Flying in the day of departure, never a good idea, we're running late after a flight delay and almost two hours going through customs. In the taxi from Fort Lauderdale to Miami I called NCL to let them know we were coming in late but in time to board. I was told they had no way to get in touch with the ship. I'm baffled as I hold a boarding pass from Carnival Cruise Line, back to back cruises, and on it they asked me to call them if we're running late. Finally made it aboard 45 minutes before the ship sailed.
Cabin 11270 Mini Suite. We had no problem with the room layout. The balcony was spacious and a lot of closet space. It is true that there is not enough room in front of the bed which is funny because I found the bed small and I'm 6 feet. There was no water pressure in the sink until the last night on board. I had to shave in the shower with out a mirror. But what surprised us most was the lack of amenities. There was gel soap and shampoo in the shower and that was it. No hand soap for the sink, surprising considering that every were we went on the ship staff were there to spray our hand with an alcohol solution. No bathrobes... really... maybe we expected too much and should have brought our own.
First day at sea felt like a lottery winner as we secure two deck chairs at the H2O Spice (adult only) and were able to enjoy the day. There is definitively a lack of deck space. We witness a few argument over reserved chairs.
We booked 4 specialty restaurants before leaving. Had we known what was in store we wouldn't have. Our first was the French restaurant Le Bistro. When I pay an extra $20 pp there is an expectation, in this case french cuisine. Half the menu is not french cuisine. As a matter of fact I ordered Coquille St-Jacques. I was dumb founded when I was given a plate with four scallops on it.
When I asked I was told it was my Coquille St-Jacques. Not even close... a watered down version of French cuisine. What actually saved the night for us was the Blue Man Group show. Very entertaining and high quality. Came out of there with a smile.
The second day at sea we won the lottery again,at the H2O Spice, but this time I was in the chair at 08:15 am ,and they were the last two available. We booked the Murder Mystery dinner. Second City does a good job. Taking suggestions from the audience, they improvise through their script. Well done and entertaining. If you get seated on the second floor not only will you be last to eat you'll have to do so after the show as resumed from their break to let you eat. My wife got a piece of salmon that was not cooked properly, raw in the middle. When we told our hostess about it she took our room number but we never heard anymore about it. That night we did the Cirque Dream restaurant, $25 pp. The show was a surprise and went above our expectation. The food was above average but you do not have a choice. You are brought what is on the menu that night. Overall pleasantly surprised.
Third day St Maarten. Went to Philipsburg by taxi, $4 pp, colorful town, nice people not to pushy lots of nice little shops in the alleyways. In the afternoon did the America's Cup Challenge, booked on board. If you are a sailing buff do not miss it. A chance to sail and race aboard formula one of the seas. Had the luck to end up on the famed Stars and Stripes of Dennis Connor. We won the race against True North and Canada 2. First time in the Manhattan Room tonight Epic's main dining room. Menu somewhat limited but we found the food to be above average compare to the specialty restaurant. A singer and a six musician band gives a nice atmosphere to the dining room.
Fourth day St Thomas US Virgin Island. Again went to town by taxi. At the drop off area we were met by local guides looking to fill their with customer. We met Raymond from Raymond tours. His tour did not start for another 2 hours so we had time to visit the town and shop.For $25 pp he took us all around St Thomas giving us a nice slice of the reality of the island. Meagan's beach, Coki Point Beach an out of the way bar were we tasted a divine Banana Daiquiri. Tonight's the Teppanyaki restaurant $20 pp any extra order $10 pp. The food was well above average and the portion more than generous. Our chef did not have a good night tough. A lot of misses when showing off his skill but the food did not suffer from it just his ego I guess.
Fifth day at sea. I must definitely buy lottery when we get home as I scored two deck chair again at the H2O Spice and we spent a nice day in the sun. We had dinner in the Manhattan Room again we found it to be above average.
Sixth day Nassau. Shortest port of call 07:00 hours. Atlantis Water Park booked trough NCL before leaving. You end up spending about four hours at the Park. Lines were long as it the Park was full. Had time to do 3 slides Challenger, Leap of Faith, Abyss plus the lazy river and found time to explore the Dig. A bit pricey but had and great time. Supper tonight at Noodles, $15.00 pp, with a couple we met on board. This was the best of the specialty restaurant we tried. From the service to the food it was a pleasure. Back to the room the luggage have to be out by 23:00. While doing the luggage we talked about putting down a deposit on a future cruise. As a matter of fact before leaving we had already circled February 6 2013. The day of departure from Miami of the Norwegian Sun 11 night cruise of South Caribbean. We were waiting to make that decision to have a better idea about NCL. We decided to do it so he went to the guest services area. While in line a personnel member asked if he could help me. I told him that we wanted to put down a deposit on a future cruise. He told me that the desk was close. But the on board credit and guest services are open and you are roaming the floor to help customer how can it be closed I answered? Sir the desk was open all week was his reply. Told him about wanting to form an opinion about NCL before any decision and asked him " So NCL does not want my money?" to witch I only got a polite smile as a reply. I can't believe what is happening here. A cruise line that doesn't want my money or my business apparently... I turn around to the on board credit desk an asked for my bill. Back to the room I go trough the statement a see that my on board credit is $185 but I have $250. Back down from the 11th to the 4th floor to the on board credit desk. I state my case and I'm told by the clerk that their offices are now closed. You are here an I want to resolve this now. He started checking his computer and after maybe 5 minutes he assured me that the morning statement delivered to my room would show the right amount of credit. To his credit it was.
Seventh day. We are overall left with a taste of ash in our mouth. The staff on board was great all week, the ship has it's personality good and bad but overall was above average. The BIG disappointment came from the feeling that we were nickeled and dimed by NCL the whole way. Specialty restaurants should be free as they offer only a change of decor or entertainment. When we order a cola I expect it to be a can or a bottle for $2 plus gratuities not a fountain with a glass half full of ice. When you pay $12 a day pp in prepaid gratuities
you should not be charged gratuities on any drinks you order or else. We understand it's an industry practice but on other cruise line you can opt out of prepaid gratuities. No amenities or bathrobes in the room. Did not want our money for a deposit or our business as it stands now. And last but not least had I not checked my statement I feel they would have kept $65 of on board credit. Is NCL cash strapped???
We are off the Epic to board the Carnival Destiny. Yes back to back cruises.
As a matter of fact our third in 10 months.
New to cruising and loving it but probably never again with NCL...