As a heads up as to how I am writing this review, two years prior to this cruise we had gone on Norwegian Dawn and liked it, so throughout this trip we were always comparing the two ships, there positives and negatives.
We found embarkation to be oddly easy and stress free. While we did wait a bit in the waiting area for our group, the lines never seemed to get long and when we finally did go through security it took less than 5 minutes to get from there onto the ship. As we entered the ship we were all pretty taken aback by the many colorful decorations and art since it was the complete opposite of any cruise our whole group has been on. We decided to not take the main glass elevators (pretty cool elevators) and took the aft elevators since it was closer to our room, and no line. I would recommend doing the same to get away from the crowds.
After exiting the elevators we had trouble even towards the end of cruise of knowing which way our room was since you could have gone 4 different ways and after exiting a different elevator each time, it only got more confusing. We eventually decided to look for the direction with the Phantom and followed such. We had room 5299 which was an Aft Extended Balcony. The room was about the same as Norwegian: a bed, a couch, a flat screen, closets, and a bathroom. My cousin and I felt the shower was bigger than Norwegian but the rest of my family felt it was smaller. We didn't like that it had a curtain rather than doors but we were fine with it. Another negative about the shower was no shelves so all of our shampoo, conditioner, and body wash had to go on the ground which was a bit annoying but still fine. The only other negative was the lack of area to dry and hang clothing. There was a line above the shower but it could hold two or three items of clothing tops. The balcony was a HUGE plus to this room because it was definitely bigger than the one we had on Norwegian. We had two chairs and a lounge chair but could have easily fit two lounge chairs with enough room for the table and to walk. During the trip it was our personal serenity area because it was so quiet it creeped us out the first night!
After we settled in we decided to head upstairs and check out the pool area. We loved that the pool area was 'doubled' since it had two pools separated by clear doors and a bar. The layout of the whole ship was a really big plus since everyone spread out. For example the waterslide being at the back of the ship. My cousin was worried that since the waterslide was above some of the serenity area it would be noisy but alas there was no such problem (The serenity area was without a doubt my aunt, uncle, and cousin's favorite part of the ship- but if you want a hammock or cabana either get there REALLY early or wait for hours). We ended up playing mini golf towards the end of the trip but wished we played sooner. It was so much fun and you get to meet other people that are playing that your waiting for or who are waiting for you. I would recommend at one point going to the front of the ship (keep walking past the pool closest to the front) even though it was closed down for a bit due to wind, but if you can it is worth it, the views were amazing.
Our cruise director Malcolm was very nice and really hilarious- all the crew were friendly, and kind. On Norwegian we had the problem of crew continually asking to take your picture even when you said no already, on this ship if you say no they just say thank you. When we had the formal night pictures taken some came out good (we got a black and white photo that came out amazing) but the pictures on the stair case didn't come out as good as we hoped but we bought it anyway(:
Some of the shows in the Phantom Lounge were great (the juggler was my personal favorite) and others not so much. However, if you ended up not liking the show or not wanting to see it, I LOVED the Comedy Club. All the acts were hilarious (we saw all the family shows). My cousin and her parents saw the Adult-Only Shows and said some acts I could have seen as a 16 year old but others she said made her feel awkward and she is 22. We liked that they had two acts from leaving New York-Puerto Rico and then new acts from Grand Turk- New York (none for St. Thomas). We also went to the Comedy Brunch. Definitely NOT what we were expecting. I would recommend going for the food rather than the comedy. The comedy acts were LITERALLY 5 minutes and there was a comedian every hour. But definitely go for the food!
We were a bit upset that the cruise didn't have as much of a variety of restaurants that Norwegian had since Carnival really just had the Dining Room. Even though the restaurants were limited, you save money from going to 5 different restaurants that cost $30 per person while Carnival only has Nick and Noras that costs $30. The Buffet was closed during the main hours of dinner time (makes no sense to me either), but we all went up to the buffet at around 11:45-12:00 to eat the 24/7 pizza, 24/7 ice cream, cookies, and french fries (they are amazing). The Buffet during lunch had interesting food such as a deli which was good, and my favorite a Chinese buffet where the food was outstanding. However, the we all LOVED the Dining Room. Our Team Head Waiter was Henry, the Team Waiter was Alberto and the Assistant Team Waiter was Bojan. They were all amazing- we especially loved Henry as he always put smiles to our faces. We were usually seated at table 382 (we had my time dining but I believe out of the five times we ate there we had that table four times). The food was always amazing, everytime. We ate at Nick and Nora's the day prior to Puerto Rico and thought it was okay. There was a lot of food, and it seemed to take a while for the food to come between meals. The appetizers were good, the dinner was great, and dessert was okay. I would still recommend going there at least once.
We all LOVED the ports. Puerto Rico was my favorite while the rest of the group mainly loved Grand Turk. This was our first time Island Hopping so some members were a bit stressed but we always made it on the boat with plenty of time. In Puerto Rico we winged it. We walked up to the Old Fort (no joke a 5 minute walk from the ship) and toured the fort. I found it to be just beautiful and especially the views which were AMAZING. After the walking around the fort for about 2 hours (it is huge, we didn't even explore all of it since most were tired out) we decided to walk to the restaurant Carnival had recommended. The restaurant is called Barrachina and it said it was the "Birthplace of the Pina Colada" so of course we had to go! From the fort, the walk to the restaurant was about 10 minutes since we didn't know exactly where we were going. The restaurant is beautiful in itself but oh my the food was AMAZING. If you have picky eaters, its okay because my younger sister got grilled cheese and french fries and said it was the best grilled cheese she has ever had in her lifetime. I got the Virgin Pina Colada, the adults the Pina Colada with a kick (rum) and we all came back saying it was the BEST Pina Colada any of us have had. Walking back to the ship was less than a 5 minute walk and certainly relaxing.
In St.Thomas we got off early to do the Castaway Barefoot Sail and Snorkel to Shipwreck Cove. Let me start by saying this was the BEST excursion I have ever done in my life. I HIGHLY recommend this excursion without a doubt. First you get on the Catamaran and you leave your shoes on the dock (hence barefoot) and lucky for us we picked the earlier excursion and not only did our ship have about 20 people, but we also had the new catamaran. We saw that the later excursion had a large amount of people and an old catamaran. If being on what boat matters to you than I would call in advance because our catamaran was BEAUTIFUL. In case you were wondering (I was) our catamaran had two bathrooms! I didn't even know catamarans had bathrooms!
As we headed toward our destination you really take in how beautiful the water really is- it is incomparable to the murky water in New York. Once we were able to snorkel, they told us we could walk down the stairs and into the water or jump off (JUMP OFF!). I had a lot of problems with my mask since if the water wasn't getting in my nose, it was in my eyes, and if not my eyes then my mouth and so on. Nicely, a crew member switched masks with me which helped a million! The crew were really nice, thoughtful, and informed. They would dive toward the bottom point things out for you to look at and come back up and explain whatever creature or item it was. One of the coolest parts was seeing a shipwreck in which they discussed the history of how it got there which is a bit funny but you must find it out yourselves!(: The crew also would pick some things up such as a sea urchin and let you hold it and feel it. After swimming for an hour and a half or so (if you don't think you can swim that long they have swimming noodles- I had to use one in order to fix my mask 5000 times!) we got back onto the boat and they gave out complementary drinks and it was a blast.
The excursion itself was great but the crew made it that much better. I remember the captain talking to me about my mask problems and when I told him that once I switched masks it all worked out perfectly, he said that is exactly what we want, for everyone to have a fun experience and not to have problems. This showed me how kind they truly all were. As if I need another example, when we got off the boat, the deck was scorching hot and our shows were several feet away so they took buckets of water to cool the deck down so we could walk on it. We definitely had no problem giving the crew a generous tip. My sister, dad, aunt, and uncle had all went on the Skyride to Paradise Point which they loved for the amazing views. After snorkeling which later resulting in an awful sunburn on my back, we headed to Senor Frogs. It was a bit pricey so we decided to get Yards and appetizers to share then headed back to the boat.
In Grand Turk my cousin, uncle, and dad did the segway and LOVED IT. They had done it on our previous cruise to Bermuda but thought this was much better since it was more of a tour, with earpieces to hear the guide and trying fruit and seeing the whole island. My mom, aunt, sister, and I did Governor's Beach Snorkel. The beach was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I was glad we could snorkel because there was coral and fish close to the shore so you never needed a guide- it was more at your leisure. They say they have a food and drink station, which they do but the drinks are limited, run out fast, and I wouldn't have eaten the food so be sure to eat prior. Once we were both done with our excursions we headed to Margaritaville for our Bongs and more appetizers to share and then back to the ship!
Overall, most of my family found this cruise to exceed their expectations and liked it equally to Norwegian even though the ships are complete opposites. Cant wait to go on our next cruise!