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AstoriaPreppy

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Everything posted by AstoriaPreppy

  1. One note on tours. In early May, you'll probably have daylight until around 10 pm, which gives you a lot of opportunity to see a lot, even with a 2 pm arrival. Also, if you're a seafood fan I'd recommend the Arctic Char, which is sort an Icelandic cross between salmon and trout.
  2. Ships dock in Reykjavik (no tenders), and you can come/go as you please. Re: tours, you have plenty of options. As mentioned below, the "Golden Circle" is the standard tour out of Reykjavik: Gulfoss, Geysir and Thingvellir, where the North American and European plates meet. Very manageable in a day. Re: a food tour... Iceland is an amazing country, but isn't really known for their food. It's expensive, limited, and largely underwhelming (despite what YT creators trolling for likes say). There's a reason Icelanders eat the most candy/chocolate/licorice per capita of any nation in the world. Current volcanic activity in Iceland is near Grindavik and the Blue Lagoon, not anywhere near the Golden Circle area.
  3. Ravenna at least has some spectacular things to see... some of the best preserved byzantine mosaics in the world. Rijeka, not so much. We ended up getting diverted to Rijeka after all Venice stops were canceled by the line on our Gem cruise last year, and TBH it is absolutely a "stay on the ship" sort of port. Croatia is amazing (Split, Dubrovnik, etc) but Rijeka is just a dud.
  4. We're going to be on the Silhouette this summer... could you expand on the areas that need attention?
  5. Just off the Meraviglia a few days ago: 1) We found the YC dining room to be fantastic... never crowded, great service, and elevated food. The one specialty dining we thought was well worth visiting was Hola Tacos, where you can order a-la-carte, or all you can eat for $18. Butchers Cut was good, but we had particularly poor chaotic/poor service. Kaito Sushi was very good for cruise ship sushi, and Ocean Cay was excellent, but especially on a 7 day cruise I don't know it would be worth eating outside of the YC, especially at dinner. Maybe a lunch or two? 2) We didn't try streaming anything other than music on this trip, but found the internet generally stable otherwise. FaceTime calls were fine, but absolutely compressed and not high-res like a home wifi or 5G network. I will say that trying to receive/send photos in messages on an iPhone was laborious, and would take several tries to get working. 3) You definitely do not want to be in a cabana outside of the YC area on Ocean Cay... you'll loose easy access to the Ocean House restaurant, butlers with towels, waters, drinks, snacks, etc. We're big cabana people on private islands, having done them on Half Moon Cay, Princess Cays, Labadee, etc. We didn't find it necessary to do a cabana on Ocean Cay. The private beach has tons of umbrellas, padded loungers, etc, and if you need a break/extra shade you can just hop up to the lounge space outside of the Ocean House. There's the added benefit of having a shuttle drive you directly from the ship to the YC space, instead of waiting in the crowd or walking to your own cabana. 4) Gelato is an extra charge from the Jean Philipe shop in the galleria/promenade. There is soft serve on the main pool deck, but we avoided going out there as much as possible. That said, butlers will often do an ice cream/gelato service on the YC pool deck in the early afternoon on warm days. Ultimately, it comes down to how you want to spend your vacation. We spent most of our time eating at the YC buffet for breakfast and lunch, and then lounging on the sofas on the YC pool deck for hours reading. We'd head out for activities or lunch sometimes during the day, but ended up spending much more time in the YC than we expected, especially because the rest of the Meraviglia was so chaotic... we only made it to the real buffet for about 20 seconds one afternoon, and then late at night if we just wanted a slice of pizza.
  6. Same. After using the app to check in for our Meraviglia cruise earlier this month, my account has been locked out from the app, website, etc. The only way I was able to access anything for the cruise or use the app was by using my booking number (not my username/password). There's no way I can check my voyager's club points earned for the trip, etc. From what I've gathered, MSC's IT backend is notoriously poor, and there's not really a good way to resolve the issue. I've heard that calling MSC directly can help resolve, but I haven't tried that yet.
  7. This provides great context! The space is still configured with dining tables and seating but they're completely unused. Only the chairs and cocktail tables surrounding the stage are used for seating. At the two shows we went to, there were maybe 50-60 people max in each audience. The lounge is only used for the shows, which only happen at night and only with the blinds drawn. It's inaccessible during the daytime, which makes me wonder what you'd do if your muster station was there? Currently, the two shows on the Meraviglia seem to be produced in-house by MSC under the "Carousel Productions at Sea" banner. "House of Houdini" is the more avant-garde, Cirque-style show, while "Rock Circus" is a bit more direct, but still features cirque style performances. From what we could tell, the performers in the Carousel lounge shows perform exclusively in those productions, and never appear in any other entertainment offerings onboard. The singers and dancers were notably better than the performers in the Broadway Theater shows, which I guess justifies the fee. The space, technologically and design-wise is amazing... tracks in the ceiling for performers on wires, rotating lighting rigs, elevators up and down for the performers to enter in, LEDs, fog, snow machines, turntables etc. It's a shame they aren't really using it much now, other than the two nightly performances.
  8. @PistolPete13 We were also on this journey, and echo many of your thoughts as first time MSC cruisers. Based on talking to people on other lines, we booked the Yacht Club to give us a bit of a buffer from some of the issues. The weather theme for the trip seemed to be wind, constant and strong. It's not normally like that out of NY, having done the sailings out many times. Oddly, we didn't seem to get much of the up/down rolling, hitting waves motion, but more of a pitch/yaw sort of shimmy that seemed nearly constant some days. We're not normally remotely seasick, but one of the days I had to bust out the emergency Bonine with our location high and forward in YC. The Meraviglia didn't seem to handle the winds well... I'm still shocked we were able to dock in Ocean Cay. We found the ship itself very impressive, but there were some quirks. Our inside YC stateroom was completely lacking in storage, other than two closets. If not for our packing cubes, I'm not sure where we would have kept 11 days of underwear/socks, much less shorts, pants, shirts, etc. We also found it odd that there was no nightclub/disco on a European ship, only to discover that the aft Horizon pool doubles as a nightclub, even in cold weather. We also noticed some major maintenance issues with the LED screens on the ships, including panel failures and glitching that was especially noticeable in the theater. We found the Carousel Lounge to be... oddly underused? It's a massive space, with huge windows, a giant bar setup, and views off the stern... that is only open in the evening for two paid shows with all the windows covered? Overall though, the ship seemed well maintained and staffed... including an inordinate number of activities staffers who seemed to be a constant presence, and were constantly hosting trivia, dance parties, karaoke, etc. We thoroughly enjoyed the YC, and found the rest of the ship to be chaotic, but at the most random times and places. We've been on 20+ cruises, and never experienced *anything* like what we saw on the Meraviglia. TBH, we've sort of chalked this up to the passenger mix and some cultural differences. We were present for the screaming fights at the $10 knockoff sale, and also heard reports of the fruit hoarding and mussel-fist fight in the buffet. The theater seemed to be a hotbed of bad behavior. Lots of coming in 10 minutes before the end of the show, shoving over everyone in a row to get to two open seats, then deciding you hated the show and leaving after 5 minutes sort of stuff. Overall though, we enjoyed ourselves, and will be back to MSC in the future. The YC was a welcome respite from the rest of the ship, but we enjoyed having the chance to get out and socialize whenever we wanted... we met lots of fantastic people, and it's been years since we had such a good people-watching cruise. We were also surprised by the "there is no flavor" comments we've seen on CC, as we found the food in/out of the YC to be consistently well-prepared. The specialty dining we went to was across the board better than NCL, especially Hola Tacos which we wish we'd visited earlier on in the trip (to make some repeat stops), and the Carousel lounge shows are actual do-not-miss entertainment. We also didn't seem to have any of the issues with bar service I've seen reported, although we were never able to get into the Edge cocktail bar as it was constantly mobbed (especially with half of the Champagne bar having been converted to casino space. We'll absolutely be back to MSC in the future!
  9. The weird thing is that when I log in using my booking number, it only shows excursions… nothing else for the trip. And notably, at least one of the ports has all the excursions listed, but an error code pops up each time you attempt to book any of them, saying there’s no availability. Just to make sure, I did a password reset, and it still doesn’t work on the website or app. Same “wrong country” error code. But I am able to log into the app using my booking number. This happens across platforms (desktop, iPad, iPhone) and browsers (safari, chrome).
  10. I have been getting the same message for weeks, and there doesn’t seem to be any resolution. The MSC website is spectacularly awful. We’re sailing on the Meraviglia on Monday. Had zero issues with the MSC website until I tried to do check in using my phone, which has somehow paralyzed my account at msccruisesusa … but I was still emailed my check-in docs? The whole thing makes no sense. TBH, each time I see some Zenith-plus cruiser who only stays in suites on Celebrity complaining about abysmal X’s website is, I just laugh knowing how uniformed they actually are…
  11. One of the things we *don't* enjoy on Celebrity sailings is that they don't add local food/beverage options on the ship when sailing in a region. Compare this to Princess/HAL, where they make a point to bring local beers/MDR food when sailing the world. Japan especially is VERY accessible without a tour guide from most of the ports via public transportation. For example, in Osaka it's a 5 minute walk to the elevated subway, and you can just head out from there. Immigration when returning to Japan after Busan was... a mess to be honest, excruciatingly slow. I think part of this may have been that Typhoon Hagibis was heading towards Tokyo/Yokohama, and the line gave passengers the option of departing early in Aomori (instead of staying onboard to our final overnight and cruise end in Yokohama). Mass transit is very easy and reliable to use in Japan. Yokohama to Tokyo is $3 or $4, and takes about a half hour. That said, I'd highly recommend staying in Tokyo, as it's one of the world's great cities. I could not disagree more with this. Almost every single port we visited in October 2019 on the Millennium was walkable to mass transit and tourist sites. This was very much unlike a cruise in Europe where you're in a major industrial port requiring a shuttle just to get out of the port. Is Celebrity using Osanbashi now? We'd hoped they would on our sailing, but we were at the temp terminal on the other side of the bridge, on what we derisively called "parking island." It actually made us glad we didn't stay in Yokohama, as the port was completely inaccessible by foot/mass transit from the city... only shuttles/taxis.
  12. As far as I know, the only common cruise ports/lines where beverage packages are not immediately available for use after boarding are Carnival departures from Manhattan, and all sailings from Galveston, TX. Our NCL sailings from NY and Royal/Celebrity sailings from NJ always have the full beverage package usable immediately on boarding. The Texas departures are particularly weird, as they have to use state-approved liquor bottles with Texas ABC stickers on them and a very very limited menu of specific mixed drinks, beers and wines. As soon as the ship reaches international waters, they lock the Texas liquor bottles in a special cabinet behind each bar, and then the pull out the full spread of alcohol for the rest of the cruise.
  13. I can't say enough good things about the Revolutionizing the Millennium and Summit received. They didn't just replace wall coverings and carpeting in the staterooms, they gutted them down to the wall studs and completely rebuilt them. They are fantastic. In addition, many other places on the ship received full renovations: the buffet (while not fully serving islands like the new ship) was overhauled, the MDR space was refitted to look much more modern, the Rendezvous lounge is bright and a revelation compared to the dark former space, etc. Contrast this with the Constellation's sister ship Infinity (which we sailed earlier this year). The staterooms were in disrepair, seating, fittings and carpeting worn, and lots and lots of lighting that just didn't work throughout the ship. You'll find a lot of people on CC who will tell you how great the Connie and Infinity are, but I can only guess there's a level of nostalgia shaping those perspectives. Objectively, the Infinity was not up to current Celebrity standards. We would happily sail on the Summit/Millennium again... and have regularly recommended that people avoid the Infinity if they're expecting a well-maintained ship.
  14. The one thing I've always found confounding about Royal Caribbean is how bad the pizza onboard is. Princess, MSC and even Carnival blows Sorento's out of the water. I'm not sure if it's a proofing issue or a recipe issue, but the dough on Royal ships always seems so... industrial/food service in both taste and texture.
  15. Some fascinating Great review, but this is literally the first time I've ever heard someone say a Celebrity mast grill burger is better than Guy's burgers on Carnival! That's the hottest of hot takes!
  16. I’d also note that the MSC website and app are… particularly atrocious for booked passengers? We’re in the Yacht Club next month for our first MSC sailing, but the website has been confoundingly poor. Shore excursions for entire ports will vanish for weeks at a time, only to pop up again (yet be un-bookable). The web check-in process is often non-functional… info will vanish, or take several attempts to process correctly. You have to physically print off all of your docs (no phone or digital passes). Etc, etc. We’re departing round trip from Brooklyn, but the email we received from the line with our docs referenced our UK arrival and various EU regulations… yet the email also references the New York departure. It’s just a mess of IT/communication. Every time I see someone griping on these boards about how unusable the Celebrity website and IT infrastructure is, I realize they’d have a complete meltdown trying to sail MSC. We’re sailing Yacht Club, so a lot of this is moot for us since they can iron out all the issues, but if I was a Bella/Fantastica/Aurea level passenger, I’d be very annoyed.
  17. The buffet cutbacks reported on CC were… somewhat overblown in our experience? It seemed to be linked closely to how full the ships were sailing: with high passenger load, more of the buffet was open, and when the ship was deserted they scaled back. One of the biggest issues was the removal of the station where they will grill a steak for you, but I believe that’s back? We’re elite on Celebrity, and gold on Carnival, and we’ve got both Celebrity and Carnival trips booked next year. I would absolutely agree with the above comments. Especially, compared to other boards on Cruise Critic, the Celebrity boards tend to be a very specific type of Celebrity passenger… not representative of the line in general, or people we encounter on the line. I’ve found a LOT of what I’d describe as “pearl-clutching” on the Celebrity boards here. A dry piece of chicken or an issue with a room steward turns into a sky-is-falling situation where the entire line is imploding, which turns into reminiscing about the good old days of cheese trolleys and MDR servers doing flambé tableside. There’s also a belief by a lot of Celebrity board posters that the line actively reads and responds to what is posted on CC (they do not), so people make these impassioned cases that are only partly based in reality. There’s some valid points, but they turn into a weird vortex of hyperbole and hysteria that doesn’t really represent what’s going on. I think Celebrity and Carnival are both good products. For social people and families, Carnival offers a great experience, and a good value… it’s a lot of fun, and the line focuses on making sure you’re having fun. We also love the fast casual dining options that Carnival has! Celebrity is going to be more chill and absolutely more upscale… but it’s not remotely the sort of elitist, exclusive rich person trip that the boards here would have you think. We still meet fun, social people every time we sail on Celebrity, it’s just not the main focus of the line.
  18. This has been planned for quite a while now... I think it may just be getting underway? https://cruiseradio.net/major-change-coming-to-carnival-cruise-lines-half-moon-cay/
  19. I almost made the same comment but didn't want to be the insane NYer screaming "YOU MUST KILL THESE BUGS AT ALL COSTS" on a cruise message board.
  20. We're some of the few cruisers that actually like Icy Strait Point, but would absolutely pick Glacier Bay over it. Icy Strait Point a restored salmon cannery from 1912, and unlike most of the cruise line manufactured ports, it's fully owned and staffed entirely by the Huna Tlingit people. That means you won't find Diamonds International or Cariloha here, only shops and restaurants run by actual locals, including a fair amount of artisans. Since opening, the port has become more developed (piers instead of tenders, the cable car network), but we still find it charming. There's a rocky beach, bonfires, restaurants, bars, and constant wildlife viewing... there's sometimes a resident humpback that likes to chill out just offshore. People really despise ISP, but we've found it much nicer and more authentic than something like Ward Cove (where NCL docks in Ketchikan). All of that said, I'd highly recommend the Glacier Bay option if you've never been. NCL doesn't staff a full-time naturalist onboard their Alaskan sailings, so the only time you'll get narrated scenic cruising is when the NPS rangers come on board in Glacier Bay. There's something truly spectacular about watching glaciers calving into the water, and it's likely you'll have tons of wildlife encounters if you're out on deck with binoculars.
  21. I wouldn't count on being able to buy a beverage package mid-cruise. Usually they pull them from sale on the second night of a cruise, but individual ships/beverage managers may have leeway? I know Royal has a hard and fast second night cutoff. WiFi tends to be much more flexible, and they're willing to sell you remaining number of days on a cruise at almost all points up to departure.
  22. Our single time in a promenade-view cabin, we saw almost zero passengers using/looking out their windows onto the promenade. The only person who ever looked or made eye contact with us was the server at Izumi (where we dined early on in the cruise), who would frantically wave each time he spotted us looking out the window, while he was busy trying to rope people into the specialty restaurant each evening.
  23. Not sure that renting/driving/returning a car is worth the time/hassle. NY and Boston have great (economical) connections by rail and air. Delta regularly has flights from BOS-LGA in the $90 pp range, and the Northeast Regional on Amtrak can be super affordable (like $30 pp). You can even get business class and a reserved seat on the Acela for ~$100 with a little advanced planning.
  24. On the Gem in August, we tendered to the old port. It was speedy, because they use local tenders (not the ship's lifeboats). From what I understand, it can vary from week to week and sailing to sailing, so you'll likely only find out onboard (the online port call dock/tender calendars tend to be very inaccurate). We also did the Rick Steves walking tour, and highly recommend, along with just wandering and getting lost in Mykonos.
  25. As someone who has done both lines multiple times, I'd say that much of what people say here is correct. I'd note that NCL allows you to wear shorts/t shirts in almost all formal dining spaces at dinner time, which is something Royal Caribbean still suggests isn't okay. One thing I'd say is that we've found NCL's service to be efficient, but less personalized and friendly, especially with bars. When a huge percentage of your passengers have a beverage package included with booking, the bars on NCL can get frantic. It's the only line we've ever sailed on that has installed rope and stanchions to queue people up for beverage service. That said, NCL allows you to order two drinks at a time per-person, which is something we appreciate. The other thing I'd note is that NCL's customer service onboard can be... odd? When issues happen, NCL will often approach a situation from a "you are wrong" perspective instead of a "solving problems" perspective, more than other lines we've sailed. For example, we've had poor shore excursion experiences on both lines, and while Royal/Celebrity has investigated and offered partial refunds (even post sailing!), NCL's approach is often eye-rolling and shrugs, with no resolution. This is completely anecdotal, but we've always felt like the culture at NCL doesn't empower all of their staff to resolve things, where Royal takes a more customer-oriented approach for all crew onboard... it's hard to describe, but we have noticed it a bunch of times over the years.
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