Despite Sandy the week before, we had things well in hand and were determined to go for our 7 day cruise the week of 11/4/12. My DH turned 35 while aboard, and this cruise in part was our much delayed Honeymoon.
We live local to NYC, only about 40 minutes away by car. We were lucky enough to have family drive us in. No traffic issues. Pier 88 had no power of it's own, they were plugged into the ships power. We got there about 11:30. Check-in was quick and efficient, with quickly moving lines and good cheer. Lines for different check in lanes were clearly marked ( Suites, Top level Latitude Members, general check in). Things were a touch crowded, but I think they had to consolidate operations some due to using ships power. Because we were suite level, after check in we had a side room to wait in with some light snacks and water/coffee/juice. We met our Concierge for the trip, Ruth, who had a big smile despite being very busy.
We were escorted onto the ship within a half hour. One of the many Suite Perks NCL has is Cagneys Steakhouse for Breakfast and lunch with no charge. So we were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch in a busy but not crowded venue while waiting for the rooms to be ready. Lunch was delicious and the staff was a delight. Lots of stories about the trip out the week before ( the Jewel outran Sandy the week before). Staff was curious about how all of us now on board had fared, and worked really hard all week to take our minds off of the going ons back at home.
Rooms were called ready quickly. We had an S3- Owners Suite with Large Balcony. Please see the room review for details, but know it was amazing!
Food and Drinks:
First Night is lobster night, but we skipped it in favor of trying Moderno. No lines, no wait, and the food was absolutely amazing! We repeated the experience the last night and it was still delicious but not as over the top amazing as it was the first night, in part I am sure because it was much more crowded. We also went to Le Bistro (fabulous, I suggest the Les Quatre Cornets) Chef's Table ( very worth the price if you like 9 course meals full of well prepared and explained meals, before and after dinner drinks, wine pairings, and good conversations. They GIVE you copies of pictures from the event and a signed menu included in the price). Tsar's was ok the night we went ( dress up or not night, very very busy but food was delicious. ) We snacked at the outdoor buffet a few times, food was always good. Breakfast and Lunch at Cagneys was a set limited menu for the week, but the food was excellent and varied and we never were bored. We had splurged on a cabana on GSC and ordered food, which was excellent. We also ordered in breakfast to the room twice and dinner once, it was all delicious and hot.
Drinks were also a plus mark. Price wise, they ran on par with bars in NYC. Good selection. Allen created martinis that were to die for. S3 perks included 3 bottles in the room, all liter sized and decent selection. S3 10504 also had a Pod coffee machine at our sailing. We didn't get a soda pass, but sodas are included in the room at the level we stayed in, which helped.
We enjoyed it immensely! We saw all the Stardust Theater shows except for the magic show ( it conflicted with Chef's Table ). The shows were fast paced and entertaining. We went to the first Deal or no Deal, which was fun. We enjoyed the White Hot Party, VIP Cocktail reception, CC Meet and Greet. Casino was a fun way to slowly loose money. It depends on the number of smokers on your cruise of course, but for us, we could play up till 9 or so in the evening before the smoke became to much for me. Fire and Ice and Next Stage were both awesome. Special Kudos to Next Stage out by the pools for Rock Night. The other ships all around looked dead and our space was jamming with little ones on up! Duo Elegia are not just talented acrobats, but have to be one of the cutest. sweetest couples ever!
We booked our excursions through the ship. At Port Canaveral, fast exit of ship, great tour guide/bus guide to Islands of adventure. It was not crowded at all, so we rode coasters and did all we wanted and then some.
GSC we took a priority tender and made it too the island. Sleepyheads didn't fare as well, they stopped tendering early and the last tender back was at 1:30 pm. The island suffered Sandy Damage. Bringing Aqua-shoes for the beach right now is a good idea. But buildings seemed okay, cabanas were fine, and seemed minimal other damage to our eyes. Really enjoyed the time we had there.
Nassau we wound up being here two overnights due to the early leave time at GSC. We didn't book any excursions here, and now we know better for next time. The close to port area is all high end shopping, crappy common trinkets, and a straw market that has lots of vendors but not much variety. We had fun at a Pirate museum, but would have done better going for an excursion tour or adventure tour. Lesson learned :) Senor Frogs was so boisterous you could hear them clearly on the ship! :)
The Staff was absolutely the best this week. Big smiles, inquires as to how we had fared back home.
Madel was an amazing, attentive butler. Once he realized we weren't the type who asked for a lot, he asked around and things just started showing up :). Lots of fresh OJ was consumed along with a bottle of spirits thanks to him! :) He also made sure we had sandwiches waiting for us when we got back from the ports. He is funny and personable and will go out of his way to get you anything you want :).
Maria, our room steward, seemed to be everywhere at once. We never had to ask for a thing, it was always already there in good supply. She kept us laughing the whole trip!
We had great experiences with Ruth, the Concierge as well. She handled every request perfectly, made recommendations so that everything we did would be to a high standard, and made sure the delays at the end of the cruise due to the pier still being powerless did not make us have to delay our scheduled pick up via family.
As was expected on a cruise on a school off week, there were a lot of kids. Staff said about 700 of the 2700 pax on board were kids. That ship swallowed them. They were around, but not overwhelming in our opinion, and the ones we encountered throughout the cruise were in good spirits and reasonably well behaved. We did not have the problems other reviews have mentioned.
The Current Bora Bora Spa pass deal is $149 a person for the 7 days and includes aromatherapy scrubs. No couples discount. We went for about an hour everyday and found it worthwhile. Hot tubs, showers, saunas all in working order and not crowded.
Pool Area: We didn't use it daytime ourselves, we sunned on the front Facing Balcony the S3 has, but anytime we went through the area, which was multiple times a day ( we walked all over to explore and to not have to use the gym ;) ) there were always available loungers reasonably close to the pool. Hot tubs were a crowded issue, but the pools themselves were kept in the mid 80's and were not particularly crowded.
Disembarkation is the only place where we hit a surly or rude person. Not a NCL Staff member, but a Port of NY employee. Nothing major, but annoying.
In short, the cruise was exactly the delightful getaway we wanted and needed it to be. We meet some great people, staff, CCer's and pure strangers alike. Would definately do NCL and Suite living again!