Boarding was less efficient on NCL in Miami than any other combination, but acceptable. Meet and Greet turned out to be a good idea.
We had one of the low-rent district cabins - inside of the inside on a dead-end hallway carved out behind other inside cabins. We'll try for that again. The dead end hallway created a small community and the noise factor from the halls was zero. Smallish cabin, but we were not cruising to stay in the cabin so it was OK.
- Most of our cruises have been on Holland America and nothing else measures up. A bit better than Carnival or our miserable experience on Celebrity, so it was acceptable. We ate the first night at the Italian specialty restaurant and had a great unhurried meal with super service. We ate the last night in the Asian specialty restaurant with a Holland America-quality meal and attentive service. In between we ate one more meal in each of these two less expensive specialty venues and enjoyed them. Highly recommended.
- The Aqua dining room was a one-time experience. If I want to eat in a cave I'll go to France and admire the prehistoric paintings. The other dining room was less claustrophobic. All lunches and breakfasts were at the buffet which is about average. We ate at the Blue Lagoon more often than in the dining rooms and enjoyed the casual experience.
Samana Dominican Republic was a bargain. We paid for Cayo Levantado and it was offered for free so our fees were refunded. My wife had a great time taking photographs. I was indisposed and stayed on board. We tried going into town but the rain that followed us for eleven days drove us back.
Tortola was a disappointment with a silver lining. We went on the "Best of Tortola" which cannot possibly have been the best. A visit to the town dump would at least have been novel. Our driver sped past every possible attraction only to pull over occasionally for reasons probably clear to his therapist but not to any of the passengers. The narrative was purportedly in English. No one on the bus spoke the driver's version of the language. I volunteered to translate if he would just do the narrative in his native language (Spanish), but that was not to be. We went to the highlighted beach visit, got off the bus, looked at one another, were informed that the refreshments were not available and got back on the bus. From there we went to a museum that turned out to be closed. So, what's the silver lining? We had multiple other "Best of" tours scheduled and went to the tours desk. We asked for recommendations on changes because we did not want to be disappointed again. The tours staff member (hereby nominated for the Nobel Prize in cruise tour service) rebooked all the rest of our tours to ones she had experienced and described, and we were thrilled with every one of the choices. We did not ask for a refund, but she refunded half of the tour cost anyway. Maybe a platinum lining.
St Maarten was rainy, windy, and the whole island was closed, apparently for celebration of Saint Swithin's dog's previous owner's 922d birthday. My wife got many pictures which she liked (I'm not fond of tableaus of raindrops, but maybe I'm just a cultural Neanderthal). The shopping stop on the French side (every shop was closed) led to a delightful, enjoyable and informative conversation with a Cuban-Haitian-Aruban family in a patois of Spanish, French and Papiamento. Beautiful scenery. Maybe the residents could have the island towed somewhere out of the rain belt?
Antigua was fun. We went our separate ways, my wife got many pictures of unidentifiable non-flying objects and I drank twice the cost of the tour at the beach bash.
Dominica was memorable. The whale watching tour was well-done, well-narrated and informative. On return to port the air turned to water. I have been in two hurricanes and seven tropical storms. None had rain to compare. My wife sealed her prized camera in a water-tight camera bag inside a plastic bag inside a waterproof bag inside her sealed tote. No help. We poured water out of it and bought out the ship's supply of disposable cameras.
Barbados was a dream. Monkey encounter was escorted by a fun, informative and good-natured comedian who got a large tip. Sure it was Independence Day and everything was closed. Irrelevant. Great people, low-priced attractive souvenirs we can no longer identify (I'm pretty sure one is a statuette of Mother Teresa dissecting a frog while dancing in a hip-hop disco), and nonstop fun and learning on the tour.
St Kitts was one of the best. A local camera expert fixed my wife's camera for free and we have 2,113 unidentifiable pictures of people's legs and and two of a sexually aroused green monkey. It's beautiful, the narrated tour was fun and it was worth the visit.
Entertainment Cast shows were in my view amateurish but my wife loved them. The hypnotist was technically qualified; a few people were apparently hypnotized and the rest of us spent the time looking at our watches. Impressionist was excellent. The "Godfather of the Dawn" ignored the other thousand people at the show to spend an hour talking with three guests in the front row, and probably used all of his funny lines on other cruises. He also "sang." It brought back fond memories of our oldest daughter, a top-tier mezzo soprano and full-time successful executive in the music business. The specific memories all involved her geriatric cat who at 23 was blind, deaf and causing permanent damage to ear drums in seven zip codes simultaneously. The ship's musicians were superb, about half of the lounge musicians were well worth the time.
- We won the "twist" dance contest. I suspect it had something to do with the thunderous applause in response to the announcement that we had been married for 40 years. It was shown repeatedly on the ship's television along with comments from a neurologist about how the woman was expertly keeping out of the way of totally unpredictable and potentially lethal thrashing movements during her partner's evident grand mal seizure.
- The Cigar Lounge should be repeated on every ship afloat. Nonsmokers are not bothered, and smokers are accommodated. What an unusual concept.
- Reports of the casino manager getting a multi-million-dollar bonus based on my slot machine activity are probably exaggerated. Slightly. I doubt it was more than a million and a half.
- Carry your own crap off the ship is an ingenious idea. We did it and will always do it in the future if offered.
- Nobody took attendance at the lifeboat drill. Were the Costa Cruise line safety experts brought on board to run it?
- Service was spotty and rarely crisp. Costa Rican cabin steward was fine, he even humored me by conversing in Spanish until the last day when he confessed he was from the small Caribbean Coast area where English is the native language. I wondered why my Spanish sounded so good compared to his.
- Freestyle dining is a winner.
- The complaints about being nickled and dimed are without merit. The cruise is priced a couple hundred dollars below the competition for equal value. In exchange extras are charged a fee for those who use them. The rest of us saved a bundle. This is a sound and commendable business model. If you do not understand business models, join the Obama campaign and shut up.
- The cruise director was brilliant and leaving the ship when it returned to port. We looked forward to the Quest Game; he let the assistant cruise director run it. Michael Crichton once wrote a novel to win a bet that even one of the epic tales (Beowulf) could be made ungodly boring. I hope the assistant cruise director ran the game to win a similar bet. Otherwise, he has a fine future in the travel industry because mid-range hotels in backwater towns in Zimbabwe are reputed to be hiring entry-level dishwashers.
Summary: We will cruise again with Norwegian.