SnorkelBear Posted November 17, 2006 #1 Share Posted November 17, 2006 Credibility: After reading this review, you may ask yourself why my opinion is important. Please let me ease your fears. I have heard many, many opinions in my life, and My Opinion is the only one I agree with 99.5% of the time. Also, it is much easier on everyone involved if you just accept my opinion and not waste energy forming your own opinion. Disclaimer: It's still just an opinion. If you choose to find fault with my opinion and cast verbal jabs, just remember, I am rubber, you are glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. Travelers: Me (42), lovely wife (39) (don't tell her I told) and my wife's parentals (71 & 71). My wife and I have sailed on Princess, NCL, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Star Cruises and now our first HAL cruise for a total of 8 cruises. I have also sailed on Carnival and RCCL for work and ate and slept in the crew area. We enjoy cruising and we utilize many of the amenities and activities onboard. Cruise Purchase: Purchased SY Guarantees through an online agency for a very good price. We received a free upgrade to SS, and later we accepted a $199 pp up-sell offer to SB Corner Aft suites. (8140, 8147) I considered this an awesome deal. Embarkation: Arrived at the pier at 1:30. Dropped bags and people curbside and proceeded up top to park the car. Parking is free if you make a $180 donation to the parking authority guy in the little booth. New security measures require you to shut off you engine, open up vehicle and let a pooch do a sniff search. Found my cruise cohorts downstairs and we proceeded to check in. Zipped through security. This is where we got lucky. We were given a number and told to sit over there and wait. I asked someone where the suite check in was and was told to ask that person who said to ask the next person. At least we were moving in the right direction. I asked 3 more people in red where the suite check in was and we were told to enter the long line. I asked another lady in red and we were escorted to the suite check in where there was no line. Persistence paid off and we were onboard in minutes. Embarkation would have taken over an hour if we hadn't persisted. A few signs would do away with a lot of confusion and chaos. In the end, it was our easiest embarkation ever. Suite: SB 8140 Corner Aft. Beautiful! Loved the layout and decor. Wrap around veranda was awesome. I estimated the cabin to be about 440 sq. ft. and the balcony a spacious 340 sq. ft. Sol, our cabin steward was great. Room always clean and tidy and all requests, really just a few, always fulfilled with a warm smile. Cleaning maintenance was done on deck 8 aft for two days. On day one they washed all the port side dirt to the in-law's starboard corner balcony. On day two, you can probably guess, they washed all the dirt back to the port corner. The drains do not work as well as they should so we ended up with a giant puddle with a used band-aid, bottle caps, cigarette butts and cocktail napkins. I said something to Sol and a shopvac was brought out and all was blissful again in my happy little world. Note: Stay away from the outer edges of the balcony around 7:00am. They wash the lido deck and quite a bit of water lands on the Deck 8 balconies. The bathroom had a juccuzzi tub/shower and a separate small shower. I would be happier with one larger tub/shower combo. I am a bit squeamish about being attacked by a wet shower curtain. Washing your feet in the small shower requires one to achieve some amazing yoga poses. Moving ship, standing on one foot, trying not to bump into the curtain or walls, throw in some slippery soap and I am surprised I did not make it onto the cruise highlight DVD. Plenty of electrical outlets. Nice television. Not so good program choices. Too many other things to look at anyway. I emptied the mini-bar and used the refrigerator for my own goodies. Fridge could be colder. Preordered liquor, roses and Pinnacle Grill were all in the room upon arrival. Ice bucket is pretty useless. Too small and ice is melted by pre-dinner cocktail time. Sol or the neighboring steward were always near by for a quick replenishment. Robes were very nice and slippers were provided on day 4. (?) Towels were very nice. They also seem to have a really cool feature built in. You can use one of them, get it all wet, throw it on the floor and go to dinner. You come back from dinner and the towel has cleaned, dried and refolded itself. Amazing. Some of them even slide out from the bathroom, contort themselves into some exotic animal and jump onto the bed. I don't blame them for jumping onto the bed. The beds are the best we have experienced at sea. Eight pillows to choose from and a very comfy comforter/duvet. A few negatives. Prop vibration was quite annoying particularly when seas were a little rough. Due to the staggered suites at the aft, the bathroom below us lined up with our sleeping area and produced a loud "kaboosh" with every flush. Garbage from the Lido Aft pool falling onto the balcony. Dining: I plan to do another post on this topic. Thermal Suite & Hyrotherapy Pool: A relaxing oasis. $240 per couple for the 11 days. Well worth it to us. We used it each day. water was too hot for two days and the girls at the Spa desk did nothing when several people complained. I finally talked to Ana in the Neptune and the problem was resolved in no time. Thanks Ana. Hydropool area could use some servicing around 5:00pm. Usually out of iced water and used glasses and towels laying around. Not a big deal, just a suggestion for improvement. One day I was able to put in a mental maintenance order. I noticed one of the tropical rain forest showers had a mildewy curtain. What's with me and those shower curtains? The next day there was a new curtain installed. I was feeling pretty powerful so I started thinking really hard about my shipboard account accidentally getting deleted. Didn't work. Steam rooms and thermal loungers were very nice, but we spent more time in the hydrotherapy pool. It was great to get all relaxed before dinner. Pools: As previously stated, the hydrotherapy pool is great. An extra use fee applies. The aft pool is very nice and is intended as an adult pool area. I do not recall seeing any kids in the pool, but I did not see many kids anywhere on the ship. Some of the pool activities were conducted at the aft pool. Pool activities were kind of lame and suffered from poor participation. I think the mid-ship Lido pool is more of a dining and napping area. For Caribbean cruises, the Lido pool does not a lot of sense. Some people did seem to enjoy it as a sheltered alternative. The pool areas are well used by people starting around 11:00 each day. Before 11:00 it seems everyone's books, sunscreen, magazines, hats and robes sneak out for a little fun in the sun. All these items also seem to enjoy the prime loungers close to the pool. On my next cruise I am going to go to the pool and save every lounger on the deck with something. Maybe someone will get the point. When I walked into the Pinnacle I put a book on the display porterhouse steak. When queried by the curious waiter, I told him I was saving that one for me. Explorations Cafe: Awesome. Tisa, the "friendliest librarian at sea" was terrific. She was a riot as one of the judges in the Noordam Superstar shows. Huge selection of books. Tried to use the free access to the NY Times a few times. Connection is mind numbingly slow. I could not find the phone line off the aft of the ship that they must use for their connection. Neptune Lounge: I know most passengers do not have access to the Neptune. This was our first cruise in a full suite with all the perks and thought I would share my experience. The Neptune Lounge is a private lounge available to S Suite passengers. It contains comfortable sofas and chairs, magazines, snacks, sweets, juice and the best coffee machine around. It was a great place to escape for a lite bite and a nice cappuccino. It is also a very easy place to strike up a conversation with other passengers. The only downside for us was that is was quite a hike from Deck 8 aft to Deck 7 mid-ship/forward. After 11 days I was able to determine that 3 chocolate goodies would replace all energy spent getting there. No harm done. It's kind of like complaining about having to walk all the way forward to use the treadmills. Ana, the concierge was very kind and helpful. Sheryll filled in at times and was likewise kind and helpful. I made a reservation for the Pinnacle on our first day and did not utilize Ana's services again until day 5. She addressed me by name and I became suspicious. I thought there was no way she could remember my name from day one. I asked how they cheat with the names. I thought maybe your name comes up when you use your key to get in. They both swore they have to memorize all suite passenger names each cruise. That's 160 names. Then she told me she always remembers the names of the good looking passengers. She's worth her weight in gold, that one is. I think she is leaving the ship soon. Too bad. Entertainment: Overall impression was there was something for everyone. We attended a variety of shows, events and activities. We did not see the Cruise Director for the first 3 days or so. Once we saw him a few times we began to warm up to his acerbic, dry Canadian wit. His cruise activity staff does seem a bit odd considering the demographic on board. One member in particular insisted on flaunting his sexual orientation with some very off color comments. I am all for people choosing who they are and being respected, but crossing the line is crossing the line. I was relieved my in-laws did not ask me what it meant to toss someone's salad. I had high expectations for the Culinary Arts Center. I was under whelmed. There were 3 culinary demonstrations and no culinary "hands on" classes. All 3 classes were done by Pinnacle Grill Chef Robert and hosted by CD Drew. We missed the first class, but caught the other two. I would consider myself a bit of a "foodie" and I was not very entertained nor educated by these shows. The video that opens each show was more interesting. They should mix up the chefs and add some energy to the show. Bam! My Father-in-law like to sing, so "Skaraoke" was high on the list of activities. The first night of karaoke was very well attended with many people singing. Father-in-law sang well and was invited to participate in the Noordam Superstar show. A take off of American Idol. The second karaoke night was poorly attended. I think mostly due to the aforementioned crew member. Nine people were invited to the first Noordam Superstar show. Five showed up. Each sang one song and they were judged by DJ Jazzy, Tisa and CD Drew. Tisa and Drew were very funny. Three were selected for the finals and father-in-law did not make the cut. The final was entertaining with three good singers. The "Chairman of the Board", "Old Blue Eyes", cream of the crop, top of the heap, A-number one, won the contest. He was actually just a little guy with glasses from Long Island but he could belt out the Frank tunes. He was traveling with a guy who sings Dean Martin songs. It was good fun. Mandatory life boat drill. Always sounds like a lot more fun than it is. I always think I am going to get to pilot one of those cool orange survival pods. I didn't think I was looking that great with the PFD on, but the Paparazzi was still there trying to take my picture. I was able to jump behind a beehive hairdo. I would be forced to dodge the Paparazzi several more times on this cruise. In the dining room, bottom of the gangway, in the hallway, they were heard to escape. They had several mixology classes. Fee applies. Day 2 How to make a Martini. Day 3 How to make a Martini. Day 9 How to make a Martini. Day 10 How to make a Martini. Day 11 You guessed it. How to make a Martini. Someone put a lot of thought into that one. Entertainment Cont.: Randall in the Piano Bar was quite a character but failed to wow us. Wife and Mother-in-law went to the Dutch Floral Arrangement Demonstration. They enjoyed it very much. While they were busy I felt the need to do some research on the Bloody Mary Bar. Met Joe the Bartender at the Lido Bar. When he found out I was from Pennsylvania, he told me he was from "Philly". The Phillipines that is. He got a great chuckle from that one. "Philly Joe" makes a great spicy Bloody Mary. Sail away and lunch time music on the Lido Deck were not what I would expect on a Caribbean cruise. When we felt the urge we would pop in a CD of some Soca, Reggae, Buffet or BarefootMan. I can still hear the Steel Drums. During one sunset on the balcony, feet up, Buffet in the background, Cuban in one hand (a cigar, not an actual Cuban), book in the other hand and a Gin and Tonic on the table. Even now it almost brings a tear to my eyes. Indonesian Crew Show was entertaining and it is fun to see how much pride they have in their performance. Burt Reynolds is the top singer. You will see him in the Vista and Lido. Paul Dabek put on a pretty good Magic Show. He started slow, but pulled it out later with his self-effacing comedy. I told him later that he was a real magician he would make my onboard ship account disappear. He couldn't do it. And he calls himself a magician. My wife was looking forward to doing some dance lessons. They only offered one session. Learn to Salsa. I was a little worried about trying to teach my feet to do such a difficult dance. I was ready for the Waltz, so the only salsa I wanted was at the Taco Bar. Somehow we got busy with something and missed the lesson. Whew. Emmett Smith I am not. Father-in-law discovered the free champagne Art Auction. Bad idea for a compulsive shopper. I tried to tell him there is no such thing as free champagne, and boy was I right. Prices are at a premium but people were buying. Crew: By far the nicest crew we have encountered. Everyone was helpful and kind. Everyone always had a smile for us and they seemed sincere. I could not imagine putting up with some of the passengers I saw and still have a bright smile for them. Our waiter Herry was fantastic. Asst. Head Waiter Deepak was very attentive and show real interest in people comments. My wife needed a dress pressed for our final formal night and called the front desk. They someone right away to pick it up and it was returned in two hours perfectly pressed. The front desk then followed up with a phone call to make sure we had received the dress and we were satisfied. The laundry service was outstanding. I could have brought half the clothes. Yum Yum dudes Joe and Albert were always at the ready to smile or lend assistance with a tray. Joe knows some pretty good tunes on the Xylophone. Put in your requests. One place where I felt a little slighted was our CC Meet and Mingle. They set up coffee and cookies, but not a single HAL person could be seen. After reading about the turnout for the first Caribbean cruise this fall, I felt they decided the CC Board group is now irrelevant. Very disappointing. Fitness Center: Very nice new equipment. Center is very well attended at certain times. Greenhouse Spa: Did not use any of the services other than the Thermal Suite/Hydotherapy Pool. I concluded that virtually all of their services are to remove toxins from your body. All these "toxins" are rinsed away and returned to the sea. The fish then take in the "toxins" and we eat the fish and that increases our "toxins". Now we must go back to the spa to get those evil "toxins" removed. What a racket. I had a cheeseburger yesterday. Now I feel compelled to cover myself with avocado and roll myself in seaweed. I think I would look like a giant sushi roll, but I will be "toxin" free. Passengers: The demographic was just fine for us. If we had kids they probably would not have had a lot of new friends onboard, but how many do you need. The children I did see looked to be enjoying themselves immensely. After reading some posts, I was afraid we would be onboard with a bunch of people who walk like their Hushpuppies still have the little plastic tie holding them together. That was not the case, There was a nice mix of ages and we never really thought about it. There was a Mario Andretti character on a Lark I had to keep an eye on. He almost took me out a few times. No horn. No courtesy wave. Nada. We found it very easy to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It was quite refreshing. We met many very nice people. As with any group, there are always a few people behaving badly. We saw barefoot Yanni everyday. We called him that because he looked like Yanni and he would regularly go to the Lido Buffet in a robe and barefoot. I never saw anyone asked to leave the Lido because they were barefoot. Some people were denied access to the Vista Dining Room because they were not properly attired. Pretty much everywhere there was a sign telling people not to do this or that, people were doing this or that. The most egregious was the people who flicked their lit cigarettes from the ship. While underway no less. Can you say Star Princess? They should have been thrown overboard. Hopefully before they have a chance to spawn more idiots. I think that about sums it up. I will start another post to discuss my thoughts on all things food. We had a wonderful cruise. Was everything perfect all the time? No. We refuse to let little things, or even medium to large size things get in the way of us having a good time. Happy sails. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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