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Copyright © 2004-Jeffrey R. Stern

All Rights Reserved

I have often said that, of all the cruises that I have been on, I have enjoyed each and every one, some, OBVIOUSLY, more than others. I have never come off a cruise feeling that I had received anything less than more than my money’s worth.

The thing to remember is that all of the elements that make up the ‘cruise experience’ are subject to personal taste. Food, entertainment, service, activities, and such, are all subjective. So, the comments that follow are based on my personal taste…

Additionally, some of my observations go back a decade. Things change so rapidly, in cruising, that a year can make a big difference; and a decade can be a lifetime..

I’ve been on many cruises where I’ve overheard a particular comment about the food, or service, or décor, and looked at my companions, or tablemates, in amazement. More than once, my tablemates and I were leaving the dining room, so stuffed that breathing came in short bursts; clothes bursting; giant, satisfied, smiles on our faces; only to hear someone saying, “That was the worst food I’ve ever had in my life…..†Familiar? Or, vice-versa…

To prove a point, I’ve only been on Royal Caribbean four times. Nordic Empress was one of my most favorite cruises, while the Sovereign of the Seas (I gave her two chances…) was one of my least favorites. Same line, two cruises….

Similarly, Carnival’s Mardi Gras was, in all probability, the least favorite of all of my cruises. Yet, I have sailed on Carnival a number of times, since the Mardi Gras, including several a recent cruises on the Triumph, Victory and Fascination, which ranked among my most favorite! Opposite reactions on the same line.

Several other lines, such as Costa and Holland America, provided a very nice cruise experience. I have sailed on each line once, had a very nice time, but found that they didn’t offer as much of what I was looking for as much as other lines. However, I have a very good friend who swears by, and will only sail on, HAL. When she talks to me about her cruises, I can’t believe we’re talking about the same line. Did I hit one “bad†sailing? Perhaps.

I, personally, was not overly impressed with the food, on Costa. Too much pasta, not enough variety.

My cruise aboard the Costa Allegra did, however, provide me with something unique, and very different; my first, and only, experience with Toga Night!

One day, after lunch, I returned to the cabin and found two, neatly-folded, crisp, white sheets on the dresser; next to them, a sheet of paper, with instructions as to how to fold, and wear them, as togas; and a few safety pins.

The daily program listed the evening's suggested dress as, "Toga or Casual."

Right! This was a new ship, only three weeks in service, and was sailing the Southern Caribbean. It had a slightly "upscale crowd," and these people were going to prance around in sheets, all night!

Part of me really wanted to do the "toga thing," but I didn't want to look like a complete fool. After all, I am, always have been, and hope to remain, a partial fool for the rest of my life. I was really torn, but, finally, common sense won out, and I wore a nice sport shirt, and Dockers. I was a little surprised, as I walked towards the dining room, at how many people were actually wearing togas! However, my surprise turned to shock, and, I must admit, a little embarassment, when we entered the dining room and saw that 98% of the passengers, and all of the crew members, resembled the Roman Senate, while a very few of us stood out like sore thumbs....

Just as the Toga Nights are disappearing, and, for the most part, are gone, another old favorite (???) is Masquerade Night. Oh, the lengths that some passengers went to to win a bottle of mediocre champagne, or two t-shirts!

Once, aboard the Zenith, we decided that it might be fun to participate. After all, following the toga thing, I didn’t want to be a party pooper.

Masquerade Night was on Thursday. In Wednesday’s daily program, there was an announcement that “supplies†would be available, in the library, that afternoon, for anyone who hadn’t brought a costume aboard and needed to come up with something.

My companion and I dutifully went to the library, and found one small carton, with very little of anything in it… We decided we’d just have to skip the dress-up.

To put this story into its correct context, I have to let you know that this was in 1994. The importance of that will soon become evident.

Well, Thursday came, and I had just about forgotten the masquerade thing. That is, until late in the afternoon. I decided to have a hot dog, to hold me over until dinner. As I waited for my snack, I had a brainstorm.

Now, you have to remember that this was late in the afternoon; a day at sea; and, after several frozen thingees.

I asked for, and got, an uncooked hot dog, which I, promptly, took back to the cabin and placed into the ice bucket. I went to the desk, and got hold of two blank pin-on name tags. That evening, at dinner, I snuck a knife into my pocket. All was ready.

That night, at the Masquerade Party, my companion and I proudly marched across the stage; me in a slightly crouched position, and she carrying the hot dog in one hand, and the knife in the other!

There were several people who had come very well prepared for this event. One passenger was dressed in a full clown suit, make-up and all; another was dressed as a fairy, complete with wand and wings. These fellow passengers were very well prepared for the party!

However, the Cruise Director, who was hosting the event, and the audience, all chose us for first place. The CD explained to the others, who were visibly upset, that the daily program did state that the contest would be judged, for the most part, on, “originality and humor…â€Â

If you doubt the veracity of this story, I’ll be more than happy to show you my, “I’m A Celebrity – Celebrity Cruise Line,†t-shirts. Sorry, but I drank the champagne a long time ago and can’t share it with you. First prize!

Sometimes, almost everything is near-perfect, on a cruise, and, sometimes, you feel like you’re sailing on the s/s Murphy’s Law….

While reflecting about this bit of nostalgia, I remembered little, random, stories that highlight the best, and worst, we’ve encountered. They don’t really fit anywhere else…

I’ve already filled you with Britanis stories, but, having sailed on her a dozen times, I have had the most experiences on her…

Being that she was 60 years old, you had to expect that things would not always run as smoothly as they do on a newer ship. Maybe, that was a part of her enchantment; the mystery of not knowing what would go wrong next…

On one voyage, I had barely left Miami, when it seemed that the ship was beginning to get a bit on the warm side. Not a good sign, in an enclosed area, where the windows don’t open.

Soon, the Captain came over the loud speakers. He announced that there was a “problem†with the air conditioners. It could not be repaired until we reached a port, either Nassau, the next morning, as scheduled, or returning to Miami, and canceling the cruise. He had made the decision to continue on, so as not to ruin our cruise.

In the meantime, the air conditioning was in “zones,†and a portion was operating correctly. The engineering crew was redirecting the cold air to the cabins, in order that we could have a nice cool place to sleep. The public rooms would be a little uncomfortable, but all of the bars would remain open, and the drinks free.

Most of us greeted the news with cheers! Our cruise wouldn’t be cancelled, the cabin would be nice and cool (for sleeping, or whatever…) and the drinks free! After all, what more could they/we do?

There were a few passengers, on the other hand, who grumbled and fussed. One, in particular, was a real pain…. “You think they’d carry spare parts….why can’t they take better care of this tub?….bet an American engineer could fix it……†We all had just about enough, including me. Finally, with a big smile on my face, I said, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you just run down to Home Depot, get the busted part, give it to the Chief Engineer and have him fix the A.C.?â€Â

I made a bunch of new friends, that night, and one enemy. Not a bad average!

In 1994, I sailed on the Seaward, with another couple. Although we were friends, we didn’t know each other all that well.

He was a real “health nut;†gym every day; watch what you eat, all that stuff… At breakfast, he’d have fresh fruit, some sort of healthy cereal, and herbal tea. Meanwhile, Jacki and I were busy wolfing down all the “wrong†things. I was almost starting to feel guilty.

After breakfast, he excused himself, and went off to the gym.

I had left something back at the table, so I returned to the breakfast buffet……..where I saw Mr. Universe filling a plate with bacon, eggs, home fries, and, well, just imagine it.

I was on the Fantasy in 1992. I spent a week marveling at how gigantic she was. Until then, the largest ship I had been on was the Holiday, at less than two-thirds the Fantasy’s size. Most of the ships I had been on had been considerably smaller than the Holiday, which was, then, considered a “Mega-ship.â€Â

The Fantasy was mind-boggling. The atrium took your breath away. Neon, chrome, glass elevators going up-and-down a multi-level arcade!

One surprise after another. This ship was absolutely amazing! Knowing better, I thought that this was about as big as a ship should be….

It was less than seven years later that I sailed on the Triumph, and had the same feelings I had when we cruised on the Fantasy. Amazed by her size, décor, and all the innovations. But, mostly, by her size.

However, the strange part came less than seven months later, when I was on the Imagination. Although it was the same size as the Fantasy, and Sensation, both of which had impressed us with their size, I found myself walking around the Imagination, saying, “This ship feels so small….â€Â

NCL has fallen out of favor, with me lately. Yet, my first, or second, favorite cruise was on the Norwegian Crown, in 1996. The fact that everything, the food, service, entertainment, everything, was excellent, the Cruise Director, and her staff, were fantastic.

NCL’s upscale, but defunct, Royal Cruise Line, where she sailed as the Crown Odyssey, a luxury ship. But, the real charm of the cruise was Shannon. The ship was “small,†and held about 1,000 passengers. Shannon, and her staff, made it a point to mingle with the passengers, and make small talk. Around the pool at sail-away; visiting the lounges; walking the passageways; there they were.

By the third day of the cruise, Shannon knew the first name of 80% of the passengers, and where most of them came from. Imagine participating in a pool game, or trivia, or, whatever, and, at the end, the Cruise Director, not asking you name, but saying, “And, this is Jeff, from Miami…â€Â

The ship, itself, was perfectly designed, and the food & service were excellent. This was, as I said, one of our most favorite cruises.

One line of questions I am often asked, by people who know I have been on a number of cruises, is “Which is the best cruise line?†“What’s the best ship?†“Which cruise was your favorite?†and so forth.

The truth is, I don’t have an honest answer to these questions; no single cruise, or ship, was the best. In fact, my favorite cruise, with a few exceptions, is my most recent! A few do stand out as least favorites, while others, clearly, were truly memorable.

There is a difference, in my mind, between my favorite ships, and favorite cruises…

My favorite ship was, as is very obvious, the Britanis. I always had a warm feeling, when aboard her, and mourn for her, still. However, she had many shortcomings, which I must admit to, and, while I loved sailing on her, and have many fond memories, my favorite cruises have been on other, newer, ships.

To get them out of the way, there were a number of cruises which delivered less than I had anticipated. These were chalked up to experience… I wonder if I would have become so enamored with cruising, had any of these been my first cruise.

The Mardi Gras was old, and tired, when I sailed her. The food was mediocre, at best, and the service a bit on the sloppy side. However, the entertainment was top notch, and the Cruise Director, & Staff, excellent. It was a very decent experience, and we had a good time.

The Costa Allegra was another not-so-hot. The ship had been stretched, a little too long an narrow, and we spent the week rolling.

One final ship that was not among my favorite’s was Premier’s Starship Majestic. If Starship conjures up some modern, futuristic, space transport vehicle, like the Enterprise, forget it! This Starship was beat up, battered and worn. She was, apparently, something in her day; but, her day had come, and gone. The food, service and entertainment were fair… And Premier went out of business, why?

That’s about it, for the poor experiences. Three out of fifty (actually 56, now) amounts to 6%. Not bad!

In addition to the Norwegian Crown, which I’ve already described as a favorite, and the Holiday, as our first cruise, there are a number of others which stand out in my mind as special.

The Zenith was my first Celebrity Cruise, and was excellent, in every way. I sailed her in 1994, and, then, tried a number of other lines. I, somehow, forgot how much pleasure I had aboard the Zenith, as I tried, and enjoyed, other lines. However, I did, eventually, come back to Celebrity and a recent cruise aboard the Century was more than I could have anticipated!

I had an excellent time aboard the Norway, in 1997, and several other NCL ships from 1994 to 1999. They were interspersed with several other, but, at that time, NCL became a favorite line. NCL began to change, for the worse, prior to the acquisition by Star Cruise Lines; then, it began to deteriorate a lot faster… Previously, I had, also, enjoyed the Seaward, before stretching, and the Leeward, and sailed on both, twice.

In 1999, I sailed on the Triumph. It was an eye-opening experience. Carnival had improved the quality of their food, vastly, and everything was good to very good! I’ve already discussed the Triumph, but had to include it with my favorites.

When I sailed on the Grand Princess, in October, 2001, I came back with the feeling that this had been my best cruise. The food was excellent, the entertainment fabulous, the ship magnificent, etc; etc; etc;

The feeling didn’t last long, because I sailed on the Horizon, two months later. This, immediately, became a favorite. The food and service were fantastic! I cannot say enough about the catering. The entertainment rivaled Carnival and NCL. The ship was an older design, and a little out of date, but well maintained, and in excellent shape.

No surprise, a few months later, I booked the Century. I cannot say enough about this, my fiftieth cruise! It fulfilled, and exceeded, of my expectations in every single way.



(If you missed any of the preceding chapters, and wish to “catch up,†you can click on the links below….)

Part 1 – Introduction;


Part 2 – Onto The Ship; Out To Sea


Part 3 – First, there’s The Food


Part 4 – Shooting The Dice


Part 5 – Places To Visit; People To See


Part 6 – Catching Cruise Fever


Part 7 – A Love Affair at Sea


Part 8 – Apollo Wasn’t Just A Greek God


Part 9 – Bon Voyage To A Real Lady


Part 10 – Olympus, To Caribe I, To rgale Empress


Part 11 – Dirty Dancing At Sea


Part 12 – Dirty Dancing At Sea


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Hi DaCruzNut,

Part 13 of ASOM is one of your funniest entries.

It reminded me of a woman exiting the dining room stating "This food is so good, I have to be careful. I'm running out of expandable pants."

You're also enticing me to try other cruise lines besides Carnival.

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One of my other favorites is the story of the two women, leaving the dining room, with nothing but complaints...

"That food was terrible! It either had no taste, or tasted bad! I'm so disappointed," said the first.

"I agree," replied the second, "and, the portions were so small, also..."

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