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About stephen@stoneyard.co.uk

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  1. Iona does seem to be less spacious than QM2. I would guess nobody would build a ship as spacious as Queen Mary 2 today. Queen Mary 2 has big cabins but of course you only have access to your own. Double, triple and nearly quadruple height spaces take up space. There are many single occupants of double cabins and often many not triples and quadruples. I have cruised with just over 2000 passengers. She felt empty in places. Cunard prices often reflect this spaciousness. I feel Queen Mary 2 does have a few pinch points though that can mean congestion. This is particularly apparent with all those sea days. Iona will have generally smaller cabins. A lot of space seems dedicated to extra tariff dining. She lacks a ballroom too.I suppose it is up to the designers to make the most of the space they have. We shall all see. I am booked on the second come voyage. It will be interesting. We are in port most days so the ship should be almost empty. My only hope is that Iona does not have the lift and stairs shortage that people report on Britannia. Best wishes, Stephen.
  2. Perhaps it is in the name Freedom. It creates a false expectation. It could be renamed Wait For dining. Best wishes, Stephen.
  3. HIt does seem you had many similar problems to me in the main dining room. Lack of staff and perhaps poorly trained staff. I also thought that some of the menu descriptions were a bit over the top for what was served. It is a shame as it would put me off cruising with Marella next year. Best wishes, Stephen.
  4. I did wonder but staff change all the time on ships. After the evening I thought it was perhaps just a bad day for them. I hope you are fine on Explorer 2. I cannot imagine it is like that across the rest of the fleet when everything else was really good. Best wishes, Stephen.
  5. Just returned from Electric Sunsets the 1990s Music themed short cruise from Newcastle. I thought it was a very good cruise with one very big exception for me. I have cruised more time than I can remember on possibly a dozen different lines but only once with Thomson as it then was. Here is my mini review it is purely my personal perspective THE SHIP. I thought the Explorer was wonderful and a massive step up from my previous cruise on Celebration. Light, modern, comfortable, spacious and luxurious. I had single occupancy of four berth cabin on five decks was very pleasant. My only criticism would be because the upper births folded against the wall rather than in the ceiling they impinged on the cabin space. Throughout the ship maintenance and cleanliness seemed second to none. SERVICE. With one exception I thought the service was very good. I really do not think it could have been improved. I do not think the ship was full so I think that might have helped the crew. BUFFET. The best shipboard buffet experience I have had in years. After the first meal I usually avoid the buffet but on this ship I went back for every breakfast and lunch. I found a wide choice, fresh and nicely presented food. Tables were cleared quickly also and always seemed available. MAIN DINING ROOM. Sorry but my worst dining experience I have had on a ship ever. The food was nice enough and some of it was very good but the service was poor. On the first night the restaurant was almost empty and our party was shown to a table of eight as requested. We were given menus for the wrong day. Mistakes happen but our waiter did not apologise and I was left felt I was the cause of his inconvenience. Throughout the meal the wrong food was delivered to the wrong people in the wrong order with some delays. The waiters did not seem to be coping and would rather we were not bothering them. On the third night we queued for a table at Vista to be told it had moved from the sign posted position so we had to queue again at a different entrance. Our table of eight turned out to be two separate tables of four despite at least three tables for eight in a not full restaurant being free. I think they were trying to close some sections. Reluctantly they eventual gave us a table for eight. Bread, wine, olives (one each only) just seemed vey difficult for them. Again the wrong food was given to the wrong people in the wrong order. I noticed it was an hour from arriving, at a less than full restaurant, before we all had a starter. Some had finished the starter before others arrived of course. By the way on the second night we went to Kora La which I very much enjoyed and could not fault the service or food. PASSENGERS. Everybody seemed very friendly and looking to enjoy themselves. I certainly saw no trouble and was not woken by noise in my cabin corridor. People were vaping discreetly in bars and corridors which surprised me but not bothersome. The F word was used as a normal part of speech. It was not offensive just unusual on a cruise. I suppose it was an adults only cruise. Lots of fancy dress including a few nuns. Call The Midwife will not be quite the same for me again. Compared to my usual cruises the average was decades younger. THEME. I must say I had never heard of any of the groups but then the 1990s did pass me by. Apparently many acts had a fewer members than in they did in the 90s but I do not feel that gives me grounds to ask for a partial refund on my cruise. I have done themed cruise before where only one venue is dedicated to the theme. You can ignore the theme on those cruises. This was a whole ship (and embarkation terminal) takeover. I enjoyed it in many ways and just went with it. VERDICT. Would I do another cruise on the ship? Yes. Would I do another Marella cruise? Yes. I hope the main dining room would be better. Would I do another pop music themed cruise? Possibly.
  6. I would imagine CPS, Carnival UK and ABP work together on such matters. Best wishes, Stephen.
  7. If anybody is interested in the covered drop off area at the Ocean Terminal I think you can see it on the ABP Southampton Facebook page. There is a photo of Centura docked with Oriana sailing past. Best wishes, Stephen.
  8. Thank you. That explains it. Best wishes, Stephen.
  9. Thank you. I dId not know that. Cunard do a similar thing with transatlantic crossings via Hamburg. Passengers join and l ave at Hamburg to and from the the crossing. Gives a few options for mini cruises also. Best wishes, Stephen.
  10. MSC, Costa and Royal Caribbean do that in the Med. A rolling cruise. It offers three, four and seven day cruise options. Some British passengers don’t like it. They want a shared cruise experience and they feel people coming and going at different ports destroys that. Best wishes, Stephen.
  11. Many of the ships that use regional ports (perhaps not Dover and Tower Bridge) would not be competitive out of Southampton. That might be a factor for them. It keeps them away from comparison against the new big ships of P&O, Cunard, Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. Best wishes, Stephen.
  12. It is interesting how other lines do it. One line I cruised with allowed you to pick your own time in advance. This favours early bookers and the computer literate of course. Another line gave the equivalent of Select booking the early times. We could print out our own boarding cards, the health form has gone, we could register our credit cards before or after boarding, we could upload our photograph from home and cruise cards could be inside cabins. All that needs checking is our passports. Even security scanning for all passengers is not required. It could be made a very quick process. Best wishes, Stephen.
  13. Please does anybody know what the colour of boarding cards mean. I think we always have green but I could be wrong. Thank you, Stephen.
  14. In my experience, on a good day (with the smaller ships) the preferential boarding will have started at 12pm and finished by 12.30. General boarding will begin by arrival order immediately afterwards. That back log of that will be over by 1pm. After that it is board immediately until the coaches and people (who keep to the schedule time arrive) from about 1.30. From then in it is back to waiting even if you turn up at you alocated time. Cabins are declared open by about 1.30pm. I try and carry as little in hand luggage as possible. Just my passport, wallet and phone. That way it is less of a hassle. On my last cruise I got my hair cut while waiting for my cabin. Best wishes, Stephen.
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