Second Mate

Joined: 05/23/2014
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About michaeldurhan


michaeldurhan's Past Cruises

Carnival Dream

December 2015 - Carnival Dream to Caribbean - Western

Family Vacation with 4 kids over New Year's

     We went on vacation with our 4 kids ages 14, 11, 10 and 7.  New Orleans is a very easy port and there was only a little bit of a line when we arrived around 2pm. The line moved quickly and we were on board by 2:40.  We had adjoining rooms on deck one (I have never been down this low before) but I kind of liked it.  We were in rooms 1289 and 1293.  There was plenty of space and lots of closet space.  We liked how the bathrooms were set up with two showers and we really liked having a couch to sit on.  Only negative about room (my complaint on all ships) is the lack of outlets!  We needed to charge electronics, plug in a clock and be able to use a hair dryer.  This would have been a real nightmare if we hadn't been able to use the outlets in the other room!  The window was great and had a large space for the kids to sit in and watch the waves.  Our room steward was great, we only saw him the first day, but our room was always clean and we had plenty of towels.

     The good: This was a great week to go on vacation.  There were lots of families on the ship which meant a large number of children.  The crowd was also not your "typical" Carnival crowd.  I always joke that Carnival is like going to Walmart..all kinds, good and bad.  This was a little more like going to Target...a little step up.  This could be because the price to travel during a holiday week costs a good bit more.  I would compare this crowd to what I have experienced on Royal Caribbean, but a lot more fun. Sorry, not being snobby, just trying to explain the crowd. My 14 year old son is in 9th grade and I was worried about him being with 12- 14 year olds as he would hate it.  He plays varsity football and wrestling and hangs out with an older crowd at home.

They had no problem moving him up to the 15-17 year old group.  He told me it was the best week of his life when we got home. I did give him a good bit of freedom during the week.  Our 7 year old enjoyed camp ocean and had a great time at the night owls as well.  The ports were good - Montego Bay is just so far away from all of the good tourist attractions.  New Years Eve was wonderful on the ship.  They gave out a lot of free champagne...I had probably 3 glasses. Hats were on the dinner tables...they did not have one at each seat as some seats got noise horns. There was a balloon droop in the atrium which was also nice and a large party up on Lido deck at midnight. We loved the movies at night and the blankets they had.  The food was ok, not great and not bad. We were assigned late dining, but it was messing us up for the kids activities, the movies and other things we wanted to do on the schedule.  So, on the third day I asked the Maitre D' if we could move to anytime dining.  He was hesitant but allowed the change. Overall a positive week especially, happy with the the fact that the two requests I made that week (14 yr old moving up and dining change) were allowed so easily.

     The not so good:  The ship was completely booked, probably close to capacity.  This meant long lines for everything: elevators, at the bar, to buy pictures, to get food - you name it.  The worst was the deck chairs.  It was winter so everyone wanted to sit in the sun.  The first sea day I got outside at 9:30 after breakfast - no chairs, anywhere.  I sat in the shade by the pool.  The second day, I got up early and was outside by 8:15 - again no chairs available anywhere! Lots of towels in the chairs though.  One nice lady saw me looking and pointed to the chairs near her and said she had been there since 7:30 and nobody had been by those chairs.  I found a towel person and they removed the towels and I sat down.  Well, at 9:15 (I had now been there an hour) a couple came up and asked why I was in their chair(s). I explained the 40 minute policy Carnival has and the lady got mad.  Said they had gotten up at 7am to reserve those chairs! This happened at several chairs around me as other passengers got fed up with people "claiming" chairs and not even sitting in them.  Carnival needs to do a much better job as this is a very big issue! My 10 and 11 year olds only visited camp ocean twice - each for a very short amount of time and decided they didn't like it.  They have always loved the kids camps in the past, but they had fun and found other kids in the pool that they ran around with all week. The last sea day was cold and rainy and Carnival did a very poor job "adjusting" for this.  The Lido buffet was packed from the moment it opened for lunch.  We actually waited 40 minutes for the Mongolian Wok. Everyone was inside and of course eating as it was the only thing to do.  We wanted to eat lunch while it was warm and by the time we finished, they had closed all of the buffet lines - right on time so we did not get anything extra or desert.  There were lots of people up there looking for food or desert, but they had a schedule to keep and they were not going to adjust it. One of the most annoying was that Camp closed at 3 on the last sea day for "cleaning"...from 3-7! This would have been ok if it was a nice day and kids could swim, mini golf or even be outside. Again, full ship with lots of kids.  Kids were playing on stairs, running up and down the halls - it was crazy! We decided to pack since there was nothing else to do with the kids - and we watched a movie in our room. It was also a good time to go through all the pics and buy what we wanted - I think a good majority of the ship had the same idea as it took 35 minutes just to check out and buy pics. The other negative was that the shops all closed around 5 that last day.  We did not get to buy any t-shirts or anything...I don't remember shops on cruise ships ever closing that early! This was the first time I have left a Carnival ship saying the shows were awful.  The first night was the welcome aboard show and it was not bad. Then Dancing in the streets - awful - maybe it was our performers as other people on other ships liked it. Then a juggler - what?!?! Then Dancing in the streets again - once was more than enough. A passenger talent show one night, Marriage show another night and then a Country Music show.  Why do they even have dancers and singers if they are only going to do 2 different shows?!?! The last thing is that the family size rooms were mainly on deck one and deck one was given latest debarkation times. This was good and bad. We have kids that sleep in, but lots of families had antsy kids they had to entertain in confined spaces.  These issues, except for the deck chairs, were small enough that they did not interfere with our trip at all.

     We had such a good week that we are planning to go over the holidays again next year.  We will pick our ship based on ports and price...if it is Carnival again, fine, but if we find something that looks better for us we will go with that.  We did not leave saying we loved Carnival....we left saying we loved the vacation.

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Golden Princess

May 2014 - Golden Princess to Alaska - Inside Passage

Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

     There were several cruise lines sailing the Alaskan voyage we wanted to take and we chose Princess as we felt they would be an overall better experience.  I have sailed on Carnival, Norwegian, RCL, Disney and Celebrity in the past and would rank Princess at the bottom......last resort cruise line.  The Golden Princess was a great ship and we loved the layout.  The Glacier Bay itinerary was fabulous and we saw exactly what we wanted to.  The crowd on board was lovely and we enjoyed everyone we met at meals and on our tours.  So what went wrong.....

     1.  Embarkation: we were happy and excited to get on the ship so we were fine waiting in line for security and check in.  Looking back it was sign of what was to come.  We waited a little over an hour and we arrived at the port via taxi at 12:30.  We thought it was just slow since it was only the second week for this ship in Seattle.  This still may improve as the season goes along.  We finally got on the boat and people were being told to go left or right on an exterior deck.  We did not get greeted or enter into a center atrium like most ships which was very odd.  The staff did not look to see what from we were in so we were sent in the opposite direction of our room.  We later realized some people were given big pink stickers at check in so they could be sent left or right at boarding.....our person forgot to give us one.  This became a real pain as the elevators were tied up with folks needing assistance and hauling luggage.  We, along with many others, were struggling on the stairs with our carry on luggage trying to get to our rooms.

     2.  The food and lines for food:  I have never waited in line so much to eat on a cruise ship before.  The Horizon Court buffet on Lido had strange times and often only one side was open.  The buffet food was also pretty horrible with very few options.  The salad bar was the most limited I have ever seen.  You'll love it if you like pickled herring, sliced cheese and fruit.  There was always a line, no matter what time we went.  The worst was the day we arrived in Juneau.  We had a noon tour and the buffet opened at 11:30; dining room at noon.  So, we went up to the buffet at 11:15...where the line was horrendous.  We didn't even get a plate of food until 11:50 and of course were late for our tour.  It was an independently booked helicopter tour so they waited for us.  Only one side was open so it was the only option for people wanting to eat before getting off the boat...we docked at 11:15am.  Hopefully they will work this kink out....had we known it was so going to be so bad we would have ordered room service.  The dining room food was also pretty bad.  We had early seating at 5:30 and then our dining room turned into open seating so we were never rushed but we often didn't get out until right before 8pm!!!  Service was incredibly slow.  The food taste, temperature and portion sizes were awful.  The last two nights in the main dining room were good and selection was much improved - we think they wanted to end on a positive note.  We ate Saturday and Sunday night in the dining room and were very disappointed.  The 6 other people at our table did not show up on Sunday.....and it was Mother's Day and formal night! Monday we did balcony dining and it was VERY much worth the extra money and was by far our best food experience on the boat.  Tuesday we tried the dining room again, awful, and two of the other 6 people were trying the dining room again as the buffet was lacking.  Wednesday we ate at the Crown Grill....it was wonderful and worth the extra money.  We felt frustrated that after paying for a cruise were having to pay extra for specialty dining to get a good meal.  We also ate in every port at local establishments which was much better than the ship food....this was not what we had planned on doing as we have alway liked the food on all of our previous cruises.  We ate in the dining room for breakfast ech day...you can't really mess up breakfast and they were happy to make things that weren't on the menu, like French toast.  Service was always slow, but we don't mind that and like sitting and visiting.  The grill out by the pool was event, looooong lines always.  One thing I did like was during the Glacier bay day they had soup and chili stations set up outside which was a nice thought and lines weren't too bad as nobody knew about them.  Food is critical to our experience and always a large part of our vacations.  On a cruise it is important to stay full to help with any sea sickness and it was very rocky due to wind and waves on our voyage.....the food was a real let down and the main reason we will never sail Princess again.  Also, it was cold on our cruise, so if people wanted to sit somewhere outside of their room they sat inside up on Lido deck.  This meant there was almost no seating available for people with food from the buffet.

     3.  The entertainment:  the entertainment and entertainment options were the worst out of any cruise I have ever been on.  I turned 40 during the cruise and we were definitely on the younger side.  However, there were sevarl couples in our age range and quite a few families traveling  with children.  The nightly shows were awful, I fell asleep during two of them. Mt he cruise director boasted being the cruise director for over 30 years....even he was old!  Time for something new and fresh for sure.  The disco played music from the 50's and 60's which I don't mind, but most of the ship was in bed by 10pm.  The comedian,mon night only, even was a little boring. Mather magician, one night, was pretty bad and who even likes magicians anymore?!?!  There were 2 shows with the ships cast where there were no scene or costume changes....this is just not up to par with other cruise line entertainment.  I was very surprised by this and felt like I was at a senior center production...even our local high sch school has better performances. Mt he last show, British Invasion, was actually really good.  Wish they had done a couple more shows like this.  The last two night sof our cruise were what we had been expecting for the whole week....it was like they finally got it together by the last 2 days.  That or they try to end on a positive note....no idea.  We will definitely not choose Princess again as long as there is another option available.




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michaeldurhan's Tips

Victoria, British Columbia - Very pretty to see. We got in late, shops were closing down so no shopping. Not many tour options and we didn't want to go to the gardens. Just went to a bar, but had a great time!
Seattle, Washington - Great city....we flew in Thursday before our cruise and enjoyed touring the city.
Skagway, Alaska - Not much to the town and out only option to see stuff was a 6 plus hour tour. Long day, train ride was nice and beautiful scenery. Could have skipped Skagway, shops in town even closed at 6pm and ship didnt leave until later.
Juneau, Alaska - We did a helicopter tour and went whale watching...beat our expectations.
Ketchikan, Alaska - We did a sea plane tour which was excellent. Booked independently with Island Wings Air based on trip advisor reviews, best decision of the trip. Loved the town but wish we had more time to see it. Ship left at noon and there were 4 ships in port. Favorite town out of all of them.
Cruise Glacier Bay - Absolutely gorgeous to see, pictures do not do it justice. It was a cold and rainy day but still wonderful. We sat in a hot tub up top and enjoyed the snow capped mountains, awesome experience.
Golden Princess Golden Princess - Room service for lunch, sign up for balcony dining and pay the extra money for a balcony room during an Alaska cruise. Guaranteed views and a place to sit.

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received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Golden Princess cruise review - Princess Cruise Line did not live up to its reputation

received a helpful vote on their Carnival Dream cruise review - Family Vacation with 4 kids over New Year's