free time on the cruise that I rarely used the beautiful pools, hot tub or indoor Thalassasotheraphy pool.  I also liked the guests did not have to sign for towels, sports equipment or blankets.  Beach towels were in staterooms, also.  I was not however, happy that the cruise line reserved two rows of seats in the theater each night for those guests staying in the highest priced rooms.  When the line emphasizes that guests may not save theater seats for others, it should follow its own rule.  Find another benefit for these guests.  

In summary, our party of four had a very memorable cruise.   Waters were calm and the weather was good.  Entertainment, service and food were fine.  Best of all, the ports were beautiful and the excursions were worthwhile.  We all hope to travel again on Celebrity.  

 

 

 

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Celebrity Summit

September 2013 - Celebrity Summit to Bermuda

Celebrity Summit - Bermuda Here We Come

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

Many weeks after booking our 14-night New England & Canada cruise (September 7, 2013) on the Celebrity Summit departing from Bayonne, NJ including airfare from Orlando, FL to Newark, NJ, we discovered that the Summit would be cruising to Bermuda on a six-night voyage the week right before our two-week cruise.  We had searched for a cruise to Bermuda from a Florida port for some time but Bermuda cruises from Florida are rare.  Therefore, we chose to rebook our flight six days earlier and cruise to Bermuda first on a back-to-back (B2B) Celebrity Summit cruise.  It turned out to be a great idea and we found that the two cruises were completely different experiences. Packing for such a wide range of temperatures proved a little more complicated but we managed to keep our bags way under the airline limit.

We departed September 1 from Orlando International Airport to Newark Airport in New Jersey where Celebrity representatives from a private transportation company met us in the baggage department.  Our Celebrity arranged transfer went smoothly.  The helpful gentleman assigned to us stood nearby to ensure that all our bags arrived safely. He was well organized and chatted with us while we waited.   He kept us well informed about what was happening.  Then he escorted us to a waiting area so more passengers from another flight arriving just minutes after ours could join us.  Soon a large comfortable coach with a friendly driver arrived to take us all to Cape Liberty.    

After a not-so-short ride, we parked at a dismal port receiving area in Bayonne, New Jersey. We claimed our checked luggage and handlers from the port took them directly to the ship. We had only to manage our carry-on bags.  What surprised me next was that we needed to board shuttle buses to take us to the real terminal still a short distance away to begin our boarding preliminaries.  The process was accomplished smoothly and before we knew it, we were on the ship in the buffet café enjoying a sumptuous meal.  Our party of four quickly secured an inside table with a view of the lovely New York Harbor, lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, however, shrouded in fog and haze.  My photos were not great but we knew that we had a chance for better photos on our return.  

After lunch, we took a short tour of the public areas until our staterooms became available.    We changed our clothes, put away our hand luggage contents and went up to meet our fellow passengers.   Several announcements pertaining to the start of the safety drill occurred a few hours later.  In our case, we had to stand, crowded in lines in an inside section for many minutes before and during the safety drill.  Luckily, most of the passengers on this cruise were young so this was not a big problem just a bit uncomfortable and hot.  Other Muster Stations were in more convenient lounge areas with seating.     

 Our stateroom on Deck 3 was our home for the next three weeks.  It is quite conveniently located near the front desk and atrium area just two decks down from our Main Dinning Room and the Theater. Our bright Oceanview stateroom #3092 was quite comfortable with a king bed, end tables and a small couch with multiple pillows. Floor-to-ceiling mirrors on one wall made the room seem larger.  A desk with a mirror and chair plus a glass cocktail table and a wall hanging completed the decor.  There were enough drawers, shelves and closet space for our belongings.  My only complaint was that the passageway into the room was a bit narrow especially when we both packed/unpacked at the same time.  The bathroom was of average size and adequate for our needs with sufficient towels and other amenities.  I especially appreciated the retractable clothesline in the shower and the nightlight that many ships do not have.   Celebrity provided two robes and a large umbrella to use on the cruise.  We received a complementary logo tote bag to keep.   Our checked luggage arrived and we began unpacking in earnest until dinnertime.  The attractive ship passageways seemed a little narrow but still airy-feeling with light colors, landscape photographs on the walls and mirrors on the ceiling.  Soon our steward, Joanne stopped by to introduce herself, ask if our luggage had all arrived and to see to our needs.  She was so friendly and accommodating throughout our entire three weeks as was Richard, her assistant for this cruise.  

Service around the ship in general, was great. We chose Celebrity Select Dining and made reservations with a very accommodating Gabriella at the reception desk outside the Main Dining Room on Deck 5.  She did a great job assigning tables but often had to leave her post to escort diners to their tables.  She needs more support staff there.  She was never ruffled no matter how long the line.   For the first couple of days we tried sitting at different tables.  We were looking for not only competent servers but ones with personalities as well.  On our third evening, Sudarmika from Indonesia served us and we decided that he and Melvin were not only professional and attentive but also entertaining.   They remained our servers for the rest of our B2B cruises.   From then on Gabriella told us to avoid the reservations line and proceed directly to our table.  This saved us wait time. Our servers did a superb job serving us, anticipating our needs and offering suggestions for the best choices at mealtime. Although we did not always take their suggestions, we did appreciate their advice and they were always right.  At my urging, Melvin even showed us a photo of his son who is so cute.  

Head Waitress, Ana from Mexico, handled special meal requests.  We had such a wonderful relationship with her that we would find each other up at the buffet for breakfast and lunch just to say hello. We even sang her Happy Birthday one evening in the MDR.  She was personable, helpful, upbeat and knowledgeable.   Karen from Columbia was our Wine Stewardess and she did an excellent job refilling our wine glasses and chilling our bottles.  Shah from India was a friendly Assistant Maitre’d who always stopped by our table to ask how everything was going.  We made friends with Christian from Guest Services and he was a big help to us with any questions that we had. Captain Theo was sometimes seen around the ship and always had time for pleasantries. Steve Gayda, our Cruise Director, was always available especially on port days.  He was very friendly and chatted with everyone.  Hi, Steve!

Almost all the MDR meals met with our satisfaction.  We all especially enjoyed the Mushrooms stuffed with Crabmeat appetizer - always on the menu and ordered it frequently.  Other favorites were the beef dishes especially the very tender Prime Rib and, of course, the lobster Tail.  Portions were generous and we barely had room for dessert each night.  We usually ordered the more unusual flavors of ice cream each night such as Rum Raisin, Cherry Brandy, Rocky Road, Cinnamon and Honey Caramel.   The Crème Brulee was another favorite as was the Baked Alaska.   Breakfast and lunch were usually in the Oceanview Café.  There was always a wonderful selection of fresh salads, entrees, pizzas, pastas, Asian Specialties and casseroles as well as deli sandwiches and deserts to please almost everyone.  I loved the hash brown patties, the varieties of Eggs Benedict and fresh fruit for breakfast.  We enjoyed eating real ice cream at the lunch buffet in addition to sherbets, soft serve and sugar free ice cream with several different toppings.  Many cruise line only serve soft serve ice cream outside the MDR.  Once or twice, we enjoyed breakfast or lunch in the MDR on sea days just for a change.  

 The ship has all the usual shipboard activities including art auctions, dance and fitness (Zumba) classes, trivia, arts & crafts, board games, bingo and a Ship and Champagne Galley tour.  In addition, there were Wellness Seminars, Ice carving, stargazing and lectures given by Dr. Dave a Naturalist.  He spoke about whales, sharks, bioluminescence and other interesting topics.   On our departure from Bermuda, we were invited to use the Helipad. The staff offered us golf umbrellas and icy towels since it was a very sunny, hot day.  We took advantage of this unusual opportunity and enjoyed the view.  There were so many activities every day that we only went swimming one time in the indoor Thalasassotherapy pool. The many kids on board were kept busy building spaceships, watching movies, doing arts & crafts projects,  scavenger hunts, playing ping pong,  face painting and other such activities too numerous to list.  

The entertainment was wonderful. The theater was quite attractive as were all the public areas. I especially enjoyed the big production numbers with the singers and dancers.  The choreography was first rate.  Every single night there was a different show.  The Sirens Show had beautiful stage settings.  Children in the audience were mesmerized and dressed up as Pirates.  The costumes for the production numbers were beautiful.  Other enjoyable shows include musician, actor, impressionist James Stevens and illusionist Jason Bishop.  

Our ship docked in Bermuda for three days.  I took four tours over the three days and enjoyed them all.  We saw almost the entire island and loved the pink sand on the beaches and the friendly tour guides.  They were so knowledgeable and could answer all the various questions.  They often pulled over when possible for us to taken photos at unscheduled stops.  The weather on the trip was perfect and the seas were very calm.  

There were several nice shops on the ship but I held off buying anything since I had shipboard credit to spend on the following cruise.  There were many special sales around the shops and complementary liquor tasting before or after the shows.  The casino was busy at night.  Since the passengers were for the most part young, many partied until late at night.  Many passengers on this cruise preferred to dine late.  They were an active group.  Many were from New Jersey, of course, or the tri-state area.  Up on deck I met a friendly couple from the UK who said that there was a large contingent from her country onboard.  

Sometimes, it really comes down to small things that can make or break a cruise.  After a very early wake up, lugging bags through the airport, maneuvering through security, not receiving any snacks on our United flight, etc… we were tired when we finally boarded our ship.  How nice that we were greeted with glasses of champagne.  It was a wonderful way to start our cruise. We also received champagne on the Galley tour and one evening along with delectable chocolates in the theater.   

Did everything go right, no?  It never does. I have just a few suggestions to offer Celebrity.   Get more help in escorting Select Dining passengers to their seats to ease lines at the front reception desks.   Be more proactive about insisting that passenger use hand sanitizer machines.   There are plenty around the ship but many passengers do not use them.   A third suggestion is to do away with reserve seating in the back two rows of the theater for guests in certain cabin categories. This is sending the wrong message.  There is a policy of no reserving seats in the theater so the ship should not be doing it either.  I heard a lot of grumbling about this. Come up with a different benefit.  Some of the classes needed larger rooms.  For example, the class on ship navigation was too small for the large number of passengers in attendance.  Many of us had to sit on the floor or stand up the entire time.  My final suggestion is to get nicer artwork around the ship.   Very little of the art work appealed to me or anyone else that I spoke with during the cruise.  

We had a wonderful cruise and we looked forward to our next cruise - our fourteen-night cruise to New England and Canada.  Moreover, we finally got some beautiful shots of the New York skyline on our return.  Stay turned for my review of my next Celebrity Summit cruise.

 

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Crown Princess

April 2013 - Crown Princess to Transatlantic

Feel Like Royalty aboard the Crown Princess

Recently, our daughter’s family relocated to London for business reasons. We had not seen them for a year so we checked airline prices for our planned visit. We had sticker shock at the high cost of airline tickets and decided to check into transatlantic cruise prices. We discovered that for only a few hundred dollars more, we could cruise in style to the UK instead. We chose the M/S Crown Princess Transatlantic 17 day cruise to Southampton, England because of its itinerary. The ports of call were mostly in Europe: Galveston, Texas, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Ponta Delgada (Sao Miguel)/Azores, Lisbon, Portugal, Zeebrugge, Belgium, Le Havre, France, Southampton, England. Unfortunately, for us, the ship departed from Galveston, TX - a plane ride away for us living in Florida. While looking into alternatives, we discovered that it was possible to join the ship in Ft. Lauderdale only missing some sea days. The cost would be lower also. This was our first cruise on a Princess ship and we were not concerned that it would be 14 days on a cruise line that we had never before sailed. Princess has a good reputation so we were excited to of its ships. A few weeks before the ship sailed, we secured a big reduction in price that made the cruise even more economical compared with flying. Just before we began packing our bags, Princess notified us that we were receiving an upgraded stateroom, which meant a larger balcony. We were thrilled. We rented a car, returned the car to the rental office in Fort Lauderdale and took its complementary shuttle to the pier. I figured we would be onboard quickly since most of the passengers were already on the ship. Unfortunately, this did not happen. It took almost 45 minutes for us to be processed. There was too few staff on duty. We were in the long general boarding line but the staff at the two other boarding lines continually fed their people into our line so we hardly moved. We were very discouraged. It was not what we expected of Princess. However, once we boarded, things improved greatly. By the way, debarkation was a breeze, I must add. All the members of the Princess staff were quite helpful and friendly. The passageways to the staterooms while lightly colored are impersonal without any artwork on the walls. Perhaps, this is because they are a bit narrow. The areas around the elevators have lovely bright rugs, many with beautiful medallion centers. Our cabin, C246, on Deck 10 was quite pleasant and bright with enough drawer, shelf and closet storage for all our belongings. I especially liked the layout of the room with the bathroom door and closet away from our cabin’s entranceway. There was a lovely picture on the wall and a large mirror behind the bed and another by the closet. We loved the big balcony that brought in beautiful ocean views, often going outside to enjoy the sea breezes. It was fun watching ships pass us in the distance as we traveled closer to Europe. Our stateroom was ready so we dropped off our hand luggage before proceeding to the Horizon Court Buffet, Deck 15. We noticed that there were plenty of choices for lunch at the sumptuous buffet. Since it was a bit late, we just grabbed a quick snack because we wanted time to familiarize ourselves with the ship. There were no available tables inside, so I picked up an ice cream cone by the pool and it hit the spot. We also shared a delicious slice of pizza. We then toured the beautiful and elegant ship. We were very impressed with all the public rooms. Soon it was time for the safety drill. We returned to our stateroom, picked up our life jackets and reported to our Muster Station - the Princess Theater. The drill proceeded smoothly and was one of the best that we have ever attended. We heard information that we had not heard on 37 previous cruises. The passengers were attentive and we all practiced putting on our life jackets. Then we returned to our cabin and unpacked quickly. How nice that our bags were inside our room rather than left outside the door. Our cabin steward, Maricel, stopped by to introduce herself and inquired if we needed anything. “More ice and extra pillows,” we replied and they appeared by nightfall. Our stateroom was always spotless; amenities and towels replaced as needed. When Maricel noticed that we had brought wine bottle aboard on embarkation, she automatically supplied us with wine glasses. Maricel was very friendly, calling us by name when she saw us. She always made sure that she did not inconvenience us as she went about her duties. In fact, all the staff always said hello to us as we passed them in the passageways multiples times each day. They always stopped their work to allow us to pass. Since we requested Anytime Dining, we ate in the Michelangelo Restaurant. The room is lovely with twinkling lights on the ceiling, fresh flowers, white linen cloths and napkins on the tables. We enjoyed fine service by our waiter, Manuel from Portugal, his assistant, Maja, from Serbia and headwaiter, Franz, from Austria, who attended to my husband’s special request meals. They were all very attentive, professional and friendly. We requested ice and lemon slices once and after that they always appeared automatically. We usually had the same team serving us. Carlos, headwaiter at the entrance, always gave us the same table #261. He was upbeat, funny, always smiling and escorted many of the older women to their assigned tables. We always enjoyed the main dining room food and never felt tempted to visit a specialty restaurant although many passengers told us that Sabatini’s (authentic Italian cuisine) and Crown Grill (steaks and seafood) were well worth the nominal cost. I cannot say enough about the wonderful service we received in the dining room. The food was delicious. I often could not decide which entrée to choose. Our waiter helped us out by bringing two sometimes. Desserts were excellent, also. We enjoyed all the nightly shows in the main theater and the shorter ones performed in the Piazza. The beautiful Piazza area was charming and I felt like royalty amid the twin sweeping, floating staircases, its massive columns, lovely balconies overlooking the area and especially the elaborate ceiling and soft lighting. It was my favorite public area. Every evening we stopped to enjoy the relaxing music of Arkadia String Quartet who performed nightly until 9 p.m. Alex & Natalia also thrilled us with their magnificent dancing. We caught their performance nightly at 9 pm. The singers and dancers production shows were spectacular, although sometimes a bit loud. Singer/piano player, Heather Sullivan also appeared twice and was so friendly whenever we met her in the dining room or around the ship. Comedians, Rikki Jay, Steve Hewlett and Michael Wilson were very funny and very approachable as was Magician, Brett Sherwood. There were three shows nightly, although they were a bit shorter than on other cruise lines to accommodate the number. It was wonderful not to concern ourselves about missing a particular show. Due to the frequent turning back of the clocks, we rarely had the opportunity to visit the lounges for their entertainment after the main shows. The large screen outdoor TV, Movies Under the Stars Program were nice to watch but during the day, it was difficult to see because of the bright daylight. We did enjoy several concerts: Barry Manilow’s Music and Passion Concert, Boyance - Live from Wembley, Billy Joel - Live at Shea Stadium, Bon Jovi - Live in Chicago and Paul McCartney - Good Morning New York City. Two movies that we watched were Les Miserables and Parental Guidance. In the mornings, it was classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, On the Town and Dirty Dancing. There were also movie matinees in the Princess Theater. In your stateroom were broadcasted such movies as Lincoln, The Bourne Legacy, Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall. A couple of unexpected delights were two series of eleven lectures each. One series was enrichment lectures by Maxtone-Graham on ocean liners, cruising and Princes of Wales. We attended his lectures on another cruise line so we knew we were in for a treat. Walter Scott (Scotty) gave the other series of lectures. He spoke about the Space Program and its Spin-offs, Star Wars and the Solar System including special rarely seen video clips from NASA. If you asked a question, you received a special NASA handout. My husband is a space nut and over the years has given many talks on space to school kids. He had plenty of questions for Scotty. Everyone in attendance received a commemorative pin and decals. Between these educational and very interesting lectures, the Destination Lectures, Cooking Demonstrations, Ice Carving, Art Lectures, Dance Classes and Afternoon Tea, we had little time to be bored at sea. My husband and I learned many tips at the very worthwhile Digital Photography Class. Jacqueline held a beginners class followed by an advance class. She answered knowledgeably my several questions and helped others locate and use their personal camera’s features. One evening I received a special invitation to a Champagne Art Reception. We did purchase our first piece of artwork onboard a ship at an affordable price. Another exciting event was the Captain’s Champagne Waterfall after dinner one evening. I even helped to pour the champagne down the tiered pyramid of champagne glasses. Not just champagne flowed freely as bar staff hand delivered cocktails to those in the Piazza. The balloon drop later, that same night was fun, too. Princess even held a special cocktail party for first time cruisers on Princess. Another highlight of our cruise was the tour of the Galley. There were so many other events going on that we had little time to sit and read by the pool. One day we did spot dolphins swimming by the ship. Princess just made everything easy for passengers. You did not have to sign out pool towels/blankets or sports equipment. Pool staffers also served popcorn or chocolate cookies and coffee or tea while you watched movies. You were not bothered too often, to buy drinks poolside but staffers were noticeably around should you want a beverage from the bar. Although there were a couple of announcements during the day by the cruise director and one from the bridge, they were not as intrusive as on other cruise lines. We had a medical emergency and the ship handled it beautifully. We veered off our course and stopped just off shore of Bermuda so the patient could be transported by smaller boat for treatment. We all watched a beautiful sunset while we waited the ship doctor‘s return from accompanying the patient. Later in the cruise, the captain assured everyone that the woman was doing well. The hospital credited the ship’s medical personal for the good outcome of the patient. There were perhaps three children onboard and they did not seem to use the Children’s Camp. Every time I stopped by no one was in the rooms and they were closed. So, I really cannot rte the facilities. We took several Princess Shore Excursions. In the Azores we took a comprehensive tour of Sao Miguel, in France we took a bus and water tour of Paris, in Belgium, we toured the city of Brussels and in Portugal we visited Fatima and made friends with a member of the lighting staff, Kat while we toured Fatima together. We still keep in touch by email. All the excursions were well worth the money that we paid and were not only interesting but also educational and fun. The guides were excellent - interesting and knowledgeable. We hope to take another cruise with Princess. I especially enjoyed the elegance of the ship, friendliness and professionalism of the crew and senior officers, the food and service. How nice to have the Skywalker Nightclub where quiet was actually enforced. How nice also to have smoke-free nights in the Casino. The production shows were glitzy, innovative and entertaining. I wish that we had more hours to attend everything offered on the ship. I do have some suggestions for Princess. Install some hand sanitizers by the restaurants. Consider having a Comedy Club. Another small suggestion would be to have yogurt with live active cultures in them if possible. One last suggestion is that the staff should stop criticizing the Carnival Cruise line as much as they do. This is after all their parent company. We returned home with many happy memories, a ton of photos on my memory card, several ship photographer photos and many ship boutique purchases. I hope that another cruise on Princess is in our future.

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Crown Princess

April 2013 - Crown Princess to Transatlantic

Oasis of the Seas

September 2012 - Oasis of the Seas to Caribbean - Western

Oasis of the Seas - Itself a Destination

Although the sheer size of the ship intimidates many passengers, I absolutely loved all the extra amenities and options. The Oasis is so massive that it feels like you are at a large hotel or resort rather than on a ship. We never felt the movement of the ship. When we booked our cruise, we did not even look at the ship's itinerary. We just wanted to experience the ship and the Oasis did not disappoint. Our 7-night Western Caribbean cruise left from Ft Lauderdale, FL and visited Labadee, Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico. The ship is doing something right as each sailing is fully booked our captain told us and on our cruise there were 150 passengers on back-to-back cruises. As recommended by RCCL, we pre-booked online all our reservations for dinners and shows. I have to admit it took some time for me to do all this but it was well worth the effort. Our cruise document, Guest Ticket Booklet listed a summary of all our reservations in a neat format so we had no trouble knowing where we should be each day. I just added in everything else we wanted to do daily on the same page once we were onboard. You can wait to make reservations on the interactive TV in your stateroom but you may not get the times that you want. It also helps if you sign the waiver ahead of time for Zip Lining, ice skating, Rock Climbing Walls or the Flow Riders. We parked at an offsite parking lot and arrived at the terminal before the ship was cleared for boarding so we waited 15 minutes for the process to start. It was done very orderly starting with those occupying suites followed by repeat passengers at descending award levels. Within ten minutes we were onboard. We chose to eat at Sorrento's, a pizzeria rather than try finding a table in what we knew would be a very crowded Windjammer Buffet Restaurant. There was no line here and we were able to order pizzas with our choice of toppings. We sat at a small table and people watched until our pizzas were brought to us. Afterwards, we had a snack at the Cafeacute; Promenade (opened 24 hrs.) We then toured the ship until our stateroom was ready at 1PM. Our quiet Central Park Balcony Stateroom, Category C1, Deck 12 #647 was quite unique as it was actually an inside cabin yet the balcony was open to the sky. Although smaller than ones we had on Carnival cruises, the stateroom held all our possessions with plenty of hangers and shelf space. My husband wished for more drawer space but we managed nicely. The cabin was airy with light colored walls, furniture, colorful carpet, full length mirror and attractive wall hangings. The king bed was very comfortable with plenty of pillows. We had a sofa, desk, chair, flat screen TV and small open end tables. Our Stateroom Attendant, Michael Cambronero, was helpful, accommodating, professional and friendly. He called us by name and often gave us tips on what to do or see. We requested ice and toiletries and he replenished them automatically as needed. Before sailing, we attended the mandatory Safety Drill which for me was a waste. I was sitting behind a column and could not see any of the video. Our Muster Station was an overcrowded bar lounge where many passengers had to stand. We were lucky to have seats. After the drill, we went up on deck for the Sail Away Party. We ate all our dinners in the MDR as the food there was fine. We selected My Time Diningr yet every night the hostess put us at the same table with the same Head Waiter, Server and assistant server. We rarely waited on a long line since we dined each night around 6-6:30. Lines began forming after 7 PM. Beginning with our September 1, 2012 sailing, the Oasis instituted brand new menus. I appreciated that every night my favorites, Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail and Cregrave;me Brulee were on the menu. Service was professional, friendly and most of our needs were actually anticipated by the excellent staff who all worked together seamlessly. I can't give enough praise to Roshan Sousa, Head Waiter, Chante, our Server and John, Assistant Server as well as the competent front reception desk hostesses. I also enjoyed the beautiful classical background dinner music. The public areas of the ship were awesome. Standouts were the lively Royal Promenade and the seaside-themed Boardwalk areas. Although both areas can get crowded for events, they are still fun places to visit, shop, eat and people watch. We rode the beautiful Carousel and stopped by the Psychic Booth in Boardwalk. We shopped in the Royal Promenade boutiques and checked out the various lounges and bars nightly. It was always fun strolling through Central Park especially at night under the stars. With twenty-one pools and whirlpools, we never had trouble finding a lounge chair in the shade. We enjoyed the quiet and warm Solarium pool. The Opal Theater and the Casino Royale were lovely. What impressed me the most about the ship, however was the massive open air Aqua Theater with two large screen TVs showing 3D movies. Don't miss the amazing Oasis of Dreams Aqua Show. It is a must - take my word for it. The daring aerial talent, skill and showmanship of all the divers, gymnasts and synchronized swimmers are superb. Do not sit in the splash zone unless you want to get wet. The Fountain Show was also fun to watch. There were many other unique and fun things that impressed me, too. The Rising Tides Bar located in the Royal Promenade (it ascends descends 8 stories) was a real novelty. The ice skating rink where you can skate for free - long pants and socks required was a must do for me. I did not realize how rusty my ice skating was. I enjoyed watching the whimsical Frozen in Time Ice Show, and attending the Cosmic Ice Skating Party. Splish Splash Comedy Dive was entertaining to watch. If you only go to one show, make it the spectacular Come Fly with Me. I was awed by the amazing aerial performances and scenic backdrops. Do not miss the wonderful Hairspray Broadway Musical Comedy, either. The actors put their hearts and souls into the show. Another highly entertaining performance was Headliner Showtime starring Earl Turner. His singing talent and personality had everyone in the audience engaged. Try to attend at least one comedy show. The acts here are truly funny without being vulgar. If you are more adventuresome than I was, try the exciting Flow Riders and Rock Climbing Walls. It is also just fun to watch others try. I also thoroughly enjoyed all the DreamWorks* Experiences and Character photo opportunities with Puss in Boots, Alex, Shrek, Fiona, Po and many others. I loved the various DreamWorks Parades. Go up one deck for a better view. The Street Parties are crowded but energizing. There is so much to do onboard that if you are ever bored, it is not the cruise ship's fault. The advance reservation system worked very well for us. There were never problems with lines or mistakes. I thought that Amy Fickert our cruise director did a good job. The Navigational Aides near the banks of elevators are a terrific tool to help you find your way around the ship - even to your own cabin. They are easy to use and quite helpful. Look down on the elevator floor to keep track of the day of the week. All our shore Excursions with RCCL went well we thought them worthwhile. My negatives were few. In my stateroom I missed not having a retractable clothes line. The outlets were in an awkward place under the desk and hard to access. I disliked having to prepay my gratuities just because I chose My Time Dining. I also didnrsquo;t like having to pre-pay my Shore Excursions and Beverage Package. I rarely ate in the Windjammer because it was too difficult to balance beverage, salad, entrees and dessert without a tray. Instead we ate in the Solarium. I did appreciate staff members directing passengers to vacant tables and refilling beverage glasses and cups which was a nice touch. I loved the idea of a donut shop but I would like to see the quality of the donuts improved. The Royal Promenade was extremely crowded for special events and the wait for elevators could be long at peak times. In Labordee, I wish that there had been an RCCL Re.p onshore to direct us to our shore excursions. If there was one, we did see him/her. We also experienced a long final departure delay through no fault of the ship. Not enough inspectors showed up for work that day. All in all, The Oasis of the Seas is a great ship for newlyweds, young singles/couples, families and kids. I don't fall into any of those categories, though and I still had a fabulous time. If you love to meet people from all over the world, you will love this ship. Unexpectedly, we met dear friends on this ship that we didn't know were taking this sailing. How funny to run right into them in Central Park. Now, I would love to cruise on the sister ship, The Allure of the Seas for a slightly different experience.

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Carnival Freedom

June 2012 - Carnival Freedom to Caribbean - Eastern

Carnival Freedom - Freedom to Be Yourself on Vacation

We departed Fort Lauderdale June 30, 2012 on an 8-night cruise to the Caribbean aboard the Carnival Freedom. Ports of Call were Ft Lauderdale, St Thomas, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau. We received an email close to our sailing date from Carnival requesting that passengers delay arrival at the pier. Therefore, we waited an extra half hour before leaving on our three-hour drive to the off site parking lot and the cruise. After our arrival at the port, we sailed through the embarkation process and were up at the Lido Deck #9 Freedom (buffet) Restaurant in 15 minutes flat. Carrying our Sign Sail cards, which identified us as Platinum Level members in the VIFP Club, elicited many Welcome Back greetings from the staff. It was a nice feeling. The buffet restaurant was quite busy since everyone was waiting for staterooms to become available but we managed to snag a table by one of the large picture windows. Of course, our view was only of the port but it was still impressive as the RCCL Oasis of the Seas was in port. I waited on a long line for a Reuben sandwich at the separate Deli counter. Later I had a soft serve swirl ice cream cone at a nearby self serve machine. Hubby braved the even longer Mongolian Corner line, then one of the main buffet lines and returned to the table only 10 minutes after I did. We both sorely missed not having trays on which to place our food as we always visited more than one line. It helped that buffet staff members supplemented the beverage machines by serving beverages to passengers and offering refills. Since most of the colorful cups at the buffet were small, it made our life easier as we made fewer trips back and forth for refills. We still always needed to make a separate trip to the dessert station. Stateroom was ready before we even ate our lunch and the restaurant thinned out considerably after 1:30 PM. Our cabin #2379 was conveniently located just a few doors away from the short passageway to a bank of elevators. We were just one deck down from our assigned Chic Dining Room and the Victoriana Theater. The Ocean View Stateroom was comfortable, fairly large, 220 sq. feetand light. It had a large window and the bathroom was the typical size. I did not care much for the artwork (much too vivid for my tastes) on the walls but the frames were lovely. All the rooms on our deck had similar looking prints. I actually avoided looking at them when in the room. The nice-sized salmon colored couch held two small pillows and there was an upholstered chair and an oval coffee table. I appreciated the big mirror over the large desk and the long mirror inside one of the closets. The king bed although lacking a pillow top was comfortable enough not to cause us any back aches or stiff necks and held four fluffy pillows. Two handy bedside end tables were of ample size. There were plenty of closets, hangers and shelf space for all our belongings. The stateroom proved to be quiet throughout the entire cruise and no noise disturbed our sleep at night. Our sweet cabin steward, Tammy was quite attentive to our needs and very personable. After the first night when we requested a bucket and ice from her, she filled the bucket twice daily. She also replenished our packages of amenities: sample sizes of individually wrapped toothpaste, floss and soap. She did a great job keeping our room clean and well supplied with towels. She disturbed us as little as possible, which we appreciated and worked around our comings and goings. We looked forward to her animal towel creations each night. Before the ship departed the port, there was a safety drill mandated for all passengers and attended by everyone out on the lifeboat deck. We signed up for Your Time Dining and usually ate between 6-6:30 PM. All our dinners were in the dining room. The dining option worked out quite well for us; we rarely waited on a line. When we arrived close to 6 PM, we always received our requested waiter from the first night. When we ate later, we often sat in other sections in order to get a table close to the window overlooking the promenade deck and its view of the ocean. All our waiters were great. They all bent over backwards to please us. Our wedding anniversary fell on July 1, the first Elegant Evening and all the waiters in our section sang us a song, joined in by fellow diners, the ship photographer took our photo and we received a special dessert with a candle - thank you Carnival for the happy memory! Our travel agent also sent us a bottle of wine to celebrate at dinner that night and we felt quite pampered. Although service at times in the dining room was slow, we enjoyed the terrific meals nightly. They arrived at the correct temperature and the meats cooked as requested. The Maitre di "Chubby" as he called himself, assisted by the lovely April, Jr. Hostess was quite helpful to diners with special dietary needs. He was very friendly and stopped by just about every table nightly. When the man slept, I do not know as we saw him up at the buffet restaurant at breakfast and lunch. In addition, he was in the dining room at lunchtime on sea days, too. My only food-related problem was that on Elegant Evenings I wanted all the choices. For example on the first Elegant Evening there was Lobster Shrimp, Prime Rib, AND Spaghetti ala Carbonara, among other equally good choices. Luckily, our waiter told me that we would have Prime Rib on another night so I ordered the Lobster Shrimp and the Spaghetti ala Carbonara. You should not have to make such tough decisions on vacation, laugh, laugh. The ship photographers were so busy in the lobby areas with requests from the many families and young people onboard that they rarely visited our dining room except for Elegant Evenings first last nights. Life onboard was quite lively. The main Stress less Timeless Pools and surrounding deck area were always quite crowded; I mean wall-to-wall bathers since every day was sunny and warm. Many passengers even arrived very early each day to enjoy their morning coffee while watching the big screen Seaside TV. The bright screen was very sharp and we watched a couple of movies on deck in the evenings. What a neat idea! Bar staff was always available but not annoying. Passengers drank the many fun specialty drinks and buckets of beer but no one caused a problem or was obnoxious in any manner. Lots of young people and families were on board completely enjoying themselves poolside. The kids all seemed to enjoy Camp Carnival, too and we saw the cute bears that they made in a workshop. Many activities occurred around the main pools and we avoided most of them but did watch the wonderful ice sculpture carving demonstration. Instead, however, of sitting in this crowded area, we chose to sit in the two-deck Serenity Area at the bow of the ship on Sun Deck 11 and 12. The hammocks were fun to sway in and the area had comfortable cushioned seating arranged in large conversational "pits" in the shade as well as cushioned lounges in the sun. Bar service and towel service were conveniently located nearby. Although screened from the rest of the ship, the bar/sitting Serenity Area was adjacent to steps leading up to the giant twister waterslide, just outside of Camp Carnival and in front of the main pool areas. This made for a little less serenity but was a real improvement over the noise and congestion around the main pool area with its stadium style seating. The Adults Only Endless Pool, Lido Deck 9 by the Pizzeria and Grille was smaller and quieter as were the whirlpools but just as busy; we enjoyed swimming there. The water was a comfortable temperature. There were about four announcements daily in English, three by the cruise director, Brad with his listing of activities around the ship and at noon by the captain with the ship's location, speed and the weather conditions. These announcements by the cruise director seemed redundant and unnecessary intrusions since stateroom stewards deliver the Fun Times, a daily listing of everything happening aboard the ship daily to each cabin. The newsletter is readily elsewhere throughout the day in some of the public areas. The ship itself was well maintained and clean. It, however, did not emphasize use of the hand sanitizers as other ships do. Passengers frequently did not use them entering the food venues. Everywhere you looked there was a riot of vibrant colors and mix of patterns - even inside elevators - which somehow all worked together to energize you. It was more glitzy than elegant, geared to the young adults and families that the cruise line attracts. In contrast to all this glitz, vibrant colors and bold patterns, the passageways to the staterooms were pretty bland and soothing. The Babylon Casino, at peak times smoky, since you can smoke at some machines was very busy most evenings. The beautiful Victoriana Theater was very popular especially when the Multimillion Dollar Extravaganzas were scheduled. We saw the WELCOME ABOARD SHOW three times prior to this trip but it was still fun to watch. The new to us, JUMP JIVE and WAIL SHOW was great but my favorite was THE BIG EASY SHOW with its magnificent costumes, backdrops, singing and dancing. Do not miss this extravaganza. If you are a Beatles fan, be sure to attend the TICKET TO RIDE SHOW. Although we had also seen this once before, we enjoyed the super singing, dancing and the whimsical laser effects. The neon glow sticks were fun to use during the finale and the audience spontaneously waved them around singing along with the cast of singers and dancers. We all left the theater still singing, with confetti covering us. All of the Comedy Punchliner Club performances in the International Lounge were standing room only whether the acts were Family Friendly or Adults Only. Do you remember when comedians told funny joke not racial related, or containing four letter words and bathroom language? I am no prude and laughed along with everyone else but I wish we could go back to those types of jokes. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the fabulous Fourth of July Deck Party held at 10:30 PM. Just about everyone on board, it seemed, filled the outside deck areas poolside to listen to the wonderful Marcus Anthony "The King of Soul Music" perform with the Freedom Showband. I thought that I was so smart to remember to pack a patriotic top to wear on the fourth but others came better prepared with patriotic swim trunks, bikinis, tall sequins hats, flag headbands, blinking necklaces - I even saw a kid in patriotic PJs. Wow! I was impressed at the display of patriotism by all. The audience warmed up with a pre show of a Hot Dog Eating Contest, line dancing and instruction plus handouts of Mardi Gras style beads, small flags and pom poms. Strangely, a Mexican /Buffet followed the event. I visited the Fun Shops almost nightly checking out the daily specials and purchased some novelty items for family members and ourselves. Most of the inventory was typical of what I found on other Carnival ships and in fact other cruise lines as well. Hubby, on the other hand, was a daily visitor to the Library picking up the crossword and SUDUKO puzzles. The Captain's Celebration was lovely and we were able to meet greet the captain and Sr. Officers. Other fun activities were the Shopping Seminars, the Cooking Demonstration and the returning guests Cocktail Party with complementary hors d'oeuvres and live entertainment. As VIPs with Carnival, we each received pocket-sized logo Binoculars, Carnival pins along with complementary stationary, chocolate covered strawberries, free drink coupons, laundry service and other amenities. Our first Port of Call was St Thomas. This is our favorite port of call and we have been here several times on vacation. Therefore, on our own we visited Discover Paradise Point a short walk from our ship. We rode the Skyride (tramway) to the top of the mountain 800 feet above sea level. We gazed down at the magnificent panoramic view of Charlotte Amalie Harbor with our ship in port watching for some time the slow arrival of the RCCL Oasis of the Seas into the harbor. Then we took a "safari taxi" into downtown, cost $4 and did some shopping with our VIP cards from Fleur, Carnival's shopping guru on our ship. Champagne and chilled sodas greeted us at the DI store where Fleur held a party for Carnival Freedom shoppers and we received special additional store discounts. Later we returned to the Skyride since we had an all day pass. I rode the Ferris wheel at the top of the mountain while my husband took photographs of me swinging the seat at the top. Whee, it was a long way down. There was also a Sky Jump, a small zoo and a restaurant with restrooms. We did not catch the Carnival Masquerade Dancers or the daily crab race either visit but did shop the little shopping area and the frozen drinks were a cold relief from the hot sun. We took a short hike on the nature trail before returning to the ship for a late lunch. If you have any difficulty walking do not attempt this attraction as there are many steps to climb to reach the tramway and also more at the top of the mountain. I felt that the cost was just a little "steep" $21 pp but since we rode up twice the cost was not so bad. There were no lines or waits at either time that we rode the tramway. Since we had visited most of the ports of call previously, we only took one Carnival shore excursion. It was the four-hour Scenic Coast to Coast Tour in Tortola. We drove all around the island seeing some beautiful beaches and stunning panoramic vistas. We stopped at one white sandy beach for an included tropical drink. The drive was very windy and bumpy. The driver/guide stopped often for picture taking when he could. Only one bad thing happened on the cruise. A diesel generator malfunctioned causing us to delay our arrival into Nassau by two and a half hours. The captain was able to extend our stay here to compensate but those who privately arranged shore excursions might have been out of luck. The Oasis of the Seas and two other Carnival ships were all in port ahead of us. Carnival's shorter excursions were still on but some of the longer ones needed rebooking. This was also an inconvenience to the set dinnertime diners since we did not leave port until 8 PM. It did not affect us negatively in any way. In fact, the dining room was empty when we dined at our convenience. We have visited Nassau numerous times so we jut did some walking on Bay Street to get back our land legs. What I loved about this cruise was the laid-back attitude. Even the dress code was not strictly enforced. On Elegant Evenings, we saw plenty of passengers in shorts or other casual attire. The dress code permits the wearing of shorts in the dining room on Casual Evenings and many diners wore them although we did not. I enjoyed the option of Your Choice Dining especially helpful in Nassau with our delayed arrival into port. I also enjoyed that there were two shows in the theater for early or late diners not one very late one. There were also late night parties for those wanting to stay up to party which we did a couple of times. There was plenty of other live entertainment going on throughout the ship. We especially enjoyed the Latin Music with Rhythm Limit in the multi-deck high Lobby, Latin Music with Tropical Dance by the Casino and Rock n Roll with Music Motion. Sing Along with Sean was fun, too as was Dance Party with DJ Ryan from 10 PM onhellip; (70s Disco.) Okay, I have to admit that I did miss some of the amenities on the higher priced cruise lines such as a champagne welcome cocktail and the escort to our stateroom but considering the lower price that we paid for this cruise, I was more than satisfied as was everyone that I met. We made lots of friends onboard - a few were actually neighbors of ours that we didn't know before the cruise. One thing that did disappoint me was the lack of a Farewell Cocktail Party that we enjoyed on other recent Carnival Cruise ships. It would have been a nice way to end the cruise. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves so completely that I purchased a voucher for a future cruise. See you again Carnival on another cruise - soon I hope.

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Celebrity Constellation

April 2012 - Celebrity Constellation to Caribbean - Southern

Feel Like a Celebrity on the Celebrity Constellation

Although we have cruised many times over the years, this was our first trip with Celebrity. We usually prefer the newer, mega cruise ships for the greater variety of amenities entertainment, but the Constellation didn't disappoint. The not-so-small Constellation holds approximately 2,449 passengers and 941 crew. It entered service in May 2002. We had a short delay boarding due to Public Health Inspection. Later we learned that the ship scored a 99% rating, lowered only because of a cracked tile - quite impressive! There were a large number of Europeans onboard - many from Germany and the UK. Australia was also well represented as well as Canada and South America. Announcements were made in English, German, French, sometimes also Spanish. After the first day, the frequency of announcements lessened considerably. Question people as to why they cruise and most mention the food at the top of their list. Well, the food onboard was delicious. We always ate dinner in the main dining room, the elegant yet understated, San Marco Restaurant because the food was so wonderful. The 2-deck high windows at the rear of the restaurant and large side windows afford beautiful ocean views on both levels. A center ceiling of rose-colored glass casts a rosy glow over the entire restaurant. Tables are dressed in crisp white linens with either a small floral vase or a flickering tea light candle (battery-operated for safety.) The food has a French slant to it. The head chef is French. We had lobster on the last formal night. One of the reasons that we were so satisfied with the food was our waiter, Gede. We always asked to be seated at one of his tables. He received a Crewmember of the Month award for the previous month. He has been with Celebrity for 13 years. Every night he offered his informed recommendations with explanations. After a short time, he anticipated our requests. Attention is given to every diner, adult or child alike, by the entire wait staff. Tables were cleared and reset moments after being vacated. I can't say enough about how smoothly the dining room was run starting from the hostesses, Amy Alexandra at the upper level entrance. The chefs also did a terrific job with presentation of the dishes. We enjoy choosing our own time to dine and we hadn't cruised on Celebrity sooner since it only recently offered this option. We usually dined between 6-6:30 and we never encountered a line or a difficulty is getting a table where we wanted to sit. The buffets in the Seaside Cafe were quite extensive - the best I have had on any ship that I've cruised. English American Breakfasts were available with a wide selection of items. Lunches include a German Corner and Mexican Asian selections plus soups, salads, sandwiches and hot entrees/meats of every kind. We both enjoyed the best pizza we've ever had on any ship. I loved the wide variety of complementary sushi available nightly also. My husband enjoyed the evening stir fry. I especially appreciated the ice cream/frozen yogurt, sorbet and soft serve ice cream available. We often observed crew offering to carry trays for elderly passengers bringing coffee refills or desserts to passengers. The great ratio of passengers to crew members made a big difference in service and it showed. I would be remiss if I didn't extol the extravagant Easter Brunch prepared for us complete with foil -wrapped large Chocolate Easter Bunnies Eggs. It was a feast for the eyes. The same sumptuous brunch was repeated later in the cruise - don't miss it. I especially enjoyed photographing the large roasted pig, the ice sculptures and all the desserts. Everything was fabulous. For me, though, it is the itinerary that is most important. Most passengers that I spoke with said that the itinerary motivated them to choose this particular cruise. Although Port Canaveral is ten minutes away from where we live, we chose to drive 3 hours to Fort Lauderdale for this 14-night cruise to the Exotic Southern Caribbean. Our Ports of Call were Aruba, Curacao, Granada, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, St Maarten and St Thomas. We hadn't visited these islands in a long time, so we took shore excursions for most of them. Our Celebrity-run Shore Excursions were well-organized, high quality, very educational and fun. The costs varied from $24.75 on up depending on the activity and length. The guides all spoke English well and were very accommodating answering questions and stopping for photos. Drivers were all careful and polite. Although we could have saved money in each port booking tours directly with local guides, for peace of mind, we stayed with the ones offered by the cruise line and were quite satisfied. Our charming ocean view stateroom, #2129 was mid ship on Deck #2. It was a compact 170 square feet and had a large window, a sitting area with a glass table small sofa, mini bar, safe and a 20' flat screen interactive TV. Even though we brought plenty of clothes, we found lots of cabinet, drawer and closet space for all our belongings. The entire deck was very quiet even though our room was close to the glass elevators. The only noise we heard inside was a distant hum cycling on and off when we were in open seas that we thought might be the stabilizers in operation. All the passageways to the staterooms are cheerfully painted in light beige and salmon colors and the walls are adorned with wall hangings. I thought that these areas were the nicest of all the previous ships that I sailed. Our room steward, Saturnino was quite attentive to our needs and he stopped by on the first day to introduce himself. He stopped by again a few days later to ask if we needed anything - only more ice, please. One evening we retired early after a long day sightseeing and he checked in to make sure that we were OK. All the staff entertainers greeted us pleasantly whenever we passed them. The Senior Officers were visibly present especially at night. One particular officer, Kim from Human Resources chatted with us several times and called us by name whenever she saw us. Everyone on staff made you feel like a celebrity. They all seemed to love their jobs. Rich Clesen, our energetic Cruise Director was everywhere around the ship especially in/outside the theater and onshore at Ports of Call. He was very approachable and funny. We tried to beat him out of the theater each night but never could. Did he have a twin onboard, we wondered? No, but he must run fast - all the way from the theater's stage. The public areas including restrooms are always spotless and constantly cleaned. Hand sanitizers are located at all restaurants as well as at the theater and the casino. The Front Desk even has a supply of Handi-wipes to use in port - great idea! I loved the new Martini Bar with its sleek ice-topped bar where I inscribed our names in the ice one night. The bartenders are friendly and entertaining. The martinis, by the way, are delicious. The neat glass elevators with ocean views were fun to ride and we used them regularly. We also enjoyed the cantilevered areas in the Seaside Cafeacute. Look down below through the unusual round glass windows in the floor and watch the ocean passing by. Finding the cozy 2-deck library was a joy for me. The Fortunes Casino was the place to be in the evening. The magnificent Grand Foyer with its imposing marble staircase was striking. The whirlpools on board differed in temperature. The two outdoor pools were a little cool for me to stay in too long. We loved going to the Solarium where quiet music played. Using the warm salt water Thalassotherapy indoor pool there was delightful. Since I don't enjoy sitting in the sun, we came here often. We always found 2 comfortable, cushioned lounge chairs together each day. The Celebrity Theater was comfortable and beautiful. Besides the three wonderful production numbers, Celebrate the World being the best in my opinion, we were entertained by aerialists Lixandra and Ilya, a husband and wife team, David Meyer and his one-of-a-kind musical instrument, resident entertainer Perry Grant, vocalistiano player, John Bressler, magician, Nick Lewin, a capella quartet Blend Tech, former cop/comedian, Kevin Jordan, Greg Bonham an Aussie singer trumpet player and Diane Cousins, a funny comedian/singer who can really belt out songs with her powerful voice. All the performers were very entertaining and I attended almost every show. There was a wide variety of live entertainment around the ship, as well. When leaving the dining room each night, hearing classical music played by the Arabesque Trio was so soothing. We stopped each night to listen. I enjoyed the live island music played daily poolside by Flava whenever we could find a lounge chair in a shady location. My husband's favorite was the Blend Tech Quartet that mainly performed in the Grand Foyer. We also enjoyed listening and dancing to the Carousel Party Band in the Rendez-Vous Lounge. Many past guests are big fans of the outrageous Perry Grant - he has quite a following. But whether you enjoy him or not, you have to admit that he loves what he does and puts his heart soul into his shows. He performs many nights in Michael's Club, a cozy piano bar room. Terry Dodson performing in the Sunset Bar was a great favorite of ours, also. Sometimes it is the small things that really make a difference. Being greeted with champagne as we came onboard on embarkation day was a portend of good things to come. The terrific Galley tour was also preceded by champagne - how elegant! We were pleasantly surprised to find a complementary tote bag in our room as well as two robes to wear onboard an umbrella to use in ports. I appreciated that EVERY night there were two show times (7 and 9 PM) - so convenient. The Captain's Welcome Aboard Toast was a nice touch. Handing menus to and taking dinner request from the ladies first was appreciated. The dining room staff calling us by name was expected but asking us first what we wanted to be called was even nicer. Finding white quilted cotton placemats on the plastic trays at the Seaside Cafeacute buffets were a nice touch, also. Being able to get news and sports scores back home via the very accessible USA Times was neat. My husband enjoyed doing the daily Crossword Puzzle and SUDOKO. Foreign language issues were also available. Having the Pool Butlers hand us iced hand towels in the Solarium and onshore after a sweaty day of sightseeing was so refreshing. Using cloth towels in public restrooms was luxurious. The cruise line asked us what time we wanted to disembark the ship and we got the exact time that we requested. I checked with a few of the children and their parents onboard and they were quite happy with the Kid's Programs. One day we watched them parading with their hand puppets. They were all kept active with Basketball Shoot Outs, Dodgeball, Hula Contests, Relay Races, Jumping Contests, Scavenger Hunts Egg Hunts. They were also creatively involved in Drawing Contests, Rainstick Craft, Talent Shows, Torch Making, Sand Art Bottles and Lego Challenges. There were ice cream and dinner parties too. I had only minor complaints. I mainly wished that the Celebrity Dancers Singers had performed on stage in the Celebrity Theater more than the three times that they did. The dancers did perform Cabaret style in Reflections starting between 10-10:45 some nights but that was too late for us after tiring sightseeing and early next day excursions. I did manage to watch replays on TV. Also it was a tight squeeze with two people trying to access the closet, safe and bathroom in the narrow stateroom entrance. We found this on almost every ship. The Constellation is also beginning to show wear. She is due for renovations next year. The small furniture nicks and scratches do not detract from her beauty, though. She is well loved by all who sail on her. I heard that they will be adding a few more staterooms - that's good news. Will we be back on Celebrity again - you bet! We placed a deposit for a future trip. If you like something other than one big party scene with lots of drinking and loud music, consider the Constellation especially if you are over 40. You will especially enjoy the fine food, excellent service and great entertainment. See you onboard.

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Carnival Sensation

March 2012 - Carnival Sensation to Caribbean - Bahamas

Carnival Sensation - A Sensational Value

While looking for something special to celebrate my husband's birthday, I noticed in an email from Carnival, a terrific deal on the Carnival Sensation departing right on his birthday, March 1. It was a 3-night cruise to the Bahamas (Nassau) which was just perfect for us since it departed from Port Canaveral, FL less than 10 minutes from our home. Best of all, it cost about what we would have spent visiting to a theme park for one day. Although the Sensation is an older, smaller ship in the Carnival fleet and we prefer the larger ships, we both had a wonderful cruise and birthday celebration. We had just reached V.I.P. status having booked 10 Carnival cruises so we received a few perks during the cruise to make it extra special for us - Chocolate Covered Strawberries, well-made Carnival Logo Shoulder Bags and cute logo pins for each of us. First, here are some interesting facts about the ship. Carnival Sensation, built in Helsinki, Finland, entered service in 1993. The ship cost Carnival $300,000,00 to build. It carries 2,052 passenger at full capacity in 1,026 staterooms with a crew of 920. The officers are Italian. The Sensation has10 decks & is 855 feet long Although it runs 2 shorter-length cruises a week to the Bahamas on 3 or 4-night trips out of Port Canaveral, Florida, I don't think that you will miss too much the bells whistles of newer larger ships. You still have all the expected amenities: 24-hour Room Service, Casino, WaterWorks Park, Swimming Pool, Jogging Tract, Live Entertainment, Variety Shows, Comedy Club, Nightclubs, Karaoke, Library, Coffee Bar, Internet Cafe, Spa, Art Shows/Auctions, Camp Carnival, Video Arcade, Min Golf, Fitness Center, Hair Salon, Adults-Only Serenity Retreat and, of course, Bingo plus much more, too numerous to mention. Our embarkation went smoothly as there were no long lines that larger ships have. I figured that it would be impossible to find the one person listed on a cruise website that I frequent who was also going on this cruise. I had only his photo on the site to identify him before we even boarded the ship, we saw him. We chatted a bit introduced ourselves and for the rest of the afternoon we kept running into each other. Within less than a half hour from when we left home, we were up on the Lido Deck for lunch. My husband decided on the popular Mongolian Rotisserie (outside on the deck) where the line is always long but he didn't mind the wait. He picked up lunch there again the next day. There, chopsticks are optional but fun to use. You choose your noodles & veggies, the chefs add your meat or seafood choices and whatever sauce you wish voila your meal is quickly stir fried as you watch. I chose to try the buffet in the Seaview Bistro. Every day the buffet has a different theme - Italian, American, Caribbean. I was pleased to see trays and tall drinking glasses there. I sampled several items including: Focaccia, Pasta Salad, a delicious Eggplant entree Chicken, then hit the fresh Fruit/Salad Bar. The Dessert Bars always look tempting but I tried my best to avoid them (not always successful,) just getting a frozen yogurt cone instead. One afternoon, I tried the deli counter for a tasty Reuben Sandwich. Tables are constantly being cleared & the area kept clean. With over 2,000 passengers using it, it is a daunting task for the crew. On Embarkation day, we couldn't find an available table outside on the deck, so we ate inside enjoying the A/C and quieter atmosphere. The last day we opted for a leisurely sit-down lunch in the main Fantasy Dining Room - delicious and so serene. I enjoyed some California Rolls, an Avocado Bacon Cheeseburger. I just wished that the burgers could be served rare as the steaks are. Our stateroom, R-32 was ready by the time we finished our frozen yogurt cones (1:30 p.m.) Surprisingly, we were able to catch an elevator which was good since our stateroom was quite a few decks below the Lido. We admired all the abstract modern art on the walls by the elevators. Signage at key locations helped us to easily locate the stateroom. The doors even have Braille under the numbers for vision impaired passengers. Our cabin looked lovely with a large window and had more than sufficient storage for our few possessions. There was even a towel animal to greet us on the comfortable bed. We quickly unpacked and went off exploring. Three brides got married on the ship - two on Embarkation day and one in the Port of Nassau. The brides all looked beautiful. We were able to catch glimpses of them as their photographers were snapping photos of them around the ship. Before sailing, the ship officers held the Safety Briefing at 3:30 p.m. Passengers were reluctant to leave the pool area but after some firm admonitions, everyone reported to their muster stations. After a brief set of instructions during which silence was enforced, we were led out in an orderly way to the life boats. Afterwards, we joined the Sail Away Party on the Lido deck. The ship photographer even captured us on film and we laughed as we watched ourselves in his video shown on TV in our cabin the next day. The ship is well-maintained and kept clean all day long. Hand sanitizers are available around the ship, mainly near all the restaurants. I used them regularly but others ignored them. The only problem that I noticed was a glass elevator out-of-order the entire cruise. If the restrooms are kept clean, you can expect to find the rest of the ship clean, I feel and on the Sensation, they were. What impressed me the most about the ship besides its cleanliness was the WaterWorks Park. Kids of all ages loved the water slides, water spouts and buckets. The tallest slide is 3 decks high - 214 feet tall we all enjoyed going down it multiple times. Be prepared to get soaking wet, though - what fun! The kids will spend hours here safely playing in the shallow water under supervision of parents or counselors, of counselors. Outside of the WaterWorks Park and Camp Carnival, we rarely saw kids loose around the ship. The Youth Program on Carnival is divided by age. Parents should note that "Directors" are all trained in CPR first aid passed background checks. After hours babysitting (10 p.m. - 3 a.m.) is available. For the first child, counselors charge $6; $4 for each additional child. Be aware that there is no in-room babysitting service provided. There are 12-16 youth staff onboard depending on sailing date. The kids facilities are cheerful and fun places for the kids to safely play. I was especially impressed with the bright, bold colors modern look of the Circle C Club for kids 12-14. I would have loved to curl up in one of several inviting window seats. Club O2 is for ages 15-17 the room looked neat, also. Older kids can take optional shore excursion with their counselors. Camp Carnival is divided into 3 age groups, 2-5, 6-8, 9-11. Since kids nowadays are mainly interested in video games, most of the games are video: Sony Playstation 2 and a few Nintendo Wiis and Microsoft X Box. There are plenty of planned activities to keep the kids occupied and engaged all day long. Kids have their own menu. As they disembarked the ship, many little ones toted the bears that they made at the Teddy Bear Workshop. We watched for a bit as they made them one when we further explored the ship. This short cruise mostly attracts a younger crowd/families and many of the activities are planned with them in mind from the poolside games competitions to ones inside the Fantasia Lounge (theater) & around the ship in general. This was the very beginning of Spring Break. We attended a few events to watch unexpectedly found ourselves enjoying them. There is live music around the pool daily and many other activities as well including Bingo one afternoon. Several times we sat in the Serenity Retreat for some quiet reading. We opted for Your Time Dining, 5:45-9:30 p.m.- Fantasy Dining Room and it worked perfectly for us. Set dining times are Early Seating, 6 p.m. and Late Seating, 8:15 in the Ecstasy Dining Room. We never waited on any line because we ate between 6-6:30 each night. We did notice a line forming after 7:30 p.m. perhaps because the restaurant was waiting for earlier diners to finish dinner. We appreciated that we did not have to make nightly reservation as on other cruise lines. Food and service were fine throughout the ship, especially noticeable in the dining room. We received excellent attention, information and accommodations to our requests. Each night the wait staff entertained us with song or dance. We were pleasantly surprised with the menus. The first night we both ordered Lasagna Bolognese - a huge portion and very tasty. This 3-night cruise offered Lobster Tiger Shrimp on the one Formal Night while other cruise lines don't have Lobster in the main dining rooms even on longer cruises. We also shared a Prime Rib order just to try it - so good and served rare as ordered. The 3rd night, I ordered Penne Mariscos - a marvelous seafood dish that was so big that I could hardly finish it. We loved the Escargot and of course the terrific desserts. Every night you could order the scrumptious Chocolate Melting Cake. Other desserts that I enjoyed were Key Lime Pie, Creme Brulee, Baked Alaska and Grand Marnier Souffle;. Notice that there are more desserts listed than nights spent on the ship. Okay, so most nights I had more than one dessert including a scoop of ice cream. Why any one would ever still be hungry late at night I don't know since I was full all the time but just in case, you can get soft serve ice cream/frozen yogurt in the Seaview Bistro or pizza at the Pizza Bar opened 24 hours. My only main complaint about the cruise was the fact that the first night's entertainment - The Welcome Aboard Show was a repeat of the Punchliner Comedy Club performances we had just attended. The second time around the jokes weren't as funny. Before the show started, we are told to stand up, stretch and then massage the shoulders of the person on either side of us. Younger passengers thought this was great fun but older ones did not didn't participate. Rethink this Carnival. It all seemed a little hokey to me. The audience on this ship didn't need to be loosened up. I did thoroughly enjoy the second night's performance, Curves, with the Carnival Dancers Singers. They are all so talented and put on a great show. Carnival lists the show as PG-13 because the costumes are a bit racy (blush, blush.) Some of the dancing was well, umm, sexy. For me, they aren't any worse than what I see on the beach every day. The final night's show is equally entertaining, Far From Over. It is the music of the eighties. The Acrobats/street dancers who also perform in that show are amazing received standing ovations. I enjoyed the special effects during the shows. The live music by Marc Mazo & the Sensation Band was terrific. Every band on all the Carnival ship that I have been on, is uniformly talented. Both the variety shows were new to us happily as we have been on several Carnival ships in the past 12 months. Danny, the cruise director who hails from our area was very approachable, He has been with Carnival for 13 years. Many other activities go on around the ship. The #1 happening on the ship is the Behind The Fun Shipboard Excursion (fee.) Limited to only 16 guests, the excursion offers a unique opportunity to see up-close what it takes to run the ship. Visit the bridge, Engine Control Room, Main Galley Crew Quarters. You receive a Behind the Fun baseball cap and a complementary photo and other Carnival branded souvenirs. Recently, friends of mine on an earlier Sensation cruise really enjoyed the experience. Book early. Or, you can take a complementary escorted walk around the ship's public areas on Embarkation Day. There was a special dance event to benefit St Jude's hospital for kids to which I donated. Casino Vault in the Casino is a popular game requiring a steady hand precision. Attempt to crack the vault to win cash or an iPad. I watched many try, but didn't see anyone do it; others said there were a couple of winners. Try it on other Carnival cruises, too. The Rockin Under the Stars Deck Party was fun especially the Congo Line Contest. Another event is the fast paced Champagne Art Auction - stay awake at this one. Go for the complementary champagne even if you don't want to purchase art work. You'll receive a piece of art just for attending, a chance to win prizes plus also get out of the sun for a bit. Try your luck at the busy Las Vegas Casino. I have a friend right now on this ship entered in a Texas Hold 'Em Tournament. Or, learn to Moonwalk and do Country Style Dancing. Watch the Game of Love where no questions are barred so leave the kids behind. Karaoke Time is always fun and many of the brave souls who participate are really talented. Although not for me, try Emage Body Art - a unique temporary body art - very trendy or tooth whitening treatments (many takers.) If it wasn't so expensive, I'd have loved to attend the Chef's Table where you enjoy a personal evening with the Executive Chef including a private Galley Tour and multi-course dinner. Book early as this has very limited seating. Sometime I'll do this. We both look forward to the complementary Sushi on Carnival ships. Be sure to try it. Since we have been to Nassau many times, we just did some shopping on Bay Street. The new Marketplace has recently opened all the white tents by the water's edge have been removed. We browsed through it. If you are interested in Shore Excursions in port, consider the Catamaran Sail Snorkel ($59.95) - very popular. Or, consider the Highlights of Nassau tour by jeep ($59.95.) Other excursions that passengers enjoyed were the Atlantis Aquaventure Half Day ($135.95,) Atlantis Beach Day including lunch ($109.95) and the Seaworld Explorer tour ($49.95.) There are also Dolphin Encounter tours. We watched several Champagne Catamaran Sunset trips ($49.95) pass our ships as we sat in the Serenity Retreat. We almost wished that we had taken one of those. The sunset was beautiful that evening, perfect for a romantic boat ride. With close to 30 Carnival Shore Excursions, you are sure to find one just right for your family. Or, simply arrange a tour with a local guide yourself after you leave the ship. You need a driver's license to return to the ship so don't leave without yours in your pocket. Only one unfortunate thing happened on our cruise. As the ship headed for home, we were told that a passenger was having a medical emergency. The ship's doctor determined that it was in the patient's best interest to get him immediately to the nearest hospital - in Freeport - an unscheduled stop. We were fully appraised about the medical evacuation received timely updates. I didn't hear anyone objecting to the 2-hour delay while we waited for the patient doctor to be transferred to a smaller ship. The ship doctor accompanied the patient to the shore before turning him over to medical personnel there. The party atmosphere continued onboard although passengers expressed concern about the patient's well-being. Carnival handled the whole episode very professionally. I was impressed. As we pulled into Port Canaveral, we looked out our window onto darken skies and blustery winds whipping the palm trees. Soon heavy rains fell and fog developed. The captain informed us over the loudspeaker at breakfast that due to inclement weather - winds in excess of 50 miles an hour - the ship was changing the Debarkation. Procedure. Luckily, by the time the ship cleared customs, the weather had improved, the fog lifted and the rain ceased. The winds were still strong. Again, I thought that the Ship's Staff kept us all appraised of the changes and the debarkation proceeded smoothly. If you are looking for a quick get-away, at good value, consider a cruise on the Sensation. Expect a party atmosphere with lots of young people who know how to have a good time sensibly. We made lots of new friends on the ship and so will you. The cruise won't break the bank either. You'll find delicious food, fine service and lots of activities to fill your days. The 3-night cruise from Port Canaveral visits Nassau, Thurs-Sun and the 4-night cruise visits Freeport Nassau, Sun-Thurs. Find deals as low as $189 pp, better than the Early Saver Deals. You can't beat the value!

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Freedom of the Seas

February 2012 - Freedom of the Seas to Caribbean

Freedom of the Seas - Ship Tour & Luncheon

We all love to cruise and getting a good deal is part of the process. On a dreary Super Bowl Sunday (2/5/2012,) getting the best deal on our cruise ship was not even an issue. We were about to experience the most expensive staterooms on board the Freedom of the Seas and we were all excited. We arrived at Port Canaveral and easily found the employees parking lot where we received complementary parking that day. We walked the short distance to the terminal and joined the rest of our group waiting to board the ship. At 11:00AM there were basically no lines. The employee stationed just outside the entrance must not have slept well the night before because he was a little grumpy with everyone - the only employee to be so. Soon we cleared security & proceeded upstairs to check-in with our group leader & receive name tags. We then relinquished our drivers license to RCCL personnel & received our SeaPass cards on lanyards. After settling into comfortable seating, we were greeted by a most pleasant informative RCCL representative Joanne (Jo) Cotterman, Business Development Manager. At exactly 11:30 Jo led our eager group of 34 for quick ID photos and then we all boarded the ship. For the next hour or so we viewed most of the ship's deluxe suites. We viewed Junior Suite-1544, Grand Suite - 1548, Owner Suite 1620 and Royal Suite - 1640 among others located on Deck 10. We also viewed a very roomy (handicap) Accessible Junior Suite - 1628. Jo showed us the more standard inside Staterooms (Cat. L) which were very lovely but it was the luxury suites that all of us were interested in seeing - staterooms that most of us would never get see otherwise. They were gorgeous. If you can afford one, what a way to cruise! Later we rode the elevator to Deck 6 and viewed the unusual Promenade Staterooms. These inside cabins have a large window that looks out on the Royal Promenade below. One unusual Promenade Stateroom is #6305 called the Ben & Jerry Suite. It is an inside stateroom that faces the backs of the cow sculptures over the Ben Jerry Store. To compensate for this view, the ship offers you free Ben & Jerry Ice Cream throughout your cruise. What fun! The Promenade Staterooms cost more than regular inside staterooms but I think that they are worth it as they give you a more open feeling. Of course, when you turn on lights you lose privacy unless you close the drapes. The Promenade Staterooms also give you an excellent view of the parades & dance shows that are staged during your cruise. The spacious Presidential Suite - 6414 received the most accolades from us. It sleeps 14 passengers - this is not a typo - for $80,000. All of us were wowed by what we saw - complete luxury. If you book a suite larger than a Junior Suite for 4-nights or longer on RCCL you also receive extra special amenities. Your'll have priority check-in, departure tender boarding, complementary Concierge Club Service plus luggage valet service including free pressing service on the first formal night. You have use of luxury Spa bathrobes & slippers and even get to choose your own type of pillow. There is also VIP pool deck seating, reserved seating in the theater & private breakfast & lunch seating in specialty restaurants. The complete breakfast, lunch dinner menus are available for your in-room dining. Ghirardelli chocolates will greet you at turn down service. You can wave around your special Gold SeaPass Card to impress the rest of us onboard. There are lots of other perks and upgraded amenities too numerous to mention. After an hour of viewing the many spacious staterooms the main public areas, we had lunch in the beautifully appointed Leonardo Dining Room Deck 3 AFT. I dined on Seafood Salad, Duck and Lemon Meringue Pie. In addition, I also sampled the shrimp entre. Oh my! My husband had a very different tasting Eggplant entre. At the large windows where we sat, we had a perfect view of the Disney Dream docked right next to us. Our service was polite, efficient and unobtrusive. After the delicious lunch, we were free to further explore the ship until 3 PM. It wasn't just the gorgeous staterooms that wowed our group or the scrumptious lunch but also the many unusual amenities available on this beautiful ship. One that I especially want to try is the ice skating rink. Be sure to pack casual comfortable long pants for this one. The ship provides the skates. You can take lessons, too and watch the ice shows that are a combination of dance and athletics. Another is the 3D indoor theater showing first run movies. There is also a large poolside outdoor TV screen showing first run movies and sporting events during the day & under the stars. After food entertainment, the cruise industry knows that passengers are very interested in the pool areas on board.. The Freedom of the Seas has 10 pools and whirlpools. Two huge pools & 4 whirlpools are right on the pool deck. Although none of us on the tour travel with children, we were very impressed with the innovative H2O Zone Water Park. It contains colorful fountains, geysers and water guns plus shallow water to keep kids safe and entertained all day long. We all tasted the complementary soft ice cream cones available on the pool deck. I loved the 2 large cantilevered whirlpools in the adults only Solarium that extend 12 feet over the water. For the males, there is a boxing ring in the large fitness center. Ladies you, of course, can use it also. The most unusual amenity is the FlowRider. Watch brave passengers ride the waves on body boards eventually wipe out. Padding prevents anyone from getting hurt. Stadium seating around the attraction permits you to be entertained for as long as you like or why not try it yourself? Children as young as 6 months are accommodated in the colorful and cheery Royal Babies Royal Tots Program. Older children have special activities through the day in the Adventure Ocean Youth Programs: Aquanauts 3-5, Explorers, 6-8, Voyagers, 9-11. Tweens & Teens have their own disco with more independence. There is Challenger's Arcade to keep the kids occupied also. Children as young as 1 yr. old can be babysat in either a group situation or in your own stateroom at additional charge if parents need more free time for themselves. Puppet shows and Dreamworks Character Parades also keep the kids happy and engaged. Of course, the ship has the more typical amenities such as a challenging rock climbing wall, basketball court, ping pong tables and a mini golf course as well as the large Shipshape Fitness Center. The Skylight Chapel on Deck 15 is available for weddings or to renew your vows. We saw two brides getting married the day that we toured the ship. I checked out the Day Spa and found that you can choose from over 100 different treatments including tooth whitening acupuncture. Another exciting place is the Royal Promenade. The centrally located 4-story Main Street on Deck 5 is named after a street in Milan & it is the hub of activities - boutiques, dance shows, parades, Meet the Captain events, pubs and eateries. We spent lots of our free time here tasting the complementary goodies. My husband is still raving about the pizza he sampled. I loved the chocolate moose and the amaretto cookies also available at Sorrentino's. Cafe Promenade had delicious Starbucks coffee and complementary cookies and confectionaries of different types. We sampled several of them. At Vintages you can self-pour a glass of wine to sample for a fee. Or, take a decorating class at Cupcakes Cupboard. I saw on display large cupcakes decorated like Giants & Patriots footballs in honor of Super Bowl Sunday. I could spend more time talking about the theater, casino, hair salon, lounges, library, specialty restaurants, nightclubs bars but I think that you get the idea that this ship is a destination in and of itself. If you think that this ship is just too large for you to navigate, think again. Throughout the ship there are innovative signs called Cruise Compass - directional aides with interactive touch screens that tell you the location of rest rooms, your stateroom, public areas - if fact every place on the ship - plus give you the route to get there. In addition, they list the daily activities. You won't be roaming the halls aimlessly. I was so impressed with everything that I purchased a voucher for a future cruise. The offer never expires and gives us our $200 back on our deposit and up to an additional $200 shipboard credit depending on the length of our next cruise. Freedom of the Seas cruises the Eastern & Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral. The Independence of the Seas (Western Mediterranean) Liberty of the Seas (Western Caribbean, Western Mediterranean & Transatlantic) are also Freedom Class ships with similar amenities. As we left the ship, the sun was shining and we all hurried home to warm up our TVs for the Super Bowl Game. Perhaps we'll see you on my next cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas.

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Carnival Dream

January 2012 - Carnival Dream to Caribbean - Western

Land Rover and Cave...

Land Rover and Cave Expedition - Carnival Dream - Belize Port of Call Since we had already visited Belize before our cruise on the Dream, we decided to take the Cave and Land Rover Expedition instead of a city tour. It sounded adventure and a change of pace. We were not disappointed. Early on the appointed morning, we checked in at the Encore! Theater to receive our tour sticker and await the announcement of the tour. It was the first tour called and I was so excited that I was first out of the theater, leading the tour group down the stairs into the awaiting tender. The tender took us to the dock in Belize which was fairly far away. It was a fun ride and I was able to get good shots of the Dream so keep your camera ready. We were met by the first of several guides. After everyone used the facilities on the dock, we were divided into two groups of 21 people. The other group took the tour in reverse. Our group proceeded to a van parked a short distance away. We were driven on a brand new road on the outskirts of the city with the guide giving us a commentary on what we were seeing. The city looked more developed than when we last visited. Soon we were outside the city limits and into the country. We could see mountains in the distance and yes, the guide replied to my question that was where we were headed for the cave portion. As we got closer to the mountains, we left the paved road and traveled on a dirt road. After a few minutes on the very narrow dirt road, we had a accident. Another car from the opposite direction tried to share the same road with us and our bumpers hit. Oh no! No one was hurt and we were soon on our way again, headed to Base Camp at Gracy Rock. We left most of our belongings in provided lockers with locks, used the facilities, then met our next guide - a local native -who would accompany us through the cave. After being issued complementary bottled water, we gingerly walked on the foot suspension bridge that swayed as we crossed the wide river below. We hiked maybe -1/2 mile, stopping every few minutes, learning about the various vegetation that we saw and the medicinal uses of each. We also identified poisonous plants. The walk was over uneven surfaces, muddy also. Eventually, we climbed a short but steep incline to reach the cave. It was a wide opening and we all gathered around the guide for instructions. We learned that the cave was once used by the Mayans and found evidence of this inside. We were issued a small battery-operated light and then proceeded single file through the pitch black cave. We stopped many times to rest, take photographs and keep the group together. At one point we had to climb over a big rock but everyone helped one another. Soon we were squeezing sideways between the stalagmites, stalactites on the walls of the cave, keeping an eye on the many small bats hanging on the cave walls. Deep into the cave we had to stoop in spots. It soon got quite warm and humid inside. After close to an hour, we finally felt a breeze and cooler temperatures as we wound our way out of the cave. With some slipping and sliding we descended to the jungle floor proceeded to walk back to Gracy Rock. After a quick clean up with running water, we then rested for a bit. We were asked to divide ourselves into smaller groups for the Land Rover Ride. Dave Brown, a fireman and his wife Carol joined us in our vehicle. It was a very rough, curvy and muddy ride going single file on dirt roads and jungle trails. After a half hour, we switched drivers, drove on a paved portion for a bit and then back on the dirt road and jungle trails. After another half hour, we arrived at The Landing - a secluded farm by the river. We drank rum punch other beverages enjoyed a variety of fresh fruit. More substantial home-cooked food was available at nominal cost along with local crafts and jewelry. After restroom visits, we boarded our high-speed open motor boat that traveled for 45 minutes along a stream through the jungle out into the Caribbean Sea, finally landing at the Belize Dock. Along the way we stopped often to view photograph iguanas, crocodiles, birds and turtles. We had time to visit the new shops at the dock before re-boarding our tender back to the ship. We were very tired at the end of the day from the early wake-up, the activity and I guess the excitement. I highly recommend this tour to everyone who has the stamina for it and can drive a stick shift on uneven dirt roads. My advice if you take the trip - use sunscreen, bring bug repellant (I didn't need it but others did.) Wear closed-toe shoes like sneakers to protect your feet. Expect your shoes to get a bit muddy. You also need this footwear for driving the Land Rovers. Don't forget your drivers license. Have fun! It was a super, super experience.

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Carnival Dream

January 2012 - Carnival Dream to Caribbean - Western

A Dream Cruise

We Took the 7-day Exotic Western Caribbean Cruise from Port Canaveral. It included Ports of Call in Cozumel, Mexico, Mohogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Hondoras, uBelize, Costa Maya, Mexico plus 2 Sea Days. We booked our cruise last minute so we were waitlisted for our choice, "Your Time Dining." Embarkation We arrived at the terminal later than planned on Saturday, January 7th, 2012. Lines were long by 1PM but I have to admit they moved pretty quickly. Within 20 minutes or so, we cleared Security took the escalator upstairs for check-in. There we learned that we were assigned the late dining seating - 8:15 pm. Just before we boarded the ship, we were stopped for a mandatory security head only photo. We were curious about it since we had never had that taken before but I'll explain what it was for later in my review. Staterooms weren't ready for occupancy until 2PM so we headed up for lunch at the Lido Deck Buffet. (Elevators are in short supply on Embarkation day so be prepared to wait or walk up/down the stairs.) Although the lines were long, they moved quickly. I was happy to find trays and large-sized plates. I did miss tall glasses for beverages but I managed with their colorful short glasses. We quickly found several empty tables outside by the pool. Music was very loud that day - it sounded like one big party but most passengers seemed to enjoy it. Inside was much quieter. Soon enough, after a stop for an ice cream cone, our rooms were ready. Luggage arrived soon after we located our stateroom. Later we had our safety drill before sailing followed by a huge SailAwayParty with a DJ. Hundreds of passengers joined in the line dancing. Stateroom Cabin Service We booked cabin 1328 which is a Deluxe Ocean view Cabin on the Riviera Deck #1 Mid Ship. The room was relatively large about 230-square feet with a convertible couch, cocktail table and a king size bed. I appreciated the two end tables plenty of closet and shelf space for all our belongings. One closet we never even used. Two white bathrobes were available for our use. We had an oversized picture window and best of all two "private facilities." One had a toilet, shower basin. The other had a tub/shower and basin. It made all the difference in the world to us. The room was very quiet as there were only staterooms above us - not a public area nor directly by an elevator. There we no vibration noises either. We met our steward the first day and just requested extra ice which she provided daily. She was very friendly, efficient and we had no complaints. We loved her daily towel animals and the little chocolates that she provided us at turn down service each night. She timed her cleanings around our comings and goings. Dining Room, Meals and Service The first night we had dinner at 8:15 in the Scarlet Dining Room. Our companions were two couples from Melbourne, Fl who lived 40 minutes from our home. The computer must have matched us. We got along very well but we all wanted an earlier dining time. The next day, after we again requested "Your Time Dining" we received a card in our stateroom assigning us that option. Carnival does listen. We were now happy passengers. Our original table was in a corner of the restaurant we were one of the last diners out of the dining room barely making it to show time in the theater. With the new dining option we had to change restaurants and now ate in the Crimson Dining Room. No matter what time, what table, what waiters, what dining room, we always received polite, efficient service. Every waiter, and we had many, was friendly, personable and tried to please us. They were also helpful providing suggestions for the best dish among the choices. In my personal opinion, the food was great. My favorite selections were: Lobster Tail, Filet Mignon, Prime Rib, Chateaubriand, Escargot, Mushroom Cappuccino Soup, Baked Alaska, Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, (every night) Tiramisu, Cregrave, Brulee and others too numerous to mention. There was always a vegetarian choice and fixed dishes in case you didn't like the daily choices - these included Salmon and Steak. We never resorted to the fixed choices. Passengers who visited the specialty restaurants praised them highly. The Lido Deck Buffets were always busy during morning hours and at lunchtime. Lines moved quickly except at the Mongolian Grill the Deli which were out of the way. On the last day, we tried the upstairs Pasta Bar and we loved it. We are very particular about our pasta sauce but found both the sauces that we tried to be terrific. We'll definitely try this eatery more often if we cruise again on the Dream. You are given a menu, you check off your choices, turn it in and you're given a table number. The staff then brings you your order. For dessert, though, you have to go downstairs to the buffets. Public Rooms There were plenty of bars, cocktail lounges and sitting areas. My one complaint was the Library. It held hardly any books at all. It was ridiculous. The Ecstasy and the Miracle were better supplied. Many of the few books there were in foreign languages although most passengers were American. Carnival fix this please. It has a book exchange but there were no books there until I left mine on the next to last day. What the ship also lacked was a card room. All around the ship I saw passengers playing cards in the bar/lounge areas and outside on the tables around the Lido Deck. There were more than enough lounge chairs around the pool and around the outside decks in general. I never even went to the several lovely adults-only Serenity Retreats because I found plenty of quiet places to sit in other areas. The pool water was a little cool - it was January, so we only swam there one afternoon. We used several of the Whirlpools which had varying temperatures. We loved the Lanai ones which were oversized and cantilevered from the ship so it seemed like you were part of the ocean -really neat! I loved the various conversation groupings of outdoor furniture all over the ship. Nice little touches like this made the ship seem smaller. The theater was comfortable with upholstered seating and small marbled topped tables just big enough for cocktails and enough room for the waiters to get through serving drinks. The Waterworks area was fun for kids of all ages with multiple slides of varying heights and water sprays for the toddlers. For Spa Lovers, The Dream has a very elaborate facility named Cloud 9. The long lines of passengers waiting for appointments on Embarkation day attest to its success. Make your appointments early. The Casino was very busy especially in the late afternoon evening. It was also rather cool - temperature wise. Activities The Dream has three distinct children's programs. There is Camp Carnival for kids 2-11, Circle C for kids 12-14 and Club O2 for teens 15-17. I peeked into the facilities and they were clean, modern and appealing. Kids loved the disco atmosphere. The schedule of activities went from morning until night. Night Owls Program runs until 3AM. Parents were pleased with the activities. The Dream has all the usual on board activities such as bingo, trivia contests, art auction, ice carving demonstration, dance language classes, Karaoke, crafts, shopping show, wine lecture, Texas Hold 'em Challenge, Blackjack Tournament and towel folding but what I enjoyed the most was the Chef's Art Steakhouse cooking class where we all tasted the dishes prepared. There were plenty of parties also like the big Mardi Gras, Electric White Night and the Mega Deck Party. You can even renew your vows. A tour of the ship was also offered.-good idea since the ship is huge. Plenty of activities daily kept everyone from getting bored. Entertainment - Shows The Multi-Million Dollar Extravaganzas in the Encore! theater were something not to miss. One particular show "Dancing in the Street" was so spectacular that I will never forget it. If you cruise on the Dream do not skip this one. It included the fabulous Carnival Dancers Singers plus the amazing male acrobatic dancers - head spinning, body popping, break dancing Fun Force.They had entertained us in the Atrium on a previous evening so we knew that we were in for a double treat. The small piano bars and lounges also had great live entertainment all evening long. We stopped to enjoy music at several nightly. The eleven deck high Atrium had live entertainment performing nightly above a huge dance floor with comfortable seating upstairs and downstairs. I loved the huge LED Screen on the Lido Deck poolside where news shows and movies were shown with complementary popcorn. I caught The Green Hornet and Cars. Even more innovative was the brand new 2 million dollar laser equipment. I had fun on several nights, dancing the Electric Slide and learning the Cha-Cha Slide with hundreds of my fellow passengers - what fun-all under the stars with live music. The Punchline Comedy Club in the Burgundy Lounge was very popular - standing room only at the ones I attended. Shore Excursions There are so many choices that it is hard to make recommendations. What you choose will depend on your age, activity level, interests and whether you have been to the island previously. One that I particularly enjoyed was in Belize. Since I had already been to Belize, I took the Cave an Land Rover Expedition. It is listed as strenuous and we were the oldest people on the tour. You need to be able to maneuver across a foot suspension bridge that swings as you walk above a river, walk a short distance (1/2 mile) through a rain forest/jungle on uneven surfaces, climb up to a cave in the mountains, and stoop (at times) through an unlit cave with bats. You are given a small battery operated light. If you are claustrophobic, do not go on this one. Everyone on our tour completed the cave portion. Our drive on the stick shift 4X4 Land Rover took us over mostly muddy dirt roads and jungle trails. You need a valid drivers license and the experience of driving a stick shift. The tour concluded with a high speed open motor boat ride along the jungle covered banks of a river and then out into the sea. It is a very fast, exciting ride. The tour was the most fun that I ever had on an excursion. Try it if you are in Belize and up to the challenge. Other tours on the several islands that we visited included Dolphin Swims, Snorkeling, Mayan Ruins, Jeep tours, Beach trips, Catamaran rides, Scuba Diving, Zip Lining, Horseback Riding, Motorcycling, City Sightseeing and Shopping and various combinations of the above. These are just a small sample. You will find something that you like or just hire one of the many local guides for a custom tour of your choosing. Be aware that in Roatan, the local guides or your pre-booked non Carnival tours guides were a long way from the terminal. The Carnival tours are a bit pricey but if for any reason your tour returns later than sailing time, the ship will wait for you. In conclusion, I loved my cruise. The Dream was everything that I expected and more. I will take it again in a heartbeat. This was my 9th cruise on Carnival and the one that I loved best. Although we did have a couple of minor incidents on shore, they didn't mar our trip. Carnival took care of the incidents to our satisfaction. By the way, it turned out that those "security" head photos have nothing to do with security but provide a very unique service. It is a face recognition software program for finding all the photos that the ship photographer takes of you on board. You go to a special machine, slide in your room card and up pops all you photos. You don't have to search through hundreds of photos looking for yours. Why didn't someone think of this earlier? Another plus on Carnival is that you can print out a copy of your statement at a machine without having to stand in line at the Guest Services Desk. Neat! As we disembarked the Carnival Dream, we heard the first disturbing report of a cruise ship disaster off the coast of Italy. Later we learned that it was a Costa Line ship under the parent company of Carnival. We felt an instant distant but deep connection. We were safe, however, while those on board the Concordia were not.

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Carnival Ecstasy

December 2011 - Carnival Ecstasy to Caribbean - Bahamas

"It is a smaller ship with great entertainment. Loved the sushi bar which is complementary and the soft serve ice cream or yogurt available around the clock also complementary. In Key West, passengers were transported into town on trams curtesy of Carnival. It was a nice touch. Port Canaveral did a great job at embarkation & disembarkation. Serce & food while good had minor flaws which really didn't affect the quality of the cruising experience."

Carnival Ecstasy - Pay attention to the little things

Embarkation We boarded the ship in Port Canaveral on December 10th. Our itinerary was the Bahamas - Freeport, Nassau and Key West. After arriving at the terminal using a local shuttle company, around 12:45 we had our bags checked-in right at the drop off area and we proceeded to the entrance. Then we stood in line for about 20 minutes going through security. We found lots of interesting passengers to chat with so the time sped by quickly. I saw a wide range of ages on line from family groups to young couples and some seniors too. Many were past guests of Carnival. After clearing security, we stood in another fairly long line to check-in. It was a little chaotic upstairs but manageable. A friend who works there told our party of 4 to get there earlier but the shuttle company we used, Travel Lynx doesn't pick up independent passengers like us before 12 noon. Unfortunately for us that meant lines to get onboard. Hint: Get there earlier or after 2:30 to avoid the lines. Dining The buffet lines aren't too long unless you want something from the deli or Mongolian buffet. One good thing about Carnival, they still have trays unlike other cruise lines. That was a big plus for us. Also we enjoyed having ice cream/ frozen yogurt (and Pizza) available at all hours. Food onboard, we all thought, was pretty good. We never had any trouble finding something that we liked. We never considered visiting a specialty restaurant because we received good food service in the Main Dining Room. Some other cruise lines no longer offer Lobster dinner but Carnival still does. We all had it one night in the Wind Star dining room. We also dined on Chateau Bri and with Bearnaise Sauce, Escargot, Lasagna, Prime Rib and Duck on other nights. Our wait staff was pretty good considering that we were on "Your Time Dining" meaning that we ate whenever we wanted and rarely had the same waiter twice. It worked well for us although sometimes there were lines getting inside for dinner. The concept worked better on Carnival Miracle which has just one dining room and no lines. We often ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room to avoid the buffet lines and chaos of searching for a clean table. Service We liked all our service staff and all tried their hardest to satisfy us and correct any problems that we encountered. They were all minor like an over-cooked piece of meat quickly that was replaced. Our stateroom steward also tried his best to accommodate our requests. Every staff member from pool staff, bar staff, cruise director, front desk, shore excursion deck were equally pleasant accommodating. Stateroom We were in a outside cabin on the Rivera deck - bottom deck. It was very quiet except for side thrusters when pulling into/out of ports. The room was a little small but adequate for our needs with enough storage to contain all our possessions. Bathroom could have used a night light as the stateroom was pitch black at night. There were enough amenities in the bathroom for our entire trip - even a couple of extras that we didn't expect. Public Areas We enjoy the Atrium area which was quite popular most of the day. The bar was great with live entertainment. In fact all around the ship are great areas to sit enjoy a special dessert or cocktail. Stripes, Neon and Chinatown were all nice places to gather. Your were never under any pressure to order drinks anywhere including the theater. Pool area often had loud music playing which many of the passengers seemed to enjoy. We spent many hours on the Serenity Deck where no one under 21 was permitted. That didn't guarantee quiet but it was for the most part. Pool water was a little too cool for me as was the slide water so I spent my time in the Jacuzzis. Around the pool area, the staff spent most of their time mopping up water from the deck. You are issued a towel in your stateroom and you must return it at the end of the trip or they will bill you. It can be exchanged for a dry one at the pool. I bought a new one to take home. Activities Entertainment The ship had plenty of things to do to satisfy anyone. You will not be bored. Many activities around the pool are aimed at young people like the hairy chest contest. There is a library just in case you are but most people in there used the room to play cards. If you like art, attend the art party with free champagne for all. There are also craft sessions, dance classes, Karaoke, Texas Hold'em, singles parties and of course BINGO to give you an idea. The multi million dollar extravaganzas in the Blue Sapphire theater are worth seeing. So are the comedy shows. Shopping There are a few shops on board with sundry items for sale including logo apparel. Every day another sale item is offered. I purchased a couple of items. Remember that the shops aren't opened when the ship in in port. Ports of Call We have visited Freeport, Nassau and Key West many times so we just walked around in ports. There are plenty of excursions though if you have not. In Key West, a tram will bring you to the downtown area. The driver also gives a running account of what you are seeing. And, it is all complementary. Almost everyone seemed to enjoy the excursions that they took although they are a little pricy. I have been on cruises where passengers didn't make it back to the ship because a cab broke down or they got lost so we take the excursions usually if we want to explore. We have also been on ship excursions where the excursion returned late to the ship but the ship waited for us. I could cover a whole lot more but suffice it to say that overall we were happy with the value of our trip. We think that Carnival gives good value for what you get. We just saw minor things that should not have happened. For example, my husband ordered Camomile tea and the waiter didn't know what it was. Nor did he bring a pot of hot water to the table - just a cup full. Our cabin steward didn't get ice to us until way after noon. Towels that were left to be reused weren't refolded. Tables on the Lido deck weren't cleaned off so passengers couldn't sit down. Sudoku or crosswords were not available for passengers. One had to ask each day for them at the front desk and then the same one was given out each day. Also there was no Newspaper flyer available. It almost feels like the crew is being trained to later serve on the bigger ships. The ships really needs to pay attention to small details. I am off on another Carnival cruise in 3 days on The Dream. This will be my 9th. After 10 cruises you become a VIP and get to skip lines at embarkation disembarkation and for tenders. You get your laundry done and folded once during your cruise and get special treatment in other areas as well. Signing up for the Carnival Cruise MasterCard can earn you a free cruise. We cruised the Miracle a few months ago for free.

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Carnival Miracle

October 2011 - Carnival Miracle to Caribbean - Southern

"It is a smaller ship with great entertainment. Loved the sushi bar which is complementary and the soft serve ice cream or yogurt available around the clock also complementary. Inexpensive parking is available off site with transportation included to the ship for $5 a day. I would love to cruise on this ship again. Food, service & the itinerary weregreat onboard & our balcony room had enough room for all our possessions."

Monarch of the Seas (RETIRED)

October 2011 - Monarch of the Seas (RETIRED) to Caribbean - Bahamas

"Although this is an older ship, we thought that the food & service were just fine. We enjoyed the activities and especially liked that the port was close to home. Port Canaveral does a great job with embarkation & disembarkation. We found an excellent deal on the price of the cruise. We would book again on this ship."

Norwegian Jade

May 2009 - Norwegian Jade to Transatlantic

"This Transatlantic cruise to the British Isles was marvelous. Although we had a minor hassle with dinner reservations, it was eventually remedied. The itinerary was wonderful. Food was good and servicewas pleasant."

Norwegian Jewel

October 2007 - Norwegian Jewel to Transatlantic

"We traveled with a group on the Jewel. One night we had a special dinner at the Tappanyaki Restaurant & enjoyed it immensely. Another night we dined at Mama's the Italian Restaurant. I loved the concept of Freestyle cruising & especially liked the ports of call. Service, food and accommodations were call fine."

Volendam

February 2007 - Volendam to Panama Canal, Central America

"So much to see as the ship goes through the locks. All around you there is activity. Be sure to attend the lectures on board. They are very worthwhile. Food, service & acdtivities were wonderful."

Norwegian Dream (RETIRED)

June 2006 - Norwegian Dream (RETIRED) to Europe - Northern Europe

"Love the Freestyle concept. Sometimes dining reservations were cumbersome. Sometimes we were strongly encouraged to sit at larger tables than we wanted. Hope that this has been remedied. Food, service & activities onboard were good."

Rotterdam

January 2006 - Rotterdam to South America

"Great cruise, great food, service & stateroom. Good excursions, also"

Carnival Glory

April 2005 - Carnival Glory to Caribbean - Bahamas

"The Glory is a great ship, good food, good service, lots of activities onboard to keep you busy."

Sovereign of the Seas (RETIRED)

May 2004 - Sovereign of the Seas (RETIRED) to Caribbean - Bahamas

"Had a lovely cruise. Good food, service and ship activities."

Norwegian Star

July 2002 - Norwegian Star to Hawaii

"Great cruise through the islands. Nice ship. No casino onboard though. That wasn't a problem for us. Great food, service and lots to do on the ship. It seemed brand new when we took the cruise."

glomarrone's Tips

Ashdod, Israel - Very moving biblical place..See it from the Mount of Olives & walk through the Garden of Gethsemane. Drive to Mt Zion & see room of the Last Supper & King David's Tomb. Walk through the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher & Western Wall.
Melbourne, Australia - Take a panoramic tour of Melbourne visiting the suburbs, Princess Theater, Arts & Cultural Center, Cricket Grounds and Melbourne Park. Visit Eureka Skydeck for a marvelous 360 degree view of Melbourne. Stop at the Shrine of Remembrance & the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Hong Kong - Consider a side trip to Macau by fast ferry. See old & New Macau. Visit the Buddhist temple & Porto do Cerco Gate. See ruins of St Paul's church. Don't miss Macau Tower and stay for the magnificent buffet lunch. Watch the bungee jumpers.
Haifa, Israel - Visit Nazareth, The Church of the Annunciation (home of Virgin Mary) & the Church of St Joseph (Joseph's workshop). See Mary's well, too. Visit the Sea of Galilee and the beautiful Mont of the Beatitudes & its lovely gardens. Be sure to see Tabghaq (loaves & fishes) & Yardenit - the baptismal site
Singapore - We have spent several days in Singapore previously so we took the Night Safari. We saw many nocturnal animals as we drove in an open-air tram such as Cape Buffalo, African Bongo, blue sheep, hyenas, jackals, rhinos, etc. We also took a stroll along the walking trails. Watch the presentation.
Monte Carlo, Monaco - We visited Nice & Eze when we were in the port of Monte Carlo. We took a scenic drive along the Lower Corniche Road. Then we took the palm-lined Promenade des Angles to the city of Nice. We walked through the Old Town and spent time in the flower market and shops. Later we drove to charming Eze
Papeete, Tahiti - Consider an overnight to Moorea for a one-night stay in a thatched bungalow over the lagoon. Re-join the ship in Moorea. Although expensive, it was well worth the cost. Before our excursion, we explored the shops in town and saw the nearby landmarks.
Cairns, Australia - Plan on swimming in the huge outdoor pool near the terminal. There is no cost.
Melbourne, Australia - Here we took a Panoramic tour of the City of Melbourne which covered all the scenic highlights - Bay suburbs, Princess Theater, Arts & Crafts Center, Melbou7rne Cricket Grounds & Melbourne Park. Loved my visit to Eureka Skydeck. The stop at the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens was included.
Auckland, New Zealand - I loved the Antarctic Encounter at the Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium. It was amazing! See the sub-arctic penguins - king & Gentoo penguins. Also see schools of fish and sharks swimming above you, as well as sting rays. I purchased the photo book here. This is a quite popular excursion. Also visited the Auckland Sky Tower which is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. Great view 1,072 feet up. Posed for a fun photo at the observation area./
Picton, New Zealand - We took a combination tour "Panoramic Land & Sea. Drove through lush farmlands and Wairau Valley. Boarded a catamaran in Anakiwa for a cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound.
Bay Of Islands, New Zealand - We boarded a luxury catamaran and toured the lovely inlet. Be sure to see the Hole-in-the Rock and beautiful Motukokako Island. Our boat actually went through the hole in the rock. We saw jumping fish and swooping birds. Also saw a pod of bottle-nose dolphins.
Panama Canal Transit - Get out on deck early so you do not miss any of the excitement. Do not leave your camera in your stateroom. Keep a lookout for complimentary beverages & fruit served by the crew.
Fuerte Amador, Panama - I took a walk through Panama City to see the old and new sections. I highly recommend this tour.
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas - I took a tour of Taipivai Valley made famous by Herman Melville. The coastline in breathtaking!
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Be sure to taste the delicious fries at the Dive In poolside at least once during your cruise
Paris, France - If you are visiting Paris during July and August check out the free cinemas at Parc de La Villette, Paris' largest park. Many of their films are in English.
Paris, France - La Derniere Goutte hosts free wine tastings on Fridays at 5 PM with free cheese all day on Saturdays.
Paris, France - If you are staying anywhere in Paris that is close to Le Centiquatre stop by. It is now a contemporary art venue. I was sorry that I did not know about it when I saw there.
Paris, France - Some larger wine store offer free tasting and even wine course in English. Stop in at a large wine store to inquire if it participates.
Paris, France - Pick up a copy of Pariscope at newstands for a listing of the flea markets in Paris. Recommended are Marche aux Puces st - Ouen, Tartes, klnger, Vanves & Foire de Chatou.
Paris, France - Did you know that there are free cooking classes by Federation Francaise de Cusine offered in several markets and fairs around Paris. Classes are in French, though one hour long.
Paris, France - See the Arenes de Lutece, the ruins of the world's largest Roman Ampitheater. It is SW of city center - 5th Arrondissement.
Caudebec, France - See the oldest medieval prison in France at Rue de Baillarge.
Caudebec, France - On the way to the Abbeys, stop and see the Monument du Latham 47.
Avignon, France - Two suggestions for good Galleries to visit if you have time are: MMB Gallery for Contemporary Art at 20 Balance str. and the Art Gallery for Provencal Painters from the 19th & 20 Century, 2 Joseph Vernet str.
Avignon, France - Three suggestions for restaurants are: Christian Etienne located in a historical building offers provencal cuisine, La Vieille Fontaine offers very creative cuisine and Les 5 sens has cuisine influenced by South West France.
Avignon, France - If you have time, see Pont St Benezet (Pont d' Avignon). The bridge spans the Rhone between Villeuve-les-Avignon and Avignon. It was built between 1177 & 1185. This early bridge was destroyed & rebuilt with 22 stone arches. It is opened every day from 9 am to 7 pm. Entrance fee, 2 Euros worth it
Caudebec, France - Stop in at the Church of Notre Dame of Caudebec-en-Caux. It was built as far back at the 15 C and has one of the most beautiful portal (west facade) which has 333 figures and a magnificent rose window. Notice the big organs from the 16 C. See the Baptismal fonts & the beautiful chapels
GIVERNY, FRANCE - After the British Aviators Memorial, continue on rue Claude Monet for the Medieval part of Giverny ( rue Aux Juifa) and the Church. Go behind the church on your right to visit the grave of Claude Monet.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - Venture beyond Monet's House & Gardens, travel toward Vernon on Rue Claude Monet. Visit Musee de Mecanique Naturelle (Natural Mechanical Museum) if this is of interest to you. See the old Hotel Baudy with its Artist Studio & Rose Garden. Past the hotel look for the British Aviators Memorial.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - If you are looking for fast food while visiting Monet House & Gardens, these recommended eateries are all located on rue Claude Monet: L'Atelier, #55 for Frozen Yogurt, La Capucine Cafe, #80 for French Fast food and Ice Cream, La Musardiere, #132 for Crepes. For Pizzas, I suggest L'Aquarelle, #96
GIVERNY, FRANCE - Nearby Boutiques & Bookshops to Monet's House are all located on rue Claude AMonet and worth a look are: Musee des Impressionnismes #99, La Capucine, #80, Autour D'Un Savon, #107, Emilio RI, #84 and Fondation Claude Money, #84.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - Visit the L'Echoppe, an antique shop on rue Blanche Hoschede-Monet, if antiques are your passion.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - While touring the house and gardens, pay a visit to the House of Tourism, Maison du Tourisme. Pick up a plethora of brochures on other nearby attractions. The staff will answers all your inquires. Free and clean restrooms are nearby.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - After touring the house, gardens & gift shop, stop in at the many galleries for that perfect art work to take home. These galleries are all located on rue Claude Monet: Galerie Letoliacha, Galerie 60, Le Galerie, Espace 87, Galerie Claude Cambour, Christopohe DeMarex & Daniele Thierry.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - Don't miss the gift shop. There are all sorts of treasures there. I bought a beautiful book, Monet's Passion. Even if you don't wish to buy anything, look up on the walls for reproductions of his famous art works. The little miniatures & note cards make lovely gifts.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - In Monet's garden be sure to take a photo of the arching green bridge with its stunning and sweet smelling wisteria. You will feel like you are part of his painting as I did.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - At Money's Gardens, be sure to see the Clos Normand garden with its three acres of flowers andits Grande Allee (flower tunnel with large arches of rambling roses. See the water Lily garden, too. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the glorious color. It you draw, bring a sketch pad.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - Walk the path around Monet's gardens. You can almost picture Claude painting his water Lily painting. Artists are usually there with a sketch pad using the gardens as inspiration. Be sure to bring your camera. Each plant was thoughtfully planted. It is a painter's paradise.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - In Giverny, you must visit Claude Monet's House & Gardens. Take a tour of the house to get a better appreciation of Monet's family life and his art. Be sure to bring a camera with you.
Avignon, France - Consider the Mini Train Audio Guided Visit. The train starts from the Palace of Popes and it runs from 10 am to 7 pm. It costs 8 Euros when i WAS THERE.
Avignon, France - Be sure to browse the Seasonal Local Market - 20 local growers from Avignon and the area. Monday evening from 5 pm to 7: 30 PM.
Avignon, France - Some interesting shopping areas to visit are Rue de la Balance for Provencal souvenir shops; Rue de la Republique and the Pedestrian area of Avignon. Good prices.
Avignon, France - No visit to this port should miss a tour of the Popes' Palace. You casn do a self guided tour, a tour with a headset for a couple of euro or a complete guided tour. There are plenty of videos inside - furnishings inside are scant. Still the place is beautiful.
Paris, France - Check out the vendors around the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Their prices are considerably lower than store prices. We picked up Eiffel Tower keys rings 10 for 2 euro & shared them with another couple. Store prices 1 Euro each. Same quality.
Paris, France - Although the line to enter Notre-Dame Cathedral may be long, it moves quickly. You do not want to miss the interior. It is worth the wait. Free
Le Havre (Paris), France - Although The city of Paris is quite a distance from the port, I still suggest a visit to the city. I spent two days in Paris on different cruises. Both times I did the same wonderful excursion: a coach tour of the city followed by an unforgettable lunch cruise on the Seine River.
Paris, France - Consider a Segway Tour of Paris! Segways are really easy to use. I got the hang of it right away.
Paris, France - Try to reserve a table at the famous Moulin Rouge? Great experience not to be missed in Paris.
Paris, France - Be sure to experience dinner with a Can Can Show while in Paris.
Paris, France - Buy the Paris Museum Pass. It offers you access to more than 60 museums for 2, 4 or 6 days. If you stay for more than one day it is really worth it.
Vernon, France - This town is a great place to ride a bike. Many river cruises will let you borrow one of their bike for free. It is an easy ride to Giverny or or for a shorter ride, pedal around town, which is close to the docks. A nice ride is across the bridge to Chateau des Tourelles and the Vieux Moulin
Vernon, France - If you call a French phone number from a US cell phone, the extension number is 01133. Good to know if y9u are making a restaurant reservation or calling an attraction.
Vernon, France - If you are looking for a recommendation for a restaurant suggestions are: L' Envie on 71 r. Carnot F - 27200 Vernon. Phone 232511680. Cuisine modern and Le Bistro des Fleurs on 73 r. Carot F - 27200 Vernon, Phone 23221919 or Manoir Restaurant
Vernon, France - If you have more free time in Vernon, visit the A.-G.- Poulain Museum. The museum has eclectic collections of prehistory, animal paintings and sculpture. The address is 12 r. du Pont F - 27200 Vernon
Vernon, France - When in town, be sure to visit the Tourist Office. This beautiful 15C two story corbelled structure is the House of Tore. Notice the Annunciation on the angled post. Address is 36 Rue Carnot F - 27200 Vernon
Vernon, France - A sightseeing suggestion is Chateau de Bizy: av. des Capucins F - 27200 Vernon, if you have time. Bring your camera. Worth a stop.
Vernon, France - Be sure to cross the bridge and walk to the Chateau des Tourelles and the Vieux Moulin/old bridge. Better still, ride a bicycle there - a 5 minute ride. On many river boats you can borrow a bike for free.
Vernon, France - On your walking tour of the town, be sure to view the statue in front of City Hall. The building is just opposite the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame. It was built at the end of the 19th C on a newly created square. I visited on a Sunday so the building was not open.
Vernon, France - Drive or walk the few miles to beautiful Giverny, across the river. It is very worthwhile. Monet's house and gardens is a not to be missed destination. It is a bit of a walk. You will need several hours to tour the house and walk around the vast gardens.
Vernon, France - Taske a ride to Chateau la Roche Guyon if you have time. This beautiful site is along the Seine River. It was the headquarters of Rommel during WWII. Although there is not much to see inside it is not to be missed.
Vernon, France - Be sure to visit the beautiful Church of Notre Dame - de Vernon in town - steps from where the river boats dock. This collegiate Church was rebuilt several time between the 12C & the Renaissance period.
Vernon, France - Be sure to walk to the middle of the Clemenceau Bridge for a nice view of Vernon and the wooden islands scattered on the Seine. Look for the ruined supports of an old 12 Century bridge on which the Vernonnet Mill rests.
Rouen (Normandy Beaches), France - Don't forget to pass under the "big Clock" Gros Horloge. Get a drink at the bar/coffee place under the clock. Try some local specialties such as the local cider which is fizzy and lightly alcoholic. I tried the Calvados and found it to be pretty strong. Another suggestion is the apple brandy.
Rouen (Normandy Beaches), France - Don't miss the old covered market next to the Jean d Arc church which stays open until 1:30 pm. It is closed on Mondays. It is well worth visiting.
Lyon, France - Visit the Museum of Resistance - it is the building used by the head of the Gestapo in Lyons. Entrance fee is 5 Euro. See the major moments of WWII and occupied France. Well worth the small admission price.
Paris, France - Be sure to visit the magnificent Versailles Palace and Gardens, This grand chateau is not to be missed. The gardens are quite extensive; the Royal Palace is immense. Allow 4-5 hours to tour. Palace is closed Mondays
Lyon, France - Be sure to visit the medieval village of Perouges with its ramparts, narrow paved streets, the townhouse of the Princes of Savoy and the craft shops. I loved the restored 13th century timbered buildings. It is well worth a visit.
GIVERNY, FRANCE - If you are in Giverny, you absolutely must visit Claude Monet's home, gardens & studio. Although his studio is a huge gift shop, go inside even if you don't want to buy anything. There are several painting on the walls that you won't want to miss. Walk left from the shop to the church.
Sydney, Australia - If you have seen the main sightseeing places in Sydney, visit the Blue Mountains. See the Three Sister Rock formation
Amsterdam Amsterdam - I have never thought to do this but other passengers have I noticed as I traveled the stateroom passageways, you can request a copy of the Times Digest to be delivered right to your cabin by your cabin steward. On my next cruise I will request this.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Do not hesitate to request two copies of the On Location activities program from your steward. My husband & I often do different activities on board so we always request a second copy. Of course, the front desk always has extra copies, as well.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - The Times Digest is usually available in the Lido Buffet. You do not have to go by the front desk to find one. If you do not see it in the cafe, ask a crew member to get one for you.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - If you are on a Grand Voyage or World cruise, consider purchasing your own visas. On the ship they cost more money. We save quite a bit by buying the Australian Visa before leaving home &U it was simple to do. Make sure that you bring it with you and give a copy to to the front desk.
San Diego, California - If you have not visited the Midway Museum it is excellent. Best of all it is right near the ship terminal and you can walk to it. You can spend 3 or more hours there. Exhibits are both inside and outdoors
Port Canaveral, Florida - If you wish to stay close to the port, visit the new Exploration Tower for a great bird's eye view of all the ships in port. It is near the new terminal.
Port Canaveral, Florida - If you wish to stay close to the port, visit the new Exploration Tower for a great bird's eye view of all the ships in port. It is near the new terminal.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Keep your room key card away from your camera or cell phone. My card got de-magnetized several times. I did not have this problem on other ships for some reason.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - On our Grand Voyage, the ship had power strips available for passengers to use. Don't forget to request one if you are on a World or Grand Voyage. We kept ours for the following cruise through the Panama Canal before returning it.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Take the kitchen galley tour. It is interesting and you get to see how the kitchen works on a cruise ship.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - The Ocean Bar serves complimentary hors d'oeuvres befote dinner nightly.
Cartagena, Colombia - Be sure to take a guided walk through the old walled city. See Manga, the Heredia Theater and Santiago Bastions. Visit Baloco Street for its colonial architecture. The Inquisition Palace was educational but hard emotionally for me to photograph what happened here. See the mansions in Cartagena, see the cathedral, Governor's Mansion, the old commercial district, the Customs Plaza & San Pedro Clauer Plaza
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - Make the 90-minute drive to Antigua. See Central Park, the Cathedral, Governor's Palace and the church & convent. Have lunch in historic Casa Santo Domingo now a hotel and cultural center with several museums - candles & ceramics, art and handicrafts. Visit the Jade Museum Factory
Panama Canal Transit - You will learn a lot about the workings of the canal and there is lots to see on shore as you transit. A local canal representative will come on board to give you details about what you are seeing.
Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica - Punta Arenas Take the Pacific Rain Forest Aerial Train & the Jungle Cruise on Tarcoles River to see many birds, crocodiles and other wildlife. Take a gondola and see giant trees, waterfalls & gardens. Walk a trail through a forest.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Visit San Sabastisan in the Sierra Madre Mountains, remote & historical. See rural Mexican Life, dates back to the 1700s
Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - Visit charming colonial Leon at the base of Momotombo volcano. It was the former capital - an 1 1/2 drive from the port. Most important city after Managua. See colonial-style streets, old architecture, houses with wooden roofs. Visit the lovely park and La Asuncion Cathedral and climb up to the roof for picturesque views.
Huatulco, Mexico - Our favorite port of call. See this city by boat & by land. Picturesque beaches, bays & coves. Driive aslong the Mexican Pacific Coastline. See Organo Bay, Maguey Bay, Chahue Bay & Santa Cruz Bay by boat with open bar. Dvive to town of La Crucesita
San Diego, California - Midway Museum was the best. Allow several hours. Visit Little Italy, Seaport Village is charming & I made purchases here.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Happy Hour drink promotion: Buy One Get One For $1 More is the best deal on board
Amsterdam Amsterdam - The Ocean Bar serves complimentary hot hors d'oeuvres before dinner nightly.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Did you know that the sweets are complimentary in the Exploration Cafe?
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Be sure to attend the culinary arts center when they offer demonstrations. Often they give out samples of the foods cooked. They also hand out printed recipes so you don't need to take notes.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - You do not need to bring detergent with you. The eight quarters includs the detergent.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - To use the washing machine, you will need 8 quarters. The dryers are free. The front desk can make change for you.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - You don't need to pack your own conditioner as HAL is one of the few cruise lines that still provides hair conditioner. On the ms Amsterdam, conditioner was in a dispenser in the shower/tub.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - You don't need to pack your own conditioner as HAL is one of the few cruise lines that still provides hair conditioner. On the ms Amsterdam, conditioner was in a dispenser in the shower/tub.
Amsterdam Amsterdam - Be sure to have lunch at least once at the Dive-In poolside. There are several choices of burgers & dogs but be sure to order the fries. They are so tasty.
San Diego, California - Visit the Midway museum right near the dock and walk to Little Italy. Take a hop on & Hop Off tour opf the city.
Lahaina, Maui - Visit the Honolulu Bay overlook and Nakalele Point. Drive to Kahakuloa and stop at the shops in town. Visit Makamaka'ole and see the 3 cascading waterfallsw,
Suva, Fiji - Take a longboat ride to see the big watergfall and take a swim. You will get wet. Bring a poncho in case of rain. The ones provided are worn.
Apia, Samoa - Tsake in the sights and tour the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
Hilo, Hawaii - Visit Akaka Falls and the Lyman Museum Mission House
Noumea, New Caledonia - Travel to FOL lookout for a great view. Visit the church of La Conception. Then stop Promenade Vernier. Wander the shops in the Palm Beach Gallery.
Honolulu, Oahu - Driove the coastline to scenic Makapu'u Point and Sandy Beach, Halona Blow Hole and view the Waialae Golf Course. Visit Sony PGA OPen.
Port Douglas, Australia - Take the Skyrail Rain Forest Cablewaywith stops at Rainforest Interpretive Centre and Red Peak Station & the town of Kuranda. Take a ride on the Kuranda scenic Railway.
Lautoka, Fiji Islands - Take a drive of Nadi pause for photos at Vuda Lookout. See the largest Hindu Temple along the way. Shop in Nadi town for souvenirs. Enjoy lunch at the Vuda Marina
Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam - Visit Ho Chi Minh City & Notre Dame Cathedral. Also visit former Presidential Palace, now Reunification Hall and perhaps a lacquer ware workshop
Hong Kong - Visit the bird market, Jade Market and flower St. T Visit Victoria Peak for lunch and a ride on the Peak Tramake an Evening Harbor Cruise
Benoa, Bali, Indonesia - Visit a beach resort or Klungkung Kertagosa & the Bale Kambang floating pavilion. See Besakih. Fionaloly visit Puri Agung Karangasem.
Qingdao, China - Visit St Michael's Cathedral, The Zhaoqiao Pier & Huilang Pavilion. Drive along the Badaguan resort area & visit the Zhanshan Temple
Singapore - National Orchid Garden and take a ride on the Singapore Flyer. Then on to Bugis Street and a ride on a trishaw.
Kushiro, Japan - Lake Akan & Ainu Village were interesting to visit.
Nagasaki, Japan - It was interesting to visit Ground Zero & the Atomic Bomb Museum.
Kodiak, Alaska - Take a boat ride to see marine wildlife. We saw whales, sea lions, otters and birds
Seattle, Washington - Arrive a couple of days early and do sightseeing. The Great Wheel was fun !
Amsterdam Amsterdam - The fries in the Dive In are terrific. Try them
Celebrity Summit Celebrity Summit - Dine in the Normandy Restaurant for super service and delicious food
Port Canaveral, Florida - Enjoy a drink or lunch at one of the several restaurant at the port. Price for alcohol will be less expensive than on the ship. My favorite is Grills but I also like Fish Lips, Rusty's and Milligan's Reef. You can sit outside and enjoy the views of the ships in port. Watch smaller boats sailing
Port Canaveral, Florida - Take a short ride out to Cocoa Beach and shop at Ron Jon's. Great place for beach wear or tee shirts for a family member or friend back home - especially for teens and young adults. From there you can access the beach.
Port Canaveral, Florida - Parking is expensive at the port. Consider offsite parking or stay at a local hotel/motel that has a deal on leaving your car in their lot.
Port Canaveral, Florida - If you have time, visit the new ExplorationTower. It is inexpensive and the view from on top is wonderful. Great place to photograph your ship in port.
Port Canaveral, Florida - If the cove tents are up, stop by and do some shopping. The handmade jewelry are one of a kind and reasonably priced.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - Take the complementary tram around the area. It stops just steps from the cruise terminal. Get off wherever you wish. This will save you walking or a taxi fare.
Philipsburg, St. Maarten - For something a bit exciting, visit Airpot Beach and watch the jets flying right overhead. What fun!
Philipsburg, St. Maarten - Take the inexpensive all day water taxi which into town. Negotiate a rate for lounge chairs by the beautiful beach by the dock. Leave time to check out the shops in town. Shop keepers are helpful and polite.
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas - Take a shore excursion to St. John's island. The catamaran ride over was fun and the tour of the island was spectacular. It was the high point of our cruise. So many stunning beaches to see .
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas - If you are not afraid of heights, take the Skyride for a simply beautiful view of the port and your ship. I rode the Ferris wheel here for more beautiful views. Free wii-fi at the top. If you have time, explore the area where the animals are. Our ticket allowed us to return later-we did.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - Plan on spending a half a day strolling around Old San Juan. It is a great place to buy touristy items. Sit in one of the squares and feel like a local.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - This is one of my favorite ports. Take the complementary tram around the area getting off wherever you wish. It is a great way to tour without cost. There is a stop right near the cruise docks.
Nassau, Bahamas - The recently built Straw Market is a big improvement over the outdoor stalls. However, expect to encounter aggressive vendors. I found some good deals here. I was able to bargain by buying more than one item with a vendor. It is not air conditioned.
Nassau, Bahamas - If your ship arrives here on a Sunday, figure that many of the shops are closed. This isn't a bad thing as the area around Bay St. will be less congested. It is a great time to get some nice photos. We enjoyed listening to a local combo group performing on the street.
Nassau, Bahamas - This is not a very exciting port. It is very congested and has too many taxi drivers hawking their tours. Instead take the inexpensive water taxi around three dollars to the free public beach near the Atlantis. Rent a lounger &/or umbrella. It is a short walk from the ferry.
Nassau, Bahamas - This is not a very exciting port. It is very congested and has too many taxi drivers hawking their tours. Instead take the inexpensive water taxi around three dollars to the free public beach near the Atlantis. Rent a lounger &/or umbrella. It is a short walk from the ferry.
Nassau, Bahamas - This is not a very exciting port. It is very congested and has too many taxi drivers hawking their tours. Instead take the inexpensive water taxi around three dollars to the free public beach near the Atlantis. Rent a lounger &/or umbrella. It is a short walk from the ferry.
Grand Turk Island - Visit the NASA exhibit at the far end of the shopping area. Great spot for a photo.
Grand Turk Island - Spend time at the beautiful pool or very clean beach. The water temperature will be warn during late spring, summer or early fall. It is a very relaxing way to enjoy the port.
Grand Turk Island - If you enjoy shopping save some time to visit the stores here. I always buy something here. The shop owners are polite and helpful.
Grand Turk Island - Normally I suggest leaving your camera at home when you go to the beach. Here I suggest you bring it to capture the beautiful setting for a photo of your ship. Frame it with the swaying palm trees.
Grand Turk Island - Normally I suggest leaving your camera at home when you go to the beach. Here I suggest you bring it to capture the beautiful setting for a photo of your ship. Frame it with the swaying palm trees.
Grand Turk Island - Consider bring aqua shoes to wear at the beach here. There pieces of rocks at the bottom. Enjoyed the lounges, palm trees and fun atmosphere.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - We took the water taxi which is very reasonably priced over to the Bacardi Distillery. The tour is complementary and the tasting is fun. It was just a very short walk from our dock to the water taxi. Quite an inexpensive way to enjoy the port. Visit the popular gift shop.
Allure of the Seas Allure of the Seas - Don't try to eat in the Windjammer buffet on Embarkation Day. It is way too crowded and there is a long line. Eat in Sorrento's Deck 5or one of the other eateries like the Wipe Out on Deck 15.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - Lots to see and do here. We took the water taxi to Barcardi. Visit Old San Juan. Go to the rain Forest.
Nassau, Bahamas - WI don't usually get off the ship most times. Junkanoo Beach though is a beach to visit if you don't mind a little bit of a walk. We went here last time.
Port Canaveral, Florida - Visit the Space Center or Cocoa Village. Cocoa Beach is a great place to go for the beach.
Carnival Liberty Carnival Liberty - The lounge chairs by the beach & pool dockside in Grand Turk are complementary. Sit near Margarettaville to hear the music.
MSC Divina MSC Divina - There is no drink service in the theater and drink are not pushed on board.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - The Adults-Only Area is a great place for a quieter atmosphere and a good place to read.
Celebrity Summit Celebrity Summit - Look for the window down to the ocean in the Oceanview Cafe bump outs
Crown Princess Crown Princess - Be sure to notice the bubbles outside the Piazza (glass) elevators once you are above the 7th deck.
Oasis of the Seas Oasis of the Seas - Be sure to pre-book online all your dinner reservations and shows. It will save you time once on board and you will get the times that you want.
Carnival Freedom Carnival Freedom - Visit the casino and request a lanyard and a hole for your Sign & Sail on your first night onboard. Crew will be around the casino offering them to passengers. Wear it around your neck when you board or exit the ship for easy access.
Celebrity Constellation Celebrity Constellation - If you choose Select Dining ask to be seated at one of Gede's tables if he still works on this ship. He is a terrific waiter and earned Crewmember of the month just before we sailed on the Constellation.
Celebrity Constellation Celebrity Constellation - If you choose Select Dining on the Constellation, try to dine before 7 PM. We always ate between 6-6:30 and never encountered a wait any evening on our 14-night cruise. We noticed lines starting to form after 7 PM. We were always able to get a tble for two also with the waiter that we wanted.
Celebrity Constellation Celebrity Constellation - If you enjoy sushi, visit the Seaside Cafe at 5:30 for a great variety. Stir Fry food is also available.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - This holds for any Carnival ship. If you never mastered using chopsticks, bring a fork with you to the Sushi bar. They only have chopsticks available. I'll have to remember to leave a plastic fork in my evening bag for just this purpose or borrow a fork from the buffet.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - Visit the complementary sushi bar before dinner. Check the Fun Times for when it is available. Sometimes it is closed if another event is scheduled there.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - Don't wait until the ship drops off your statement on the last night/very early morning to review your charges. The line at Guest Services will be too long the next day if there is a problem you need resolved. Get a copy the day before the last so you can get it fixed ahead of the crowd.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - If you want to try out the big water slide do it while the ship is in Port otherwise you will probably encounter lines.
Allure of the Seas Allure of the Seas - Seriously consider pre-reserving show times online. You can due this from 90 - up to 4 days before your cruise. You can do it on board also but do so right away after you board. You are seated on a first come first serve basis. Without a reservation, you aren't ensured a seat in the theater.
Oasis of the Seas Oasis of the Seas - Seriously consider pre-reserving show times online. You can due this from 90 - up to 4 days before your cruise. You can do it on board also but do so right away after you board. You are seated on a first come first serve basis. Without a reservation, you aren't ensured a seat in the theater.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Seriously consider pre-reserving show times online. You can due this from 90 - up to 4 days before your cruise. You can do it on board also but do so right away after you board. You are seated on a first come first serve basis. Without a reservation, you aren't ensured a seat in the theater.
Liberty of the Seas Liberty of the Seas - Seriously consider pre-reserving show times online. You can due this from 90 - up to 4 days before your cruise. You can do it on board also but do so right away after you board. You are seated on a first come first serve basis. Without a reservation, you aren't ensured a seat in the theater.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Even if you don't want to try out the FlowRider yourself, go up to Deck 13 and watch the action. There is stadium seating and the "show" is very entertaining. You may even get up your nerve to try it yourself. Bring your camera.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Don't get lost on this huge ship. Throughout the ship there are signs called "Cruise Compass." They are navigational aids to help you find your way to everywhere on the ship including your own stateroom and rest rooms. The interactive screens are easy to use.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Stop in at the Cafe Promenade for delicious complementary confectionaries. We all tried different ones and all were delicious. I had a rum and nut one & it was quite unique. You can also get small deli sandwiches & Starbuck's Coffee here.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Look for the complementary soft ice cream cone machine on the pool deck. I loved the swirl chocolate & vanilla.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - The Crypt is a gothic themed nightclub. The DJ welcomes requests. It is a neat place with lots of atmosphere. Be sure to check it out.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Females who want to try the FlowRider, you might want to consider a tee shirt over your bikini. I've seen a few tops come off. Guys make sure that your trunks are on tightly for the same reason. Have fun! They help you get started & demonstrate tricks for you to try.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - If you wish to try out the ice skating rink you will need to wear long pants. Be sure to bring a pair of comfortable one. The ship provides the skates. I'd bring heavy socks too for comfort.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - Be sure to try the pizzas at Sorrento's in the Royal Promenade. They are much better than most other cruise line pizzas. They have yummy desserts also and they are complementary.
Freedom of the Seas Freedom of the Seas - If you are booking an inside cabin consider the Promenade staterooms for a little more money. You get a large picture window overlooking the Royal Promenade. These have an excellent view of the parades, dance shows and Meet the Captain events. They have a more open feeling.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Pick up a casino lanyard & ask them to punch a hole in your Sail & Sign Card. Even if you don't gamble, it's a neat way to keep your card handy around your neck when exiting/reboarding the ship. It keeps your hands free & ensures that you don't drop the card. Guest Services can also punch it.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Wear closed-toed shoes and bring bug repellant with you just in case -also drivers license & sunscreen.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Feeling romantic or celebrating an anniversary, consider renewing your vows onboard. The Captain conducts the ceremony. Remember to bring a camera. See Guest Services for details.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - If you are celebrating a very special ocassion consider signing up for The Chef's Table. It is a pricey $75 but it is worth every penny. You will spend an evening with the Executive Chef, enjoy a special multi-course dinner & receive a private Galley Tour & a commemorative photo. Reserve early!!
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - If you take the Cave & Land Rover Expedition - Belize, be sure to wear sturdy shoes. The rain forest/jungle/cave area is muddy & slippery in spots with uneven surfaces. You will have to climb over a large rock in the cave, Also you will need closed shoes to drive the Land Rover.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Don't miss the Singing in the Rain Show with Full Force.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Try the Mushroom Cappuccino soup in the dining rooms. It is almost as good as that served in Chef's Art Steakhouse. The truffle oil adds to the flavor.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - If you need a printout of you account statement, use the machine near the front desk. You can avoid the line at the Guest Services Desk & get updates as you need them. It is simple to use.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - On all Carnival, visit the shops daily for each night's special deal. Shop early for best selection. If you miss the deal, leftover stock is often still available, later. I loved Pandora-style glass charm bracelets - 2 for $40 or crystal charms bracelets - $40 each. Sets of charms available,too
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - The Dream uses a really novel technology. They are machines using face recognition software to find all the photos that the ship photographers takes of each passenger. Insert your ship card & up pops all your photos including that first one taken at embarkation. Order right from the machine.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Don't miss the cooking class offered in the Chef's Art steakhouse specialty restaurant. You receive a large sample of each dish prepared. My favorite was the Mushroom Cappuccino Soup. It is usually held on a sea day. On my cruise it was on the second day of the cruise.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Check out the Serenity decks on the ship. They are lovely areas that are much quieter than the pool areas - adults 21 & over only.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Be sure to see the dancing show performed by Full Force in the Atrium. It will give you a taste of what they will do in the full production number "Dancing in the Street."
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Don't miss the "Dancing in the Street" show in the Encore! theater. It is simply fabulous and you will be talking about it for days later.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Pack all your own reacing material on the Dream. The Library is not well-stocked.
Celebrity Constellation Celebrity Constellation - If you/friend/family member will be cruising here, visit the online gift shop ahead of time. Your purchases can be delivered directly to the stateroom w/o shiping costs. A nice selection of Tote bags, fanny packs, bottle holders, ship card holders etc are available. They make nice gifts.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - If you are considering booking a new Carnival cruise within 24 months, purchase a voucher for $100 onboard. You can use the voucher as part of your initial deposit & receive up to $200 in shipboard credit depending on length of new cruise. Completely refundable if unused. Redeem online or by mail.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Attend the shopping presentation. You will receive a VIP packet of discounts geared to your needs. Also obtain a free charm bracelet & charms on the ship & in each port. You can always give it as a gift to family or friends if you don't want it. Jen gave us all a ship charm after the talk.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - To get a good view of ice carving demonstration, go upstairs the Panorama Deck #11. After completion of the sculpture, you can move downstairs for close-up photos.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - If your travel agent or family/friends purchase a bottle of wine for you & it is delivered to your stateroom on a Carnival ship, you may bring it intact (with the bow & note still attached) & they will serve it to you without a corkage charge. This will save you at least $22 or more.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Carnival asks passengers to print out their luggage tags. We coat ours with clear packing tape before stapling on luggage handle. My 2nd tip is to print out duplicates; place second on another handle in case one is lost or ripped off in transit. We saw lots of missing tags on the Ecstasy.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Carnival proivides free transportation from its dock to the downtown area. Use it as the drivers provide a running commentary on the area.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Arrive at the terminal either before 12:00 noon or after 2:30 to avoid the lines on embarkation day.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - This applies to any ship actually, never feel that you must order a drink in theaters, comedy clubs, nightclubs or bars.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Be aware that many ships including Carnival will not allow you to bring your own hair dryer or other small appliances like a mug heating element. If you have questions call Carnival or check the Website. We were told that they would confiscate such items if found in your stateroom.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Carnival Comedy Club shows are terrific. If you don't want to be part of the show don't sit in the front. Even sitting in the back is no guarantee. It is all in good fun, so enjoy just be aware. However if you do enjoy active participation, get there early when doors open for a front row seat.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Ships are so big-it is really important to wear comfortable shoes.Keep in mind even at night since the theater is often at the opposite end from the dinning roon. You will end up walking a lot even if you take elevators. Pack pretty comfortable sandals. Nothing ruins a trip more than sore feet.
Prinsendam Prinsendam - On any ship consider presenting the cabin steward with a small tip right at the beginning of the cruise if you desire extra consideration such as wanting more ice in your room. You will find that the steward never forgets your needs.
Carnival Miracle Carnival Miracle - On any ship, if you experience a problem don't wait until the end of the cruise to complain in a survey.This doesn't make you a good pasenger. Speak up right away & let the cruise director, front desk, waiter or maitre'd fix it. All cruiselines want to make you happy & go out of their way to help.
Carnival Miracle Carnival Miracle - Don't over pack. On casual nights, capris, dress shorts & nice jeans can be worn in the dining room.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Plan on embarking the ship around 12 noon. That is when passenger are first permitted to board - sometimes even earlier. As the day wears on, lines are longer. You'll eat at the buffet earlier (when it is also less crowded) - especially important if you have early dinner seating reservations.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Carnival now asks passengers to print out their paper baggage tags. I suggest that you print out 2 for each bag & put clear packing tape completely over them. Place them on different areas of your bag in case one rips off. I saw many bags without tags sitting undelivered in the security area
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - When the Carnival Dancers & Singers are performing in the theater, plan on arriving at least 1/2hr before showtime especially if you are a party of2+. Best seats fill up fast. Don't miss these multi-million dollar extravaganzas. At least two different shows are offered on each cruise.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Sometimes the music around the Lido Deck pools can get very loud. For quiet time, sit on the Serenity deck. It's a little tricky to get to but well worth the peace & quiet you will find there. There are two jacuzzis. Also there is some shade if you sunburn easily.
Carnival Glory Carnival Glory - Carnival cruise lines permits passengers to carry onboard a reasonable amount of soft drinks. If you want diet deffeinated beverages, you won't find them on any ship. Bring your own if you are driving to the ship.
Carnival Dream Carnival Dream - Be sure to pick up a deck plan for your ship - especially the small ones either at embarkation check-in desk or the front desk on the ship. It will keep you from getting lost. They are small and easy to carry with you.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - When possible, book shore excursions online before your cruise. Lines on the ship's Shore Excursion Desk are always long and some tours sell out quickly - especially ones that limit the # of participants.
Carnival Miracle Carnival Miracle - If you are waitlisted for any dining option, be sure to stop at the Maitre 'd as soon as you board the ship. Lines can get long later & you will have a better chance of getting you choice if you do so early.
Carnival Miracle Carnival Miracle - On any cruiseline, be sure to pack a beach bag to stow your belongings when visiting the pool or visiting a beach in port. Keeping you stuff out of sight in a bag is prudent.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - Carnival permits passengers to each bring one bottle of wine per adult on embarkation day. Consider taking a bottle with a screw off top so you don't have to also bring a corkscrew with you. There is a corkage fee if you bring the bottle into the dining room.
Carnival Sensation Carnival Sensation - If cruising out of Port Canaveral or almost any US port & you are driving from a distance, consider staying at a local hotel. With a one-night stay, you get free parking for the length of your cruise. Parking at the Port is $15 daily unless handicapped. Transportation to the ship is included.
Carnival Magic Carnival Magic - Stop by the Sushi bar on any Carnival ship for complementary sushi. Most guests who know about it visit before dinner.
Carnival Ecstasy Carnival Ecstasy - Don't forget to pack a bathing suit, coverall & suntan lotion in your carryon. On many ships, although you may embark the ship early, your stateroom isn't ready. By having these items with you, you can change in a public restroom & lounge comfortably by the pool.
Carnival Miracle Carnival Miracle - At the end of all cruises, Carnival holds a Farewell Party where drinks and sometimes hors d'oeuvres are complementary. For some reason, it isn't well publicized and poorly attended. Don't pass this one up. It will be listed in "Fun Times" but without any details.

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