Friday, April 6, South Beach: DH had to work. We live in Port Saint Lucie, and were looking for something that would save us from the drive, so our only concern was that. We wound up at Haddon Hall Hotel. Great location, kitchenette included, rooms need updating. The rest of the hotel is great, and it has a pool. We arrived late, had a snack and went to sleep.
Saturday, April 7, embarkation day!: We drove to Port of Miami, dropped our bags at Terminal C, drove to parking garage C and walked back. I am disabled with a bad back and migraines, but I can walk so I declined NCL's offer of a wheelchair. We went through the Casinos At Sea line, got our room cards and gave our info then the nice lady sent us upstairs where there were sandwiches and drinks waiting. Within a few minutes we had been called to board with our group number. We went on board and proceeded to Taste, where we had a nice lunch, then to our room after we heard the announcement that we could go there. Unpacked, got spa passes from the spa and checked out the ship before getting ready for Cirque Dreams and dinner, premium seating, which was excellent. Nice dinner, nice company, excellent entertainment. Loved it.
Back upstairs to take it easy for a bit, then I went to the casino while DH went off to have a drink or two, then to bed.
Sunday, April 8: We had breakfast at the Garden Cafe buffet on 15. Afterward we had a meet and greet set up. I was booked to do a short comedy set that I'd been asked to do at the meet n greet. Mingled, had coffee, met some great people and did my act, then the motion of the boat overtook us, so we spent the day resting. Missed dinner but felt up to Blue Man Group, and went back out at 10pm for that show. We had good seats for that (sit where you like), and enjoyed the show thoroughly.
Stopped for Noodle Bar, had some type of ramen-ish food that I wasn't up to eating with my motion sickness. DH had a soupy dish he enjoyed and some spring rolls. Then off to bed.
Monday, April 9: Breakfast on 15, I recommend the omelet station, hash browns and bacon along w/ fresh fruit. They also have lox which impressed me because it's always expensive and they have a lot of it here at the buffet. Ran into our friends from CC on the Sundeck, and should've hung w/ them, but instead stuck to our plan of going to the spa. Later we regretted it because we didn't get any time in at the water slides except one or two quick slides in the afternoon, but it is what it is. The spa was relaxing and quiet. No kids allowed.
Teppanyaki: read Benihana at 5:45pm. Entertaining chef, nice people at our table. We enjoyed the evening. Friends of Dorothy meeting where we got to meet the others with similar orientation as us and had a drink, then relaxed back in our room and freshened up for Second City. We got there on time but all the good seats were taken, leaving us stuck behind a post and some woman's head near the back where we had an obstructed view. Maybe I was drinking slowly, but the show was over before my drink was finished. The show was pretty good though, an improve type experience with audience participation. Hit the casino for a bit then to bed.
Tuesday, 4/10 St. Maarten: We had probably our best full day of the week this day. Got up early, had breakfast on 15 and went out to the main road after getting off the ship and over to Great Bay Marina, a little ways down the road on the left, where we were to meet Captain Bob from Trip Advisor Soualiga destinations where he has a docked boat (3 actually) next to a restaurant/bar that serves very reasonably priced drinks and food. Should've waited for breakfast here because from what I saw it was delicious. Spoke with a family, the hubby looked suspiciously like Matt Damon with a small child and they told us about their trip, and then our CC friends met up with us. We hit it off with our CC friends from the get go. I don't know if it's because they reminded us of some other friends we had, or if we just have complimentary personalities, but we got along very well, and ended up doing a bunch of things together that week. We got along so well that when they asked who was coming on their next cruise in a year, we booked the same one. Same ship, same room, same itinerary, everything. We're going back to finish what we've started and do some of the things we didn't get to do this time around. Checked in w/ Capt'n Bob, who was very friendly and nice, and enjoyed the weather and the restaurant until we headed out on the excursion. And what an excursion it was! Snorkeling, coral reefs, multi colored fish, sting rays, eagle rays, giant turtles, a ton of little fishes swimming all over us, lunch on Pinel Island with some very nice people eating chicken or ribs and homemade food that was delicious and unlike the meat we get here in the states. This was an experience not to be missed. The way we hear it from others, some of these excursions put you on a boat w/ 60 people, feed you rum punch and stick you in one spot which, while beautiful, does not come close to the experience we had on this day. We traveled all over the island, Dutch and French sides, plus Pinel Island, got to enjoy many different views and snorkel and swim in a bunch of different spots. After lunch on Pinel Island we got to feed our leftovers to iguanas who live behind the restaurant/bar and souvenir shop or swim or suntan on the beach for a bit before returning to the boat. One of our last stops for the day was the St. Maarten airport where we watched a few planes land. Then home to the ship. We went back w/ our new friends, whom we knew we were getting on good with, and made plans to go to St. John with the next day.
Once back, we stopped at Taste for a snack, then showered and hit the casino before Cagneys. Taste was still in my belly, so I didn't have much appetite for Cagneys, but I'd already postponed them once, so we went. I had a delicious lobster bisque and a 5 oz filet, DH had a salad of some sort and a nice 10 oz (I think) steak. CrÃ¨me Brulee for dessert, then back to the casino for me, to Shakers for DH. We also had stopped at Shakers earlier for FOD meeting, and had the chance to hang out with some of our gay and lesbian friends at Shakers for a while. We took an early nap in between hanging out with the FOD people and our last booked entertainment of the night, our 11:30 pm Ice Bar reservation.
We arrived at the Ice Bar, put on gloves and parkas, and were given 2 drink tickets each. We were escorted inside, camera in hand, to one of the friendliest bartenders ever. Despite the fact that we came in while he was watching his baseball game on the tv, he was cheerful, offered to take our camera so we could get some pics together, and talked with us for quite awhile. We tipped him pretty well I think, and were offered samples of some of the harder stuff as the last customers of the night. After a larger sample than I really needed, we had to get out of there of risk potential frostbite (at least that's how I felt). The orange drink is the one people seem to like, and we liked it too. I've heard the other one sucks. From more than one person. I can say that the orange drink is delish, comes in a little ice glass, and although we didn't do it, some people take the ice glass with them when they leave.
Wednesday 4/11: We were supposed to meet up w/ our friends at the 15th floor garden cafe buffet, but couldn't find them. We figured they overslept, and after about 40 mins, decided to get our stuff and go outside the ship. We waited outside but didn't see them there either, so since we didn't have a plan for the day, our previous plan being to go to St. John w/ the others, we decided to change it up and hired an air conditioned cab to take us around St. Thomas, giving us an historical account, stopping to let us take pictures, etc. Took a couple of hours for $100 then dropped us off in the shopping district where we shopped and had lunch (thank you Glenda). We then headed back to the ship, since we were tired and sunburnt. Went to the spa, ran into one of the FOD people who took pity on DH's sunburn and gave him some special ointment for his face. Got back to our room to messages from our friends.
We arrived back sometime about noonish, had gone to the spa and returned to find a couple of messages from our friends about having missed each other this morning. We called them back, made arrangements to meet up for drinks and appetizers at O'Sheehans and stopped by their room to pick them up. We had a nice time catching up, and everyone agreed it was nobodies fault that we'd missed each other in the crowd of people that morning. We're on vacation, why get worried about such things? We had to go about 3 hours after that for dinner at Moderno. We were having a blast w/ our friends and made plans to meet at their room the next morning to do Nassau. Once again, my headaches decided to kick in and despite my waiting all week for Moderno, my head wouldn't cooperate. The salad bar itself was worth the price of admission. Chunks of exquisite cheeses, delicious breads and delightful veggies lined the salad bar, tempting one to fill up in advance of the delicacies to come from the servers who abound with seasoned meats on skewers awaiting your approval before depositing them onto your plate. I forced myself to sit, migraine and all, through about 6 courses of various meats before we had to go.
I wasn't feeling well that night, so I spent the night resting and dealing w/ my migraine while DH hung out with the FOD crowd and had some drinks. Later in the night I may have stopped at the casino, but not for very long. I probably grabbed some buffet food to hold me over when I was able to and just tried to get through the migraine episode.
Thursday 4/12 At Sea: We had breakfast at the buffet on 15, then the spa and casino for a bit, then we had plans to meet our friends for the murder mystery at the Spiegel Tent at 12:30 for Lunch and Entertainment. We ran into them in line, had no trouble getting seated together, we all sat upstairs this time, and it was a tight fit as all seating seems to be in Spiegel, but the food was good and the Entertainment was, well, entertaining. The same players who do the Second City show also do the Murder Mystery. They're quite good and use a lot of audience participation, which gave the Murder Mystery a feel of being an extension of the Second City show. Similar references in both shows such as references to the same Pop Culture Artists furthered that cause, and added to the comic relief.
It was the night of the White Party, which we had been looking forward to, and I wasn't going to miss this no matter how bad my headache was. Thankfully, I had my imitrex injections with me so I took an injection, slept for a couple of hours and met DH at Spic H20 at midnight. He was with the FOD crowd, most of them anyway, and we looked around for some of our other friends, but didn't spot them. After an hour or so of enjoying the party, we noticed that the average age seemed to drop to about 14, so we took our little group and headed over to Bliss Ultra Lounge, where there was a DJ and some of the people from the St. Maarten excursion. We had a most memorable night. DJ Fly kept us in good music, our waitress kept us in drinks and our friends kept us in digital pictures. Some time about 3:30am we stumbled back to our room, tired, a little bit drunk, but happy.
Friday 4/13: Nassau, Bahamas: Despite going to bed so late, we got up when we were supposed to, met our friends at their aft cabin for breakfast at O'Sheehans and had a nice country breakfast there, then headed off to Nassau, where we did some shopping for souvenirs, some bought licquor, then off to Senor Frogs. On the way there a woman ran up to me and put a necklace around me that was a "gift" from the people of the Bahamas, and handed me another, then demanded a donation. Her sheer audacity was amusing, and we gave her the money, but on the ship heard from many people that they'd been taken in by the same story. Apparently a $5 necklace is $4 too much. I'm pretty certain these people selling them paid less than $1 each. But it didn't hurt anything to help someone out who needed that money more than me, and I got something for my money, so I went for it. In fact everyone I spoke to that purchased one seemed happy enough with the quality of their necklace. One of the highlights of the day was the conch salad at Senor Frogs made fresh from a live conch right in front of me. They send a guy over with a mobile cart to make it. He uses a claw hammer to open a small hole in a conch, take out the meat and chop it into a salad w/ fresh vegetables, citrus etc. That's not the best part though. The best part is that if you ask, they will clean the conch, it involves putting another small hole in it to get the last bit of conch meat out and you can take it back as a souvenir. We ordered 2 so we could take the shells back. After a few drinks, lunch and some music, we were all exhausted from the day before and decided to get back to the ship. Took some pictures on the way and headed back to the ship. Embarkation, like all of the times we left or reentered the ship, was a simple affair. No fruits or veggies were allowed back and forth, even a banana I wanted to bring out for a snack one day had to be thrown away, all bags and metal things through the x ray machine, step through the metal detector and stick your room card in the slot. I think they take your alcohol from you if you purchase any on an island and deliver it to your room on the last day in Nassau, at night some time.
After we got back to the ship, we had some time in the spa, which is always relaxing, and met up w/ the FOD group before heading to Le Bistro for dinner. I can't remember DH's appetizer, but I had escargot, he had a cipriani type dish, a type of seafood stew, French style, and I had swordfish. Once again, my migraine was taking over, so I took the coconut souffle to go. We were starting to get that feeling that the trip was beginning to wind down. We had felt for a couple of days that we were on the return leg and there was a feeling in the air of "we won't be here that much longer". One of the stewards we were friendly with said that he makes a new group of friends every week, then they go away and he makes new ones the next week. It kind of felt that way. Like we knew that many of these people we'd probably not see again, so it was more important to be extra nice and make the moments we all spent on this ship together extra fun for everyone.
We spent some time with our group that was meeting nightly at Shakers, the Friends of Dorothy, and by this time we had a bunch of people within the group of whom we were more likely to gravitate to than others, but the entire group for the most part was pretty cool. It was the 'end of sail" or whatever it's called party at Spice H2O but the turnout was dismal. Not even many of the die hard FOD people were there. We went because our friends, another couple from FOD were there and we thought our other friends might show up as well. I left after an hour and went to take a nap, then off to the casino again.
I made it a point of visiting the casino, where the waitresses would bring drinks over frequently, especially when they knew a customer is a tipper, I could build up credit for another cruise through Casinos At Sea, and maybe win a jackpot. I had good and bad days throughout the week, but luckily, on this trip, I did pretty well on the first and last days, which left me in a good position of having put a lot of play on the machines with nothing out of pocket. Also the bar in the casino became my 'go to' place for filling water bottles, getting 2 sodas at a time, things like that. I'd try to stick to the same bartender each shift, and my tried and true method of tipping a few bucks for a free drink and getting them 2 at a time meant I never had to wait, even when the bar got busy. I noticed that the main bar when you embark was a popular spot for people as their 'go to' place, and so were the pool side ones. So I guess it depends on where you spend a lot of your time and where your cabin is. Since we had a mid-ship and I was always heading off to the casino for a few minutes of slot machine play, that was the place that made sense for me. I hit in the casino on this last night of play, so I was quite happy. Earlier in the night we'd packed everything up we needed to, I'd visited the duty free and picked up our licquor as well as the duty free souvenir store for an extra beach bag, where the salespeople, some of whom I'd been drinking with the night before, had taken on an English accent that, not unlike a bug, only afflicted them when they were working in the shops. I'm certain they're under orders to affect that accent when at work in the store. DH had spent some time at the good bye party at Spice H2O then later on this, our last night together, hung out with me at the casino in the wee hours. I'd done well and wanted to play a bit more since I was ahead. Finally, after an hour or so of small hits, We decided we needed some sleep for the drive home tomorrow
We breakfasted through room service delivery for the first time all week. Order more than you think you'll want. A Danish is 2 bites to NCL. I found that even the plates of fruit were small after spending a week piling it on at the buffet breakfasts. We freshened up, took some pictures, and got ready to disembark.
Disembarkation: When they called for those of us who wanted to drag our own crap off the ship, I think it was called 'easy off' or something clever, we went down to the floor they told us to with passports and filled out customs forms in hand and got into the wrong place in line, got yelled at by some woman who didn't see that it was an honest mistake and got pointed to the end of the line. On our customs forms we put the licquor by price, the souvenirs lumped together by price and the 2 conch shells, since someone, another cruiser, had said they might not let them into the states because "they're shellfish". I didn't want to argue, but the shellfish part was long gone and they were just shells, but erring on the side of caution, I wrote '2 conch shells" and valued them at what we'd paid for the 2 conch salads plus tip. Once the line moved, it was the slowest all week, lasted a good 30-40mins, we got to the customs agent, who waved us through after looking at our papers and giving our luggage a cursory glance. I've been told that they randomly check people unless they get their hackles up over something, so anything you have a question about on board, just ask people and anywhere there's a question put it on the customs form. It worked for us. I was nervous about the shells but figured as long as I declared them, if the person who said I couldn't take them was right, the agent would see them right away and tell me. We rolled our luggage to terminal c parking and got my handicapped parking validated at the office on the way out, which saved the fee for week long parking. We also took the car to the car wash later that day since the salt water may mess with the finish, especially on a newer car.
Mid Ship Balcony Stateroom12177: Being our first cruise, we were concerned about seasickness. I'm disabled with 8 bad discs, migraines, athsma and a bunch of long winded medical terms related to my back issues that are hard to pronounce. I turned down the handicapped room that was offered us in favor of a mid ship balcony, which was upgraded from a comped inside or oceanview (I forget which) through Casinos At Sea. The room is listed on NCL at 216 ft I think, the balcony has a great view, although there are lifeboats below us, and the motion of the ship was much less pronounced than the forward or aft areas. There are rooms above us, so no worries about bowling balls or dancing or kids clubs right above us. Electrical outlets are quite limited, but for a week where you're living without most of your gadgets, you should be ok. We used a 3outlet/2 USB adapter that plugged into 1 outlet, had a 2nd outlet available and a 3rd under the medicine cabinet. For 2 iPads, 2 iPhones, a Kindle Fire3 and a walkie talkie set charger it worked out well. We didn't use the bar setup at all, took the licquor home with us. We have CAS drink cards and didn't want to run back to our rooms to refill drinks purchased in the bars, we felt that was in poor taste. If we wanted a nightcap, we'd just get it from the casino bar, order 2 and take them back to the room w/ us. I gambled almost every day so they all knew me there and it wasn't an issue. The balcony is a wonderful place where you can eat, drink, smoke, kiss, hug, watch the waves and reflect on the fact that you've spent thousands of dollars to float around in a boat in the middle of the water staring into the ocean. Lol. I only wish they gave us loungers. You get 2 chairs and a small table, enough for a plate, or 2 glasses. There's a couch in the room, curved, and more storage than even a troop of broadway performers would need for a month's stay. A safe which you can set your own code to, and the flat screen tv. Looks like maybe a 26 incher or so. You can get messages on it, emails, check the account, play casino games, get a view from the bridge, purchase pay per view movies and that sort of thing. What you can't do is use the built in composite inputs to hook up your iOS device or video equipment to view your own library of video material, such as movies you may have purchased or ripped, video you may have shot on vacation, etc. There's an input on the tv, but it's disabled. That's so that NCL can try to get you to buy a PPV movie. Me, I just watch on my iPad. I have a pico projector as well, but we didn't bother to use that. There are reading lights on either side of the bed and the bed itself can be separated into 2 singles or a double (cali king size, I think). There's a touch screen telephone which can be used as a nightlight, has buttons to call certain places like reservations etc. We used it to call our friends in other cabins primarily. Didn't set up a VM but it worked without need to set up. The bathroom/shower area separates from the rest of the room with a curtain. Using the curtain when showering or doing one's business gave the illusion of room separation. We brought a fresh can of febreeze and when one was using that area the other would 'choose' to take advantage of the balcony. Even couples should know when the other should have some privacy. Between the balcony and the curtan, and the door to the bathroom or shower, that's 3 separate barriers between you and your loved one or traveling companion while you do what you need to . Felt private enough for us.
Norwegian iConcierge App for iPhone: We had problems with this app. It's a new app, and we had read on CC that there would be VOIP calling, chat and that's what we wanted in the app. Unfortunately for us, none of those features were available until the last full day of the cruise. On the Friday before disembarkation, chat worked, voip was supposed to be enabled but didn't work, and we used chat instead of walkies to keep in touch on the ship. We couldn't figure out how to chat w/ others in other cabins though. That is something NCL should add or make easier to do in an update. Also, we couldn't get the app working at first. We both downloaded the app before we embarked. We were supposed to register with a code from the tv in the room, but my app wouldn't take. DH's took the code but didn't work well. Finally, before we took off from Miami, I deleted and reloaded the app and it finally took the code and registered. It only worked for reservations, looking at excursions, looking at account info and that sort of thing. We hope that on the next cruise chat works better and works from day 1, VOIP calling to any phone works and for that we'd be happy to pay a small usage fee for the week. I wouldn't pay for it for just ship chat, because we've already purchased walkies that get the job done.
All in all, the crew treated us like royalty, the other travelers made a great bunch to hang out with, we made a lot of casual friends and some that we'll have for a long time. We felt pampered and treated well, and didn't see any real instances except for a few isolated ones of people behaving inappropriately or getting too out of hand or anything like that. Certainly not much for the size of the ship. NCL should value their crew highly because inevitably, they're what made the cruise special and what caused us and our friends to want to go back.