Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, etc, Cruise Reviews – Debbie's Caribbean Cruise Reviews


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Complete Cruise Review Index

Cruise Reviews
Disney – Disney Wonder – Reviews Posted – 1
Holland America – MS Maasdaam – Reviews Posted – 1
Majesty of the Seas – Royal Caribbean – Reviews Posted – 1
Mediteranean Shipping Line – MSC Melody – Reviews Posted – 1
Monarch of the Seas – Royal Caribbean – Reviews Posted – 1
Princess – Princess Dawn – Reviews Posted – 2
Royal Caribbean vs Princess – Comparison – Reviews Posted – 1
Sunbird – Reviews Posted – 3

Majesty of the Seas – Royal Caribbean 4 night Bahamas Cruise
Review by:   Marlene – Canada   Posted:  November 2002

We just returned from a 4 night cruise on Majesty of the Seas. We first booked this cruise after being told by our travel agent that Royal Caribbean had a promotion on that you could book a category C cabin for the price of a category D cabin. This seemed like a pretty good deal, so I immediately booked our flight on Aeroplan points to Miami.

When I enquired of the travel agent what deck the cabin would be on, she replied Deck 9 which immediately sent warning bells off in my head because I knew there were no Category C cabins on Deck 9. I pointed this out to them and they went off to make calls to RCI. It went back and forth as to what Category we were entitled to, with the end of it being we had booked a “Guaranty” cabin which is “Category D or higher”. RCI and our travel agent spent more time blaming each other for the mistake than either of them did in resolving the problem. Finally, we just upgraded to a C cabin ourselves, since we really wanted the balcony.

We lucked out all over the place on this cruise. The cabin we upgraded to, although priced at a Category C rate, is actually considered a suite. This meant we got to register and board through the Chairman’s club, bypassing long lines of people waiting and boarding first. The one thing they don’t tell you is that if you are a non US citizen, they take your passports when checking in.

Our cabin was 1549 which is on Deck 10, right beside the elevator. It had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a 17 ft balcony. It was huge! They were still cleaning the cabin, so we dropped off our carry on’s and jackets and headed to Windjammer for lunch.

This might have been the very best meal the entire cruise. They had a terrific hip of beef they were carving and a number of other salads etc. The beef was amazing!

After lunch we went back to our cabin to find that our cabin steward had taken my jacket from the closet. I guess he thought the previous occupants had left it behind. I found it outside the stateroom on the floor.

We unpacked and headed off to explore the ship. Majesty is a large ship, carrying about 2,300 passengers and 900 crew members. For all it’s size, it didn’t seem to be overwhelmingly big. Starting at the top, there is the Viking Crown lounge which overlooks the water with floor to ceiling windows providing a beautiful view. You can smoke in the lounge on the Port side only.

Deck 11&12 holds the pools, pool bars, and the Windjammer café. Buffet breakfasts, lunches and casual dinners are in this restaurant for those who do not wish to dress for dinner. Bar service around the pool was great.

Deck 10 holds the spa and gym. The gym is reasonably equipped and they do hold some classes during the cruise. Can’t say I made it to any classes, although we did manage one or two work outs while on board.

Deck 9 has the On Your Toes nightclub, which we never made it to at all. Deck 8 has the Paint Your Wagon lounge.

Deck 7 has the Champagne bar, which is where we spent most of our time when we wanted a cocktail before dinner. Premium brands of scotch and vodka here and champagne by the glass. Storm, the bartender was wonderful!

Deck 7 also has the Blue Skies lounge and the upper level of the Chorus Line Lounge

Deck 5 has the shops, the hair salon, the Casino and the lower level of the Chorus Line Lounge.

Deck 4 has the Purser’s Desk, the Shore Excursion’s desk and one of the two main dining lounges. Deck 3 hold the other main dining lounge and the photo gallery.

Our intent on this cruise was to relax and not rush to do anything. Consequently, most mornings, we ordered coffee and muffins and ate them on the balcony, instead of going for breakfast. Room service was incredibly swift.

Formal night is on Tuesday night, while you are in Nassau. The ship stays in port until midnight that night. We were invited to dine with the Captain this night. (I think we must have looked lonely sitting by ourselves at dinner!). Captain Bohn is a very charming man. It was quite a lively dinner, as our dining companions included a reporter, a defence attorney and a prosecuting attorney. Wine flowed freely with dinner and we got a group picture and a special menu signed by the Captain as keepsakes. Captain Bohn invited the table to join him on the bridge in the morning for a tour, which is something I understand they don’t do much of since September 11. We spent a couple of very informative hours on the bridge and then headed off to Coco Cay, RCI’s private island. Before we left, the Captain invited us back to observe the casting off process later that afternoon.

We spent the afternoon lying on the beach at Coco Cay and snorkelling. Even if you bring your own snorkelling equipment, RCI’s regulations require you to have a life jacket which they charge a “nominal” fee for. Nominal fee in our case meant $30.00 US each for lifejackets and fins. We had our own masks and mouthpieces.

Watching the cast off procedure from the bridge was wonderful. Talk about the best view in the house! It also gave us a chance to watch the crew as they worked to bring up both anchors and prepare everything for sailing.

We set sail and headed for Key West. We received a notice in our stateroom that we had to present ourselves to US Immigration in the morning to clear customs before going ashore at Key West. All non US Citizens had to be there. No one is allowed to leave the ship until this process is complete. It started at 8 and was not completed until 10:00 a.m. Long lines of people, but the crew members were bringing juice, coffee and pastries around to everyone. You get your passport back during this process. The other thing we missed completely is that in order to go ashore in Key West you need a disembarkation ticket. This was published in the Daily Compass, which is the newsletter you get every night describing the next day’s port and activities. We obviously didn’t read that, and so ran around trying to figure out where to get one of these tickets. They call you by ticket number and then you can get off the ship.

We did spent some time in the Casino, and although we lost the first three nights, on the last night I ended up winning $1,200 US on the slot machines. This was my

first cruise and I found it to be very different that our usual all-inclusive vacation. Line ups are normal on a cruise I discovered. You line up to get off the ship for shore excursions and line up to get back on. Line up for the midnight buffet and for dinner. Disembarkation on the last day was pretty efficient. They give you coloured tags for your baggage and you have to place your baggage outside your stateroom by one a.m. In the morning, they call your tag colour and you leave the boat, claim your luggage and go through US Customs. We had the transfer package with RCI so we got on one of their buses. Next time, we’ll just take a cab.

All in all, Majesty is a nice ship. It’s 10 years old so it shows it’s age a bit in wear and tear in the cabins and carpets etc. The ship’s crew is outstanding though. The normal response from them when you said thank you for anything was “It’s my pleasure”. The food was average I found. Lots of it, but not outstanding. There were two midnight buffets Tuesday and Wednesday.

We used our balcony a lot and I highly recommend that you get one if you can.. Would I do it again? Oh yes.

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Holland America – MS Maasdaam Ft. Lauderdale, Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica
Review by:    Emma  Posted:  July 2002

We took this cruise in 5/02 and had a great time! We have previously cruised with Holland America Line (HAL) to the Eastern Caribbean (MS Westerdam) and Southern Caribbean (MS Veendam). All three ships were pretty comparable; they are among the smaller HAL ships, and we found them charming. The Indonesian cabin and food service staff are unfailingly helpful, hard-working, and friendly. We liked the Southern Caribbean itinerary best, because it sailed from San Juan PR and had fewer days at sea and more ports, with a wider variety of shore excursions. But this Western Caribbean cruise was perfect for snorkelers or beach lovers!

Day 1: Sail from Ft. Lauderdale. Boarding was the typical scramble to get aboard, get unpacked, get changed, and get to dinner. The cabin was small as you’d expect on a ship, but had adequate storage space, pretty paneling and pictures, a little sitting area, and a good bed. The bathtub is a big step up from the floor, and it’s small; but the shower is good. The built-in hairdryer is low power but works well. We had a verandah, which was very nice! We ate in the dining room most nights, preferring the elegant presentation and higher-quality entrees there, as opposed to the buffets. Some people complain about Holland America cuisine, but we have always found it sophisticated and tasty. (Of the three ships, the food was best on the Westerdam.) The only disappointing HAL meal we have ever had in the dining room was the first night on the Maasdam. The entree choices that night were Pan Roasted Red Snapper Filet, Roasted Pork Loin, Penne with Broccoli and Chicken, and Eggplant Rollantini. You could also get a steak, chicken breast, or salmon fillet. We had the snapper, and it was acceptable but nothing special. We heard others remarking that it was the least exciting HAL meal they’d ever had.

Day 2: At Sea. We slept late to recover from travel, enjoyed the wonderful Lido Breakfast Buffet and Dutch lunch. The buffets are tailored to American tastes. The food is good, plentiful, and has some premium touches such as Dutch cheeses and smoked salmon. The fresh orange juice squeezer and cappuccino machine, which we enjoyed on previous cruises, are no longer available. All the pools were humming, and numerous activities were provided. We worked out in the very nice exercise room, which was not at all crowded! HAL clientele tends to be a bit older, and at 35, we were among the younger and more active folks on board. This is not a cruise for partiers, but most folks will find something to do on board. There are shopping talks, sporting events, bingo, ice-carving and napkin-folding demonstrations, spa treatments, the casino, movies, nightly shows, and good pools and hot tubs. Poolside service is excellent. Dinner in the dining room was formal this night, which meant everything from sundresses and slacks, to beaded formals and suits. Only a few men wore black tie. Dining room entrees were Black & White Sesame Crusted Salmon, Roast Rack of Lamb, Fettucine with Garlic Prawns, or Vegetarian Sweet & Sour Tofu; also Filet Mignon, Duck Breast, or Halibut Steak from the grill. The appetizers included a fabulous Deep-Fried Hazelnut Crusted Brie. And of course, there were soups, a salad course, and desserts.

Day 3: Cozumel, Mexico. The ship only docked from 8:00 to 2:00. We wanted to snorkel at Chankanaab Reef. Rather than take the HAL-sponsored tour, we hired a taxi driver to take us there. The cost was $10 each way, plus $10 admission to the park. We had our own snorkeling gear, so we didn’t have to rent-but rentals were readily available at the park. The total cost was $30 total, vs. $100 for two if you took the tour. We have found the HAL-arranged tours to be good values if you want to hit multiple locations, if you need to rent gear, or if you are timid about hiring local transportation. If you have a single, definite destination in mind, and don’t mind bargaining and tipping the driver, it’s almost always a better deal to arrange your own shore excursion. Drivers were very readily available. Chankanaab is beautiful, and we had a great time! They have a photographer who will take your picture underwater, and you can choose to buy or not. There are lockers, showers, and refreshments available. We shopped for a while in the pier bazaar before re-boarding. The liqueur chocolates and binoculars were irresistible buys! For dinner onboard, we all had the Pan Seared Grouper "Vera Cruz" or Prime Rib, but there were other choices including a Roasted Lamb Shank.

Day 4: Georgetown, Grand Cayman. You have to tender in to this port, which was fine; there were Maasdam tenders running constantly and the wait was less than 10 minutes. We saw Carnival cruisers waiting in long lines for tenders, though. We went over early and shopped-great shopping here, right by the pier! I bought pearls and gold earrings, and my hubby got some Cuban cigars. (You must consume Cuban products before re-entering the U.S.) Then we took a boat ride to Stingray City, which was incredible! The Southern stingrays are completely tame, and will brush against your ankles begging for food. This was a truly unique experience, and it was great for snorkeling-but even non-swimmers would enjoy this excursion in three feet of warm water and white sand. The boat operators provided squid to feed the stingrays. That night, entrees on the Maasdam were Perch Fillet, Chicken in Prosciutto, Cheese & Veal Tortellini, or Corn & Broccoli Strudel. Dress code was casual, which meant anything from shorts (despite the dress code stating that shorts were not acceptable) to nice cocktail dresses and even jackets for some men.

Day 5: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We took a fabulous catamaran reggae cruise to a deserted bay for snorkeling, with fresh fruit, rum punch, and hair braiding available. We heard that the garden tours were also wonderful. Jamaica is so lush! We were so impressed, that we plan to visit Jamaica again this winter. After returning to the ship, eating, and cleaning up, we walked into town to shop for watches and souvenirs. We were a little apprehensive, having heard that Jamaicans on the streets are aggressive hawkers and may try to sell you drugs. But we had only pleasant experiences. I think we disappointed the shopkeepers by paying the reasonable prices they quoted, without bargaining 😉 Dinner in the dining room was Dutch Night. Having encountered the "Hutspot mit Klaapstuk" (Dutch cuisine is nothing to write home about!) and silly Dutch hats on previous cruises, we opted for the barbecue on the Lido Deck instead. It was not fancy, but very tasty!

Day 6: At sea. The Indonesian lunch was great! We had massages, which were OK but not the best we’ve ever had. The usual HAL "no tipping" policy definitely does not apply to masseuses, and you can’t charge a tip to your room. It was disconcerting to have to carry cash, after getting used to the "cashless economy" of the ship. (By the way, the cabin staff and dining room servers very much appreciate tips, despite the stated "no tipping necessary" policy. Take some cash to give them on the last night. They bust their buns taking care of you; you’ll be glad to have something to give them.) Royal Dutch High Tea is a don’t-miss. Formal dinner was fabulous! Lobster tails, Beef Wellington, Duck "Montmorency", Potato Gnocci…. The portions are modest, but the dining room staff are happy to bring you multiple entrees.

Day 7: Half Moon Cay (HAL’s private island). Be warned: on the Eastern Caribbean cruise, we missed this port due to high seas. This time, we were able to tender in despite very rough seas, but had to return in the early afternoon due to rain. Our snorkeling boat trip was also cancelled due to weather conditions, and it took more than 15 tries by two operators before our returning tender was able to rendezvous with the Maasdam. Half Moon Cay is lovely, but don’t count on a full day there… or, indeed, any stop at all! Be prepared for this "port" to become another day at sea. Luckily, this time we were able to enjoy the gorgeous white beach and the barbecue for a few hours, before weather intervened. Unlike the other ports, this one has little to interest non-beach people. But the beach is truly wonderful!

Day 8: Disembark at Ft. Lauderdale. HAL’s disembarkation procedures, as always, left us with a bad taste in our mouths. You’re forced to leave your cabin very early, then sit around for hours in a lounge until you’re allowed to leave… unless you "ransom" yourselves off the boat by buying a shore excursion. We did this, and enjoyed the tour of Ft. Lauderdale pretty well. There was a free hour for lunch, and then the tour operators delivered us to the airport.

Overall, this was a fun cruise with great ports and well chosen shore excursions. HAL staff were extremely friendly and accommodating, as always! Not for partiers or sybarites, but a good choice for those who are interested in a reliable, high-quality cruise experience that will take them to interesting ports.

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Princess – Princess Dawn Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas
Review by:    Karen – Ontario  Posted:  August 2002

To see photos of our Princess Cruise experience point your mouse here: http://community.webshots.com/user/karenn114

Our first cruise experience upon the Dawn Princess (February 2002) was awesome!

Our Southern Caribbean itinerary took us into Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas. We can’t say enough of the warm trade winds and beautiful scenery of each and every island.

Bunking with my sisters and my mother, we four girls had a fabulous fun time in our cozy room with bunk beds and a balcony, located on the Aloha Deck, Room 7737 (three from the end of the ship!) Location was terrific as we had a little walk to the elevators at mid ship and if we chose to go out the back door it was up one floor to the pool area and buffet.

The room was small but adequate. Suprisingly sufficient for storage space. Two bunk beds swung down from the wall so they weren’t taking up space during the daylight hours. We put our suitcases underneath the bottom beds. There was a dresser /make up table with six small drawers, plus a big closet with space enough for four of our stuff. Also there was a small refrigerator in which we kept water and pop cold.

Bathroom was ample if you consider the kind of space you get in a trailer home. It came complete with a back of the door hook for those wonderful hanging makeup bags. Lots of shampoo, soaps, towels. Our room Steward, Anna, supplied clean beach towels each day as well so we were glad we didn’t pack any for our shore excursions!

When we arrived through check in the ship loomed huge above us and we couldn’t wait to board. Up the gangplank we went and navigated ourselves to our room. They had an organized ship tour but we decided to explore on our own and were fully able to get our bearings.

There were two cinemas, numerous hot tubs, two swimming pools, a number of bars, two main restaurants plus a delicious pizzeria. There was also an ice cream bar but we never made it over to that particular venue. We didn’t participate in much of the nightlife as we were up before dawn and out on excursions most days, so were tuckered out to do much partying. There were plenty of activities though. We did see two comic acts, one impressionist and one dance performance, all of which were high caliber entertainment! Played bingo once or twice and enjoyed a game of Wheel of Fortune too. We only participated in one of the two Formal Nights. One was plenty for us.

As far as dining options, we opted for Personal Choice. We never had to wait for a table and we chose to not want to dine with others. I found you had great flexibility. You can eat at the time you want, with the people you want. You can even make reservations for a table (even a specific table if you like the waiter or view). You receive the same food choices and great service as you would in the formal dining room without the limitations of time. And don’t be afraid to ask for more Lobster!! I can’t imagine why you’d want anything else! It allowed us all the freedom you need. You can choose to dine at the same time each night with reservations or just show up when you’re hungry.

Among some of the food choices were pasta, steak, lobster, Beef Wellington, Maui fish, shrimp, Chicken Kiev, Clams Casino, Chilled Piano Colada soup with Rum, Caviar, Fudge Love Boat Dream, rum balls, macadamia nut ice cream, macaroons, hamburgers – the list is endless!!!!

EXCURSIONS:
We pre-booked our excursions (which also gave us four free photos on board PLUS the comfort of knowing we didn’t have to worry about not getting an excursion or having to line up to purchase one on the ship).

Barbados: We took the Atlantic Submarine tour. My mother had done this in Aruba and she felt it was better in Aruba. But it was a lovely journey under the sea. The tour just ahead of us saw a sea turtle. We saw tons of fish and a shipwreck too. It was a fun experience. Then we rented a taxi ($50 for four of us) and toured the island on our own. Visited Mullens Bay (stopped for a swim), Speightown, Moletown, Cherry Hill, Bathsheba. Then did some shopping at the dock. Shopping tip: Buy the RUM Cake here…. it’s delicious and it’s priced cheapest than any other island.

St. Lucia: Took the Land and Sea Tour and could rave about it for days! It was EXCELLENT. Toured the winding roads of this jungle like beautiful island, stopped for shopping with local vendors where we picked up some wicker, banana ketchup, spices, local beer etc., saw the volcano, toured a plantation and ate lunch (plantation was a lot more fun than I expected) then we took a catamaran and had a swimming stop, visited Marigot Bay and returned to port. Absolutely highly recommend this tour!!

St. Kitts: We booked the snorkeling excursion, which was very nice, and the catamaran was a lot of fun. Snorkeling was pretty good, but having been to Cozumel and Ixtapa Island, and also because it was cloudy that day, it felt a little disappointing. Well worth the money though for the views alone!! (not to mention the rum haha)

St. Maarten: Took an island tour here and it was very interesting. Visited both sides of the island with two times to shop on the French side (not enough time to shop on this island!!) Views were spectacular. Opted to do more shopping after the tour on the Dutch side and spent a lovely afternoon picking up good deals on clothes, jewelry and beach towels.

St. Thomas we made our own way to Trunk Bay on St. John. Didn’t want to do it in the afternoon. So we hired a cab to the ferry, then caught another ferry to Trunk Bay. Spent a few hours snorkeling then returned to St. Thomas where did a little more shopping.

All in all it was a trip to remember and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to take another cruise again and definitely have fallen in love with St. Lucia. If there weren’t so many other places to see in the world I’d have already booked another trip back!!

To see photos of our Princess Cruise experience point your mouse here: http://community.webshots.com/user/karenn114

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Princess – Princess Dawn San Juan, Aruba, Margarita Island, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, San Juan
Review by:    Kathy   Posted:  May 2002

Cruise taken April 13th to the 21st This was my second cruise (my first being with my husband on Holland America a year ago) and my girlfriends first. My husband considered our first cruise a bit "busy" so I talked a friend into going with me on the second. I’m an explorer so chose a cruise with only one day at sea. It was wonderful.

Aruba was beautiful. We rented a car (excellent place to do this) and toured beaches and major attractions. We loved Aruba.

Margarita Island was not our favorite stop. I have noticed that people who stop here while on a cruise aren’t nuts about the place while folks who spend a week or two here love it. I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t give a good first impression. I got the impression that the people weren’t as "educated" as they could have been and that being the case do not understand the importance of tourism and were not as hospitable as they could have been. I would be willing to return for a week though.

Grenada was my favorite island. The people were wonderful and we went on a tour of the spice factory and the falls and the rainforest and loved it. I’d love to spend a week or two here. (We saw monkeys here!)

Dominica came in a close second to Grenada, very pretty, friendly people and we went on another tour of the island, beautiful spot.

St. Thomas I had visited before so Rosemarie and I took the ferry over to St. Johns and went snorkeling at Trunk Bay. It was awesome. We returned to St. Thomas in time to shop for a couple of hours.

The Dawn Princess was a beautiful ship and I would cruise with Holland America or Princess again in a minute. The differences were that Holland America were a bit "classier". They served their peanuts in the lounge in a tiny carafe so that you’d have to pour them into your hand and everybody wouldn’t be fingering them. When they cleared tables in the buffet they’d place a napkin over the dirty dishes so that you wouldn’t have to look at them when they passed by your table. It was a few little things like that that made me use the work classy. I found the Princess crew "funner" in that they’d joke around with you and such. I don’t think that the crew on Holland America were allowed to do so. They were more formal.

Our room was larger on Princess, lots of room in the closet for the wardrobe of 2 women, shelves in the bathroom for all of our junk. The food on both cruise lines was excellent, I have to admit that that is one of the reasons that I enjoy cruising so much. I diet before I leave home!! I didn’t think that I would like personal preference dining but we loved it. The first night we requested a table for 10 and then met 2 couples that we really enjoyed and made arrangements to meet them the following evening and made reservations requesting the same table so that we could have the same waiter who we enjoyed very much. We did this all week therefore knowing that there would be people at the table we enjoyed and having fun meeting others, the best of both worlds.

One of my co-workers asked me upon returning what I didn’t like about the cruise and I had a very tough time with that one. One day in the dining room at breakfast my fried eggs were overdone, oh dear.

I think that the entertainment on Holland America was a tad better but at that point I wasn’t expecting much and Princess had to follow that.

We laughed all week. I think that it’s the perfect holiday for women who want to get away from it all and have wonderful husbands who understand and we’re doing it again next year! I didn’t go into much detail but if anyone has any questions feel free to email me at kathym_12@hotmail.com

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Disney – Disney Wonder 4 day cruise to Naussau and to Castaway Cay
7 day cruise to St. Maarten, St. Thomas & Castaway Cay
Review by:    Jen and Mike   Posted:  April 2002

We cruised on the Disney Wonder two times. The first was the 4 day cruise to Naussau and to Castaway Cay. It was our first cruising experience. We had a blast. The kids (ages 9 & 12 at the time) had so much fun in the Kids club that they didn’t want to leave at night. My husband and I felt that for the first time in many years that we could actually have some "private" time for ourselve. Then in March of 2001 we took the seven day cruise on the Disney Wonder. It was heaven. We went to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay with days at sea. The first few days at sea were great! We just lounged by the pool, took naps and enjoyed the Spa. We had another family with us that loved it as much as we did. We did get an outside room with a verandah this time and would definitely do so again. I would even think of getting an attached room for the kids. We could have had more space.

Even though we wouldn’t go on another Disney Cruise – not because of any fault of them – just that our kids have grown and we would like to see other places. They (the kids) don’t need the constant supervision that the Disney Line gives – I would definitely recommend this to anyone with children 13 years of age and younger.

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Mediteranean Shipping Line – MSC Melody Jamaica, Panama, Cartegena and Costa Rica
Review by:    Gail & Tom Fitzgerald   Posted:  March 2002

We got off the MSC Melody yesterday and are trying to get back into our everyday mode, very reluctantly I might add. We had searched for trip reviews for this particular ship without much success prior to our own trip so I thought I would pass along what our thoughts were. We loved it and had a wonderful, relaxing time. The ship is about half the size of the large megaliners so don’t expect a huge Carnival ship. For us, it was perfect. We had upgraded our room and were on the Premiere deck which was convenient to everything. The room itself was great. Queen bed which could be separated from the living area by a curtain. Large suede sleep-couch, desk, fairly good sized bathroom with tub, fair sized window. Ample storage areas. Bed was very comfortable and all was very clean. We were able to check out rooms on lower decks and although not always as large, were more than adequate. A mini-refrigerator in the rooms would have made it perfect! The smaller size of the ship makes it very easy to get around and not get lost. The Dining Room is quite nice and the food was very good, although quite different from what we are used to as it is definitely an Italian ship. Expect many, many courses at dinner. Portions are not huge since there are so many courses but seconds will be provided if requested. Service is also very attentive. Wine is fairly inexpensive. You can order a whole bottle and they will recork it for you to finish another evening. All 3 meals are available in the dining room. There are 3 "gala" formal nights when you need to dress. There seemed to be much leeway in attire as some were all dolled up and others had fairly plain sundresses on. One of the booklets indicated that short-sleeved shirts for men are not allowed in the dining room but that was not the case at all so ignore that. Their explanation was this stipulation relates to sleeveless T’s. However, on formal nights men must have tuxes, suits or jackets and ties on. Our seating was the early one at 6:30 PM which was perfect for us as you could arrive anytime after 6 PM, finish dinner by 7:20 and catch the first show by 7:30 PM. Supposedly the first show is for those having late seating but many of us went in anyway and no one complained. Alternate buffet style for breakfast and lunch is also available. We ate buffet style for most breakfasts and lunches as we liked being on deck. There are two swimming pools, one with a retractable roof, and two hot tubs. They drain the pools and tubs fairly early each evening so don’t plan on nighttime swimming. And, they are salt water, not fresh. Lots of deck chairs all over for people watching. Tea and snacks are served everyday at 4:15-ish. They offer some type of entertainment at tea as well, usually a violinist who was great. All the shows were excellent and last about 1 hour and they offer at least two per evening. They also have midnight buffets each evening for those who just can’t wait to eat more until morning. Some are simple, some are more elaborate. Mixed drinks are very weak; they offer frozen drink specials everyday at $3.99. We brought a bottle of rum and filled a large insulated mug everyday with pineapple juice. You may want to do the same. We used the mugs for our morning coffee as well. We also brought some soda with us and kept it in the cabin. You’ll want to bring suntan lotion and hats as well unless you want to buy hats at one of the ports as it’s very hot! Ask your room steward to keep replenishing the ice in your ice bucket if you like your drinks cold as we do. They do not add much ice to any of their drinks.

The first port you’ll go to is Jamaica and it is just horrible. I would never again bother getting off the ship. We didn’t purchase any excursion tickets and we’re glad that we didn’t as those who did were not happy either. Friends bought the city tour and left after about 15 minutes. You can do the beach tour on your own which is what we did. A bus will take you there for about $4 and it’s very easy to get a taxi back to the ship. Montego Bay is filthy and dangerous and you will be besieged with vendors and beggars……they surround you and do not take no for an answer. Little kids included. The beach is okay, we have just as good here in Florida. We ended up at Margarittaville bar and restaurant for most of our time there as no one could hassle us while in there. They have trampolines set out in the water that you can jump on. Most parts of the city are off-limits due to hostility toward Americans and the drivers tell you not to even attempt most areas. One tour (which I think may be in Montego Bay) was some type of boat ride on a very calm river—a few people said they enjoyed that and it was very relaxing so you may want to give that some consideration.

Panama Canal was great–very interesting. You’ll have to get up early AM to get a good spot on deck so you’ll be there when entering the locks. I don’t think you’ll want to miss that. As far as the tours available on Gatum Lake….people were very disappointed in the lock tour itself as it was not very comprehensive and didn’t bring you underneath the locks, etc. The tour to the yacht club was raved about and we’re sorry we missed that. We read about it and thought it would be boring!!! Local tribes put on shows, barbeque was provided, etc.

San Blas Island is a little spit of land. The Indians bring their wares over to this island by boat every morning and row back to their home islands at night. The women (very tiny little Indians) specialize in intricate needle work, very brightly colored. You will see row upon row of their work hanging on clotheslines. We bought some beautiful, original shirts here. You can tender over to the island by yourself (which is what we did) or take a tour and see that island as well as another where apparently they have a school, etc. The Indians will let you take a picture of them for $1.00….no freebies here. The island beach is nice for swimming. It’s really too hot to stay there for very long and too small to see much of anything else. We both loved Cartegena, although you are besieged with vendors again. We took the historic city tour and it is a beautiful city filled with a long history. Also toured the "old city"and the fort there, as well as beautiful churches. You can really barter on prices here…never pay asking price for anything. And the prices go down as you are leaving the city! Vendors follow you to the bus telling you there was just a price drop! In Costa Rica (Puerto Limon) we took the jungle tour at a national park which was very good. Bus ride takes about 1 hour of bumpy roads to get there and then you walk for about 1-1/2 hrs looking at the foliage and fauna, seeking out monkeys (we saw 3 types) as well as sloths. The guide will provide you with mosquito repellant so you don’t need to bring any from home. The end of the walk brings you to a great beach where you have time to swim and it had great surf. The ride there was very informative as well as you drive by banana plantations, etc. There are shops set up right at the port which carry some nice things at reasonable prices. Great wooden jewelry. Also a good place to buy coffee. I wouldn’t suggest trying to tour yourself in Puerto Limon as the town itself isn’t much to look at or spend time in. It’s economically depressed and you would really need to have an interpreter or be very fluent to get anything out of it. An official tour is really the only way to go.

Suggestions: since this is a smaller ship it gets a little rockier than larger ones if the waves are high. If there’s any chance of you getting seasick, get the patches to take with you. I was queasy one day due to the rocking and rolling and was glad to have them with me. Do bring insulated mugs with you to keep your drinks hot or cold. Ice is not always available or available in the quantity that you are used to. I had also brought one of those insulated drink containers that has the built-in straw and had it filled with ice and water each morning. You can hook it right to your fanny pack and, believe me, you’ll appreciate the drink of water when you’re taking some of these tours. Also, we brought a lot of travelers checks with us and discovered that the ship charges 3% for cashing them. Try to have a lot of $1.00 bills available as you will need them for vendors, cab drivers, bus tips, etc. None of them will every admit to having any change and there were quite a few people who ended up paying much more than they would have had to if they had the smaller bills. The Purser’s Office is not always open on the ship so change is not always available, nor are any of the shops open anytime you are in port. If you like to play cards or board games, take them from home (at least the cards anyway) as if something happens to the cards you borrow they charge $12.00.

You’ll want to have your bathing suits on at all times when you go on tours, or in a carry bag, with towels. Ship provides you with 2 beach towels everyday. If there’s an opportunity to cool down with water, you will want to be able to do that. I estimate that about 65% of our cruise were foreigners. One annoying thing is that all announcements, etc. made on the ship have to be done in 5 languages to meet all needs. My husband thought this created a certain ambiance and didn’t mind it at all. And the crew are not always very fluent. And the tour guides can be a little difficult to understand as well. But we found ourselves picking up a few words in various languages before the end of the cruise.

In summary, this is not a luxurious ship, many of the bar areas, etc. are furnished with plastic tables and chairs, buffets are not lavish. The show stage is small but the entertainers make full use of it and are very talented and imaginative. If you’re looking for a "friendly, smaller ship" then this is a great one to try.

I hope this long narrative is helpful to you. Make certain you have enough film and batteries—-a lot of people forgot and if in port, the shops are closed and you’re out of luck!

Take care and have a great trip!

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Monarch of the Seas – Royal Caribbean Ft. Lauderdale,Key West,Cozumel,Costa Maya,at sea,
Ft. Lauderdale
Review by:    Karen – Adirondack Mts. in upstate, NY  Posted:  February 2002

About us: I am Karen,aged 46 and I traveled with my fiance, Scott aged 40. We live in the Adirondack Mts. in upstate, NY. This was my seventh cruise,all with Royal Caribbean, it was Scott’s first (but not last!) cruise.

The primary reason for us taking this particular cruise was because my Mom was going to be on board celebrating her 65th birthday and we thought we would surprise her by being on board as well!

01/19/02: We left the dreary,cold mountains in NY and ferried over to Burlington, VT airport for an 11 am flight aboard JetBlue to Ft. Lauderdale with a pitt stop in JFK. JetBlue boasts plush leather seats for all and individual controlled TV’s for each passenger…no meals but a great way to travel! I had made previous arrangements for a 2 day pre-cruise stay at the Embassy Suites via Priceline.com and was not one bit sorry I did! We arrived on time at FLL and, after a phone call, the courtesy van came and picked us up. We certainly didn’t mind the 15 minute wait in 80 degree weather either! The Embassy Suites is a beautiful hotel with a spectacular court yard. There are waterfalls and streams with dining tables scatted among them! Too bad the food served there doesn’t live up to the ambiance! We proceeded to our room on the 6th floor and I was overwhelmed that we managed to get a room with a small balcony overlooking Port Everglade! Since it was a Saturday evening we were able to watch as the Princess,Carnival and Celebrity ships departed!

Time to change into more appropriate cloths and head for the bar…the Embassy has a complimentary 5-7 happy hour every evening! After this we decied to have dinner in the dining area. As stated before…the food certainly doesn’t live up to the rest of the hotel!

01/20/02: We awoke to find that during the night 3 more ships had come into port to take the place of the 3 that had left the evening before. This time there was a Royal Caribbean in place of the Celebrity. Still wish I had some stronger binoculars so I could read the ships names! We took a nice walk and if you head across the street and behind the shopping centers you will see some beautiful yachts! It was very warm out even early in the morning so we spent the remainder of the day at the pool.

01/21/02: I woke up at 5:30 am to wait for Monarch of the Seas to arrive into port…finally at 6:30 there she was! What a site that was! It had been a few years since last I cruised and I just couldn’t wait to set foot on board that ship!!! May sound silly ut I was overwhelmed with emotion!
We arranged with the front desk to have a shuttle van take us to the ship at 11:30 am. We had no problem getting on board…there were many check in spots but no waiting lines at all and we were on board before noon!

We were told our state room would not be ready until 12:30 so we took the oppotunity to photograph some of the bars,casino and showrooms with the absence of people! We then went to our stateroom #2076 and put our carryons away and got swimsuits on! Even though our cabin was down on the bottom floor it was very strategically located! Then up to the Windjammer for lunch. I was very impressed with the food. There was some Rosemary Chicken to die for as well as nice big fresh salads and fixings!

After lunch it was time to find our place in the sun on the upper deck!!! Ahhh…that is the life! As we were sitting there all of a sudden we spotted my Mom and Dad! I kept a close eye on them for about an hour and finally when I couldn’t take the suspense anymore I got one of the bar waiters to deliver drinks and a note to my Mom! On the note I had written "Happy Birthday to you,happy birthday to you,you’re away on a cruise ship, and we’re on board too!" They still had no idea who was there with them and finally I went over and made my appearance! It was great! My Mom was so happy to see me and surprised as well!

Next was the muster drill….then sail away! Boy is it ever fun sailing away from Port Everglades! What a show the local residents put on!!! We had late seating in the Flower Drum Song dining room so we stayed on the upper decks for a while after sail away watching the sun go down! Then off to dinner and meet our table mates for the next few days! There was Pauline and John,Chris and Christie and Russell and Lealea all from PA…..and our waiter was Yogi from India and Martin from South Africa was our assistant waiter! What a great combination of people there was! We had a great dinner and then a walk around the deck before calling it a day!

01/22/02: We arrived in Key West at about 7:30 am. Of course I had to go upstairs and watch as we docked! Always fun to watch! We had decided to have breakfast that morning in the diningroom. Not real happy…but we were trying to get a better cup of coffee than that which we had room serviced..YUCK! Coffee in general seemed better in the diningroom than anyplace else on the ship but the one really good cup was that served after dinner? Anyway, we had made previous arrangements to meet one of Scott’s relatives at the pier in Key West. We all took a nice walking tour…stopped to buy some tee shirts and since we were due back aboard at 12:30 that was pretty much all we had time to do. As we were derparting the Keys we could see that there was a sailboat race going on and there were hundreds of sailboats dotting the ocean! What a site that was!

Oh..and someone missed the boat and had to be rushed out to meet up with us! We never did find out who it was but the captain made a smart comment the next day. I did want to mention that there were 3 other ships docked at Key West the same time we were..therefore making the marketplace and Duval St. VERY crowded. That afternoon was spent sunning topside once again until the wine tasting that we attended. If you are a platnuim/diamond member you will find a coupon booklet delivered to your room and one of the coupons is for free entry to the wine tasting! It used to be a much bigger production with all the somliers there and free bottles of wine given away at the end of the presentation. There were at most maybe 12 people attending this…sad to see this happening.

We latter decided to purchase a bottle of Absolute for our room. The cost was $9.95/liter plus $9.50 per bottle to bring it to your room. This makes a total of $19.45 for one liter. Still WAY less expnsive than what we priced out both at home and in Ft. Lauderdale where prices were about $27.00 per liter!

This was also our formal night and the Captain’s cocktail party. We did attend the cocktail party but went in the other door to avoid the long line waiting to shake hands with the Captain who’s name ( I think!) was Sven Steinmoen. We had a formal portrait done but didn’t really care for them. Dinner that night was excellent as usual! Same with our waiter and asst. waiter! They were right on. Oh…istead of the Somlier’s to pour your wine your asst. waiter has that job now.

01/23/02: We had made arrangement with my parents to have breakfast in the dining room this morning. Again…not pleased. The service is inconsistent. The food arrives at various times. Scott ordered a regular eggs,bacon and toast breakfast and recieved his toast (cold) about 15 minuted before his cold eggs arrived. To me it is a waste of time to eat breakfast in the dining room. Since we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Cozumel until 11:00 am we had time for a morning walk and a little shopping on board. We also gathered all our snorkeling and beach stuff for the day! We docked beside the Carnival Fantasy with the Carnival Pride on the other side!!! WOW is all I have to say! Every state room on the Pride must have a balcony! There were also 2 other cruise ships, and later 3, docked at the down town dock. At one point there were 6 cruise ships docked in Cozumel!

We found a taxi and headed to Playa Sol. At first I wanted to go to Playa Bonita but the cab driver told me it would cost us $60.00 round trip! Yikes! So we paid $24.00 round trip to go to Playa Sol. We also opted for the $35 entrance fee for the beach which entitled us to open bar and a buffet lunch. Upon entering you will find a neat little zoo to stroll through as well! The sand on the beach is very coarse. There are rocks upon entering the water and the water was rather cool compared to the Caribbean. I did see a star fish and some other surprises while snorkeling!

The buffet was also good. I would say it was worth the $35.00. Especially once we saw signs being put up that said hot dogs $5.00 USD and hamburgers $6.00 USD!!! On our way back to the ship Scott stopped and bought a Tee-shirt. I looked around the shops and got an idea of what I would purchase tomorrow in Costa Maya…..that turned out to be a huge mistake! We ran out of time and didn’t make it to Carlos and Charlies….but our table mates did! They arrived about 10 minutes late for dinner and only two of the four lasted through dinner! The diningroom was definitly quiet that night! After dinner was the Not So Newlywed Game..FUNNY!!! I was glad we finally stayed up to watch a show! This night there was also a buffet present by the pool….but rain shortened it up a little.

01/24/02: Well…today we were supposed to visit Costa Maya. I had read so much information and just was so excited to arrive at this port! Really to be the highlight of the cruise….due to large ocean swells our Captain found he was unable to dock the ship. In exchange he gave us an hour open bar and steered the ship into sunshine all day long! Since this was also where I planned to make my Mexican purchases I guess you can say he save me money as well!

Today was my Mom’s birthday she and I ventured into the pool which had alot of waves in it! We really had alot of fun holding on to the fencing that is provided and at the same time felt like we were in the ocean! At 5pm we met in the Schooner bar for cocktails since my parents had the early dinner seating. Later we got dressed for dinner and headed up to the Viking Crown Lounge which is like a secret hiding spot. There is no one there? Why? This is the best place to be in the evenings! After that it was off to dinner again and tonite was lobster tails! I suppose I should mention our head waiter Romeo…who aside from one night taking our shrimps out of the shells…was the invisible man!

01/25/02: This was our scheduled day at sea! So, since we had one yesterday, today was mostly more of the same. I went in and fed the slot machines,bought a watch,found a photo of us to buy and purchased a couple more bottles of Absolute to bring home with us. Well…I had to buy something!

Also being a platnium member we were invited to a special luncheon. If you are a platnium or diamond memeber you really should take advantage of this. There were only about 20 of us on board taking up 3 tables in the dining room. We were lucky and had 2 officers sit with us. Amanda was hotel manager and Levi was head of housekeeping! And I don’t know where the food came from but it was superb! We sat and chatted for 2.5 hours! Talk about a great way to spend the day! Afterward I hit the pool for a while and then we headed back to the Viking Crown Lounge to watch the sun set! It was beautiful! Then time to have the final dinner with our new made friends. This is always a sad time for me!

01/25/02: We headed up to the Windjammer for a final breakfast and then got in line for immigrations. Everone is required to do this before they will clear the ship. Then the waiting for your color tag to be called begins. I did get a little nervous since we had a plane to catch and my parent (who were driving home) got called before us…but we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

One final person who I forgot to mention was Alphonzo our room steward. He was FANTASTIC…although invisible as well! We came home one night to a towel bunny rabit! Another night to a turkey and the final night to a puppy dog! He must have lurked around the corners because we very rarely saw him but his presence in our room was always known after we returned!

Final Comments.
first the cons: The music around the pool needs help…except when the band is playing which is only an hour here and an hour there. The music in the Windjammer needs help too. The elevator service at times was a joke…but we got alot of excersize going up and down all those stairs! I just kinda felt sorry for the older folks or the ones with not real good knees! Coffee…..YUCK. Except as I said the one cup after dinner.

Now for the Pros: The emploeyees on this ship LOVE thier jobs! I have never been on board a cruise ship that had so many happy employees! When they are happy it makes us all happy! The food was really good,so was the entertainment. All areas on the ship are clean. I didn’t feel crowded in our room although I have not yet been spoiled by larger rooms or balconies! We didn’t even use half the storage space that was available.

I personally would never have chosen a 5 day cruise. This was for my Mom! I felt that our time in ports was very limited and I have always wanted to stay longer even on my 7 day cruises! Next time I will look for 10 days! The Crown and Anchor must have heard members complaints because we had robes delivered to our room without asking,we had a nice coupon booklet out of which we used a few, and the luncheaon is a really nice idea!

In closing all I would like to say is I can’t wait to cruise again!

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Royal Caribbean vs Princess Comparison
Review by:    Martin & Melanie – Canada   Posted:  January 2002

My husband and I always travel with our 2 children, Danielle is now 10 and Alex is 7. We have been to Aruba, Barbados, Cancun and Walt Disney World. We always end up going back to cruising as the most enjoyable for all of us.

In March of 2000 we cruised the Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines). It was up until that point the best vacation we had ever been on. As a family we required a quad cabin and I wanted a balcony so we chose a category "C". The cabin was beyond our imagination. We had a queen size bed and then a pull out sofa in the sitting area. We had a marble bathroom with a tub and the shower hookup was adjustable down to the kids height. They thought that was great. We had a huge walkin closet which was good because we had a lot of clothes. Our balcony was huge and very private. I sat out on it every morning and had breakfast and drank coffee in my jammies.

The ship was beautiful. The kids loved the kids program. The food was good but not great. The buffet called the Windjammer was less than appetizing some times so we stuck to room service and the dining room. The shore lunch at Labadee was good. We did not use the rock climbing wall or skating rink. We had left the ice at home and the last thing I wanted to do was go to a rink. I’m a hockey mom and spend enough time there. The mini golf was well done and my husband and I used the golf simulator once. I also spent an afternoon at the spa and found the services and treatments very professional but extremely expensive. We seemed to be paying for a lot of things on this trip. Our account at the end of 7 days was $1400 US. We learned on later cruises to be a little more careful. The Voyager is a huge ship and there often seemed to be too many people. Going a shore took a long time as so many people lined up at once. Many of the activities had long waiting lists also. Bingo was great even though we don’t ever play at home it was a fun activity.

Overall we rated this vacation the very best at the time but since then we’ve cruised twice more and they just keep getting better.

In October of 2000 we cruised on the Grandeur of the Seas to St. Thomas, San Juan and Coco Cay. This ship is a little smaller but our category "c" room was almost the same minus the walk in closet and the adjustable shower gizmo. The kids liked the kids club on this ship better than the Voyager. The food also seemed a little better, maybe just because we didn’t have to line up quite so long for the buffet. The supervisors at the kid’s club were mostly Canadians. One even went to school near us so the kids liked that. Also "Disco Dave", the head of the Grandeurs Kids Club had worked the kids club on the Voyager when we were on it, so my kids felt like he was family. Besides that he is really good with the kids. Let’s face it. As parents if our kids are happy we’d be happy sitting in the corner drinking warm beer from our shoes. Imagine how great it was to have happy kids, a great room, good food, good service and lot’s of strawberry daiquiris. I have never had all of these things at once in any all inclusive that we’ve been too. I’m still looking though, so if you know of one let me know.

Our last cruise was October 2001. We were supposed to go to Walt Disney World on Sept. 14, 2001 with some friends but flights from Toronto did not resume until Sept. 18 and by then we lost our reservations at WDW. We did some last minute planning to come up with another vacation in October. We chose Princess Cruise Lines, Grand Princess, simply because it had the best deal. Our cabin was a category "BC" I think. It had a balcony but it was not private. Everyone on the floors above you looked right down at you. Also people smoking would throw their butts overboard and they would land on our balcony. This sucked. I will not cruise the Grand or Golden Princess again just because of the balconies. If I pay for a balcony I atleast want it to be private. The best part of the room was that the kids had bunk beds in the sitting area and therefore my husband and I actually got to sleep together. The room also had 2 televisions which was handy for the last day when it was really rough and cold and several were sea sick so we spent some time in our cabin. Princess food is far superior to the other 2 Royal Caribbean ships. The buffet on the Grand Princess is fabulous and their was a place for the kids to get pizza and chicken fingers and fries all day. Also there seemed to be more bars or just less people I’m not sure which but either way our onboard experience was better with Princess. (too bad about the balconies).

Anyways that’s my review of RCCL vs Princess. I hope that helps anyone who’s wondering which to choose. Princess is better if you don’t care about the balcony, RCCL is better if the most important thing is keeping the kids happy.

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Sunbird Trans Atlantic Voyager Barbados, Antigua to Spain
Review by:    Hlywud & Warden – Canada    Posted:  May 2002

We started with a 7 am flight from Toronto to Barbados via Skyservice, a very rough bumpy flight as we went through a large number of weather fronts. Seat belts on 90% of the time. Arriving in Barbados we were quickly escorted to buses and took to the pier where the Sunbird awaited us, our baggage was sent from the plane direct to the boat which was an excellent feature. On check in which was very quick we were issued a cruise card for which all our purchases onboard was to be used and put on our account. A few hours to explore the ship and do some duty free shopping at the pier in Barbados, alcohol was not allowed to be brought on the boat and was tagged for our later disembarkation. But I managed to squeeze some into my jacket sleeves for personal use on the cruise. At 5:30 pm we set sail for Antigua, watching Barbados disappear into the horizon from the Sundeck. Off to the cabin to ready ourselves for the late sitting and meet the new friend who would be joining us for supper each night. After a sumptuous meal that was magnificently presented we venture to one of the many lounges to see the entertainment. Jazz bands, not my cup of tea so off to another lounge to listen to a British comedian, must have been funny all the Brits onboard laughed heartily but I could not understand a word said. Darn English accents, I thought to myself as we sat having a cocktail in the Chartroom ( a beautiful lounge Deck 12 aft) we might not be in for such an enjoyable cruise if this is what the entertainment was going to be for the next 12 days. I checked through all my Sunquest travel brochures and saw nothing about a "themed" cruise. Well to my chagrin the entertainment was definitely "jazz" throughout the trip so a complete waste of time for us. Entertainment value to us was a 4 on a scale of 10, but if you liked jazz it was likely very good.

Early morning arrival in Antigua, St. Johns a lovely town loomed on the horizon, off the ship to do some sight seeing and shopping for a few hours. Later we set sail for the Atlantic crossing 6 days without seeing land.

A bit about the ship for you cruise aficionados. The deluxe inside cabin we had on the Cabaret Deck was adequate with 2 single beds and a walk-in 3 piece bathroom, a little small at first glance but standard and easy to adjust to. The ship was very well kept and clean from top to bottom, we had no problems with the cleanliness aspect of this ship, all public restrooms were immaculately clean.

Lounges were very nicely decorated and spotless to say the least, a couple of the public area needed the carpets restretched as they had some wrinkled spots which could have caused someone to trip very easily. Food was very good and beautifully presented in the Seven Seas dining room, the Lido cafe had a very good selection of breakfast and lunch fares, while there were sub sandwiches available afternoons on the pool deck. Breakfast in the Seven Seas was a choice of a la carte of buffet which was a rather nice feature.

Drinks which ff course are never included in a cruise were the same as you would find in any resort, any kind of concoction was available for a price. The cost of drinks was very expensive by Canadian standards but relatively cheap by British standards according to friends we met from the UK. I personally thought that a rum and coke and a beer at sea with no duties and taxes should have been a lot cheaper than $9.70 Cad when the pound sterling was converted.

Even the duty free shop on board was very expensive when compared to the shops in the islands, an example was a bottle of vodka at 11 pounds sterling which is over $24 Cad, when in the island it may have been around $6 US. A pleasant smooth six day cruise across the Atlantic, getting cooler and cooler each day as we approached the European continent, from the high 80’s to the mid 60’s. According to the Captain each day we had low seas never over 2 meters and winds no higher than 6 on the beaufort scale, but it is cool when you compare cruising at 22 knots (24 mph.) and wind speed of 6 to riding in the back of a pickup truck at 30 mph. A jacket is needed.

Arrival at Madeira, a Portuguese island where the mountains meet the sea, beautifully tiered with garden of banana’s, grapes, tangerines, mangos and almost every conceivable vegetable. Every inch of fertile land was put to use by these people and was beautifully manicured and spotlessly clean wherever you went on the island including the city. An absolutely beautiful floating garden and worth every cent of our 5 hour taxi tour around the island.

Off to sea once again for another day before we would enter the Straits of Gibraltar, looking forward to seeing the "Rock". A bit warmer into the low 70’s but jacket still necessary. It is announced that we will be passing through the straits around 2 am the next day and passing the Rock approximately 4 am. So out of bed after a couple hours of shut eye and on the sundeck. Casablanca appears to the south of us beautifully lit against the night sky and the full moon, so very nice photo opportunities. To the north the shoreline of Spain is dotted with lights along the coast with the mountains silhouetted in the background. Then the "Rock" a magnificent silhouette but not lit up like expected, at least I can say I saw it. On to an early morning docking in Malaga Spain, a beautiful well maintained city where we found absolutely no tourist traps available to buy souvenirs and the like. A caution to travelers this city while very beautiful it is a haven for gypsy pick pockets, not experienced by us but by many aboard the ship.

Off to seas once again and a days sailing towards our final destination Palma Mallorca past the cliffs of the island of Ibiza (spelling?) where we met up with our sister ship the Carousel on a rather cool misty rainy afternoon. Sailed the rest of the night to arrive in Palma in the early morning. Baggage put out the evening before, off loaded onto pier in the morning, picked up and loaded on a coach for a quick 20 minute trip to the airport. Virtually no time to see anything in Mallorca a basic wasted day.

General things about our cruise. A British company owned ship of Bahamian registry, well kept and clean. No upgrades were afforded Canadian passengers that we spoke to while many Brits purchased last minute accommodations for one third of our costs and were given better cabins. Sell offs should be relegated to best available and pre booked passengers moved up based on booking date, still waiting to hear from Sunquest. The cruise was advertised an an informal type cruise, so I had planned for at leas one formal evening with proper attire, only to find out we had three (3) formal evenings, felt a bit out of place without alternate formal attire, washing a dress hirt sink is not my idea of fun. Thank God for wrinkle free wash and wear fabrics. Photographers should take extreme care when taking flash pictures at dinner sittings, as some people as susceptible to retinal flash burns, as I am and this did cause some temporary problems.

Our last day in Palma was a waste and time should have been aforded for some tours and luggage transported to airport, instead of sitting on deck for hours waiting for announcement to disembark and claim luggage and be hurried off to an airport to sit for another 3 plus hours.

Flight home via Skyservice A330 airbus, very smooth, long and uneventful.

On an overall scale of 1 to 10 I would rate the cruise as follows. Ship 8 Staff 9 Food 9 Entertainment 4 Itinerary 7 Shipboard expenses 5

Overall avg 7

Would I recommend this cruise? A very testy question which is difficult to answer, there were many good things but many things that could have been improved upon.

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Sunbird Aruba, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada and more
Review by:    Ian – Caledon, Ontario, Canada   Posted:  November, 2001

Cruise on the MS Sunbird

I went on a Southern Caribbean Cruise last December on the MS Sunbird. Our ports of call were: Aruba, Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, Margarita Island and Curacao. Since I had never been on a cruise before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well all I can say was that I was thoroughly impressed. I’ve always been someone who likes exploring, and a cruise vacation was perfect for experiencing many different cultures, including english, dutch, french and spanish. Here are some of my thoughts of last years trip on the Sunbird.

Food:
The salads, soups and main course were all well put together, and tasted great, but I could have had any of the food offered at any restaurant back home. The desserts though were scrumptous. I have never had chocolate that tasted so good. The service was excellent! Top notch! The waiters are professionals, and really get to know you over the week. You don’t even half to ask for a lot of things. They just know. If you travel on the Sunbird, you will find that the breakfasts and lunches aren’t that special. Just hot dogs, hamburgers, eggs, that are all served buffet style. Not that great.

Accommodation:
Not good! But of course for what I paid, I knew the cabin we received wouldn’t be top notch. The room was the size of a large walk in closet. More importantly though was that the bed was comfortable. I must advise everyone though that you don’t go on a cruise for the cabin. They are never that special unless you pay a premium price.

Activities/Entertainment
The onboard activities during the day weren’t that great, a lot of things to do for people over 65. A lot of card tournaments etc. The nighttime entertainment was good, with excellent dancers and singers. (Note to Canadians though: Since the Sunbird is a british ship, a lot of the entertainment was british, and I didn’t understand a lot of the british jargon during performances. This was really a problem during comedy night. I didn’t understand a word of it.)

-The late night dancing and games were good in the lounges. An excellent disco. A good spot to dance the night away after a long day of exploring the port of call.

Overall cleanliness/Ship Atmosphere
-The Sunbird was a very clean ship. I was very impressed with the crew and how polite they were. The pool area was the life of the ship, and I spent a lot of the time at sea on the pool deck. There were always games and contests going on, and you were never bored. I’ve been on a lot of land vacations, but I found that cruising was by far my most favourite vacation. Although in future, I will probably try a more mainstream cruise line, such as Royal Caribbean or Celebrity. I have a feeling that those cruises would be more upscale than the Sunbird. Thanks for reading everyone!

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Sunbird Barbados to Aruba 7 days – Holiday Inn in Aruba 7 days
Review by:    Margaret   Posted:  August 2001

Four friends from Ontario flew to Aruba from Toronto for a two-week vacation — one week cruising on the Sunbird to six islands in the Caribbean and one week at the Holiday Inn Palm Beach Aruba.

Our first leg of the trip was cruising 24 hours to Barbadoes — having been there before we took an inner island bus trip stopping at the tourist spots.

We then sailed to St. Lucia a very lush and green island. Then on to Marguerita Island with a tour of Porlamar the Capital and also along the way stopped at a little village of beautiful churches. The next day we sailed to Grendada, the spice island. We rented a van and toured the island of hills, waterfalls and beautiful scenery including colourful native dressed women posing for picture-taking. Our last island was Curacao with very colourful buildings with lots of stores for shopping including duty-free. We then sailed back to Aruba Harbour.

We were bussed to the Holiday Inn for our one week stay. The rooms were updated and clean. The food was good and we were all looked after. Lots of entertainment and plenty of sun or shade on the beach as well as around the pool. Busses went into town regularly and there was a casino at the Holiday Inn.

We rented a van for ten and toured the island, which is very barren with lots of cacti and Divi-Divi trees as well as other interesting tourist places to stop.

This trip was a package deal through Garden City Travel and cost us each $3,020.00 Cdn. We all enjoyed the trip very much.

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Last updated: November 4, 2002

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