Pullmantur Horizon review: Eastern Med

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#1
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
We returned last week from our sailing from Athens to Venice (was supposed to be Trieste but we had technical difficulties so never made it there by ship!)

Overall a fantastic cruise we were among a handful of English speakers. Many of the staff very much welcomed speaking English although the ship had a definite Spanish vibe, from the entertainment to the music and bingo (my goodness, Pullmantur passengers love their bingo!)
#2
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
The ship

I really liked the ship. It's the smallest one I've been on but had all the cruise ship essentials we're used - a pool, a bar, a pool bar, disco, theatre, restaurant and buffet. So we didn't feel lacking in anything.

In fact there were several benefits of being on a small ship. We were close to everything so nipping back to the cabin or popping down/up to breakfast was easy. Our 2 year old could walk every where.

Another benefit is that we could always see the sea! And what beautiful water you get on an eastern med cruise in summer. Glorious promenade walks after dinner. There were also 3 open decks aft to enjoy. There were some smokers, but it was only noticeable a couple of times.


The ship is also easy to get on and off compared to a bigger ship and staff get to know you very well.


Sure the ship was older than most, but the decor was not noticeably out of date and it did feel fairly fresh. Staff made an effort to keep it clean despite some signs of wear and tear due to its age.

The main gripes with the ship which I can't really spin positively were: the patchy aircon (went from hot to cold across the same deck!). Our room aircon wasn't working properly so they fixed it, but it was still 22 degrees min. You had to put your toilet paper in the bin. We got used to that and bins were changed twice a day. Our cabin didn't smell, so it was ok. Finally the ship noticeably vibrated, but it did not keep us awake at night so didn't ruin our holiday but it might bother more sensitive people (however we did have a far aft cabin so we will have had it the worst).
#3
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Dining

The quality and choice of food was the biggest surprise for us. There is only 1 restaurant and a buffet and outdoor grill but it was all so good that we didn't feel short changed by the lack of speciality restaurants we're accustomed to on Celebrity, NCL.

The first night was open seating, Greek buffet in the restaurant. I was thinking not a great start, by how wrong I was! Fantastic food and better than we've had in Greece. Not your usual buffet fare. Fantastic meats, salads, sauces. Mouth wateringly good and authentic Greek cuisine. A lovely touch as we sailed out of Athens.

Our second night (a sea day) was Gala night. Our guys dressed in tuxedos and they were alone in this! People dressed up, but only in suits - and women made more effort than men. There was a bit of entertainment after dinner, the usual cheesy napkin waving and maybe a conga!

The menu on Gala night was superb. As good as Celebrity. It was 5 courses with amuse bouchée featuring vegetable cheese and fish. The soup course had a fancy timbale over which they poured hot soup on top. A fish course (which was really good) followed by a beautiful fillet mignon cooked just the way I requested. The icing on the cake (!) was a trio of chocolate deserts which were not too large which was good because they were so rich! You could tell they had used quality dark chocolate, I think there was a mouse, a tart and cake. We all agreed they were devine and as good as the chocolatier makes at our favourite restaurant. This was the only Gala night of the cruise.

By day 3 they brought out the standard menus that are used nightly. There are many sections to choose from, you can have 2 or 3 or 4 courses - whatever you want. There are sections 'from the sea' 'from the land' 'from the farm' etc. These are the same nightly and there is a middle section which changes daily. My highlights were a marinated salmon starter, a crema catalana (best I've ever had!) and there are some decent fish and meat entrees. Speaking to a vegetarian, they were very happy with their half of the menu (there were even veggie deserts).

Service in the restaurant was the best I've had on a cruise ship. We had a lovely waitress (Nydia) from Columbia and waiter (Jose) from Guatemala. They couldn't do enough for us and every time we took a couple of sips of wine they filled up our glass. We were astonished considering all the wine was included! Getting a top up on Celebrity or P&O where you were actually paying for it, in contrast was painful! Well done Pullmantur for your customer service where you really do excel!
#4
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Buffet and grill
Despite the small size of the buffet it was well laid out and there were generally enough seats, including outside on a gorgeous aft deck. For lunch the options were brilliant and every thing as good as in the restaurant. Quality, tasty cuisine, the freshest salads unlike some cruise buffets. Tables quickly cleared and nice jolly staff.

Breakfast was standard cruise ship fare, but they have some nasty fake cocopops, sausages hit and miss, pancakes only every other day and smoked salmon eggs also every other day. The coffee was the best I've had in a cruise ship buffet.

The grill was great too (it's outside at the back of the ship). Range if grab and go options - hot dogs pizza burgers fries and curly fries, grilled meats and fajitas, sandwich wraps filled with chicken or cheese. Better than the usual grill fare and daily specials.
#5
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Drinks
The drinks are all included on Pullmantur and the standard wine and beer is absolutely fine. They serve the kind of beer that tastes good on a hot day when it's really cold! And the wine perfectly drinkable (I'm saying that as someone quite fussy about her wine). However the free cava is absolutely foul! I seemed to be alone in thinking this as the other passengers were knocking it back!

Many non alcoholic drinks are included but not bottle water (you need to upgrade). The fabulous espresso coffees and teas are all included at the cafe. You really don't need to upgrade on this ship as the included stuff is great.

However, the terrible cava alone (my first drink) made me upgrade so I could get my mitts on some Freixenet - a perfectly respectable cava. Unfortunately they had no prosecco and no aperol so no spritzes for me! The upgrade was 70 Euros pp and gave us accesss to some fab gins - London No 1, Bombay, Tanquery 10, Beefeater 24. This alone was worth the upgrade (be careful- they pour doubles or triples!)

All but one of the cocktails was included so there was no point in upgrading if you're a cocktail drinker unless you're very fussy about what goes in it (be sure to specify the brand you want each time you order in that case).

The biggest downside of the cruise for me as a cocktail counisseuer was that they would only make what was in the list!!! It really annoyed me to see the ingredients for a cocktail sitting there and I wasnt allowed to have it. No sidecar, no Long Island iced tea, no cosmopolitan, no White Russian!! I had to learn to love monitors and Gin fizzes, pina coladas and hand shaken daiquiris (which I did because they were actually made very well). This is all to do with company diktat, they worked out a selection of cocktails that are cost effective and that suit different palates and the Spanish passengers didn't seem to mind. In fact only 50 or so people had paid to upgrade so clearly having a range of drinks available is not a priority for them like it is for us. The only time I really get to kick back and enjoy cocktails is on a cruise so this was a bit of a bummer for me but I did discover the devine passion fruit cipraina. You did have to wear a wristband but it is black so looks ok. My hubby was also happy to enjoy the additional beers included in the upgrade (Corona, San Miguel, Leffe).
#6
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Entertainment

Don't have much to say except it was really Spanish. Do Spanish people really want to listen to 'Viva Espana' on their holiday?! Live music in the bar nightly was good but short sets interrupted by BINGO! Rather annoying.

There was no recorded music played at all only what I would call 'lift music' in restaurant and public areas.

The only English speaking songs played were Radiohead creep nightly (resident band loved it, so did my 2 year old who was the only person on the dance floor when they played creep!). Also English songs in theatre. Spanish music is a bit cheesy I'm sorry to say - at least what they were playing and it was very samey.

Theatre shows were ok. 2 year old loved them. Quality pretty good (mainly singing & dancing) but not exceptional. What you expect really. Theatre itself lovely, cute tables, red velvet chairs. But no drinks service - you need to bring your own in with you.

The animation team are annoying. Cheeesy sums them up. They are the ones inflicting bingo on us every hour!
#7
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Staff
Lovely, lovely lovely people who seem genuinely quite happy in their work. Felt a sort of family vibe with the crew - they've got it right somehow as they seem happy in their work (despite some grumpy fussy passengers unnoticed!)

They are a mix of South American and Mauritian with many other nationalities interpersed. All happy to speak English and very good at it.

The only negative customer service experience was where the staff couldn't help due to company policy (more later) but they were smiley and lovely in their dealings with us.
#8
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Cabins
Old but nice, clean, decent bed, quite large. can't complain. We had a balcony and that was very nice, with glass and looked more modern than I expected it to be. Bathroom more dates than were used to but serviceable. There was enough storage and cabin attendant was great. No complaints.
#9
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Kids
There was nothing for our 2 year old. No toys no room to access (said we could used kids club out of hours when it was closed and it's a room
at the entrance with barely anything in it!). No activities we noticed. Kids hidden in kids club all day but need to be over 3.

There's a kids pool but there's nothing in it and it's set too deep down for under 6s to access without parents going in with them (you can't just sit at side of pool and watch). They are no jets, characters nada. No play equipment. Luckily our daughter was entertained by the Radiohead loving band and the magnets we gave her to stick all over the cabin!
#10
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Pullmantur

So this bit of the review is about the company itself rather than the ship or staff.

Overall I liked the product, the all inclusive was great, the itinerary was fantastic- one of the best eastern med itineraries. They must be doing some thing right with the staff culture on ship as they seem positive and happy.

However it's the head office of the company that lets it down. Their website is awful. Don't bother trying to use it. Check in at port is just as quick. If you buy stuff online they don't inform the ship about it (they use third party agents who take your money but don't tell the hip what you've paid for). They don't answer emails quickly if at all. Terrible and lazy service which is a complete opposite to the staff experience on board.

I think they were also a bit cheap with berths. We were delayed rendering to Kotor by 4 hours due to being the last boat to anchor in the bay, having to wait for the other ships. The tender experience was also really crummy.

Our ship never made it to Trieste, but it was never made clear why. Communication even in Spanish was poor. However to the local staff credit they swiftly dispatched us to where we needed to go (in our case Trieste) by a comfortable coach transfer, so again the staff on the ground made it all a easy experience.

Both check in and disembarkation were a breeze - despite the technical problems in Venice.


The muster lifeboat drill was well organised but happened at 11 o'clock at night! It's a good job we're not precious about our 2 year olds bedtime!
#11
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Itinerary

Athens - stayed in Plaka and really liked it. Good views of acropolis and visited the Ancient agora which was doable with a good buggy (baby jogger). Stiflingly hot. Decent port building and easy embarkation.

Corfu - beautiful green hilly Greek island. Stunning old town and warm sea great for swimming. Really enjoyed our day here.

Kotor - day cut short by tender delays. Too many ships in port for small size of town. Visited much of the coastline in a private tour (Tours by Milo) was fabulous - saw vistas, Budvar, private island, beach. Wish we had more time to explore interior.

Dubrovnik- so many tourists, so hot! Beautiful place but sea too choppy for swimming day we visited. Loved the aquarium for 2 year old while others climbed the wall (do it early, it gets super hot up there).

Zadar - lovely town where you can stroll along the promenade, visiting sea organ. Jump into sea on a hot day. Boat trips easy to organise from town (not port). Some rip off taxi drivers should cost less than 10 Euros into town. Nice restaurants. Take a taxi to Konoba Rafaelo, a meat BBQ place, where the portions are larger than you can imagine! The salad is pretty good too! 15-25 Euro pp for a platter.

Venice - the 20 Euro hop on hop off was easy and good value. Direct from the port, we breezily made it to all the sights (St Marks, Grand Canal,Realto bridge) and the island of Murano - and with a 2 year old and buggy! It's pretty easy. We had an excellent gelato (seek out the best places in side streets rather than tourist traps) and a great value lunch 3 course in Murano for 14 Euro. I do love my aperol spritz and indulged there for 4/5 Euros a pop! Venice doesn't need to be expensive!

Trieste - we stayed here a couple of days post cruise/ were supposed to disembark here but didn't due to technical issues. What a great port. In town. Beautiful architecture- Austrian influence. Not very touristy, great restaurants and lots to see and do. We visited two castles, both have spectacular settings. A beach club where you swim off rocks (inc safe area for little ones). A brilliant Robert Capa exhibition about Italy during the war. This is a hidden gem of Italy with a beautiful coastline and the best aperol spritz scene hehe! Everyone drinks them here!
#12
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Final thoughts

I've travelled on Celebrity, NCL, Costa, P&O. For a bit of fun I thought I'd do scoring comparing Pullmantur with experience of the others

Ship: 6/10 I score it low because it is old and tired. But it's well maintained modern decor and clean. It can't compete with the beautiful Celebrity Reflection or elegance of Britannia. It's not even as good as Costa Luminosa, but connection to the sea is very good with more promenade decks than Epic or Britannia, hence the decent rating. We enjoyed lots of sea views and felt close to nature.

Dining 9.5 / 10
As good as Celebrity but no lobster or nightly steak, hence lower scoring. I didn't care there were no speciality restaurants, the food was so good. Infinitely better than P&O which was dire for buffet and so so for restaurant.


Drinks 8 /10 what was included in the fare was incredible. Lots of cocktails and drinkable wine. The upgrade was ridiculously cheap but I would happily have paid more to have my cosmos and Long Island iced teas. The wine on the upgrade was very good and gins superb (in proper gin glasses!) so can't mark down too much, but annoying I couldn't have what I wanted when they have the ingredients


Service 10/10
The staff are a credit to the company. Other lines could learn from them as their service is 6* especially in the restaurant


Pullmantur company 2/10 I've probably scored them this low as I'm English speaking so not their target customer but pre and post trip comms have been awful, website terrible. Perhaps unfair of me to judge them as non Spanish speaking. However this hardly impacted on my trip, although I do feel they are letting the staff on board ship down.


Overall = 35.5 / 50
#13
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Oh one more thing because I know many people will ask about it


Smoking not too noticeable. It's not allowed anywhere inside ship, cabins or balconies. Outside decks yes, but ashtrays only on a few tables in sections (at grill, on aft decks). I only smelt people smoking 4 or 5 times and it was easy to move away if it offended you. Nowhere smelt of stake smoke as it's not allowed- even in the casino
#14
England
348 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Should be 'stale smoke'! We did have a far aft balcony (on side of ship - there are no true aft balconies) next to aft deck which had ashtrays, so if you hate smokers avoid this cabin location if you're going for balcony!
#15
Spain
612 Posts
Joined Feb 2014
Thank you for your review, I am sailing on Horizon on 1st October, also going out of Athens. I am looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. I think the biggest problem is the lack of information on the web, in these days of connectivity we have got used to being able to find any information on anything with a few button presses but that doesn't seem to apply to Pullmantur ships.
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1st October 2017 - Pullmantur Horizon

Sailed:
2nd June 2017 - Eastern Med and Greek Islands - Jewel of the Seas
29th November 2016 - South Pacific Islands from Sydney - Explorer of the Seas
20th September 2015 - Western Med - Allure of the Seas
23rd June 2015 - Baltic Sea including St Petersburg - Brilliance of the Seas
1st June 2014 - Western Med - Norwegian Epic
#16
ireland
52 Posts
Joined Aug 2013
kfowinst, Thank you for a most informative , comprehensive review. Not having sailed with Pullmantur before I was apprehensive about sailing on Horizon Mar 18. Your wonderful review has diminished most of the issues and fears i had about the ship. There have been many negative opinions expresses about Horizon on this forum, and indeed many good ones also. I found your approach to writing your review reassuring. Thanks once again
Bill.
#18
UK
304 Posts
Joined Sep 2016
Thanks for the comprehensive review, booked cruise for next year. One question, I am used to paying gratuities, but they do not seem to get a mention on what is and what is not included. Are they added and if so how much.

Many thanks
#19
Florida
3,993 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Thanks for the review, sounds better than I thought it would - having seen Pullmantur ships in various ports. There is one thing, however, that kills it right from the start: toilet paper in bin! That's ok when I am out and about in China and South America, but not in the hotels there and not on ships.
#20
Sydney Australia
105 Posts
Joined Apr 2013
Great review thank you! Re the toilet paper issue which sounds gross...knowing this if ever I do a Pullmantur cruise I'd take on a packet of nappy bags to put the toilet paper in. They are nicely scented and should help eliminate nasty odours.