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Luxury CruisingIs it a state of mind?
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I went with my family on Variety Cruises' Classical Greece over Memorial Day in 2008. The weather was gorgeous and the itinerary fantastic. The boat accomodated 50 guests so we got to know fellow travellers, the cruise director and the crew. I loved how initimate this trip was. We chose this because of the itinerary: we wanted to see more than Mykonos and Santorini, and this ship docked at many of the smaller islands and ports.
We also chose this trip because the boats were nice. I had gone sailing on a gulet in Turkey (an awesome experience) but I knew my parents would need something more refined. We did Classical Greece on the Pegasus, which is a big catamaran. The interior was really nice - the common areas were bright and open and looked like a yacht interior. Our cabins were nice as well. When choosing a cabin, avoid being near the engine room.
The Pegasus is small, and there is no gym or evening entertainment. The ship does have TVs with cable and a library. There is one seating for meals. The dining room has large round tables, and you choose where you sit and with whom. The point of the trip is to dock often (we visited an island each day), relax and get to know people.
Definitely consider this company and its boats. We had such a wonderful time.
Variety Cruises / Variety Voyager - more like a pleasure boat than a luxury ship
We travelled on the Variety Voyager on the 15th of September 2012 from Salerno, around Sicily and Malta.
I am afraid that it was far from a 5 star experience as the marketing material suggests. In short, the level of service by the staff on the ship is astonishingly poor and whoever is responsible for managing the ship should be replaced.
We particularly noted the following:
· Nearly everyone had a story to tell about how difficult it had been to get into the port and many guests appeared to have been given different arrival times by yourselves. We were told we could board at 2.00 but in fact we could not board until 3.00 and were left waiting in the dock with no facilities and no explanation for the delay.
· Having expected to be able to board at 2.00 we also expected to be able to get some food on board not having had any lunch. However, no food was apparently on offer until the evening. However, one family seemed to have been able to obtain some food and when I enquired of the staff why they were able to get something to eat and we were not, I was told that they were on a special package which included lunch and that the kitchen did not have any time to prepare us even a sand which even though I explained that for medical reasons I had to maintain my sugar levels within certain parameters. When I later spoke to the family to ask them what package they were on to be able to get some food they laughed and said they were not on any special package. It appears that they were able to shout loud enough to get some level of service and I was frankly lied to by the staff.
· The bathroom was not clean on arrival, had hair left from the previous occupant and the shower cubicle leaked badly over the floor every time it was used.
· There are no drink tariffs or menus available to tempt you into ordering any drinks. Indeed, the staff make it as difficult for you as possible to order. Frequently, the bars are left unattended and you have to hunt down staff to try and get a drink. Even at 6.30 p.m. on one evening when we fancied a drink watching the sun go down the only member of staff I could find in the public areas was the captain. I saw one guest helping themselves because they were so frustrated by the lack of service.
· Most of the staff speak very poor English which does not assist in providing any decent level of service.
· Almost all of the staff do not smile or are trained at any level of proper 5 star service and generally go around the ship looking as if they hate their jobs.
· One member of staff was enjoying a caffietiere of fresh coffee and when an enquiry was made as to how fresh coffee could be obtained rather than the drinks put out in the lounge (with no fresh milk) an explanation was provided that the fresh coffee was only for the staff !
· The staff are too keen to clear away after dinner so that they can set up for breakfast even though diners are still enjoying conversation with fellow guests at 9.50 p.m.
· Frequently, you can ask the staff for an order or something similar and nobody ever gets back to you.
· The wine list is extremely limited and (having tried all the white and rose wines) of particularly poor quality.
· The decks are generally unclean.
· The ship is very poorly sound proofed. As a result, the engine noise is substantive and many guests were finding it difficult to sleep. Further, there is appreciable noise between cabins.
· Soot appears to land over the decks and has spoilt the cushions on the outdoor furniture which already appear very soiled.
· One guest arrived half way through the cruise (having agreed a rate for a few days) only to find that when she arrived there were no staff on board to show her to a cabin or otherwise welcome her.
· There is no security on the ship. In one port, a family came up onto the ship to ask if they could be shown around.
It appeared that nearly everyone on the trip had also received a very heavily discounted package as we had. I have no difficulty with that but it is perhaps indicative of the quality of what they are offering. If the ship came up to standard they would be able to justify the full price and the ship would be full (instead it was only 2/3 capacity at an extremely busy time of the year when many cruise ships were full). Further, I did not meet anyone who had been on one of your cruises previously or who would do again which is very telling.
As individuals who have travelled on all the major cruise lines I have to say that this was the poorest level of service I have received on any cruise. If I had paid the full list price for the cruise I would frankly have been furious.
If Variety Cruises really is serious about offering a 5 star experience to customers from all over the world with the competition which they have, the company has an extremely large mountain to climb in offering a level of service which meets expectations.
We were also on that Sept 15 cruise. I cannot recall anyone on the cruise expressing your views and concerns - at least certainly not to me or my husband. We had absolutely no trouble finding the ship and in fact drove our own rental car straight to the ship at 10 am and dropped off our luggage and returned at 3 pm to board.
We absolutely loved the cruise, the captain, etc. But we had, in fact, been on a previous Variety cruise (Galileo) and basically knew what to expect in the way of food offerings and the general scheme of things on board a small ship.
We could not have been more pleased and relaxed and felt honored to have been given the opportunity to experience the product. I am, in fact, in the process of considering chartering the ship for a large group in the near future.
No, I don't work for Variety. I am simply a very satisfied customer.
Wish I could put a face together to understand your dismays... perhaps you can recall who we were?
Sailed on Variety Cruises Panorama II, Islands of the Eastern Aegean, September 22-29 2012.
I would not recommend Variety Cruises. Here are a few of the issues we experienced on this voyage.
1) Our reservation was not recorded or recognized. We arrived on the boat with the Cruise Voucher in hand, written on Variety Cruises stationary, only to be told that we had no reservation. Our names were not on the passenger manifest list, nor were they ever officially added as far as I can tell. We had booked and paid for the cruise 7 months earlier.
Eventually we got cabin 24 (over the engine room).
2) False port ID cards given to us (duplicates of other passengers' cards) to pass through passport control at the ports in Turkey. We received appropriate cards, after several requests, three days later (with incorrect spelling of our names).
3) Torn main sail. No sailing possible for the duration.
4) Diesel motors ran at night, 5 of the 7 nights, making sleep impossible. Cabin 24, and the dining room, are located directly over the engines. The ship was not "in port" at night, as described in the brochure and on the itinerary.
5) Uninformed cruise director, unwilling to help passengers with port information outside scope of paid excursions.
6) No WiFi in Turkish ports/waters. Which is most of the cruise.
7) Ship's engines ran continuously at sea and in port. Diesel fumes were a problem from time to time.
8) Overcharge of 135 euro on exit bill.
These were some of problems that we experienced on this cruise.....
I give the crew full credit. They tried very hard to give the passengers a quality experience, and succeded in many ways. Variety Cruises created their own problems by misrepresenting the actual nature of this cruise in their advertising.
Beautiful part of the world, great people, and the opportunity to sail some of the most beautiful waters in the Med. How can a cruise company mess this up?