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A very short review of our Horizon cruise. We choose this ship and cruise because it was only one of two that offered a greater than 7 day cruise for New Years. Actually the cruise chose us. It was a shorter drive to Tampa then to Ft Lauderdale.
Was it a bad cruise? No, there is no bad cruises. Even the Titanic was probably a good cruise up to the moment it sunk. Was it a great cruise? Probably not except that it allowed Rita and I a temporary escape from all the rigors of life. This was the first time I have been away from my daughters and grand-kids for two weeks. That was the hardest part, what if they needed dad/grandad and stepmom/grandma for something? Well, they got along just fine! I am just a natural born worrywart!
We had a great time on maybe a not so great ship--in our opinion only. Having cruised on five HAL ships with approximately the same passenger count, we just didn't like the arrangement of things. No aft outdoor pool, no "real" hot tubs, and no Ocean Bar. The lounge chairs on the lower level where reserved for life. We just do not get up early enough, nor care to. The only times we had a wake-up call was in PR to present ourselves for a mandatory US Immigration inspection and for disembarkation on the last day. The PR inspection was a fiasco as the officer did not show up when scheduled. A lot of excursions had to be canceled for lack of enough time. According to some of the Horizon staff this happened all the time. Our schedule the rest of our days was to sleep late and stay up late! We danced at the Zodiac most evenings and then made our donations to the casino before retiring, usually around 2:00 a.m.
We were late diners and had a table for eight against the wall in one of the "wings." The ladies complained about being cold because the return air was over our table. No one seemed to know what to do until the final 3 evenings when they took our suggestions and arranged another table. We had great table mates and enjoyed the conversation all eleven nights on board. They were the highlight of our cruise. We could not have asked for better. A couple from Florida who live not to far from our timeshare. We plan on meeting them for diner one night in May. Another couple from Colorado, who we will try to get together with on their next trip to St. Louis. We also shared our table with a mum and her daughter from England. They all seemed like family! We miss them!
Now for the food--in our opinion it was all very good. We especially liked the variety for the lunch buffet in the Coral Seas Cafe. We only made the full breakfast buffet once and it had a good variety, as well. We like the idea of the light breakfast buffet which went until noon. That's the one we made. It filled our needs. We never had lunch in the dining room, however, we did have breakfast in the dining room on our two early days. The service and food for our late dining in the Starlight Restaurant was very good. Our Waiter was somewhat of an amateur magician and he entertained us all nights. The assistant waiter was vert attentive and knew after the first night who wanted tea or extra breadsticks, etc. He always had a big smile on his face. They worked very well as a team and served us well.
Our cabin--very nice, although we did miss having a couch. Plenty storage space was available for all our stuff. This was the first time we were this high up, on the ninth deck. Very convenient, one deck down to the casino, probably to convenient. Two decks down to the Martini Bar and to the Starlight for diner and two decks up to the Coral Seas. We had an obstructed view cabin. A lifeboat blocked some of our view but not all of it. I think we will look for this type cabin on future cruises. It was better then our usual steerage cabins. Our cabin steward did a good job and quickly learned our schedule. We tipped him a little extra because of our schedule. He was from India and had a very beaming personality.
Entertainment--fair at the best. The Broadway type shows were old hat. The juggler/comedian was a legend in his own mind. The piano entertainer was just not our cup of tea. The international vocalist, Jack Walter, was in one word--outstanding. We did not catch his performance, however his rendition of Auld Lang Syne at midnight Jan 1, 2004 was the best we have ever heard! I had on my battery operated flashing lights bow tie and Rita had on her flashing light necklace for the New Year celebration at the outdoor bandstand. The comedian, Beni Mason was very good. We especially liked his joke about the 90 year old Jewish widower who's family sent him a lady of the night for his birthday. When he answered the door he asked her what she wanted and she said she was there to give him super sex. He thought for a moment and said he would take soup.
Lounges--some good some not so good. The Martini Bar was good for a pre-diner drink. The two servers had outgoing personalities and gave the place life. Watching them shakin' and a dancin' with the Martini shakers was a favorite of Rita. The specially Martinis at $7.95 plus 15% gratuity was a little excessive, however. Also, the seating was very limited and the bar very small. The Rendez-Vous Lounge was located next to the Starlight and got very crowded just before diner. Why do people deem it necessary to stand in line for diner 15 to 20 minute before the doors are opened? Is there some kind of honor in getting in first? We attempted to do our pre-diner dancing there, however, it was just to crowded. Rita got stepped on one night by a couple who thought they could do ballroom dancing on a barroom dance floor. Not enough room. Use your head people! She had a bruise on her leg and a run in her hose. I told the male that in my younger days I would have punched his lights out for being so stupid. A few days later we had breakfast with them and his mother. The couple that played the music was pretty good and would have been better served if they had been in the Zodiac away from the dining room. The dance floor there was larger and it had plenty of seating. Michael's Club--Very neat looking place that was mostly very empty, at least when we stopped by. It was once used as a cigar bar. Cova di Milano Wine Bar--Seemed like a waste of good space. Had a piano player want to be? America's Cup--Had NFL and college bowl games. Zodiac Club--was our favorite, however, just not enough live entertainment. The party band Exodus was very good, but they just did not play enough--in our opinion.
Ports, Nassau--went to the straw market and Senior Frogs. San Juan--should be skipped until immigration gets it's act together. That would have saved us some money that we lost at the Hotel casino. St. Thomas--did not dock at Havensight so we did not get off ship. Stayed on and got lounge chairs at the pool! We do like St. Thomas but just decided we would wait for St. Maarten to shop for two of our grand daughters upcoming 13th birthday. St. Maarten--our favorite port. We found silver necklaces and bracelets for our grand daughters. Tortola--New port for us, not much to offer. Key West--shopped and had a beer and margarita at Sloppy Joe's. Met a 100 year old gentleman and his nurse from our ship. She told us another gentleman turned 100 on the ship. How amazing is that--two 100 year old men on our cruise!
Other observations--Photos, not good. We both wear glasses and the photographers did not know how to deal with them. All our photos had glare. Also, they set up in the most crowded part of the ship in the before mentioned Rendez-Vous Lounge. The photo prices were outrageous, especially considering the quality. Palladium Show Lounge was very well set up and all the seats unobstructed. They also showed full feature movies during the day and, of course, bingo. We skipped both. Our afternoons were spent on the top deck having umbrella drinks and sunning. Service--Very good in all areas. Bar service was probably to good. Also, I had a very nice birthday aboard ship. Rita made it special when she made the finals of the slot tournament and won me a high rollers shirts. It is probably the most expensive shirt I've ever owned! She also won the hula hoop contest the next evening at the Zodiac 50s & 60s rock and roll dance. Embarkation and disembarkation--typical to other lines, maybe a little slower on embarkation.
Pre and post cruise--We drove to Tampa, leaving on Saturday morning, 12/27/03. Our intentions was to make Lake City, FL by 6:00 PM. We ran into bumper to bumper traffic from Atlanta on. Did not arrive until 9:00. There was many accidents. The next day the traffic remained heavy until we hit 275 to Tampa. We stayed at the Hilton Westshore by the airport for $130.00 per night. It included free parking for the length of our cruise. That saved us $110.00 for pier parking. It cost us $5.00 each for transfer to and from ship, so adding $5.00 each way for tips, we figured the stay only cost us $80.00. Not bad and Rita was happy to shop at the big mall near by. Our shuttle was waiting for us upon disembarking ship. We give the Hotel an A+++ We arrived back to the Hilton about 10:30 am on 1/9/04 and made it to Dalton, GA by 8:00 PM and to 27 degrees the next day. We made it home by 3:30 PM on the 10th. End of story, which now does not seem so short!
Would we chose to cruise on this ship again--no, unless it choose us again? Of course, we have yet to repeat on any ship. Just too many out there.