My Name is William Nicholaus Hastings I sailed out of Houston on the Dream on Saturday the 7th of January. As this was my first cruise I don't have much to compare it to. I stayed in cabin 4211 and Ronnie the guy in charge of the cabins on my side the deck we were on was very personable and reasonably adequate at his cruise line job. I went on this cruise with 13 other adults and one child. One of the adults had special needs. This was a family reunion involving a mother Mama Tolly, 6 of her daughter, their significant others, her son Jack (the man with the special needs), and her granddaughters Casey Jones, and Debbie Sapp.
The complete list of the passengers in our party; Robin Jones (CLIA member), Casey Jones, William Hastings, Rebecca Tolly Ray (owner of Perpetual Travel agency and CLIA member), Robert Ray, Linda Slate, Cheryl Freeman (CLIA member), Myrtle Tolly, Jack Tolly, Rita a family friend in jack's cabin, Nella Hamptil, John Riffle, Marie Riffle and their daughter Debbie Sapp.
My First Impressions of the ship was much better then I expected. The cabins and halls were much roomier and easy to get around in than I had envisioned as I was looking forward to this vacation. Most of the staff was fairly friendly and courteous although there were a few occasions I felt I was being brushed of.
I have several complaints. The first: being that upon entering the ship there were no clear instructions on the proper method of sterilizing a persons hands properly. Coming from a medical family, my uncle is and my grandfather was Medical Doctors. My Mother is an RN. There was no explanation that to properly sterilize your hands. You must was the fronts and backs paying special attention to the nail beds and go at least half way up the forearm. Time and time again I would watch people splash a small amount of sanitizer on their hands and rub them together. This does not do a bit of good no matter how many hand sanitation stations you have stationed around your ship. Time and time again I would hear women complain that the sanitizer was drying out their hands and they weren't going to use the sanitizing stations on the ship anymore. I advised just to use more hand lotion, but since they didn't really know how to sanitize their hands properly it probably didn't matter that they stopped any way.
Second: this was a family reunion and although we made reservations on three different nights we never got a table together or even multiple tables remotely close enough to carry on conversation. Not to good for a family reunion. The biggest table available was for twelve, but some how we never got anything bigger then one to seat 8. This is mediocre at best when you see that reservations were made always 6 to 12 hours ahead.
To give you a little perspective on my judgments following I will tell you a little bit about myself. I left home at 15 and moved to New Orleans where I began as dishwasher and worked my way up into cooking at casual fine dining establishments by the age of 17. I had my first kitchen manager position at age 19. After moving around the country a bit and getting a bit tired of the restaurant lifestyle I moved back to Alabama where I have been building houses, decks, patios, installing above and in-ground pools, hot-tubs spas and steam rooms for over eight years now.
Third: the food for the most part was mediocre at best. Quite often during the mid-day out door barbeques the food was over or under-done. For example I actually got a pork chop that was still bleeding although appeared almost burnt on the outside. The Lobster served during the captain's meal was freezer burnt and then over done and the tails were from lobsters really to young to be caught and served. I am not sure about the rest of the world but I know in Maine, New Hampshire or Massachusetts, a lobster has to be at least fourteen inches long and male to be kept. There was not a lobster tail that I ate that could have been even come from a 12 incher before it was cooked. There was absolutely no wheat or whole grain bread and although I am not a vegetarian I do only eat unprocessed grains. Brown rice, Whole grain breads, Etc. Overall the only thing I could compare your ships food to would be a small poorly run Morrison's or Piccadilly cafeteria. In no way could it even compete with any of the onshore fine dining or casual fine dining establishments I have worked for in my youth. If I hadn't been trapped on your ship I would not have eaten anywhere onboard. The only exception to this was the chocolate mouse provided by your room service, which was superb.
Fourth: Your alcohol prices at the bars were outrageous 8$ for a shot of absolute. 13$ for a shot of kettle one 2$ for a can of coke. This sort of pricing verges on extortion. I could understand a 25-50% increase of price on items like these even considering you get them duty free but double or triple what I would have to pay on shore seems criminal. Now I don't have any experience with cruising previous to this but almost everyone else in my party has had tons. To have to pay for your drinks while you are gambling is ridiculous and the members of my party involved with booking cruises have informed me that on other lines this is not the case. The woman I spoke with on the phone informed me that your rates for beverages and things were comparable to other lines I am sorry but I don't think this is the case.
Fifth: The Hot tubs were never hot I don't think after the first day I felt one that was over 85 degrees F. Now a warm hot tub is 100-102 degrees a moderately hot tub is 105, and 107-108 is about as hot as you would want one because scalding is possible with certain individuals at 110 or higher. I got in a hot tub one time and stayed in for five minutes. That was the second day of the cruise every time I past anyone sitting around in one of the hot tubs I would ask if it was hot and always got the same answer. NO, it was not. One comment was luke-warm at best. A crewmember in a suit (a manager of some sort I assumed) informed me that the bartenders could change the temperature of the hot tubs, but when I asked the bartender told me on duty that they could not.
Sixth: We could not stop at our fourth port of call, Cancun, so why shouldn't we be able to stay a little longer at our other ports. I really would have liked to stay longer in Belize. As I know the ship had to slow down on the way back and we arrived so early why could we not get a few extra hours off ship in Roatan or Belize? I feel as if I was cheated out of a quarter of my trip. Now I understand hurricanes as Ivan went directly over my house and I have been working down in gulf shores almost nonstop ever since, so I really have some understanding why we wouldn't stop in Cancun, but to get so little shore time in Belize even though we were way ahead of schedule seems really cheap and rather shifty. Especially slowing down and extorting even more money out of me at your bars.
Seventh: Nightly day-care was offered by your company at a small additional charge. My Girlfriend and I requested this service almost every night and were informed every time by All-Star Annie that no one else had signed up. Not wanting to leave Casey alone we would be asked to be notified if anyone else would like to leave their children or check in at 8:00 PM at the closing of the list if anyone else had asked. We were always informed the same thing that no one else had requested after hours service. It wasn't until the last couple of days of the cruise that we had met the other parents of Casey's new friends that they had been getting treated the same way. There was no public list available to see only all-star Annie's word that no one else had requested after hours service. The last night of the cruise Robin Jones, my girlfriend and the parents of two girls Casey had befriended went up to kids camp before eight o'clock and both asked for after hours care. All-Star Annie told them the list was closed. Later that night because my girlfriend was watching her daughter I got together with some younger guys and went partying. We were invited to a crew party where I drank and spoke with both Tinkerbell-Tiffany and the Canadian girl Maureen or something that both worked at the kid's corner. I went all over the ship was taken places by crewmembers through doorways that were clearly labeled crew only. Watched a drunken crew musician threaten to throw a passenger overboard and if the girls we were with hadn't intervened he and his three friends would have beating your staff member senseless. At this time I felt it was a good idea to go back to my cabin and go to sleep. Other then that Casey really enjoyed the kids' camp she really looked forward to going to it every day. My Girl-Friend Robin (a CLIA member and has been on over 10 cruises and several promo cruises) said this was a good indication that the ladies were doing a good job making things fun for the kids and that the program was being run well. So aside from the wild parties your daycare personel were waiting to be off to so I couldn't party with my Girl-Friend the daycare was good. As I saw the ladies all three of them from the daycare at the party and spoke with two I know why they were closing the list early or lying to the passengers/customers.
Now I did have a good time because I chose to. I chose to let all these things pass over me and not affect the vacation that I needed But I absolutely would not cruise your line again or recommend it to anyone. Most people I heard on a regular basis complained about the trip with the only exception of the college age kids who snuck all their alcohol on board from off the ship, and partied with the crew at night in all those out of bounds areas.
I am really offended I had to spend so much of my evening time that I had looked forward to spending with my girlfriend having to do kid appropriate things because your staff is to busy getting drunk at night instead of doing their jobs that my ticket price and your outrageous surcharge at your bars paid for.
William Nicholaus Hastings 59 Fels ave. Fairhope, AL 36532