jbenham

jbenham

Second Mate
Townsend
Joined 06/2013

23

Cruises

5

Reviews

20

Helpful Votes

Retired.

Upcoming Cruises

Past Cruises

Norwegian Breakaway

February 2019 - 10 Night Western Caribbean (New Orleans Roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Breakaway

Beautiful ship and friendly staff

General Observations- • Cigarette Smoke- If you are sensitive to cigarette smoke, I suggest you choose a different ship. Breakaway has a huge casino on Deck 7 midship. You cannot walk through on this deck without going through the casino. It is open to deck 6 and deck 8, so it can be very irritating to walk through on those decks when the casino is open because smoking is allowed there. Also, Bliss and Club 21 are in the casino. • View From Cabin- Probably most balcony cabins had this problem. Deck 8 is the Waterfront, where all the restaurants have inside and outside seating. A roof covers the outside seating. This means you cannot look directly into the water from your balcony. To make it worse, the life boats extend out from there. • Know Your Perks- We are Gold members and become Platinum with this cruise. We never knew that the bottle of wine and two bottles of water that are in your room when you embark, are complimentary. Overall Grades- It would be hard to give an overall grade as there was so much difference in the areas. Bottom line is, we will sail NCL again, if they have an itinerary we want. After this cruise, our level will be Platinum. The discouraging part is, before this cruise, we liked NCL and RCI equally well. Now RCI is our favorite. So overall I would give it 3 ½ stars. • Cabin Steward- 5 Stars. Jefferson was terrific. • Food- 3 stars, because the breakfast and Ocean Blue even out the rest of it. • Main shows put on by the crew staff- 3 stars • Shows by the known entertainers- 5 Stars • Main Dining Room server- 3 Stars. We had Jasmine both times. It was nice that the Maitre de came around both nights. That almost never happens.

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Zaandam

May 2018 - 14 Night Great Land Explorer (Seattle Roundtdrip) Cruise on Zaandam

14 Day Alaskan Cruise

2018 Alaska Cruise Log May 19 Saturday- We flew out of Green Bay to Seattle, with a layover in Minneapolis. No delays. We arrived in Seattle on schedule and so did our luggage. A quick call on the courtesy phone and the shuttle was here to take us to La Quinta, our preferred motel. Nice room with a view of pine trees. May 21 Monday- To the ship! Starting our 14 day cruise on HAL Zaandam, round trip to Alaska. We had a 1:00 embarkation time, but the car to take us to the pier arrived early, so we were at the port by 11:45, all checked in by 12:15 and in our cabin by 12:30 (They weren’t supposed to be ready until 1:00. Outstanding! Weather, sunny and in the 70s. May 22 Tuesday- Sea day. Chance to explore the ship. Mostly cloudy in the 50s. First glitch. We went for the breakfast buffet. Food looked good. The way they serve it is not. Generally with a buffet, you take a plate, stand in line and select your food when you get to it. Here they have serving stations. One person want scrambled eggs and bacon, you need to be there at just the right time, because quantities are limited. Choppy seas this morning. Gala Event tonight. We have Open Seating and were placed with two really nice couples. It is fun to meet new people and learn about their cruising experiences. The performer tonight was a guitarist, who was excellent. His parents bought him a Les Paul guitar when he was 11, for winning a guitar competition. May 23 Wednesday- Ketchikan. They get over 200” of rain a year and it was raining when we pulled in to port. Temperature in the 40s. It stopped raining and cleared up somewhat by the time the passengers could go ashore. May 24 Thursday- Sea day today as we head into Endicott Arm. Temps in the low 40s and not likely to get any warmer as we head to the glacier. We have eaten most of our meals in the buffet, so far, which means usually being seated next to other passengers. I continue to be impressed with the friendliness of the people we have met. We went to see the magician tonight. Very entertaining. He didn’t bring his A game, but he seemed to be going more for the comedy. We were in the balcony seating for the guitarist and the way they have the seats laid out is really neat. Seatings for two even though they are all together. The lower seating, where we sat for the magician, is much smaller and more like you expect in terms of seating. May 25 Friday- Gloomy morning in the 40s here in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Beautiful city, with lots to do. This is a good thing, since we are here from 8 am to 10 pm. One thing it looks like we will not be doing, unless it clears up, is the tram. It takes you to the top of the mountain where you have a really nice view of the surrounding area. We have done that previously. Another activity that is well worth the trip, is the Mendenhall Glacier, which is about 14 miles away. We have done that previously, both times we were here. There is also whale watching and this is a great time of year to see them as they eat as to get ready for their trip to Hawaii. We were told, on an earlier excursion that they do not eat on the way. What we do plan on doing today is going to the State Office Building to see the 77 year old Kimball Pipe Organ. There is a free concert at Noon on Fridays. May 26 Saturday- I would tell you what the weather is like, but if you have been reading the updates, you already know. Add wind to the rain and cold. Still, we found out it is in the 80s and 90s back home and this is preferable. Today we are at Icy Point Straight, Hoonah, AK. This is a new port for us, so we can learn about it together.. It is mostly woods, like we have back home. Pretty quick day in port as we sailed at 2:00. About 4 hours out we passed a yet to be identified glacier and there was enough sun to get a picture. Shortly thereafter- rain mixed with snow! The Captain warned us of rough seas and he sure was right. BTW, the ship has 12 elevators, 4 each aft, mid and forward and they seem to be fairly quick. May 27 Sunday- At Sea Day today. Temps in the 40s, now there’s a surprise. The sea is fairly calm and the clouds show signs of breaking up. On our way to Anchorage, which will be the midway point in our cruise. Pretty day today. Even have some sun. Okay, here goes my one and only RANT (hopefully). We have been on 23 cruises. Not a lot, by many standards, but enough to know what to expect from the wait staff. We like Anytime Dining. It has a lot of advantages. We almost always are able to make reservations and sit in a desired area, and the service has almost always been very good or better. The service in the MDR, for this cruise has been far short of what we have come to expect. It is like we are treated as second class citizens compared to assigned seating. We have had 3 different wait staffs in the MDR and all have been the same. I mentioned earlier that staffing might be a problem, and this could be, but they don’t even do basic things like clear the crumbs off the table cloth or fill your water glass without being asked. And the service is much slower even than the leisurely pace you expect. The band went around playing to the assigned seating guests, but never came to our dining room. In contrast to this, the wine stewards have been terrific! If we had the same one throughout, he would be getting an additional tip. We like tipping extra and it is rare that the wait staff and a bartender or two do not get an extra tip. Not yet on this cruise. It has been a very good cruise so far, so don’t let the rant get to you. It turned out to be a beautiful day today and we are getting lovely views of the snowcapped mountains. We have one excursion tomorrow, The Big Swig! Limited to 12 people and they still have 5 spots available. May 28 Monday- We have broken a pattern. The sun is out and temps are in the 50s. Our plan is to go into town this morning to do a little shopping and then do the Big Swig excursion this afternoon. The area is secured, so the only way off the pier is the free shuttle. The Big Swig was quite a tour. We toured 3 breweries, The King Street Brewery, Land Of The Midnight Sun Brewery and Resolution. At King Street, we got a lengthy explanation of the different hops and barleys they use and why. They also explained why certain regions use certain grains. It is because of the mineral content of the water in those regions. Of course, while he is talking, we get to be drinking. Midnight Sun is the 2nd largest craft brewer in the state and Resolution one of the smallest. If you appreciate beer, you should appreciate this tour. It is a privately owned company. Just one guy and a part time employee. When we got back to the ship, we went to see comedian Mark Pitta. Very funny and clean. May 29 Tuesday- Mostly cloudy, windy and in the 40s today. We are in Homer and will be doing the Best Of The Bay boat tour. There is a free shuttle to take us to the other side of the Spit, where all of the shopping is, but to actually go into Homer costs $15. The Best Of The Bay tour is rated more difficult because it is a pretty long walk to the boat and a fairly steep ramp to get to the dock. What we saw was lots of sea otters and puffins close up We also saw several Eagles and even mountain goats. There were also birds that looked a lot like penguins, but were able to fly. Very nice tour. The weather made a turn for the worse as we got back, so the afternoon tour probably won’t have it so comfortable. May 31 Thursday- I forgot to tell you yesterday about the eagles on Kodiak. They were everywhere! Today we are doing Hubbard Glacier, the largest tide water glacier in North America. It is in the 40s and will be getting colder as we approach the glacier, but the sun is reflecting off the water, so I have high hopes. This, boys and girls, is worth the price of the ticket. Cold and windy to start the day. The sky is mostly sunny and the scenery is beautiful, so just throw on an extra layer and go sit out on the balcony. O. June 1 Friday We are in Sitka today until 4:00. Docked right next to the NCL Jewel. Temp is 49 degrees, with a high of 56 expected. June 2 Saturday- Sea Day. June 4 Monday- Disembark. Disembarking and Customs was a breeze. We stayed in the stateroom until our tag color was called and had no trouble leaving the ship and getting our luggage. A taxi was right there to take us to the hotel. We had checked in online yesterday and they had a room ready. Perfect view of the Space Needle!

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Allure of the Seas

February 2017 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Allure of the Seas

Very Large Ship!

2017 CRUISE ALLURE OF THE SEAS Sun. Feb 19- Embarkation Day! We got to port around 12:30 and were on the ship by 1:00. Our cabin was ready already and or luggage came shortly after we got there. They mixed up our drink packages so we had to stand in line at guest services to get it straightened out. They also changed the time for one of our excursions to one we do not want so we will have to cancel that. We had supper at the Windjammer buffet. Quite an assortment of food to eat. Highlight of the night was the Ocean Aria water show. Fantastic blend of talent and humor! Mon Feb 20- Sea day! The food has been very good. I hope the service improves, because it has been a disappointment. We had breakfast at the Windjammer, which is their buffet. Whatever you like for breakfast, they probably have it there plus some great tasting food you never heard of. Coffee is really good too, which is not always the case on a ship. We are not the types to sit by the pool so we walked around, checked out the shops and took some pictures. Highlight of our day was going to a wedding reception for friends of ours. We went to supper and have never seen a main dining room look so disorganized. They apparently overbooked for our time slot, so they shuffled us off to a different dining room. The server seemed friendly enough. Apparently her assistant was off doing something else, which made for more work for her. She whisked my cantaloupe away before I was done with it and my lobster bisque as well. We didn't see any wine servers so we asked her to flag one down but she didn't do it. Asked again and she took our drink order. Impossible to know if it was her fault or the wine server. The staff couldn't seem to stay out of each other's way. After supper, we walked around to a couple bars. Tues Feb 21- Cozumel. We stayed on the ship as we have been to Cozumel several times. They love to barter there. In 1998, I had to give up a Packer cap in a deal. We found a good server, Michael at the Pub. Unfortunately he wasn't there later when we went to see the guitar player. We also listened to the brass quintet in Central Park. Wed Feb 22- Sea Day. Good thing because I am not feeling too well. Also cold and rainy day. Not much to report as we didn't go to any shows. The guitar player we found had the night. Because of the rain, the concert in Central Park was moved to a place where it was too loud and no place to sit anyway. Food continues to be very good. Overall service, except for our cabin steward continues to be mediocre with a few bright spots here and there. We called it a night fairly early. Thurs Feb 23- Falmouth Jamaica. In port with Independence Of The Seas. They really have this port laid out pretty nice. Lots of shops like Diamonds International, but also little kiosks where you can watch the craftsmen work and buy local products. And of course, Margarita Ville! Formal night. Things are looking up in terms of service. We went to the dining room we are assigned to and had a very good waiter, Ronaldo. We explained to him our problem from Monday night. He told the hostess and she came right over. She arranged for us to have Ronaldo again tomorrow night. Same table too. Also, the bar server, Dane, was very good. Too bad it took us to day 5 to find these guys. We went to see the main show, which was an acapella group. They are very talented, but it wasn't our kind of music, so we left after two numbers. We ended up at the Bow and Stern to listen to the guitar player. One of the few people on the ship we have tipped extra. Fri Feb 24- Labadee. We stayed on the ship and took lots of pictures. Much less crowded that way. The Entertainment tonight was called Blue Planet. Lots of music and dancing. Again, not what we usually like so we went back to the Bow and Stern to listen to the guitar player. He appears to have developed a following as it was more crowded than other nights. Sat Feb 25- Last day of the cruise. Packing day. We went to see the ice show in the afternoon and it was terrific! I am glad we saved it until last. Our cabin steward, Kusnanto, has been very good. We prepaid our gratuities and he is the only one we wanted to tip extra of the service staff. Sun Feb 26- Easiest disembark ever. They now have a mobile app for Customs. Fill out your information on the app and then Customs just scans the barcode. Taxi to the airport was a breeze as was our flight home. In summary, we had a great time on a beautiful ship. It was a bigger ship than we feel comfortable with. Our next RCI cruise will undoubtedly be on a smaller ship.

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Serenade of the Seas

February 2015 - 7 Night Bahamas (New Orleans Roundtrip) Cruise on Serenade of the Seas

Celebrity Reflection

February 2014 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean Getaway (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Celebrity Reflection

Fun cruise but disappointing entertainment

Let’s start out by saying that we had an excellent time. Even with the negatives you will read about we had lots of fun. FLIGHTS- We had a couple of minor delays in Chicago. On the flight in there was lightening so we could not pull into the gate. The flight to Miami was delayed because they stopped all south bound flights. No weather related problems on the way home. We did have a bit of delay in Chicago while we waited for one of the crew members. CROWNE PLAZA MIAMI- We stayed at Crowne Plaza for 2 days prior to the cruise. If you don't eat at their restaurant and do not mind paying $6 for a beer, this is an excellent hotel. Fortunately there is Latin Cafe across the street, which serves a really good breakfast for half the price, right across the street. Also, there is a Catch Of The Day restaurant for dinner. The service and the rooms were excellent. We have no problem recommending Crowne Plaza if you need a place to stay in Miami. It has free wi-fi and a nice pool. Rooms are clean and comfortable. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKING- Our chartered mini-bus was late so we did not get to the pier until about 1:30. Embarkation was a breeze. Disembarking was also easy. Miami has a carousel for the baggage, making it easy to find. No problems with customs, either. CABIN- The cabin was very nice and more spacious than other ships we have sailed. The bathroom, particularly, was well designed, with plenty of storage space. It was an obstructed view cabin because of the lifeboats outside our balcony, but we did not expect it to be as obstructed as it was. The cabin was very clean and we enjoyed it. CABIN STEWARD- Our cabin steward was Lordes, and she is one of the better ones we have had. Very friendly and attentive. She kept our room clean and the ice bucket full. SHIP LAYOUT- We thought the ship was very well laid out. Most of the activities are aft, which made it convenient for us. We did not check out all of the areas, like the library or Hideaway. Some of the art was a bit weird (Like a deer head with antlers on top of a pineapple painted on a wall), but the layout of the ship was pretty good. BARS- Our favorite bar was Entertainment Court Bar, but it did not open until 6:30 pm. We also liked the Passport Bar and the Mast Bar. The Mast Bar is outside, so we did not spend much time there. In fact, for the most part, only the outside bars were open before late afternoon. For all the hoopla about how good the Sunset Bar is, we did not find it so. Even had it been inside, it would not have mattered. Usually we spend more time in the bars on a ship because this is where the entertainment is, but there wasn’t much lounge entertainment that we were interested in. BAR SERVICE- Bar service depends on which bar and if you are sitting at the bar or in a chair. For the most part, service at the bar was fine, service away from the bar was not. Bar snacks were available only at certain bars and were nothing special. As you might expect, our favorite bartender was at the Entertainment Court Bar, and our second favorite one was the one that replaced her on breaks. On most cruises we find at least two or three bars that we really like, with bartenders that deserve an extra tip. This time, only one. We had the Classic Drink Package as one of our perks. That was a good deal! I didn't drink more than normal, but it was neat to never have to sign a slip. ENTERTAINMENT- Most of the main entertainment was Celebrity staff, and most of that was musical, so whether you would be pleased with it or not depends on your interests. Starting with the cruise previous to ours, Reflection is making a push to younger cruisers. The average age on this sailing was 64, and they want to target the 20s to 40s age group. So no, we did not care for most of the main entertainment. The lounge entertainment also reflected this change, so we did not particularly like that either. Lots of people did, though. The piano in the atrium was used only to hold equipment for other functions, and there was no piano bar. Again, the lounge musical groups only played the contemporary music Reflection is switching to. There was no deviation from this. No variety of entertainment. MDR- We ate supper in the main dining room 5 of the 7 nights. We did not have assigned seating so we could sit wherever we wanted. We really liked the table location and were able to be seated there every night. The waiter (Roger) and his assistant (Jonny) were good, but not great. We had one of the best bar stewards (Branco) we have ever had! Very important. For the most part, the food was excellent. One side of the menu offered the same choices every night, so if the Chef’s Choice didn’t appeal to you, there was always something good. Escargot was available each night. They go through 100 tons of it each week! We didn’t eat at any of the specialty restaurants, so can’t compare the quality of the food, but probably what you would be paying for is the atmosphere of the specialty restaurant. BUFFET- The food in the buffet was very good, but we basically only ate there for breakfast and lunch and it was the same options every day. If you wanted pizza, it was good, but it was only an option of pepperoni, cheese or veggy, every day. It's saving graces were the omelet station, which was never that busy (except for the last sea day) and the ice cream. It was available most of the day and they had 8-10 flavors at a time. For hamburgers and hot dogs you could go to Mast Grill, one deck up. There was always a line, but worth the wait. We never had any problems finding a place to sit, even when it was quite crowded. There was nothing special about the wait staff in the Oceanview, which we found to often be lacking. An advantage to having islands is that there were never long lines for food. There were drink stations on both sides. Coffee and juice were available 24/7. The overall bakery selection was not as good as other ships have been. They didn’t even offer donuts for breakfast. PORTS- The ports were Old San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maartin. We did not book any excursions as we have been to these ports before. Old San Juan is a pretty town and easy to walk. St. Thomas, of course, has its shopping and there are excursions that would be worthwhile for those that have not been there before. In St. Maartin, there is a vendor we like that sells Tagua nut carvings. The Tagua nut is called vegetable ivory. IN GENERAL- This was a large ship with around 5,500 people it never seemed that crowded. Lounge chairs were always available for those that wanted to be by the pool. The staff and crew were friendly and helpful. Overall, while we probably would not seek to sail Celebrity again, we would book a cruise with them if the situation was right. Cabin 6178 CABIN- The cabin was very nice and more spacious than other ships we have sailed. The bathroom, particularly, was well designed, with plenty of storage space. It was an obstructed view cabin because of the lifeboats outside our balcony, but we did not expect it to be as obstructed as it was. The cabin was very clean and we enjoyed it. CABIN STEWARD- Our cabin steward was Lordes, and she is one of the better ones we have had. Very friendly and attentive. She kept our room clean and the ice bucket full.

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Freedom of the Seas

January 2014 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Port Canaveral Roundtrip) Cruise on Freedom of the Seas

Vision of the Seas

June 2013 - 11 Night Ultimate Scandinavia & Russia (Copenhagen to Stockholm) Cruise on Vision of the Seas

Vision of the Seas

June 2013 - 11 Night Arctic Circle (Copenhagen roundtrip) Cruise on Vision of the Seas

Norwegian Dawn

March 2013 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Tampa roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Dawn

Radiance of the Seas

March 2012 - 18 Night Australia & New Zealand (Perth to Sydney) Cruise on Radiance of the Seas

Norwegian Star

October 2011 - 15 Night Panama Canal Eastbound (Los Angeles to Tampa) Cruise on Norwegian Star

Norwegian Spirit

February 2010 - 7 Night Exotic Western Caribbean (New Orleans roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Spirit

Island Princess

August 2009 - 7 Night Voyage Of The Glaciers Southbound (Anchorage To Vancouver) Cruise on Island Princess

Norwegian Star

February 2009 - 7 Night Mexican Riviera (Los Angeles roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Star

Adventure of the Seas

March 2008 - 7 Night Deep Southern Caribbean (San Juan roundtrip) Cruise on Adventure of the Seas

Norwegian Jewel

February 2007 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Miami roundtrip) Cruise on Norwegian Jewel

Costa Magica

February 2006 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale roundtrip) Cruise on Costa Magica

Veendam

May 2005 - 7 Night Glacier Discovery Southbound with Glacier Bay (Seward to Vancouver) Cruise on Veendam

Carnival Glory

March 2005 - 7 Night Eastern Caribbean (Port Canaveral roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Glory

Norwegian Sky

March 2003 - 7 days on Norwegian Sky

Norwegian wind

February 2000 - 7 days on Norwegian wind

Norway

March 1998 - 7 days on Norway

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas

Sail Date: February 19, 2017

Very Large Ship!

2017 CRUISE ALLURE OF THE SEAS Sun. Feb 19- Embarkation Day! We got to port around 12:30 and were on the ship by 1:00. Our cabin was ready already and or luggage came shortly after we got there. They mixed up our drink packages so we had to stand in line at guest services to get it straightened out. They also changed the time for one of our excursions to one we do not want so we will have to cancel that. We had supper at the Windjammer buffet. Quite an assortment of food to eat. Highlight of the night was the Ocean Aria water show. Fantastic blend of talent and humor! Mon Feb 20- Sea day! The food has been very good. I hope the service improves, because it has been a disappointment. We had breakfast at the Windjammer, which is their buffet. Whatever you like for breakfast, they probably have it there plus some great tasting food you never heard of. Coffee is really good too, which is not always the case on a ship. We are not the types to sit by the pool so we walked around, checked out the shops and took some pictures. Highlight of our day was going to a wedding reception for friends of ours. We went to supper and have never seen a main dining room look so disorganized. They apparently overbooked for our time slot, so they shuffled us off to a different dining room. The server seemed friendly enough. Apparently her assistant was off doing something else, which made for more work for her. She whisked my cantaloupe away before I was done with it and my lobster bisque as well. We didn't see any wine servers so we asked her to flag one down but she didn't do it. Asked again and she took our drink order. Impossible to know if it was her fault or the wine server. The staff couldn't seem to stay out of each other's way. After supper, we walked around to a couple bars. Tues Feb 21- Cozumel. We stayed on the ship as we have been to Cozumel several times. They love to barter there. In 1998, I had to give up a Packer cap in a deal. We found a good server, Michael at the Pub. Unfortunately he wasn't there later when we went to see the guitar player. We also listened to the brass quintet in Central Park. Wed Feb 22- Sea Day. Good thing because I am not feeling too well. Also cold and rainy day. Not much to report as we didn't go to any shows. The guitar player we found had the night. Because of the rain, the concert in Central Park was moved to a place where it was too loud and no place to sit anyway. Food continues to be very good. Overall service, except for our cabin steward continues to be mediocre with a few bright spots here and there. We called it a night fairly early. Thurs Feb 23- Falmouth Jamaica. In port with Independence Of The Seas. They really have this port laid out pretty nice. Lots of shops like Diamonds International, but also little kiosks where you can watch the craftsmen work and buy local products. And of course, Margarita Ville! Formal night. Things are looking up in terms of service. We went to the dining room we are assigned to and had a very good waiter, Ronaldo. We explained to him our problem from Monday night. He told the hostess and she came right over. She arranged for us to have Ronaldo again tomorrow night. Same table too. Also, the bar server, Dane, was very good. Too bad it took us to day 5 to find these guys. We went to see the main show, which was an acapella group. They are very talented, but it wasn't our kind of music, so we left after two numbers. We ended up at the Bow and Stern to listen to the guitar player. One of the few people on the ship we have tipped extra. Fri Feb 24- Labadee. We stayed on the ship and took lots of pictures. Much less crowded that way. The Entertainment tonight was called Blue Planet. Lots of music and dancing. Again, not what we usually like so we went back to the Bow and Stern to listen to the guitar player. He appears to have developed a following as it was more crowded than other nights. Sat Feb 25- Last day of the cruise. Packing day. We went to see the ice show in the afternoon and it was terrific! I am glad we saved it until last. Our cabin steward, Kusnanto, has been very good. We prepaid our gratuities and he is the only one we wanted to tip extra of the service staff. Sun Feb 26- Easiest disembark ever. They now have a mobile app for Customs. Fill out your information on the app and then Customs just scans the barcode. Taxi to the airport was a breeze as was our flight home. In summary, we had a great time on a beautiful ship. It was a bigger ship than we feel comfortable with. Our next RCI cruise will undoubtedly be on a smaller ship.

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Zaandam

Zaandam

Sail Date: May 21, 2018

14 Day Alaskan Cruise

2018 Alaska Cruise Log May 19 Saturday- We flew out of Green Bay to Seattle, with a layover in Minneapolis. No delays. We arrived in Seattle on schedule and so did our luggage. A quick call on the courtesy phone and the shuttle was here to take us to La Quinta, our preferred motel. Nice room with a view of pine trees. May 21 Monday- To the ship! Starting our 14 day cruise on HAL Zaandam, round trip to Alaska. We had a 1:00 embarkation time, but the car to take us to the pier arrived early, so we were at the port by 11:45, all checked in by 12:15 and in our cabin by 12:30 (They weren’t supposed to be ready until 1:00. Outstanding! Weather, sunny and in the 70s. May 22 Tuesday- Sea day. Chance to explore the ship. Mostly cloudy in the 50s. First glitch. We went for the breakfast buffet. Food looked good. The way they serve it is not. Generally with a buffet, you take a plate, stand in line and select your food when you get to it. Here they have serving stations. One person want scrambled eggs and bacon, you need to be there at just the right time, because quantities are limited. Choppy seas this morning. Gala Event tonight. We have Open Seating and were placed with two really nice couples. It is fun to meet new people and learn about their cruising experiences. The performer tonight was a guitarist, who was excellent. His parents bought him a Les Paul guitar when he was 11, for winning a guitar competition. May 23 Wednesday- Ketchikan. They get over 200” of rain a year and it was raining when we pulled in to port. Temperature in the 40s. It stopped raining and cleared up somewhat by the time the passengers could go ashore. May 24 Thursday- Sea day today as we head into Endicott Arm. Temps in the low 40s and not likely to get any warmer as we head to the glacier. We have eaten most of our meals in the buffet, so far, which means usually being seated next to other passengers. I continue to be impressed with the friendliness of the people we have met. We went to see the magician tonight. Very entertaining. He didn’t bring his A game, but he seemed to be going more for the comedy. We were in the balcony seating for the guitarist and the way they have the seats laid out is really neat. Seatings for two even though they are all together. The lower seating, where we sat for the magician, is much smaller and more like you expect in terms of seating. May 25 Friday- Gloomy morning in the 40s here in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Beautiful city, with lots to do. This is a good thing, since we are here from 8 am to 10 pm. One thing it looks like we will not be doing, unless it clears up, is the tram. It takes you to the top of the mountain where you have a really nice view of the surrounding area. We have done that previously. Another activity that is well worth the trip, is the Mendenhall Glacier, which is about 14 miles away. We have done that previously, both times we were here. There is also whale watching and this is a great time of year to see them as they eat as to get ready for their trip to Hawaii. We were told, on an earlier excursion that they do not eat on the way. What we do plan on doing today is going to the State Office Building to see the 77 year old Kimball Pipe Organ. There is a free concert at Noon on Fridays. May 26 Saturday- I would tell you what the weather is like, but if you have been reading the updates, you already know. Add wind to the rain and cold. Still, we found out it is in the 80s and 90s back home and this is preferable. Today we are at Icy Point Straight, Hoonah, AK. This is a new port for us, so we can learn about it together.. It is mostly woods, like we have back home. Pretty quick day in port as we sailed at 2:00. About 4 hours out we passed a yet to be identified glacier and there was enough sun to get a picture. Shortly thereafter- rain mixed with snow! The Captain warned us of rough seas and he sure was right. BTW, the ship has 12 elevators, 4 each aft, mid and forward and they seem to be fairly quick. May 27 Sunday- At Sea Day today. Temps in the 40s, now there’s a surprise. The sea is fairly calm and the clouds show signs of breaking up. On our way to Anchorage, which will be the midway point in our cruise. Pretty day today. Even have some sun. Okay, here goes my one and only RANT (hopefully). We have been on 23 cruises. Not a lot, by many standards, but enough to know what to expect from the wait staff. We like Anytime Dining. It has a lot of advantages. We almost always are able to make reservations and sit in a desired area, and the service has almost always been very good or better. The service in the MDR, for this cruise has been far short of what we have come to expect. It is like we are treated as second class citizens compared to assigned seating. We have had 3 different wait staffs in the MDR and all have been the same. I mentioned earlier that staffing might be a problem, and this could be, but they don’t even do basic things like clear the crumbs off the table cloth or fill your water glass without being asked. And the service is much slower even than the leisurely pace you expect. The band went around playing to the assigned seating guests, but never came to our dining room. In contrast to this, the wine stewards have been terrific! If we had the same one throughout, he would be getting an additional tip. We like tipping extra and it is rare that the wait staff and a bartender or two do not get an extra tip. Not yet on this cruise. It has been a very good cruise so far, so don’t let the rant get to you. It turned out to be a beautiful day today and we are getting lovely views of the snowcapped mountains. We have one excursion tomorrow, The Big Swig! Limited to 12 people and they still have 5 spots available. May 28 Monday- We have broken a pattern. The sun is out and temps are in the 50s. Our plan is to go into town this morning to do a little shopping and then do the Big Swig excursion this afternoon. The area is secured, so the only way off the pier is the free shuttle. The Big Swig was quite a tour. We toured 3 breweries, The King Street Brewery, Land Of The Midnight Sun Brewery and Resolution. At King Street, we got a lengthy explanation of the different hops and barleys they use and why. They also explained why certain regions use certain grains. It is because of the mineral content of the water in those regions. Of course, while he is talking, we get to be drinking. Midnight Sun is the 2nd largest craft brewer in the state and Resolution one of the smallest. If you appreciate beer, you should appreciate this tour. It is a privately owned company. Just one guy and a part time employee. When we got back to the ship, we went to see comedian Mark Pitta. Very funny and clean. May 29 Tuesday- Mostly cloudy, windy and in the 40s today. We are in Homer and will be doing the Best Of The Bay boat tour. There is a free shuttle to take us to the other side of the Spit, where all of the shopping is, but to actually go into Homer costs $15. The Best Of The Bay tour is rated more difficult because it is a pretty long walk to the boat and a fairly steep ramp to get to the dock. What we saw was lots of sea otters and puffins close up We also saw several Eagles and even mountain goats. There were also birds that looked a lot like penguins, but were able to fly. Very nice tour. The weather made a turn for the worse as we got back, so the afternoon tour probably won’t have it so comfortable. May 31 Thursday- I forgot to tell you yesterday about the eagles on Kodiak. They were everywhere! Today we are doing Hubbard Glacier, the largest tide water glacier in North America. It is in the 40s and will be getting colder as we approach the glacier, but the sun is reflecting off the water, so I have high hopes. This, boys and girls, is worth the price of the ticket. Cold and windy to start the day. The sky is mostly sunny and the scenery is beautiful, so just throw on an extra layer and go sit out on the balcony. O. June 1 Friday We are in Sitka today until 4:00. Docked right next to the NCL Jewel. Temp is 49 degrees, with a high of 56 expected. June 2 Saturday- Sea Day. June 4 Monday- Disembark. Disembarking and Customs was a breeze. We stayed in the stateroom until our tag color was called and had no trouble leaving the ship and getting our luggage. A taxi was right there to take us to the hotel. We had checked in online yesterday and they had a room ready. Perfect view of the Space Needle!

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Serenade of the Seas

Serenade of the Seas

Sail Date: February 07, 2015

The ship was the destination on this cruise.

We started out with a Pre-Cruise at Holiday Inn Downtown Superdome in New Orleans. We can enthusiastically recommend this hotel if you are staying there. We found the service, friendliness of the staff and the rooms were all excellent! EMBARKATION- This was a breeze. We had priority boarding, but it didn't seem to make a difference. It was very well organized. CABIN- The cabin was well laid out with lots of storage space and a decent size balcony. It was very clean and the bed was comfortable. CABIN ATTENDANT- The cabin attendant was pretty efficient. She wasn't very personable and we did not see her around a lot, but she kept the room clean and was prompt to respond to any requests. MDR- We ate in the Main Dining Room 3 of the 7 nights. After the first night, we did not have to ask for the same table. We had a table for two, but there was a table for 4 right next to us and the same 2 couples were there each night. Very nice people. The quality of the food was much better than I was expecting. We really liked our assistant waiter, but never once met the waiter. This applies only to dinner. We did eat in the MDR for breakfast one morning and it was not a good experience. WINDJAMMER/PARK CAFE- The food in the buffet was also very good and there was a wide variety to choose from. The scrambled eggs for breakfast as well as the hash browns, were generally not hot, but there were a couple of omelet stations where you could get eggs cooked to order. If you just wanted a snack, there was the Park Cafe for sandwiches. BARS- Believe it or not, we did check out several of the bars. If you have ever been on an RCI ship, there is no need to discuss the Schooner Bar as they are the same on every one. We used that one a lot if we just wanted to relax for a bit or get on the internet (BTW, the wi-fi on the ship was really slow). The Crown and Castle Pub is right by the auditorium and we stopped there fairly often. The only other bars we went to with any regularity were the R Bar, which was in the Centrum, and the Pool Bar, which was conveniently located by the pool. BARTENDERS- There were no bartenders that really stood out, except for maybe Vic in the C&C Pub and maybe our drinks server in the MDR. The overall service was very good and the lounge service was exceptional, for the most part. GUEST ENTERTAINERS- The guests entertainers were top notch. We enjoyed those shows very much. MAIN SHOWS- It only took one of these shows to tell us we did not want to waste our time going to any others. the talent of their crew, especially the lead male singer was average at best. LOUNGE ENTERTAINMENT- This was a high point for us. They had a couple piano players and a couple guitarists, each playing a different style. Their singers were good, but not great. CROWN AND ANCHOR PIER EVENT- This is the lamest excuse for an event we have ever seen. Seats were jammed together, so if you didn't get there early, you were pretty much out of luck. They didn't have the different managers up front to introduce them individually, and the Captain didn't even speak. Most of the speaking was done by the Assistant CD. SHORE EXCURSION- We only did one shore excursion and it was post cruise. It was a tour of New Orleans with an Airport drop off. We did this excursion because our plane wasn't scheduled to depart until later. It was worth the price. DISEMBARKATION- This was very well organized and there were no problems. Cabin 9218 CABIN- The cabin was well laid out with lots of storage space and a decent size balcony. It was very clean and the bed was comfortable. CABIN ATTENDANT- The cabin attendant was pretty efficient. She wasn't very personable and we did not see her around a lot, but she kept the room clean and was prompt to respond to any requests.

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Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Reflection

Sail Date: February 22, 2014

Fun cruise but disappointing entertainment

Let’s start out by saying that we had an excellent time. Even with the negatives you will read about we had lots of fun. FLIGHTS- We had a couple of minor delays in Chicago. On the flight in there was lightening so we could not pull into the gate. The flight to Miami was delayed because they stopped all south bound flights. No weather related problems on the way home. We did have a bit of delay in Chicago while we waited for one of the crew members. CROWNE PLAZA MIAMI- We stayed at Crowne Plaza for 2 days prior to the cruise. If you don't eat at their restaurant and do not mind paying $6 for a beer, this is an excellent hotel. Fortunately there is Latin Cafe across the street, which serves a really good breakfast for half the price, right across the street. Also, there is a Catch Of The Day restaurant for dinner. The service and the rooms were excellent. We have no problem recommending Crowne Plaza if you need a place to stay in Miami. It has free wi-fi and a nice pool. Rooms are clean and comfortable. EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKING- Our chartered mini-bus was late so we did not get to the pier until about 1:30. Embarkation was a breeze. Disembarking was also easy. Miami has a carousel for the baggage, making it easy to find. No problems with customs, either. CABIN- The cabin was very nice and more spacious than other ships we have sailed. The bathroom, particularly, was well designed, with plenty of storage space. It was an obstructed view cabin because of the lifeboats outside our balcony, but we did not expect it to be as obstructed as it was. The cabin was very clean and we enjoyed it. CABIN STEWARD- Our cabin steward was Lordes, and she is one of the better ones we have had. Very friendly and attentive. She kept our room clean and the ice bucket full. SHIP LAYOUT- We thought the ship was very well laid out. Most of the activities are aft, which made it convenient for us. We did not check out all of the areas, like the library or Hideaway. Some of the art was a bit weird (Like a deer head with antlers on top of a pineapple painted on a wall), but the layout of the ship was pretty good. BARS- Our favorite bar was Entertainment Court Bar, but it did not open until 6:30 pm. We also liked the Passport Bar and the Mast Bar. The Mast Bar is outside, so we did not spend much time there. In fact, for the most part, only the outside bars were open before late afternoon. For all the hoopla about how good the Sunset Bar is, we did not find it so. Even had it been inside, it would not have mattered. Usually we spend more time in the bars on a ship because this is where the entertainment is, but there wasn’t much lounge entertainment that we were interested in. BAR SERVICE- Bar service depends on which bar and if you are sitting at the bar or in a chair. For the most part, service at the bar was fine, service away from the bar was not. Bar snacks were available only at certain bars and were nothing special. As you might expect, our favorite bartender was at the Entertainment Court Bar, and our second favorite one was the one that replaced her on breaks. On most cruises we find at least two or three bars that we really like, with bartenders that deserve an extra tip. This time, only one. We had the Classic Drink Package as one of our perks. That was a good deal! I didn't drink more than normal, but it was neat to never have to sign a slip. ENTERTAINMENT- Most of the main entertainment was Celebrity staff, and most of that was musical, so whether you would be pleased with it or not depends on your interests. Starting with the cruise previous to ours, Reflection is making a push to younger cruisers. The average age on this sailing was 64, and they want to target the 20s to 40s age group. So no, we did not care for most of the main entertainment. The lounge entertainment also reflected this change, so we did not particularly like that either. Lots of people did, though. The piano in the atrium was used only to hold equipment for other functions, and there was no piano bar. Again, the lounge musical groups only played the contemporary music Reflection is switching to. There was no deviation from this. No variety of entertainment. MDR- We ate supper in the main dining room 5 of the 7 nights. We did not have assigned seating so we could sit wherever we wanted. We really liked the table location and were able to be seated there every night. The waiter (Roger) and his assistant (Jonny) were good, but not great. We had one of the best bar stewards (Branco) we have ever had! Very important. For the most part, the food was excellent. One side of the menu offered the same choices every night, so if the Chef’s Choice didn’t appeal to you, there was always something good. Escargot was available each night. They go through 100 tons of it each week! We didn’t eat at any of the specialty restaurants, so can’t compare the quality of the food, but probably what you would be paying for is the atmosphere of the specialty restaurant. BUFFET- The food in the buffet was very good, but we basically only ate there for breakfast and lunch and it was the same options every day. If you wanted pizza, it was good, but it was only an option of pepperoni, cheese or veggy, every day. It's saving graces were the omelet station, which was never that busy (except for the last sea day) and the ice cream. It was available most of the day and they had 8-10 flavors at a time. For hamburgers and hot dogs you could go to Mast Grill, one deck up. There was always a line, but worth the wait. We never had any problems finding a place to sit, even when it was quite crowded. There was nothing special about the wait staff in the Oceanview, which we found to often be lacking. An advantage to having islands is that there were never long lines for food. There were drink stations on both sides. Coffee and juice were available 24/7. The overall bakery selection was not as good as other ships have been. They didn’t even offer donuts for breakfast. PORTS- The ports were Old San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maartin. We did not book any excursions as we have been to these ports before. Old San Juan is a pretty town and easy to walk. St. Thomas, of course, has its shopping and there are excursions that would be worthwhile for those that have not been there before. In St. Maartin, there is a vendor we like that sells Tagua nut carvings. The Tagua nut is called vegetable ivory. IN GENERAL- This was a large ship with around 5,500 people it never seemed that crowded. Lounge chairs were always available for those that wanted to be by the pool. The staff and crew were friendly and helpful. Overall, while we probably would not seek to sail Celebrity again, we would book a cruise with them if the situation was right. Cabin 6178 CABIN- The cabin was very nice and more spacious than other ships we have sailed. The bathroom, particularly, was well designed, with plenty of storage space. It was an obstructed view cabin because of the lifeboats outside our balcony, but we did not expect it to be as obstructed as it was. The cabin was very clean and we enjoyed it. CABIN STEWARD- Our cabin steward was Lordes, and she is one of the better ones we have had. Very friendly and attentive. She kept our room clean and the ice bucket full.

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Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

Sail Date: February 07, 2019

Beautiful ship and friendly staff

General Observations- • Cigarette Smoke- If you are sensitive to cigarette smoke, I suggest you choose a different ship. Breakaway has a huge casino on Deck 7 midship. You cannot walk through on this deck without going through the casino. It is open to deck 6 and deck 8, so it can be very irritating to walk through on those decks when the casino is open because smoking is allowed there. Also, Bliss and Club 21 are in the casino. • View From Cabin- Probably most balcony cabins had this problem. Deck 8 is the Waterfront, where all the restaurants have inside and outside seating. A roof covers the outside seating. This means you cannot look directly into the water from your balcony. To make it worse, the life boats extend out from there. • Know Your Perks- We are Gold members and become Platinum with this cruise. We never knew that the bottle of wine and two bottles of water that are in your room when you embark, are complimentary. Overall Grades- It would be hard to give an overall grade as there was so much difference in the areas. Bottom line is, we will sail NCL again, if they have an itinerary we want. After this cruise, our level will be Platinum. The discouraging part is, before this cruise, we liked NCL and RCI equally well. Now RCI is our favorite. So overall I would give it 3 ½ stars. • Cabin Steward- 5 Stars. Jefferson was terrific. • Food- 3 stars, because the breakfast and Ocean Blue even out the rest of it. • Main shows put on by the crew staff- 3 stars • Shows by the known entertainers- 5 Stars • Main Dining Room server- 3 Stars. We had Jasmine both times. It was nice that the Maitre de came around both nights. That almost never happens.

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Cruise Tips

Harvest Caye, Belize

We did a really nice excursion to see the manatees and enjoyed a Belikin beer. It was a 1/2 mile walk on the pier, each way, and there was very little to do while there. There is a butterfly sanctuary.

Belize City, Belize

They have improved their tendering process, now using catamarans for transport. There is a woodcarver that is really good at pier 4. People may not even realize there is shopping back there.

Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway

Choose a different ship if cigarette smoke makes you ill.

Zaandam

Zaandam

We only ate in the MDR 3 times because of the poor service.

Serenade of the Seas

Serenade of the Seas

Lounge entertainers and guest entertainers were excellent! Main entertainment just average

Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Reflection

The comments about the entertainment, apparently no longer aply

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas

Try Park Cafe When you embark.

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