I will try to keep this in order and stick to the points. We are a family of 3 with a pre-teen daughter travelling with another couple with a teenage daughter. We booked adjoining balcony rooms. Embarkation went very smoothly, we arrived at the port about 11am. We brought a case of water and a case of gator ade which the baggage handlers offered to take, tag, and deliver to our room. Reluctantly we let them take it, and it was delivered. Reading reviews, we were a bit nervous about not walking it on as hand carried. The lines were short at the time, and we were through and seated in the waiting area within about 30 minutes. I hand carried a bottle of wine on and paid the $15 cork fee during check in. No problems at all. There were many passengers who brought alcohol in their checked baggage, based on the line to retrieve what was confiscated upon return to NYC, about 500 people unsuccessfully tried this. Hint -- google shampbooze if you are trying to bring those items. Worked great for us. And the ship lost nothing, trust me, we spent plenty on drinks. Just like a drink or glass of wine while changing for dinner and watching the sunset on the balcony with my wife and close friends.
We were boarding the ship around 12pm and headed up to the buffet for lunch. I had received a tip from a previous cruiser that helped get started to a great day. Get your food and keep walking to the back of the ship. There is a great outdoor area partially under a canopy as part of the cafe eating area. It was beautiful to sit out there and watch everything going on. A fantastic view of the Intrepid from there as well.
At 2pm we were able to get in our cabins and drop off our hand carried luggage. The ship was very clean as was the cabin. I pre-ordered flowers, chocolate covered strawberries, and a fruit/wine basket for the cabin which were all there. The flowers looked exactly like the picture on the website and lasted the entire cruise. Our room steward never came by to introduce himself, in fact I think we only saw him twice on the entire cruise. The room was kept extremely clean, but the attention to detail was lacking that we have become used to on Royal. I had to ask for ice on numerous occasions, he would take the used water glasses and coffee cups and not replace them. I would ask for room service cards for coffee juice delivery in the AM and they would not be there. And on 2 nights the 3rd bed was not even made up. We did have towel animals, clean towels, and I will say again the room was kept clean.
As a group, we decided that we would eat in the main dining room each night. We could not justify paying to eat in specialty restaurants after paying for the cruise which includes great food in a variety of dining venue's. We ate in the Grand Pacific Dining room every night. There was a dress code which was nice. The first night you don't want to miss, as it is Lobster night. We were not fans of "freestyle" dining. We saw many people on line being handed buzzers like you would see at Olive Garden, and waiting around or walking down the hall to wait. We put in a standing reservation for 6pm every night, and we had no waiting. We even asked for the same waiter, and the request was honored. He learned our likes quickly and by the third day was bringing our normal drinks as soon as we sat down. As well as the coffee / tea orders after dinner without asking. The food was very good, with a different menu each night as well as a classic menu which did not change. There was always a nice variety of choices, and always at least one person at our table who ordered multiple starters, or entree's, or deserts. It was so hard to choose from some of the great items listed.
The 2 sea days on the way down the coast were a bit rough, we were going through the first tropical storm named for the year. The crew were very accommodating, and there were lots of things to do. We found that there were more shows and events to choose from than on previous cruises. So many that we had to choose what to see and do and what we had to pass on. The teen events were the same way. The two girls had their own social calendar each day with plenty to do. The pool deck was laid out very nice. There was a lot of space on the ship dedicated to the Haven which took away from the pool deck. With only 2 pools and 3 small hot tubs, it was very crowded. There is not enough seating for sea days on the pool deck for all the passengers who frequent the area on these days. The hot tubs were over crowded and over run with children (unsupervised). We were also disappointed with the pool deck closing time of 11pm each night. Royal Caribbean keeps pools, hot tubs, and towel exchange open 24 hours, every day.
First port was Nassau, Bahamas. We all chose to do the Seahorse Sail and Snorkel tour. We had a good time, the weather held out for us, and afterwards we walked around in port. I have not been to the straw market in years. It has really grown. It was nice to walk around and find a few bargains.
Second port was Great Stirrup Cay. We booked one of the new Cabana's for this stop. It is a bit pricey, but we found it to be well worth the price. It was scattered showers this day and the cabana really came in handy to still give us an enjoyable day rather than a washout day. If I were to go again to this island I would definitely book the cabana again. For more information on all the amenities you get with this look at the excursions section on the NCL site. You do get a lot for the money. There are only 8 newly built Cabana's, so if you are interested, book online early! My only complaint on this was the Hippo slide, which was included was not setup due to the high winds, and the family floats were not handed out for the same reason. The large float was replaced with small floats which were very nice. I asked after we returned to the ship about a partial refund for the Hippo slide portion. I was told on the island to visit the excursion desk later to discuss this. At the desk I was told that snorkeling equipment was offered to offset this. I informed them that I paid almost $300 for a snorkeling excursion and we were not interested in snorkeling while on the island. After going round and round for 3 days they finally gave me a $30 credit which I was happy with.
Third port was Cape Canaveral. We rented a car from Dollar rental prior to the cruise to drive to Orlando. It was a very hot, sunny, humid day. A great day to spend in the water and fry. It was a nice day in port, did a little shopping, got a lot of sun, and spent time in the water.
Sea Days returning to NY. We hit rough seas again travelling through the second named storm of the season. It did not affect any of us, but there were sea sickness bags all over the ship and we were rocking pretty good. We were disappointed that the "Newlywed not so Newlywed" game was played in a lounge rather than in the theater. This is by far the most popular game show on the cruise and was beyond standing room only. You could not see anything. We ended up leaving and watching it later on the TV. Suggestion for NCL -- popular game shows need to be in the theater. The Quest was awesome! 4 adults in our party have played before on previous cruises, 3 others on our team never heard of it. Everyone participated and we had a blast. First place winners!!! Don't miss the Quest, always a good time.
Debarkation: We packed and put out all our luggage the night before with grey tags. This was the color for the first passengers off the ship after walk offs, suite holders, and special assistance. We were called by 8:45, this gave us plenty of time to go have breakfast, go back to our room and collect our hand carried baggage and relax in a lounge playing cards while waiting about 30 minutes for our color to be called. Luggage was easy to find, customs was a breeze, and our Limo was waiting just outside and across the street.
Overall, the trip was a lot of fun, the ship was impeccably clean, service was good, but far from great. Production shows were good, not great. Staff for the most part was good to great. NCL has room for improvement on customer service and attention to detail. Many reviews I have read said that passengers were hounded by waiters and sales associates, and even the loyalty representatives to spend money, book cruises, etc. We were never approached by anyone other than the occasional waiter for a drink order. And even they were scarce. There were many times I would have order drinks for our party and there were no pool waiters to be found. I found this to be true in some of the shows and game shows, a great shortage of bar waiters on this cruise. I would cruise again on NCL, but my first choice will be Royal Caribbean. The main difference would be the level of service and the attention to the details, it makes a difference. Royal works for the tips and NCL already has them (all prepaid). The lackadaisical attitude within service shows they already know they have their money.