Experienced international travelers who love cruising. My husband and I are now in semi-retirement so we hunt for a good value but even more important, a super experience. We enjoy a lively and thoughtful discussion but do not appreciate judgmental responses or personal attacks. The best outcome of sites like Cruiseline is that more and more individuals become more knowledgeable and discerning consumers who take up cruising as a wonderful vacation habit. Happy Sails to everyone! Teri and Dave
Any reason to get out of the cold
We have been cruising fools for the past couple years so taking only two weeks was definitely less relaxing than other journeys. Another thing was that this was our first cruise on one of PCs newer ships. On one hand, we were pleased with the overall ship aesthetic. Kudos to the interior designer! The ship is beautiful. We also like having a curtain between the bed and sitting areas. If one of us could not sleep, we could watch TV without disturbing the other.
On the other hand, we were much less enthused about the changes made to the cabins. The minisuites are significantly downsized and the balcony size is so ridiculously small that it was like having to figure out a puzzle every day moving the chairs and table so we could sit comfortably. That was a massive fail.
We booked a 14 day cruise but it was really 2 7-day cruises B2B. The ship returned to FLL half way through our journey and it was a bit disruptive to our cruise vibe. Nothing that ruined our entire trip, but definitely something worth consideration for any future cruises that take this approach.
Another bucket list checkmark - Panama Canal (Part deux)
This cruise represents the second half of our Panama Canal adventure. I reviewed the first leg separately and we enjoyed the return just as much because of the wonderful customer-focused attitude of the crew members coupled with an interesting itinerary. My husband and I traveled together on this trip.
Another bucket list checkmark - Panama Canal did not disappoint!
This cruise represents the first half of our Panama Canal adventure. I will review the return trip separately but we enjoyed both legs equally because of the wonderful customer-focused attitude of the crew members coupled with an interesting itinerary. My husband and I traveled together on this trip.
Best cruise - Relaxing and worth every penny
We booked this 28 day cruise in May/June because we did not see it being offered again after 2015. Even though we had to eat a few bucks cancelling another trip, it was the best money we ever lost because this cruise was fabulous.
Embarkation: The biggest issue with this LA departure was the embarkation process. This needs to be reworked because it was insanely complex and unfair to passengers with physical disabilities. It is not just a Princess-specific problem but they can certainly influence some efficiencies and sensitivity training for the port staff. Princess should be more accommodating for those with disability and not simply board by elite status level... and that is something they can change. Nuff said.
Cabin: We booked a mini suite because balcony staterooms do not offer a sofa or love seat on which to sit. The MS was well worth the extra money because of the length of our trip. It may not be worthwhile to book for shorter cruises but we wanted somewhere to sit other than the bed or on a stiff-backed chair for a month. Aside from the cabin size, the Princess minis have a larger bathroom with a tub/shower combo. I abhor showering in a missile tube set up so this option was very valuable to us. Princess does not accord mini suites the same level of benefits that Celebrity does (separate dining room, priority disembarkation, etc.) so if a sofa and larger BR are not important to you, the mini may not be a good choice.
MDR: Our biggest "complaint" about MDR was service efficiency. Let me be clear - the food itself was fabulous but the servers were glacially slow at times. We actually left after waiting for dessert for about 20 minutes on one night. Four of our dinner mates completely changed their dining option because the slow service caused delays in getting to shows.
Horizon Cafe/Club Caribe: The buffet food options were also great. It was more convenient and relaxed to eat in these venues for dinner. Breakfast and lunch were another issue entirely. People seemed to put in roots when eating these meals. It was always challenging to find a table, no matter how quickly the tables were cleared and reset. Basically when someone got up, we grabbed the table and had to find someone to clear it. This caused a few meals to cool off a bit but it was manageable.
International Cafe: This was my favorite early morning hangout. I got up around 4am every day and headed down for a latte and quiche. Vilmer and Mateo got to know me to the point I didn't even have to state the order. A couple days I ran late due to having a cold (the virus ran through much of the ship). Even though the buffet changed from overnight to morning offerings, Mateo put a quiche aside for me, heated it up and brought it over to me. This is the kind of personal service that makes travel special.
We took a couple Princess-offered excursions. At Hilo we went on a home tour/moving brunch. The group was small and the personal nature of going to people's homes was great. The food served was local produce and specialties. Definitely recommend this one. At Kauai, we took the Movies and Waterfalls excursion. This was a lot of fun because the group size was limited. We watched movie and TV show clips, then visited the island location at which it was shot. Lots of Jurassic Park stories were shared.
We also booked a couple things with non-Princess vendors. On Western Samoa we did a private tour where just hubby and I were escorted around the island attractions, then enjoyed a lovely BBQ at a private beach club. On Bora Bora we booked a boat and driver who brought us all around the island and to a private spot where we could enjoy a refreshing dip. We also found rays and black-tip sharks. We would do both of these excursions again.
Ship activities: There was plenty to do but we didn't really join in a lot of the activities. There was both a passenger choir/chorus and a passenger ukulele band that gave concerts during the trip. Lots of special-interest group meetings, arts/crafts, enrichment lectures (former LA asst district attorney, naturalist, history buff).
Spa: If you like a nice thermal suite, you may be disappointed. I know I was. The suite was located in the bowels of the spa, there was no view, just a single room with five heated benches (always occupied), steam room, sauna, and showers. I just wasn't enthralled with the arrangements and did not feel it was worth the money.
Specialty dining: We visited the Crown Grill three times, it was ab fab every time. We tried Sabatini's once. The vibration and shaking ruined the dining experience for me to the point that I left before the entree was served. This restaurant is located on the top deck at the very back of the ship. This had a lot to do with the movement and shaking. Would not recommend going to this venue unless it's a port night and the departure is later in the evening.
Vow renewal: We decided to renew our marriage vows. Princess did a fabulous package and made the event very special.
Casino: We enjoy a little gambling (mostly slots, blackjack) but the machines seemed extremely tight and I gave up after a few nights of losing money in mere minutes. I could have just stood in the Piazza and handed out a few 20's - it was just that bad. The auto-shuffler takes the fun out of Blackjack entirely. Staff was nice but the experience was not enjoyable.
Disembarkation: We booked a transfer to LAX. It was a bit stressful because there was no assistance with bags aside from unloading them from the bus. Otherwise the process was efficient - much more so than the embarkation.
Princess is on par with Celebrity (IMHO). As previously mentioned, the mini suite was nice for the seating room but not for much else. On the other hand, Princess had better food quality, hands down. I can't compare this to RCL, NCL, or Carnival experiences because none of those measure up to this cruise or crew. Highly recommend this if you have the time.
(Will post photos another time)
The crew make this tired ship great
We continued our transatlantic cruise vacation back-to-back with this 7 nighter to the fjords of Norway. The itinerary was exceptional with the crowning experience being Geirangerfjord. The absolute beauty of this port can't be captured with words. It is something that one needs to experience.
Pros: We enjoyed our cruise because of the great crew who took care of us for our entire vacation. Paola and Andreea in MDR, Pedro (Maitre d'), Marisha and Jerome (MDR), DouDou and Ricardo (stateroom). Each of these people really understood how to make someone feel welcomed and not so far away from home.
Itinerary was fabulous if you wanted to see more of Norway and experience the fjords. The simple beauty of this country is breathtaking and every one we met was friendly and engaging.
I also want to give a round of applause for the entire food service department. Honestly, the food was miles better than we had on the Celebrity Reflection a couple months ago.
Cons: The Serenade needs a refurb. I've mentioned this in all my reviews. It does a disservice to the crew who work tirelessly but there is just so much one can do to make a silk purse, as they say.
Stateroom: After staying in a 'deluxe' balcony stateroom for the first leg of our vacation, we looked forward to moving to a "superior" one but quite honestly, we saw no appreciable difference between the two. The website boasts superior being larger than the other but our stateroom was the same confined small space. I really don't get how RCC charges more for the same cabin ~shrug~
Entertainment: Fair quality of uninspiring entertainment. Highlights included Segundo on the spanish guitar. He was awesome.
Lovely cruise but the Serenade is tired and needs a refurb
We chose this cruise because it was leaving our of our home port which made it super convenient. The ports of call also touched many areas of interest so it was a no-brainer.
Pros: The crew of the Serenade is fantastic. The food was top-notch and consistently served at the proper temperature (e.g., chilled soups were actually chilled). This was as opposed to the last Celebrity cruises we took where every dish and beverage was served at room temp. The itinerary was fabulous and interesting. The convenience of a 10 minute drive to the gangway for boarding is unbeatable.
Cons: #1 - Our biggest issue was the condition of the Serenade; she is tired. She needs a refurb, like yesterday. I love this class of ship but she is showing her age and really needs an update. Some of the issues include... There are many elevator buttons that do not work. There were many toilet flush buttons that were missing covers. The draw pulls and wood trim in our cabin was sticky and/or chipped. There were large (6"x6") sections of deck paint missing outside of the Windjammer. There is rust and stains on the back windows of The Safari Club.
#2 - Fellow guests were grim and often unfriendly... bordering on rude. We were not the only people who commented on this. For some reason, there were a lot of guests with their noses held much too high in the air... sad that they could not come out of their superior class haze to meet some of us nice people. It may have put smiles on their faces.
In all, would recommend this itinerary any day. The other issues are variables that you really can't account for on any cruise.
Third leg of a three parter (see post for Feb 28th leg for all details)
Second leg of a three parter (see post for Feb 28th leg for all details)
Context: My husband and I just completed 3 B2Bs on the Celebrity Reflection starting February 28 to Mar 7 and continuing Mar 7-14 & 14-21. The review posted for the February 28th leg of our trip contains details for all three.
Accommodation basics: 2 weeks in Aqua Class stateroom (1553 & 1555), 1 week in Aqua Class suite (2154).
Primary point is that we loved our experience with Celebrity, so much so that we booked four more cruises for 2017. That says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves. (continued in "Reflecting on the Reflection" post.)
Reflecting about the Reflection
Context: My husband and I just completed 3 B2Bs on the Celebrity Reflection starting February 28 to Mar 7 and continuing Mar 7-14 & 14-21. It was our first Celebrity experience after nearly 20 years of cruising.
Accommodation basics: 2 weeks in Aqua Class stateroom (1553 & 1555), 1 week in Aqua Class suite (2154).
Primary point is that we loved our experience with Celebrity, so much so that we booked four more cruises for 2017. That says a lot about how much we enjoyed ourselves.
Reasons why we loved it: Crew were exceedingly kind and helpful. My husband and I are disabled to different degrees. Many, many crew took the extra step to help make our stay easier and more enjoyable. From cutting up a thick steak to holding a door open to bringing a drink back to the Alcove. Each little thing added up to a very big experience.
When we moved from stateroom to suite, we noticed a palpable vibration which became quite annoying rather quickly. After a call to Guest Relations, the Assistant Chief Engineer came to evaluate the situation. He agreed and an investigation was launched. We received daily updates and inquiries plus a lovely plate of chocolate-covered strawberries with a note of apology. The issue was resolved and we had a wonderful time. To top it off, on the last day of the cruise, we each received a cruise credit certificate and letter of thanks for our business.
You might be asking "If you loved it so much, why give it a four star rating?" Here is why:
1. The most common temperature for food/drink being served was "warm". What should have been served chilled arrived to the table at room-temperature. This was epidemic across venues on the ship to the point that we specified "chilled" fruit, juice, etc., and also asked for a glass of ice in case it was needed. The problem is that the drive for efficiency has a cost. Leaving OJ accessible on the counter for wait staff to pick up quickly runs the risk of it warming to room temp... which it did, day after day. When we asked for CHILLED juice, we got it. Bottomline, we really shouldn't need to ask. This can be fixed by leaving OJ in the fridge until just before it needs to be served.
2. Variable temperature of cappuccino, lattes, and specialty coffees. At times scalding hot or lukewarm, it turned into a crapshoot. The baristas needs to be more vigilant and closely monitor the temps to avoid this.
3. Understaffing. Although better than other cruise lines we have sailed with, it was clear that staff was short at critical times. This is easy to remedy when supervisory staff track and report delays or more important, customers begin to complain more vocally.
4. Food prep. Specifically the proper way to cook a nice piece of steak. The Lawn Club Grille got it right every time. Perfecto! Tuscan got it wrong 3 out of 4 times... but on the plus side, they made it right every time.
5. Specialty restaurant noise level. We tried each of the specialty restaurants and found Murano the least pleasing in terms of noise level of wait staff. Clanging plates and silverware do nothing to enhance the dining experience. This is easy to address when staff take more care in performing their work.
Competitor comparison: There is no comparison to Carnival, NCL, or Royal Caribbean, which are more budget oriented lines. The closest I can estimate is a Princess cruise we took years ago. Both focus on customer experience and satisfaction. Both consider themselves to be a luxury cruise experience.
I highly commend the Reflection for its proactive approach to infection control and acceptable onboard behavior with overhead announcements from the Captain at the start and during the cruise. That's a first for us. Unfortunately, the Capt can't follow people around to make sure they do wash their hands regularly or keep their children under control. Hand washing is everyone's business and child behavior rests with the parents/guardians. That said, Celebrity raised awareness which is more than I can say about other lines.
We had a fabulous time and highly recommend the Reflection.
Last minute decision which turned out nicely
Just before Christmas 2014, my sister was talking about the great pricing for a 10 day cruise out of NYC on NCL. We checked it out and all decided to jump on the opportunity. With competition from the behemoth Breakaway, ships like the Gem have to carve a discount niche to fill cabins. We booked at $519 but saw the price drop under $500 for a couple days the following week.
Why we liked the cruise had more to do with our traveling companions than anything to do with an exceptional ship or port. Crew was nice enough but no one jumps out as having gone above and beyond what was necessary in order to make our experience more special.
Comparison: NCL is good for what it is. To our way of thinking, NCL is price-driven meaning that keeping the price reasonable for cruisers is key. To maintain lower consumer price means that cost for goods and services must stay below a certain point in order to derive a reasonable profit. When driven by the bottom line , there are bound to be compromises in quality. One example is that the cuts of meat aren't the highest to begin with and there is just so much a preparer can do to change that. Sooooooo, that is a rather round about way to say that NCL should not be compared to higher end lines (e.g., Celebrity, Princess). For what it is, NCL is a good value if you take the time to hunt for discounted fares or at least get some added value with free gratutities, a meal or beverage package. I cannot bring myself to spend over $5Gs for a "haven" experience on NCL. Honestly, I just don't know if NCL knows that market (as a small percentage of their ship capacity) as well as the lines who devote themselves solely to cultivating that customer base for their entire ship.
Specifics: The Gem had fabulous live entertainment acts. The lounge performers were just great (early January sailings). The main theatre seating was so uncomfortable that we did not attend any of the main acts.
Food - We took the dining package so did not use the MDR. Cagney's did a nice job but the specialty Italian restaurant should actually go to Italy in order to learn how to prepare some of the dishes. The Brazilian steakhouse was ok but servers were a bit flustered when it got crowded/busy.
Deck - The pool was uber-crowded at sea once weather warmed up and NCL did nothing to discourage saving of lounge chairs. This is one of the most aggravating aspects of cruises which all lines could do better at.
Thermal suite - anyone will appreciate this spa feature but if you have RA or other musculoskeletal issues, it just may be an absolute necessity. I LOVED the mineral hydro pool.
Yes - we would cruise this again because 1. we can drive to the port rather than fly and 2. we regularly find excellent discounts which are great for last minute getaways.
First attempt at cruising after an otherwise bumpy year
Being Boston-based, taking this BOS-Bermuda cruise was a no-brainer for testing our ability to cruise following a medical catastrophe earlier in the year. There isn't much to say about Bermuda that isn't lovely although I do prefer St. George's pier to King's Wharf or the other. Because there is a 2-3 night stay over, it really allows exploring the island in a more casual manner.
A couple things we learned about scooter rentals on this cruise...
- The scooter rental process (Mobility at Sea) is pretty straightforward and worked well.
- The size of the rental scooter was too large for easy parking in an interior cabin. Unless you have a suite, these rentals are very cumbersome for staterooms. Parking in the hallway is clearly forbidden as a safety issue for other passengers. We occasionally left it in the hall when we were just making a pit stop but overnight parking is not an option.
- Getting in and out of stateroom doorways is difficult, especially when hallways are narrow and turning radius is limited. Doors opening inward make it all the more difficult.
- Rentals cannot be taken off the ship. If you want/need to check out a port, you will have to make arrangements on shore to have a wheelchair or scooter waiting for you on land.
Loved the trip, not the ship
We took this as our second honeymoon and had a wonderful time simply due to the fact that it was our second honeymoon. We could have floated around in a tub and still enjoyed ourselves. We selected this because of the itinerary, not the cruise line or ship.
Upside: Great itinerary included destinations that we both really wanted to go to (e.g., Barcelona, Cinque Terra, Pompeii, Sicily). Tour guides who really knew what they were talking about and where to go to get the best views and features not ordinarily accessible.
Downside: Smoking was allowed on balconies which made them inhabitable for us. We paid to have a balcony and ended up having to go back inside too many times to count. Getting dragged to tourist traps (e.g., cameo factory on way back from Pompeii) as part of the excursions. I would have preferred more time in Pompeii.
This was our first Med cruise so comparing it to another Med cruise is not possible BUT comparing ships and balconies is definitely possible. This ship's balconies were narrow and the chairs were rigid and uncomfortable. Compared with other ships with reclining chairs and footstools, well there is no comparison. Also, this did not have a sliding door but rather had a window and a door. It limited the view from inside.
Surprise of the cruise: Dubrovnik. This was a delightful day of wandering around alleys and noshing on cheese and fresh bread. What a beautiful city!
We look forward to another Med cruise but on a different line with a no smoking policy.
Convenience of Cape Liberty departure and a very nice cruise
After digging through pictures and my personal travel log, I decided it was fair to write a review for this cruise. My husband and I traveled together, driving from Boston down to NJ. We left our car at the pier and walked right onboard.
Convenient departure from NJ to warmer climate was just what we wanted
As I did for a similar 2013 cruise, I dug through through pictures and my personal travel log, before deciding whether to write a review for this cruise. My husband and I travel together. We drove from Boston down to NJ and parked our car at the pier. The convenience of walking across the road and directly onboard was great.
Expected a lot more from HAL, especially where mobility-impairment is concerned
Took this cruise because the price was right and we wanted to give HAL a go. Had received positive comments from friends and family so jumped at the opportunity to experience HAL-level cruising. Unfortunately, I had torn my Achilles on a recent cruise so I was a bit hobbled and needed a wheel chair.
You would have thought I was the first wheelchair-bound cruiser ever to board the ship. Crew looked at me like I was a martian, MDR tables were unbelievably close together so getting through in the chair was impossible without asking others to get up from their seat and move their chairs. We asked for a more accessible table three times before finally getting the matter resolved. Seating accessibility continued to be a challenge in other venues as well and honestly, the crew (overall) was next to useless as far as assistance was concerned. By comparison, Celebrity crew could not have been more accommodating in terms of helping my husband (handicapped subsequent to the HAL cruise). Even in the cafe, someone helped him with his plate, beverages, getting him a table not too far into the cafe, etc.
As far as the inside cabin, we loved it. It was one of the cabins that was positioned lengthwise so you entered along the "side" rather than from the "end". It was roomier than other interiors we stayed in and perfect for us because of the wheelchair bulk.
The entertainment was pretty standard as far as cruises go. The one standout was a stringed quartet from Romania. They were FANTASTIC and we were groupies for the entire cruise.
Perhaps the worst part of this misadventure was the disembarking process. After going to the special assistance holding area, an escort finally retrieved us. We got to the last check point before being officially off-boarded and pushed off to the side without explanation. We were not off to the side enough so that people dragging bags behind them didn't hit the wheel chair a few times... Most of the hundred or so passersby just gawked and a couple muttered that we should get out of their way ~eye roll~. We were left to wait for about 25 minutes and never received a reasonable explanation as to why. Honestly, I would have rather walked off in physical pain than been subjected to humiliation of HAL's complete disregard for my dignity and the disorganization of the crew.
If you take the time to read my other reviews, you'll see I don't just moan and groan. I prefer to look past the small stuff and focus on having a wonderful time. Sadly, the positives offered by this cruise were the stringed quartet, our cabin, and a lovely yellow labrador retriever (service dog) named Heaven that another passenger was kind enough to allow me to meet.
The chance of my husband and I ever getting on another HAL is less than 5%