Our cruise left Norfolk, VA for the Bahamas Sunday, June 4 at 7:00. We arrived to board around 3:30. What a nightmare! This is my fifth cruise and I've never had any problem boarding before. There were 3400 passengers boarding and only three security checkpoints. You do the math. Since Norfolk is a relatively new port for cruises, they have no terminal. So we were all outside in 90 degree heat. People literally started dropping like flies, one woman received a large gash on her head in the process. Mom sat on a bench while I worked my way through the many twists and turns that made up the line. It was not an auspicious start and she was worn out before we even got on board.
We were starving by the time we got on. Dinner wasn't until 7:30. I told Mom we should head up to the pool deck because they usually have some welcome aboard snacks up there. As we started to go a signal came over the intercom indicating it was time to head to our muster stations. I grabbed our life jackets. The life boat drill was endless and we had lots of people in our station. All were ravenous and in a very bad mood from the terrible embarkation process. The usual somewhat annoying task became grueling after 30 minutes had passed and the crowds threatened mutiny. We were finally given the all clear and the stampede headed to the dining room.
Once we had a couple of drinks with dinner everyone seemed fine. :)
This is a very large ship and if you're traveling with someone who has trouble walking be sure to bring a wheel chair or one of those motorized scooters. My mother has emphysema and couldn't even make it to the dining room by day 2. I rented a wheelchair from the purser's desk for a refundable fee of $50.00.
The food and service were excellent. The ship was always very clean. There were lots of people traveling with children and the children were all well-behaved. I think the cruise had many activities for them to do which kept them from getting whiny. Three pools, a slide, and a kids' camp were just some of the activities we noted children doing.
Because this was a large ship we waited in line a lot. Long lines at buffets, at shops and at the photo gallery were common. Favorite slot machines were often taken. Even finding an empty deck chair proved tiresome. I have to say I won't travel on such a large ship again.
We did two shore excursions. The first was the Atlantis and Harbor tour. Total waste of money. I hate to keep sounding so negative. I usually love cruises and tours. But we got off the ship and waited outside in the sun (it was 94 degrees) for 45 minutes. Finally the tour guide told us we'd have a 15-20 minute walk to get to the tour boat. I'm very glad I had a wheel chair for my mother or she never would have made it. A brief harbor tour on the way to Atlantis (about ten minutes) and then another 15 minute walk to Atlantis followed by a 45 minute walking tour. By the time we were finished a few hearty souls (mostly younger folks with kids) had made it all the way to the end. We then learned we could have taken a cab to Atlantis for $4.00 that would have picked us up at the dock and dropped us at the door of the resort. If you want to see Atlantis, save your money and heat stroke and take a cab. We took it home and it was great.
Thursday we did a dolphin encounter and that was a lot of fun. It was the best excursion I've ever done on a cruise and highly recommend it. You actually get to get in the water and pet the dolphins and have your picture taken.
For the first time ever I was happy to get home from a cruise. I was just tired of long lines and no where to sit. I do not think I'd recommend this cruise to anyone else. NCL's Boston to Bermuda was far superior. A smaller boat, better ports and I don't recall waiting in line for anything.
For a more enjoying vacation please consider a smaller boat. We only took this one because the port was Norfolk and that's where my mother lives. But she said she would fly somewhere else rather than ever embark from Norfolk again. It took us almost three hours to get on!