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About cartervan

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    West Virginia
  • Interests
    besides travel, gardening, reading, singing in choirs
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Holland America
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Mediterranean. No, wait, Alaska. Hmm, no, New Zealand-Australia......

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  1. The review I wrote about our April/May Rhapsody cruise has just been "published" in the Cruise Critic Review section. I avidly read all the Rhapsody reviews in anticipation of our cruise, so I felt like I should add my impressions for others who want to know what to expect, or compare my opinions with theirs.
  2. We just got home from a lovely TA/Mediterranean cruise on RCI. In one port we were docked right next to the Veendam, and looking across at that familiar "black bottom" and wrap-around deck I had the oddest feeling of nostalgic "homesickness" for Holland America. We are 3-star Mariners but we've sailed on several different lines--usually choosing our cruises by itinerary and how it fits into our schedule. We always enjoy ourselves whatever cruise line we are on but there is just something special about the ambiance aboard a Holland American ship that we miss when we're on some other ship.
  3. We just got back from 21 days on the Rhapsody starting in Tampa with an April 27 TransAtlantic back to back with Barcelona to Venice. We've been on many cruises--mostly on Celebrity and HAL as well as NCL and Carnival, but this was our first time on RCI. We choose our cruises for itinerary and price and this one fit that criteria, hitting several ports that were new to us and ending up in Venice where we had never been. The crossing was smooth and we were blessed with beautiful weather most of the time. Overall we had a wonderful time and I want to write a longer review when I get the laundry done, the garden weeded and the house dusted. But in the meantime just a few quick comments on some of the things we liked and disliked. We really liked the food, and the way the Windjammer is arranged. The crew was wonderful. We went to almost all the shows and enjoyed them all, as well as all the live music all over the ship. We realize that the Rhapsody is not typical of all the glitzy mega ships in the RCI fleet, but it is a beautiful ship and very well maintained. We did have a few things that we were not so thrilled with. On the TransAtlantic portion of the trip there were many activities, but we were disappointed that there were no lectures on the history of the areas we were going to visit. There were interesting talks on "forensics" (?) and astronomy--but nothing about Spain or the Mediterranean. In fact, there was not much help or friendly tips on the ports at all unless you were going on official Ship Excursions. I thought there could be better use of the venues. For instance, the "Shall We Dance" lounge is a lovely, comfortable spot--but mostly used for art auctions and bingo, while the popular Trivia games were mostly in the Schooner bar which is a noisy and busy hallway, basically. And I liked the Royal Crown area a lot, but for the whole TransAtlantic it was largely taken over by Diamond+ overflow. In fact we were told that we could not stay there when we went up to the bar to take advantage of an advertised special price on martinis. Why have a special price on a drink in a place you cannot sit and enjoy it!? Anyway--more comprehensive review to come. If you have any questions I'd be happy to answer.
  4. Thanks for your review! We were on the May 11 Mediterranean cruise with you and I am just getting ready to post my own quick reactions along with a longer review later when I get time. It is interesting to see another perspective. I also really enjoyed the parade of flags--really special. I agree that overall the food was wonderful. But we went to almost all the shows and thought they were very entertaining. Different strokes for different folks!
  5. ;You're probably going to get a lot of replies from people like me who go back and forth between Celebrity and Holland America and enjoy the best of both. One of the things Holland America is known for is the "all the way around" outdoor promenade although the Koningsdam has made it a little less spacious. No smoking allowed. Unfortunately, you will find smoke in the casino. I think the Lido buffet on all the HAL ships is very good, and very much like the ones I have found on Celebrity ships. We were most recently on the Koningsdam which has pretty much eliminated self-service, but it certainly seems much more sanitary, and is handled very efficiently. I'm not sure if all the ships have gone away from self-service. And speaking of service, we have found friendly, cheerful and attentive staff on all HAL ships. If you like Celebrity, you will most certainly like Holland America.
  6. As I recall, the tour was listed as having a moderate activity level with quite a bit of walking involved. We can and do walk a lot. But this girl really outran us (a lot of us). And we did try to yell at her, but she was so far ahead she couldn't hear us. This was the worst example I can think of when we've had fast walking tour guides. But it does happen, often. The thing that was most alarming about that particular excursion, however, was the fact that she really didn't give enough time for people to make their way back to her meeting point. She did wait for about 10 minutes then left them behind.
  7. I was just reading a post about pay toilets, and someone talked about about being on a ship excursion in Bruges where the guide moved so fast it was hard to keep up. I didn't want to hijack that thread, but it reminded me about the number of times we've been in that situation. We are "senior citizens" who try to keep active and do a lot of walking. But we can't move as fast as a 20 something guide. And there are always several other older people in the same boat. Once in Pisa we had a long distance from the bus parking lot into the walled old city. We practically ran. Then, after our tour we only had a short break to take pictures, then were to meet outside the wall. We almost didn't make it back in time, and then the busload took off at a trot back to the bus behind our flag-waving guide. Once we got on the bus the guide remarked casually that "almost everyone" was there. She went on to say that it "happened every time". Didn't that tell her something!?! When some of us protested, worrying about the people left behind, she assured us that they could take a taxi or something to get back to the ship on their own! Of course, we complained to HAL, but I doubt if anything changed.
  8. A few years ago I was on a ship excursion to a small town in Italy where we were directed to a public toilet during a very short "free time". For some reason I didn't check my coin purse, and after standing in line for "my turn" I suddenly discovered I didn't have the required Euro coin. A kindly fellow passenger loaned me the money. Fortunately my husband had a coin to pay her back once we got back on the bus. Then this summer I had a chance to "pay it forward" in Norway when a mom with a little child discovered she didn't have money for the toilet.
  9. We ate at the Culinary Arts Center while on the Koningsdam in July. We thought it had a very unusual menu. We sampled several things to share, and it was all good. I liked it better than my husband, who is a kind of "meat and potatoes" kind of guy. The service was very good with a light-hearted approach. We had an enjoyable time. It was not crowded at all, and, in fact, it never seemed to be very busy as we walked past each evening.
  10. When I started this thread I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss. But, wow, everything from Canada bashing to elitism vs. democracy! But there have been a lot of thoughtful points made about a complicated subject.
  11. The link Cruise Critic gave me is: Konginsdam Review by cartervan
  12. I wrote a rather lengthy review of our June-July cruise to Norway on the Koningsdam, and it was just posted in Cruise Critic's review section. I won't repeat the whole thing here. To summarize: We had a wonderful cruise with beautiful ports (lucky to have beautiful weather) on a beautiful ship. We choose our cruises mostly because of the itinerary, and then, like most of you, I try to research each port and make at least tentative plans about what to do. So in my review I mostly talked about what we did in each port and what we learned that might help others. If any of you have questions about the ship or our experiences in Norwegian ports, I hope you will read the review. Or, just feel free to ask me.
  13. The original CBS spot didn't blame only cruise ships for overwhelming numbers of tourists. The piece talked about several reasons for more and more people wanting to see the world. Part of the cause is due to travel becoming more affordable. Contributing to that is competition between cruise lines and the fact that the huge ships can hold per-passenger cost down. Of course, we all want to see all those iconic ports if we can. I'm so glad we've been able to see so many beautiful and historic places around the world, and cruising has enabled that. And, yes, we've taken that hour-long trip from the cruise port to Rome.
  14. There was a short news segment on CBS Saturday morning about how popular destinations around the world (Rome, Dubrovnik, Santorini...) are getting overrun with tourists. Part of the reason, they speculated, was not only more and more people traveling, and the popularity of cruising, but also the size of the new cruise ships. I know that when 5000 passengers arrive at a port at once it's just too much. And when two or three of those monsters are in a port at once it's overwhelming. Even Holland America seems compelled to build bigger and bigger ships We just got back from a cruise to Norway on the Koningsdam. That was the biggest ship I've been on and it just loomed over some of those Norwegian villages we visited. When we arrived in Amsterdam to board the ship, the driver from the airport to our hotel told us that the new city government was beginning a "push-back" against cruise ships. As someone who makes his living from tourism he lamented that they were going to "kill the goose that lays the golden egg". It's really a conundrum.
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