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KennethEden

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About KennethEden

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  1. Welcome back. Hope to see you posting in the forums.

  2. Welcome back aboard the CruiseCrazies ship!

  3. Title :: 12/10/07 Author :: Kenneth Eden Category :: Queen Mary 2 Information :: As always, for me, as good as it gets, on the ultimate ship Description :: Eastern Caribbean We booked Air Tran on our own. Through Cunard Line we booked transfers from La Guardia to the New York Sheraton and Towers. What a mess. The Town Car driver spoke NO English, the ground reps barely spoke understandable English, and the Town Car had a trunk full of junk, as did the front seat, so, no room for luggage. Finally, after an initial 45 minutes wait, a mini van arrived, barely capable of taking us and five pieces of luggage, with seat belts that would not work. We took it. Cunard had us in the Towers. What a nice surprise. We asked the concierge for two places for dinner for the two nights we stayed in the Sheraton. We walked to Regency China, remeniscent of a 1960's Boston China Town restaurant I ate in as a kid with my parents, and the food was as good as I remembered it from those early days, with excellent service. The second night we ate at Tramonti, where reservations through the concierge are a must. The food and wine were exceptional. We enjoyed breakfast at the Stage Door deli. We opted for our second breakfast at Ellens Stardust Diner, which was lousy. Fresh OJ was not fresh, French toast was awful, coffee harsh, "pure maple syrup" was Mrs. Buttersworths, and the place was not too clean. My meal was comped. We enjoyed some of New Yorks best holiday treats, Rockefeller Plaza, with the big tree and ice rink, and Radio City Music Halls 75th Christmas Show witht the Rockettes. We also took in a matinee of Mel Brooks Young Frankentein, which was just awesome. Transfer to the Queen Mary 2 was easy, and well planned. At 8:00am our luggage was taken from our hotel room, which gave us time to have breakfast, and we were taken by bus to the ship in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We are now Cunard World Diamonds, and we had express boarding. We were also in a suite with Queens Grill dining. Upon entering our suite on Deck 9, our luggage was already in the suite, as was our butler, Ibrahim. I asked him to unpack our bags. We had lunch in the Queens Grill, and the bags wer unpacked and stowed away while we had lunch. Our suite was large and proved to be extremely comfortable, and elegant. Upon entering, to the left was a row of closets, typical of any ships cabin, with a marble topped bar, with glass door cabinets above, stocked with assorted bar and wine glasses, with recessed lights. Under the bar console, behind cabinet doors, was the stocked fridge (water, sodas and beer), extra champagne buckets, wine openers and stoppers, bar linens and more glass ware. We had a form to fill out for our prefered liquor, complimentary, full size bottles. Opposite the bar, a shelf, marble topped, with silk orchids, and a large mirror above. The sitting room section of the main suite was nice, which led to the full length row of windows and door to the large veranda. There was a desk, with flat top LCD tv, wireless key board, X-box, flanked by a fllor to celiling wasll of glass. The bed a true king size, handsomely made up with duvet, shams and bolsters. AN ante room led into the walk in closet area and another desk area, or vanity with mirror area, and hair dryer. The huge bath had a Jaquizzi, and was tiled in travertine marble. Fresh cut flowers, and fruit basket were nice touches. Perrier-Jouet Grand Brute was on ice, one from Cunard, one from Mark, our traveL agent. Canapes and chocolate dipped strawberriwes were brought in by Ibrahim. We went directly to the Canyon Ranch Spa to make our appointments, and were delighterd to learn that Christian was on board, and we made three 80 minute massages each for the cruise. We ended up each having a fourth massage, as as using the salon. Mandril was wonderful in the salon, a good barber, and good stylist, who has been on the Mary since she was fited our, pre-maiden voyage, where he helped to set up the salon for Canyon Ranch. We have sailed many, many times with Cunard. We have had several Queen Elizabth 2 sailings, as well as many Sagafjord and Vistafjord cruises, Cunard Countess, Cunard Adventurerer and Cunard Dynasty cruises, and now, our third cruise on the Mary. This cruise brings us to 70 cruises total, 19 of which have been with Cunard. Our first port was Tortola, and we actually booked an excursion, Cane Garden Beach with lunch. The lunch was awful, the ride to the beach equally as awful, and there was NO time for the beach. With four ships in, there must have easily been 9,000 or more passengers in Tortola, and 7,000 on this beach. What a waste of money, and the day. As more and more resorts ban cruise ship passngers, these second rate places will let them in. One truely excellent day was the excursion booked through Cunard for Sandals Grande St. Lucian Resort, a whole day of bliss and beauty. We were treated as though we were staying at this beautiful resort, and while everything was included, we ate and drank as though we were week long guests. I can not say enough good things about Sandals Grande. St Kitts, we opted to shop, and the shopping was not as good as we have found it to be in the past. We should have gone to the beach. Interestting to note, there were no Christmas decorations here, and a sullen pall permiated the place. The other ports were lively, and decorated for the season. We returned to the ship after a brief run around Bassiterre, not buying anything. We wanted to have lunch at the Boardwalk Cafe on the Mary. When we got up there, we were told we could not have an umbrella at the table, and we would have to dine in the full sun-120 degree, as it was too windy. It was not windy, it was stifling. RCI's Legend of the Sea, docked next to the Mary, had deck tables festooned with umbrellas, but not so on the Mary. Somebody did not want to have to do much work at the Boardwalk, is my guess. We changed for lunch in the Queens Grill . We were invited to a cocktail party just down from our suite, and we held one in our suite as well on another night. Ibrahim set the entire party up, and it was quite lavish. Interestingly we learned that the hors d'oeuvers and canapes were complimentary as catered by Cunard for the party.. Barbados was a waste of time, downtown Bridgetown is trying to make a comeback for shoppers. There is limited shopping at the dock, not anything to write home about, save it for St. Thomas, is my rule. Don't get me wrong, Barbados is one gorgeous island, and there are wonderful shore excursions to take. Just don't count on the shoppin, thats all. In Barbados we docked, and it is quite a sight to see this monsterous ship maneuver into the harbor and tie up at the pier. In with us was the Seabourne Pride. Also docked was the Freewinds, Scientologies cruise ship, the former Commodore Cruise Lines MS Boheme. Other ships o note, in St. Thomas, Carnival Legend, in St Lucia, Ocean Village 2, one of two Ocean Village ships, former Princess ships Regal and Crown Princesses, now part of P&O's Ocean Village adults only ships. Imagine being in St. Thomas with only one other ship in. It was nearly desserted in town. In fact, it was spooky. Here we shopped, not heavily, but enough to satisfy the need. I am glad to point out that Little Switzerland is back and in fine form, offering more of what has made them so famous throughout the years. We also did some shopping on the Queen Mary 2. Our Diamond pins arrived, and we had the third of our formal nights to wear them. Yes, they are gold pins, with a genuine diamond. The first formal night was for for all guests, the second, gold, platinum and diamond gests, the third, THE gala party, hoted by Captain Christopeher Rynd and his senoir officers, held in the G32, strictly for Queen and Princes Grill and Diamond passenegrs. All parties were open bar. The Queen Mary 2 was oppulently decked out for the holidays. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, was celebrated each evening with the lighting of several mennorahs on board, by a Rabbi. For Christmas. there was a myriad of trees and wreaths placed around the ship. The Grand Lobby and the Britania held the largest trees, and all told, for the season, the ship was gorgeous. The Queens Grill, regal with a tree donned in gold shimmering baubles and lights, with a mennorah on the desk. The Queens Grill is special, and the suites that give entry to this world of plenty and privacy, are indeed pricey. Nothing is not granted for meal time, special ordering is encouraged, as well as from the more than ample, grand menu's. Service is beyond compare. We had every meal in the Queens Grill, with the exception of three lunches, one of which was in St. Thomas, the other two on shore excursions. We thoroughly enjoyed one breakfast in our suite. This is what makes the Queens Grill so special. The menu's, as prepared for breakfast, are more extensive, as are the lunch and dinner menus. However, the real reason to book the Queens Grill is for the al la carte menu at dinner. Available each night, this is a brifer description of the al la carte menu. Be assured, all items are sauced and presented properly. COLD APPETIZERS jumbo shrimp cocktail Molossol Russian caviar smoked salmon foie gra Parma ham HOT APPETIZERS fresh made lobster raviolli duck foie gras angel hair pasta with fresh tomato and basil escargots Bourguinonne SOUP & SALAD vine ripened tomato soup Caesar Salad FISH ENTREES White Dover Sole (boned and fileted at table) grilled Scottish salmon GRILLS & ROASTS T-bone steak Angus beef filet New York strip sirloin milk fed veal rib cutlet rack of lamb chateaubriand for 2 whole roast duckling for 2 an ssortment of side dishes, Canyon Ranch Spa dishes and flambed desserts ans wellas a cheese trolley were always available. The wine list was commendable. In fact, our sommelier, Fernando, was a waiter on Royal Viking Line, and we remembered him from our cruises with that fine line. As Diamonds we were treated to a comlimentary lunch at Todd English, the food was superb, the ambiance lovely, the service, just ok. Our waiter wore a dirty white jacket, the serving tray stained with what liiked like spilled coffee. At first, we thought he was our bus boy and, his English was poor as well. The bloody Mary had little or no vodka. The free lunch was actually charged to our ships account. Not the Todd English experience we rememberd from our transatlantic crossing last summer. I hate to rate a ship, 1 to.... or give it a star rating, and so, I will not do that. To say that we love Cunard, and this ship, and have never been turned off by Cunard Line is a true testament as to how contented we are when we sail Cunard Line ships. There is a special magic on a Cunard ship, and the Queen Mary 2 has the magic ten fold. The food, suite, service and the entertainment, especially Apassionatta, were excellent. The spa exquisite. Nothing on the ship was scuffed or in any state of disrepair We love Cunard. We look forward to more Queen Mary cruises, as well as sailing Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth. View Review
  4. KennethEden

    12/10/07

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  6. Title<] :: 3/11/2007 Author<] :: Kenneth Eden Category<] :: Oceania Regatta Information<] :: [*]Tops! Even better than the last Regatta cruise. Description<] :: Southern Caribbean We flew to Ft. Lauderdale and drove to Miami. We stayed at another boutique hotel, the Habana Libra, on Collins Avenue, South Beach. This hotel excuded a real charm as one might expect to find in Old Havana.. We dined at Don Shulas Steak House, a bad copy of Mortons, in fact, not as good as Outback, and way - way over priced. The second night we hit upon Yucca, pronouced Juke-ah, a charming Cuban, haute cuisine place on Lincoln Rd. Dine al fresco, or in, and enjoy the fine food. Both mornings we ate breakfast at Jerrys Deli, formerly Pimpernicks and part of the Wolfie Cohen deli family, and very good. The art deco inside of Jerrys is beautiful. I belong to a maritime historical society and as it turned out I was invited to a private luncheon on the Regatta the day of our cruise. All was wonderful and the ship was as stunning as last cruise. We were led to our stateroom, by French dressed stewardessess, who knew us by name, there is a trick to that, they did not remember us personallay, but it made us feel good. We booked Concierge Level, and will never sail Oceania and not be Concierge Level again. A bottle of Perrier Jouet from Oceania, and a bottle of Mumms Cordon Rouge from Mark, our trusted travel agent, were waiting. Our fridge was stocked with assorted spirits, beer, wines and sodas, a basket held snacks and pasckaged nuts, Evian water was on ice, a floral arrangement, and fruit were placed along the ice buckets. Upgraded toiletries were in the bath. Other concierge amenities were: use of a cashmere lap throws, for use on the large balcony, two costly tote bags, to keep as gifts,, free shoe shines, free DVD library use, and prefered reservations at Toscana and Polo, two visits, in place of the standard one per cabin. We KNEW this would be a wonderful 12 days. The first night we dined at Toscana, on real Maine lobster, cooked in a manner that suited the passenger, or fra diablo, the restaurants trademark, of which I had two lobsters that night. We wenr back for more, and visited with new friends that we made on board. Polo was equally as grand, and the Main Dining Room was wonderful. All told, dining on Regatta is truly what you sail on the ship, and Oceania Cruises, for. Our ports were wonderful, typical Caribbean ports, good shopping here, or a good beach there. We sail for the ship, and suince we have been to the Caribbean a million times, I kid you on thatt, we are rather blasse abouth the islands. We learned and had this confirmed by e-mail when we got home, Oceania is building to btrand new sahips, due our in 2020 and 2011. Now, that is good news, indeed. View Review
  7. Title<] :: 2/26/2006 Author<] :: Kenneth Eden Category<] :: Oceania Regatta Information<] :: [*]First time on Oceania - experience was top-notch. Description<] :: Southern Caribbean We booked this cruise because of the founders/owners of theese cruise lines, Frank Del Rio, from the former Royal Cruise line, and Joseph Waters, from the former Royal Viking Line, both men we admired for their wonderful cruise lines and ships back in the day, who are now the top brass of Oceania Cruises. We flew to Miami via US Air, icked up our rental car and went to our hotel. We stayed at the Best Western Biscayne Bay, far removed from South Beach. It was "under reconstruction" and looked as thow it was permanantly that way. Okay, nothing to write home about. Our friends, Joe and Theresa, arrived late from Vermont, due to heavy snow. While driving around Miami we were shocked at the number of homeless people along the streets and sidewalks. They lined strets, slept under overpasses, holed up in ruined motels and abandoned courtyards. We drove past the monster cruise ships, looking for Terminal J. In at least 40 or so Caribbean Cruises this was only our second time sailing from Miami, as we have always sailied from Ft. Lauderdale, New York, San Juan, Norfolk or Boston . There was an air of shear excitement seeing the newest mega liners all lined up. Way away, isoltaed from the big ships was the Regatta, waiting. After processing at the pier, which took less than 3 minutes, honest, we proceeded to board. Cabin stewardesses, in black French maid dress, with white lace aprons greeted us, secured our carry ons, and escorted us to our staterooms. In brief glimpses of the interiors of the ship as we rushed to our stateroom, the ship looked gorgeous. We booked an outside stateroom with verandah on deck six, our friends an outside on deck 3 without verandah. The two cabins were identical. Most ships built during the past decade share the same ammentities, basically, closets, desk, color tv, modular bath, et cetera. Oceania staterooms decor sets them apart from other contemporary cruise ships. Dark wood veneers, rich damask draperies, plush carpeting, wall prints that are atttractive and rich duvets and bed coverings. The illusion is that of a larger cabin than it actually is. Our sofa could sleep a third pax. The bathroom is small, the shower tight. The soaps and toiletries were of a high quality, towels luxurious. The Tranquility Bedding, highly touted by Oceania, is very nice. Other nice touches were spa robes, comfy slippers, sewing kit, shoe horn, shoe shine cloth, very ample electrical outlets for recharging all of those gadgets we all seem to have these days, hair dryer and excellent cabin lighting. This ship, and its sisters, Insignia and Nautica, are small by todays standards. At 30,000GRTs, they are a far cry from the 80,000 to well over 100,000 tonners sailing today. Once a ship the size of the Regatta was large, consider 25,000 for Sagafjord and Vistafjord, the Royal Viking Line trio, or, Home Lines Oceanic, considered HUGE in the 1970's and 1980's at a whopping 39,000. This was a ships size we have not sailied in a long while, and found that the Regatta filled a void in our cruising pleasure. The real bonus. however, just over 600 passengers, and just over 400 crew. We rushed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. I will only review the Terrace Cafe for lunch this once, as to review it every day would be redundant. The salads, carved roasts, sandwiches, pasta station, pizza and wok stations are much like those found on ships sailing today, however , there are no trays available, so, you select what you want, and a steward takes it to your table. The passengers return to the buffet for each course, or simply asks to have whatever served to them by a steward. This applies to iced tea and so forth, and there is never any pushing, grabbing of food or slamming of trays is the back or knuckles in the buffet line. Very civilized. Table are set with linen placemats and napkins, hotel silver plate utensils, real china and real glasses for drinks. Used plates are cleared rapidly, and no garbage is noted sitting at serving stations. The quality of the food and the preparation made the dining experience stand out from many a ships buffet. The Terrace Cafe also serves breakfast daily. Early risers may start the day in the Horizons, with Continental breakfast, before the Terrace opens. The smoked salmon presentation in the Terrace Cafe, of which there were two, one aport, one starboard, was truly grand, in presentations, size and quality. Eggs Benedict, a treat for me, was made to my order, as were all manner of eggs as well as omelets. There were a variety of melons, fresh fruits and fresh squeezed oragnge juice plus yogurts and pastries each morning. The decor, and atmosphere here is refined. Complaint? Just one, no real maple syrup, although, it was available in the Grand Dining Room at breakfast. Traditioanl pork sausage and bacon, as well as turkey vaireities, were hot, never dried out, and drained correctly, not sitting in inches of cloying grease. Breakfast pototos were cokking on the grill, fresh. Waves is the BBQ spot. Really decent, large, juicy burgers, cooked to order, fat all beef hot dogs, fresh chilli and fresh rolls and buns, crispy cooked to order fries, a fish of the day, crisp fresh salads were offered each day. This is a more help yourself place, more casual and wet bathing suits are ok here. The ice cream cart featured sorets and ice creams, all made on board, and complimentary. Dining is al freso, on linens and on no plastic plates are used here, either. Room service is available, of course, with some fine selections according to the meal and time of day, as well a 24 hour availability menu and full Main Dining Room menu available upon advance ordering, and at no additional charge. A word on the interior decor: plush. Heavy floral brocades, veleveteen draperies, silk sheer curtains, adorn all public rooms decor. Rich dark wood furnishings, and overstuffed chairs and sofas offer supreme comfort. Ceilings, domed and bas relief, draw the eye upward. Gold leaf and heavy crwon moldings line the perimetier of the public spaces. The ship is a testament to the Edwardian era. Many people, I hope, know who the famous French chef, Jaques Peppin, is. He oversees all of the menus for all three Oceania ships. Each dinner in addition to the ships menu offerings, there are Jaques Peppin signature dishes that compliment the dining experience of that provided by Chef de Cuisine on the Regatta, Wolfgang Meier. We knew soon on that Mr. Meier ran a wonderful galley. In 10 dys on the Reagatta, no menus were repeated in the Grand Dining Room. Before reviewing the Polo and Toscana Gills, there is one feature on this ship that was wonderful, I assume, the same was true on two other sister ships, and that was afternoon tea. High a is offered in the Horizons Lounge each afternnon, with the Regatta String Quartet playing light classical pieces, lovely china and linens grace each table, while a tea trolley, laden with eclairs, finger sandwiches, scones and cookies is offered. A full selection of coffees is also available. Polo Grill is a softly lit, clubbish, room with a hunting-plaid theme. Bold checks and dark paneled walls beckon. Single malt scotch is the trademark drink here, and during our sailing the price range was $6.00 to $50.00, with 26 bottles to choose from. The finest aged beef and chops, prepared absolutel;y to perfection, with service to match were savored here. Remember, it is included in your cruise fare. Filet mignon, anyone? Toscana, as the name implies, is Italian, in look, atmosphere and in its fine cuisine. The menu is more extensive than any Italian menu I have seen at sea. The lobster, a Maine lobster, was prepared in the fra diablo style, the lasagna authentic, the steak butter knife soft. Again, all is included in your cruise fare. Passengers in the suites and at concierge level get to dine in these two rooms twice, other passengers only once, during a cruise. We were in the obnly once cabins. Next time we want to book concierge. One dining spot we checked and dismissed was the Tapas on the Terrace, a very casual night dinner venue. We did not care for the menu. Tapas is also included in your cruise fare. No shorts, jeans, or the like are allowed in the Grand Dining Room, Polo or Toscana Grills after 5pm., Tapas is the exception. A tux is never needed, a blazer without tie is the norm at night, and ladies wore country club chic resort wear. There was no captains welcome nor formal nights. There were no ships photographers, and no high line hucking to force a passenger to buy things, and never a solicitation for gratuities. Announcements were few, if any, of note. Other irritants, thankfully missing, included no musack in the elevatiors or passageways, and no old disco music blasting on deck. The ships entertainment was low key, as compared to cruise ships today. An 8 piece orchestra became the Regatta Orchestra when the string quartet joined in. The cast of the Regatta consisted of the cruise director and his assistant, with two hostesses. A wonderful violinist, Hannah Starosta delighted us, Shields, (remember Shields and Yarnell - we had just Shields), the pianist from Martinis, the bar boasting 30 different martinis, and two young Vegas style humorists and dancers. No flashy costumes, and much to my delight, no canned click track lip syncing performances. This may sound corny, BUT this was a lot nicer than the junk presented on many of the ships today, because it was geniune, not forced or phoney. Two ships spots to be noted for their handsomeness -one, assuredly the most handsome library at sea, with a cantelievered ceiling inset with Tiffany style stain glass, a gilded rotunda and faux white marble fireplace. The other spot, the Grand Staircase, which serves a a mini two deck atria, in Belle Epoque style. If one could describe the interior of the Regatta in one word: delicious. We were put off by the ships spa, the Mandara Spa, operated by, of course, who else? Steiner. The staff too eager, on other ships with Steiner, however, a great degree of civility and professionalism prevailed on Regatta, and we enjoyed our three masssages as a result. We igniored the tiny casino. We did drop our money in the ships shops, finding the merchandise to be of good quality. A joy for us to sail with one of our favorite captains, Captain Jahn Rys, a sturdy Norseman, a captain we have sailed with before, on the Sagafjord, Vistafjord, of Cunard/NAC fame. He recently commanded Crystal Cruise ships, before coming to Oceania Cruises. Sailing with him again was real nice. I also met passengers from earlier cruises on the Maasdam, QE2, Princess and Royal Viking Line. Ports are ports, and I am not going into great detail on them, as our first cruise with Oceania is the main point here. It was odd not callng at St Thomas, after 40 or so visits there, we did not miss it. Nobody seemed to, in fact. We called at Virgin Gorda, visited the Baths, La Romana, St. Kitts and Antigua, one of our very favorite and special places. Joe and Theresa were celebrating their 25th anniversary and did well in the jewelry stores here, treating themselves to some nice gifts. And, then St. Barths, which we adore. So, this is my first Oceania Cruises experience. It is not a product for everyone, and does not try to make it self out to be a mass appeal product. It is expensive and low key. I can not wait to book another Oceania cruise. View Review
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  10. Title<] :: June 9, 2007 Author<] :: Kenneth Eden Category<] :: Westerdam Information<] :: [*]Westerdam exceeded our expectations. Cruise and ports some of our favorites. Description<] :: Western Caribbean We elected to try Holland America outside of US waters, having sailed many times on their fine ships in the Caribbean. We have sailed this itinerary on other cruise lines, and we love it. This was our 68th cruise. Arrival at Rome was awful, as was the flight. Hot, humid, smelly and dirty was the arrival area. We felt like we were in San Juan, not Rome. Princess and Royal Caribbean had sailings that day, and porters were very hard to come by. We finally found a young man willing to help, and we claimed our bags. POINT: if you need a luggage cart, you MUST have a 100EU COIN to release it. Nobody, not even the exchange, would make change for anyone. Out we went, to our driver, Luigi. We pack heavily, often paying extra for our bags at the airport. We had Mark, our travel agent, reserve a private car from Leonardo Di Vinci Airport to our hotel in Rome. Upon questioning the car size, we opted for the largest Mercedes SUV, which barely held two, driver and our five huge bags. We often book boutique hotels, and we booked the Hotel Veneto (not to be confused with the Grand Hotel Veneto), at 195EU per night. It was comfortable, had a Italian flair and elan, and close to the things we love most in Rome. We toured via on-off bus for our two days in Rome, visiting Trevi Fountain, Bourghese Villa and Gardens, the Pantheon, Colliseum. We have been dining at Quirino, tucked behind the Trevi for 30 years, and enjoyed it this time as much as the last. We have two more cruises coming up that involve Rome, and we'll stay then as we did this time. Luigi promptly picked us up and we sped along the Auto Strada to Civitevechia, passing vineyards and country side. Soon the "trash can" stacks of the Westerdam were spotted. Our stateroom was not ready, so we went to the Lido for lunch. More on the Lido, later on. There is that famous line from "Forest Gump, " "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get" - I have found that on Holland America Line we know what we will get. First, stateroom not ready. Dining arrangements not as we requested, so, I went to the Vista Dining Room, saw the maitre 'd hotel, Johnny, whom we know and love, and he rapidly changed our seating, deck level and secured a table for 2. Our bed, as usual with Holland America, was not configured to king size. Our steward took care of it without hesitation . I wish, right here, to mention the wonderful cabin stewards on Holland America Line, they outshine most others we have sailed with. We fled, and fast, to the Green House Spa for our massage appointments. We have found on our Holland America cruises that their ships have the finest "coccoon" like bedding - like marshmallows - on their ships. Other claim the same, Holland America delivers. Incidently, our luggage was stowed under the bed for us, without me having to ask. No big surprises in our stateroom. Tub, lots of closet storage, excellent lighting, too few electrical outlets and a large verandah. There is no access to the internet from the cabins, as there is on the Queen Mary 2. Our mini bar was fully stocked with spirits, soda, wine and beer, as well as the pricey bottles of water, which we religiuosly keep ordering for shore trips. We had two bottles of Mumms, one from Mark, the other from Holland America Line, iced and waiting. We sail at a high repeat level on Holland America line, and they are very apprciative. We enjoyed upgraded bath ammenities and small perks, adding to our stateroom comfort. First dinner, and there is only one chance for the perfect first impression, and the Westerdam delivered perfectly. The entire Vista Dining experience, be it breaklfast, lunch or dinner, was straight -on- excellent. Our waiter Johnson, his assistant, Citra, were beyond superb in their service, as was Randy, our wine steward, and table Captain, Edys. Johnny stopped by often to chat. The dining experience was almost surreal. We wandered around Monte Carlo, savoring everything we saw. We took the "blue train", a tractor that pulls surry like carts, and had the grand tour. Docked in the inner harbor was an old friend with a new name, the MS Melody, of MSC Italian Cruises, whom we knew at Home Lines MV Atlantic, a ship we sailed many times and loved dearly. The Melody glistened. We are travelers, not tourists, and are not afraid to try local restaurants, and we dined grandly at Restaurant St Nicholas on escargots, petite pasta with garlic olive oil and pesto, roast duckling and a local Bordeaux, and bread to die for - all for only 59EU's, sans tip. Monte Carlo is one of those wonderous places that make you feel chic and grand and giddy, and itching to return to. On to Livorno. I awoke at 4:30am to the stench of fumes seeping into our stateroom. I put on my robe, and from our verandah saw that we were entering Livornos harbor. Vast oil tank farms, cargo ships of all sizes, loading and unloading, pasenger ferries both old and new, drab and clean darted in and out of the harbor. Cranes climbed into the gray sky. The dawn brightrned, and I saw my first of the beautiful Grimaldi ferries. The Westerdam glided on a pea soup green sea to her berth. The MS Melody was already there. Livorno, gateway to Tuscany, is one drab city. For its spartan self, it is interesting, worth a visit. We found many local shops, for the locals, and a flea market, where we bought dish and tea towels, and table linens, for next to nothingh. The market area is a sight to behold, with buildings housing meats, cheese, produce and all manner of Italian food items, reminding us of Boston s North End, and New Yorks Little Italy, only much larger. We returned to the ship for lunch and the remainder of the day. Here I will review the Lido Buffet for lunch as well as breakfast. It is crowded, messy, sloppy, pushy and garbage from scraped used plates can be smelled. On occcasion a steward may help with your tray, I stress "may". The smoked salmon was wonderful, as was the fresh orange juice, omelets almost OK, the coffee good one time, not the next. Ice tea glasses have gotten way small. The Asian stir fries were disappointing, as were the featured Italian pastas, the pizza, the pits. Saldads all picked over. If the food court at the mall is your thing, you probably will like this. Enough. Prior to my first massage I set out to video the Westerdam in full. Sister to the Zuiderdam, the lay out is the same, the decor is not. This ship is gorgeous, where the Zuiderdam is rather harsh in interior color choices. Compared to the Maasdam, the Masdam has a much more inpressive on board art collection. The Westersdam enjoyed a dry dock, very extensive, in Naples prior to our cruise, to expand the Crows Nest, and what a beautiful result the expansion produced. Leather sofas, ultra suede sofetts, loungers and tables for board games are succesfully integrated with desks, the cyber cafe with coffee and pastries and computers and a branch of the Erasmus Library. Forward, the bar and dance floor offer commanding views out to sea. The room is beyond handsome. The Piano Bar is a sea of graphite and school bus yellow leather, with stainless steel bar surrounding the piano. The Ocean Bar, THE place for pre-dinner libations and snacks, circles the atrium. The shops were expanded and upgraded. Another elegant room for pre and post dinner drinks is the handsome Explorers Lounge, underused on the Statendam Class ships, and fully used on the Westerdam, with the handsome painting of the Dutch Explorers sailing up the Hudson. The Queens Room is a sea royal red velvet. The casino, which we lost interest in years ago on cruises, was not a homely as a Princess Cruises Casino, but certainly not a Edwardian and elegant as the Queen Mary 2's. As I walked through, it had a reek of smoke, traditional to Holland America ships, an oddity I can not understand. At first I did not care for the Vista Lounge decor, gray and white, and found it to be rather austere. I recanted my feelings, and and liked the gray and white leathers, and the huge port and starboard statues placed above the mezzanine level. The Vista Dining Room deserves special mention for its beauty as well as for its outstanding food and service. A grand stairway cuts through the center of the room connecting the upper and lower levels. Both levels offered an intimate feel, despite the rooms massive size.. The upper level ceiling, I assumed, was Murano glass, multi-colored morning glory like muted ceiling fixtres, providing a soft rainbow glow. The chairs are the same over-sized comfy ones found on the Vista Class ships. Polished brass gleamed. We did not dine at the Pinnacle. After six visits on our last 7 Holland America cruises, we again skipped it. The menu has not changed and the food in the main restaurant is so good, the quality the same, we skipped it. Change that menu, and lose the attitude of the Pinnacle staff., thats my stand. We enjoyed our first day at sea cruising the Corsican coastline. We will visit Corsica on our Oceania Regatta cruise in March. Again, the stateroom filled with fumes, even more cloying than at Livorno. Ah, Barcelona. Gulls screeched good morning, flying under a heavily smogged sky. Piles of asphalt, rows of cars waiting for container ships, and major slums glided past as the captain brought the Westwerdam to dock. There were no pretty ferries, and no MS Melody. It has been a while since we last visited Barcelona and we did not miss it. The city has one thing going for it, the Gaudi Cathedral, see it once, and that was enough. In the old city sector, sewers beneath the cobble stoned streets and sidewalks spewed unthinkable liquids onto our shoes. People wax poetic about Barcelona, and I can not imagine why. OOOOOOHHHHH tonight, BBQ onDeck Dinner. No thanks, not for us. One more day at sea, then Tunisia, then Malta, which replaced Palma de Majorca. We love Malta. We thoroughly enjoyed the ships dancers, and Bob Mackee costumes. The staging and sets were as remarkable as the costumes. We had a "diva" on board, a talented lady, a cross between Diana Ross and Mo'nique, who could belt out a song. The rest, eh, not even typical. The ships orchestra was very good. A tour in Tunisia is a must, I would not want to wander around that port. We booked the tour to Carthage, the Roman ruins now surrounded by a nice upper class section of town, many homes with pools and yachts, looked more like Ft. Lauderdale to me, not that that is a bad thing. The highlight was a visit to Sidi Boo Said, a town where all of the buidings are white, with azure blue rococo trim. We shopped here, I would advise against having things shipped home from here, you get the hint, also, watch your credit/debit card statements after you return, you most likely will be double charged from the vendors. Local diningon your own? DON'T. An onyx sea, a perriwinkle sky beckoned the Westerdam entry to Malta. We sailed the long inlet, passing limestone cliffs with limestone homes and offices carved into them, or built on top of them. Valetta, the capital, it almost surreal, or other worldly is its commands its perch atop the small island We docked with the Costa Victoria, a pretty ship. We took our own taxi into Valetta, government regulated rates. We shopped and poked and ate lunch at the Leon Cafe, in the large main square, on hand tossed pizza, salad nicioise and cannelloni. Excellent, only 10.20 Maltese Lira, plus tip. Malta does not accept the Euro, nor US$. Credit cards, yes. Palermo is ancient, and dull. We sailed into the city with dogs barking and awaiting our arrival, happy dogs, who live on the fishiong boats and trawlers. Today we took a trip to Cefalo (Chefaloo), and had lunch at the Duomo, yes, across from the Duomo Cathedral. Cefaloo is a resort, and gorgeous to behold. If you only one thing to eat in Cefaloo, try the gelato, for which the resort is famous.Cefaloo had an amazing effect on us, with its miles of laudry flapping from apartment windows, it shops and ancient atmosphere, and we hated to leave. I did not want to leave Naples, it was so perfectly Italian. Our guide was so very Italian chic, with his white linen suite, pink polo shirt and I'll bet Gucci shoes. He was so proud of his city. We toured everywhere in Naples, and had a stupendous pizza luncheon with local wine and Moretti beer. Our guide was Rossario. In addition to the aforementioned changes to the Westerdam, and the other Vista Class ships, on the aft decks forty new suites have been added. This is by far the one tyhing that bothered me most, actually, its a two for one: passengers refusing to use the hand sanitizer, and making a joke of how dumb it was and filling their own thermos with coffee at the Lido, and, worse, filling used water bottles up at the Lido. One other irk, men that wore jeans at night, ate at the buffet for dinner, and copped nasty attitudes to the elderly passengers in wheel chairs. En ough! My favorite port: Naples, so very Italian, home to Sophia Loren, the very o solo mio pure Italian chic. Speaking of Chic, why Monte Carlo. Unique? Tunisia, with its North African flair - imagine, an Arab nation with a mosque, synagogue and catholic church side by side. We ventured back to Rome, stayed at our nice Veneto, and went back to our favorite trattorias, including Quirino. Where are we off to next? Queen Mary 2 in September, Queen Maay 2 in December, the Reagtta for 21 days in March, the Rgatta for 16 days in June and the Nautica for 24 days in 2009. View Review
  11. KennethEden

    June 9, 2007

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  12. Click here to view the cruise review
  13. Title<] :: 9/28/07 Author<] :: Kenneth Eden Category<] :: Queen Mary 2 Information<] :: [*]Ideal ship for us. We take 3-4 cruises per year, and make way for the Queeen Mary 2. Spectacular ship. Description<] :: Canada/New England This was our 69th cruise, and we booked it for our anniversary. We flew to Laguardia via Air Tran, which we upgraded to business class. The airline is one of our favorites. Upon arrival in New York we were met by Cunard reps, and after a bad series of transfer problems, not any fault of Cunard Line, we arrived at the New York Sheraton and Towers, an old haunt we have stayed at many times before. We booked the Queen Mary 2, Sheraton and transfers with Cunard Line. Longing for pizza, the real deal, a NY pizzza, the concierge recommended Johns, a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Johns was set up into an old church in the 1980's, and the pizza was very good . Other meals enjoyed in New York were at the Carnegie Deli, still very good, Stage Deli, also very good, and a nice 24/7 bistro across from the Sheraton, Maisson. Our splurge was Le Bernadin, with dinner costing over $400.00, and worth every penny. We had little time for shopping. We attended a performance of the musical "Wicked" at the Gershwin, superb, better than the book, and we took in a Live with Regis and Kelly, with guests that day Tony Bennett, Diane Sawyer and Jennifer Garner. All told, a lot of fun. I love New York, and never tire of it. We had to have our bags ready for transfer to the Mary by 6:30 am, in our hotel room. An annoymous bell hop entered our room in the we hours and took the bags while we slept. We were transfered to Brooklyn and the Mary loomed ahead. What a sight. As Cunard World Platinum members, we had priority boarding. We boarded in minutes of our arrival, sped to our stateroom on Deck 12, to find our bags already in the stateroom, our steward waiting for us. We booked in Cunards new Britannia Club level, which basically heightens the dining experience, not much else. We had two bottles of Pol Acker blanc de blanc iced from Cunard, and a lovely Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut from our travel agent, Mark. Our bath was smaller than our last stateroom on the Mary, our balcony was larger. During the enitire cruise we could not accesss the internet or e-mail from our tv in cabin, via wireless keyboard. That was no big deal. In addition to the bubbly, our fridge was stocked with various wines, bubbly, beer and sodas. We ran to the Kings Court, the lido-buffet style restaurant on the Mary for lunch. Last time sailing we hated the Kings Court as it is pushy, noisy and not to our liking. It is still noisy and pshy, with passengers clawing through the food and slopping iced tea. We learned we, as Britannia Club passengers, could have had lunch in the Britannia Club. Who knew? This was our only visit during the cruise. Britannia Club is a small intimate section of the Britannia Restaurant, the main dining venue, which is quite private. It presumably provides a dining experience similar to the Columbia, later renamed Coronia, restaurants that were popular on the Queen Elizabeth 2, which we enjoyed, back in the day. Last year we sailed the Mary to Hamburg from New York. The Britannia Club did not exist, and we had booked for the Britannia, and we found the entire experience then to be excellent. This time we found the Britannia Club to be truly exceptional. The menu is the same superb one offered to Britannia guests, with an al la carte menu for the club passengers. The al la carte menu offered fresh sliced Scottish smoked salmon, escargots, French onion soup gratineed, freshly prepared Cesar salad, NY strip sirloin, veal chops, rack of lamb, planked salmon, free range chicken and special desserts. The al la carte menu was the same each night. We were also able to special order a few things, something rarely encouraged on todays ships. We woke to find us in Newport RI. We are died in the wool New Englanders, and we took this cruise to get our fill on New England. We had to have deep fried clams with the bellies in tact, and lobster rolls for lunch. We found "Benjamins Poor Richards" to our liking and the lunch was excellent, clam chowder, made from scratch, not from base, and the best sweet potato fries accented a fine lunch. The clams and lobster wonderful as well. We lived in Boston, and North of Boston for many years, and have missed "our city" greatly. We made a reservation on line before the cruise ,at "Anthonys Pier 4", a real Boston seafood restaurant, sitting along side Bostons magnificent harbor. Waiters from way back are still there! We enjoyed outrageously large lobsters, and stuffed clams, and, the best Bloddy Marys ever. It was as if we never left Boston, being welcomed back to Anthonys. The lunch for two $150.00. Bar Harbor was nice, there is nothing like Down Maine, as is the reference for coastal Maine. We booked only one tour during the cruise, and it was in Bar Harbor. We toured Mount Deset Island and Acadia Park, with a nice New England Lobster Bake . Our guide, Richard, had the down east accent, and New England sense of humer we don't find in Virginia. The only disappointment during the cruise was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax seemed seedy and dumpy. We stayed a week awhile back touring Nova Scotia and loved it. We just did care for Halifax. We book three massages during a 9-11 day cruise, and the first ones were on our first sea day between Halifax and Quebec City. Upon booking we learned that Chrisian was onboard, the masseur we booked with before on the Mary, and we were delighted to find that Arturo, the spa attendent, was still there. Our spa visits were wonderful as a result. The spa and treatments are provided by the famed Canyon Ranch, and the experience is many levels above the Steiner concept of spas at sea, which is to say, very professional. At night the Queen Mary 2 is very elegant, as one would expect. We had 4 fornal nights during our 9 day cruise. Approximately 98% of the male passengers donned a tux or dinner jacket, and the ladies looked like Linda Evans or Joan Collins from, Dynasty. The famous Ascot and Black and White Balls, Cunard traditions were held, as well as the Captiains Grand Ball and a Masquerade Ball, with pasengers wearing masks. We were invited to four very elelgant parties hosted by the Commodore, or his senior oficers. Two were truly spectacular, with unending open bar and top notch hors 'oeuvres. Our final destination, Quebec City. What a lovely, charming city. A silver mist enshrouded the skyline as the mighty Mary glided to her dock with the dominence of the Chateau Frontenac hovering on its cliff above. The first tinge of Autumn color had kissed the trees, and a cerulian bliue sky was revealed as the sun burned off the mist. Ahead, the Crystal Symphony seemed dwarfed by the Mary, sharing the pier with us. We found assistance, in English, at the toruist desk ashore, and set off on foot to explore this place of beauty in North America, with European charm, and French accent. We are weak when it comes to art galleries, and we found one we could not resist. The painting arrived a week later via UPS at our home. We noticed many shops featured made in Canada merchandise, and I must say, the items were of excellent quality. We did some Christmas shopping, notably, for our grandson. We had more sea time as we sailed back to New York. It is always nice to find old friends among the staff and crew on a ship that we knew from other cruises. Our sommelier, Francisco, we knew from previous cruises on Royal Viking Line, when he was a bar steward. We made excellent aquaintences with our cheif dining steward Jacob, our bus boy Jason and their assistant, Venedra, as well as head waiter, David. Were thjere any disapointments during this cruise? There always are, not the ship, or cruise line. First, our cabin steward did not tell us about the lunch, we wound up at Kings Court, he did not tell us about the pillow conceierge the Britannia Club passngers could enjoy and he never took care of the internet problems, not to mention, most days our stateroom was still unmade at 3:00pm. His station was a mere 8 cabins. Soap and bath accesories had to be requested frequently. On the last day, the luggage was not removed from under the bed prior to packing. There was one awful omelet at breakfast. That was about it. On our last night at sea, we remembered our anniversary, and enjoyed ice-cold Stoli with caviar at Veuve Cliquot, the decadently chic champange bar, to celebrate, and share our thoughts about the wonderful cruise and the most magnificent passenger liner ever built. Later, we returned for some good drink, served by Felix and Filip at our favorite lounge, the Chart Room. We had heard some scuttle-but during our cruise, about a new liner. Rumors at sea are often confusing, reality questionble and often unreliable. Well, two days after our cruise we received an e-mail from Cunard Line, Ltd. announcing the construction of the brand new Queen Elizabeth, sans suffix, to replace the QE2! At 92,000GRS, costing $800,000.00, and ready in late 2010. With the Queen Victoria, the Queen Mary2 and the new Queen Elizabeth, long live the Queens and Cunard. View Review
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