Entered terminal at 12:30, on gangway at 1:30. Headed straight to Versailles for lunch to avoid the mob scene at the Market Cafe. Don't know exactly when the bags arrived in our stateroom, but were there when we popped in at 5:30.
Disembarkation -- Liked their setup, passengers can select their choice of colored tags based on what time they would like to disembark. You can pick up the tags the night before in the Grand Atrium.
Lifeboat Drill -- the easiest ever. Announcement was made to report to various locations "inside" the ship based on your stateroom location. No life jackets required, basically took attendance and gave a brief presentation. Took place at 3:30 and was completed before our 4:00 sail-away.
Stateroom - Stayed in a Cat MB mini-suite. Very adequate, had shower in tub, and separate commode area. Note: though shampoo and shower gel is provided, conditioner is not, so bring some from home. Heard complaints from a few that More
beds were hard and in bad shape, but ours was as comfortable as at home....very satisfied. Loved having a coffeepot as it meant not being tied-in to a specific time for room service for the must-have coffee first thing upon rising. Balcony was a good size, 2 sling-back type chairs with a very 'tiny" table. The mini-fridge I'm sure was great for some, but we only used it to keep our coffee creamer chilled that our steward made sure was kept stocked for us.
Onboard Account -- Stop by the main desk in the Grand Atrium anytime for interim statements to avoid very long lines the last two days to resolve disputes. (Unfortunately, our bill was always spot-on.)
Public Rooms - -
Spinnaker Lounge -- unfortunately they eliminated the fabulous forward lounge with wrap-around floor to ceiling windows to convert them into 4 luxury suites. The Spinnaker was re-located to a lower-level interior space with no windows...a dreary cave. Many of the daily events were held here. Shame on NCL for providing luxury for a few (and added $$ to themselves) at the expense of the other 2,000+ passengers onboard.
Casino -- large with many slots and lots of table games. There didn't seem to be a "smoking section" as ashtrays were laid out throughout the casino.
Shops -- the smallest shopping area I've seen on a ship, really just two shops: one with T-shirts and souvenirs (and not a great collection at that) and the other with liquor, cigarettes, sundries, jewelry and some clothing items. They did however on sea days set up tables in the atrium area for sidewalk sales on discount items. No books or magazines available, so be sure to bring from home. For those interested: Marlboro cig's were $54 for 2 ctns, $120 for 5 ctns.
In general -- no seating anywhere on the ship to quietly read (away from the sun). Lounge areas tended to be interior with few if any windows and uncomfortable seating. The Promenade deck was disappointing as there were no chairs. The second day, 3 showed up, and each day 1 or 2 were added. These were unattractive webbed chairs that apparently passengers carted down from somewhere? Only a couple dozen chairs by the end of the week, I never found one empty.
Dining - -
Versailles -- Service was excellent, attentive and fast, continually replenishing water and ice tea. Our dinners usually ran 1-1/2 hrs., lunches 1 hour. Food was good, not great. One half of menu remained constant throughout the cruise (5 appetizers, 5 entrees, 5 desserts). The other half changed nightly (3 appetizers, 5 entrees, 3 desserts). Found the beef to run from good to great (sliced sirloin, prime rib). Could elect to have a table for 2/4/6 etc. or elect to "share" a table of any size (which we did and met some great folks). We always entered the dining room between 5:50 and 6:30 and there was never a line. Later in the evening they were handing out beepers, but even then the line appeared short.
Aqua -- Never ate here. Peeked in on day 1 and decided that a room with low ceilings and no windows was not appealing. Reviews from others indicated that the service was not as good here as the Versailles. The menu here was the same as in Versailles, with only minor differences.
Market Cafe - Breakfast and Lunch buffets basically the same every day, with many choices (however, after the first week became a little boring). Ate here only once for dinner and was totally disappointed, choices no better than lunchtime offerings. There were 5 lines: 4 were identical, and the 5th offered more ethnic choices and by far the most interesting including: Caesar salads made-to-order, vegetarian curries with rice, pasta (choices of pastas & sauces), pizza (though we didn't care for it), pan-fried noodles etc.. But by far the most interesting was custom oriental soup (shabu-shabu) at lunch and made-to-order crepes in the evening.
The Grill -- Up on deck by the pool. Offers fruit, salads, sandwich fixings, sausages, and good burgers. The hard ice cream station has been re-located here, 5 flavors daily.
Moderno -- ($20) -- Food was good, great salad bar. All meat is grilled med-rare as in most Churrascarias, luckily that's how we like it. Though the food was very good we found the presentation and ambiance lacking versus similar land-based Churrascarias.
Desserts -- disappointing in general wherever we ate. We were however, able to special request souffles for the 5 of us for the following night, very good.
Drinks -- Cocktails $8, the daily special $6, morning eye-openers $4.24 daily.
Entertainment - -
Only saw 5 shows:
Maria & Dimitri -- acrobatic husband and wife team from Moscow -- just okay
Michael Minor -- singer/impressionist/ventriloquist -- excellent
Magician -- just okay
Passenger Talent Show / Fountains -- we were lucky enough to have 5 very good acts by our passengers....very entertaining. Following them was NCL's Fountains" -- hilarious!
Elements -- last night of the cruise, fantastic grand production, don't miss this one. Less
Walked across the street from the pier to the bus terminal and the #10 bus was waiting for the $2.30 pp round trip to Eagle and Palm beaches, you can pay onboard. We opted to get off at the 2nd Eagle Beach stop (15 min) in front of the Amsterdam Hotel as planned. A great beach, $20 for 2 lounge chairs under a palapa. Go early, we arrived at 10:45 and got the last palapa. They were by to take drink orders ($8 pina coladas) and later we had a very nice lunch at their beach bar. Nice menu reasonably priced (entrees $8-15).
We did not tie up in the bay past the bridge, but on the new dock on the Otrabanda shoreline. Walked over to Punda (old town), always fun. The walk from the ship is very pleasant, through the hotel complex, and Rif Fort, both are beautifully landscaped and filled with shops, restaurants and sidewalk cafes. After exiting the fort, a walk to the floating pedestrian bridge and across to Punda. Once over the bridge the downtown area is on your left. If you take a right and follow around you will come to the Waterfort Arches. They have placed restaurants within the arches of the fort and on the outer side are lovely multi-leveled eating/drinking terraces jutting out over the water...lovely. This was the first time we were here after dark and were impressed with how the Punda shops along the waterfront were colorfully lit up at night...spectacular!
Walked 20-min. into town (a taxi driver at the pier told us it was 3 miles away, we knew better). The shortest walk is a sidewalk to the left which follows the water's edge and brings you right to the center of town. The complaints of locals harassing you near the port are exaggerated. Though the vendors in the craft market are relentless at trying to get you into their shops, we were not approached by anyone else as we walked about town. Right next to the pier is a beach, but we saw lots of seaweed along the shoreline and the beach did not seem appealing. $2 Red-Stripes directly across the street as you exit the pier parking lot (this is where you proceed to Island Village).
The $6 day pass for the water taxi into town is the way to go. They are waiting for you right off the pier, no waiting in either direction. Our first time here since the new pier and the boardwalk along be beach, a nice setup. Just walk one block back to the shops. I noticed many bar/rest's on the beach offered free Wi-Fi. Found this to be the best prices for cigarettes of our 5 ports, Marlboro $18/ctn. (bargained in the Back St. cigar/liquor shop). Also, if straw markets are your thing, the pier has a nice set of stalls with the same mdse. and prices as the market in town. As we were on island on a Sunday, did not go to Marigot as shops were closed (don't know about their great straw market)....restaurants were open however.
Taxi was $4 pp each way into town on jitney buses which let you off at the straw market at the beginning of the Main St. shopping area. The walk into town is a pleasant sidewalk along the water, but we found it too long/far on a hot day. If high-end jewelry is your thing, Main St. is your place. If not, other types of shops are too few and far between. The Havensight shops right at the pier has 'lots' of shops (the discount Port-of-Sales Shops are mostly closed now).