Arrived in NYC, drove in. Parked on pier 88 where NCL was departing from. Boarding process was smooth and staff was friendly. Got to room and began reading the "freestyle daily" paper that was left on our beds. We reserved 2 adjoining rooms with a door between... which was locked. Placed a couple calls to housekeeping and one of the attendants came in about 30 minutes to open the door. As we began to unpack, we noticed that there were hand prints on the back of the door and some kind of dried food drippings on the small table near the sliding door going out to our balcony. Only here 2hrs and already underwhelmed.
Lunch time. Had an adequate meal in the Grand Pacific dining room. Food was ok: salmon salad roll, burger, cheese steak sandwich and a chef salad for the four of us. It was fine, but nothing to write home about...but the staff was very good, polite and attentive. Explored the ship's decks and attended the welcome show in the Stardust Theater. Kinda lame show, but the comedian was decently funny. Dinner was the buffet. Great selection and good food. There certainly was an abundance. Turned in early to rest from the travel day.
At sea. Went to the gym for a quick workout. Breakfast in the buffet. The buffet during it's peak feels more like a fish feeding frenzy...people meandering everywhere with little care that there are other people around. Staff very helpful and polite, food average with some prepared dishes like cheesy eggs and sausages and hot cereals and 4 omelet stations. Wandered around the ship. Played shuffleboard, relaxed deck side, because the poolside lounges were all taken. Packed in so tightly, that the columns of chairs ran 60 -100 feet long touching so that it was impossible to pass between them. Poolside, deck 12, and decks 13 and 14 were full. Lunch at the grill on the pool deck. Kids climbed the rock wall and we relaxed and hung out. Met our cabin steward who had thoroughly cleaned the room without prompting.. still have greasy hand prints on the back of the door, but its clearly cleaner. Dinner in Magenta dining room. Very good food, much better than yesterday. Saw the "world beats" production in the Stardust theater. The production was pretty good. Not Broadway, but the music, singing and dancing was good an entertaining. Some parts seemed lip synched, but the performers were better than an average community production.
Arrive Port Canaveral. Docked without incident. Disembarking was interesting. It was announced that anyone who was getting off the ship needed to proceed to the common space in floor 7. And we waited. And the line grew. The line sprawled from deck 4 up the mid-ship stair onto deck 7 and much of the length of the ship. Once the line began to move, we got through relatively quickly. It was a little irritating, after waiting for 20 minutes, to find many people taking the elevator to lower decks and just jumping in line to exit. Spent the day with friends in Melbourne FL. Got back to the ship after dinner and let the kids chill in the room. Went for drinks at the Aft bar, then turned in.
Arrive Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's "private beach", about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. The ship dropped anchor and the process of getting 2000 people ferried off to the shore began with 2 tender boats of The Gem's crew, supplies and food. The cruise director announced that we would board the tender boats in the order printed on our tickets... then promptly called group 1 to line up in public areas in deck 7. Why supplies needed to be taken from The Gem and not shipped prior to arrival escapes me, but it was what it was. The line quickly grew, as it did yesterday, from deck 4 well onto the 7th and running the length of the ship. Waiting 30-45 minutes before finally boarding a tender boat. The 3 minute ride to shore was uneventful. One woman ranted that she'd missed her excursion start and another man complained that he split up from his family to reserve all 4 clam shell shelters next to each other for his group. The painful process of moving passengers from the ship to shore seemed to be made worse by the apathetic tender crew and complications counting passengers to ensure the tenders were properly filled to their legal capacity. Little communication during loading and unloading of the tenders just made things that much worse by not managing the crowd's expectations.
Great Stirrup Cay appears like it's a rented island with no real branding and staff that was not dressed well as on the ship. No real consistency between the boat experience and the island. Staff, while friendly enough, seemed to do the bare minimum. This is not what we experienced onboard the ship. Finding the clam shell shelters took a little guesswork... no maps of the island area appear to be available... and we're only on the island for a few hours. Lunch was previously announced to be from 12 to 2pm. This sounded fine earlier, but when we saw the mess and disorganization, it just punctuated the experience. Plates are stacked neatly at every corner, but there's no flow to the food layout. Who planned this? Its great to have 4 lines serving, but the flow was extremely confusing. The food was adequate bbq fare. Burgers, boiled hot dogs, pork ribs with a watered-down bbq sauce and chicken with a sweet jerk sauce. Some cake confections and fruits were dessert. The fruits were refreshing in the 90 degree tropical sun.
The beach was clean, when we arrived, and the water was great. Unfortunately, with the limited availability of trash receptacles, plates of food waste were soon scattered around. This attracted lots of gulls who were very happy to partake in the feast. Lots of sun and swimming... then try to get back to the ship. At 4pm, we started for the tender boats. 20 minutes standing in the sun with no water, no snacks and no communication from the people in charge of getting us back onboard The Gem the line finally lurched forward. Hot, sweaty, sunburned bodies standing like cattle waiting for someone to open the gate so we could head onto one of the two empty tender boats on the dock. Our apathetic crew let the cattle sit anywhere and naturally there were about a dozen seats empty... then back to The Gem. We were greeted with chocolate-covered grapes and a metal detector. Finally headed to the room to shower and head to dinner. Called the guest services manager to relay the experience and she sent us a bottle of wine and some strawberries.
Ate at the Magenta restaurant. Food was good. More upscale than our lunch, and the service was exceptional. Good intentions of heading to the comedy show were trumped by sunburned-exhaustion. To bed by 9... early day tomorrow.
Docked at Nassau around 7am. Leisurely trip to the buffet before the swarm. Avoided "the Zoo" (deck 12 poolside). Off for snorkeling on a catamaran. Freestyle Daily publication has some great information on Nassau and even includes a map ;-)
Good day snorkeling on a small reef outside Nassau. Catamaran crew from Seahorse Snorkel was very good and everyone enjoyed the excursion. Then back to the ship for an R&R day. Grazed at the buffet for lunch and went to Magenta restaurant for dinner. Service was very good and the chef's daily specialties were a pleasant change from the buffet which it seems we frequent numerous times a day... every day. Watched the Justino Zoppe comedy magic show. Not overwhelmingly good, but mildly entertaining with common parlour tricks and juggling/balancing. Off to bed after an active and relaxing day.
Buffet for breakfast. Standard breakfast fare. Good variety and adequate quality with eggs of all kinds, pastries, sausages, bacon, cereals, fruits, et. al. Rested by the pool, swam, ate, lounged the majority of the day in and around "The Zoo" (deck 12 pools). Headed back to the cabin about 4pm for showers and Magenta for seated dinner. Today's menu was very good. Everyone ate well, then we headed to see the Second City improv show. Was much like "who's line is it anyway" with younger performers and no Drew Carey. Pretty good show, creative and funny. Went from the show to a "chocolate lovers buffet" at 10pm. After stuffing chocolate goodies in our faces, we went to Norwegian's All White dance party. With most everyone dressed in "all white", it was an uninteresting mix of cliche pop dance music, an all ages crowd and the Gem's professional dancers. Hung out for a half hour, then went back to the room for the night. Done for the day... at midnight.
Up and to the gym. Went to Grand Pacific dining room for a quiet seated breakfast. Menu is the same as the buffet, the only difference is that someone brought it to us today. Scrambled eggs were gritty and too wet. Kipper was good served with grilled onions. Everyone had a good breakfast, then went to the room to lay down to rest for a bit. This is the first bad weather day we've had, at 80+ degrees, partly cloudy with rain. Started just as we passed South Carolina and appears it's going to continue through the rest of our voyage. Staff onboard is still extremely courteous and helpful despite some of the attitudes displayed by some of the passengers. Booked dinner at the Brazilian Moderno Charruscario (sp?).
Wife decided to try out the spa. They had a 3-treatment special that she just couldn't say enough about. The masseuse was excellent, she reported, and she says that a massage is definitely a must-do on any future cruises. Lunch was not really anything to write about. Burgers, wings, caesar salad and fish & chips... all of which were mediocre. Went to the buffet for dessert and picked up some ice cream, then on to the 12 aft deck to sit outside for a few minutes.
Took a long nap, mid-day, and spent the afternoon lazing around. Cruised up to the Brazillian restaurant for farewell dinner. Was a good meal with better than average food and we all left stuffed. Saw the farewell show in the Stardust theater. Was a very good show with magic, dancing and lots of good comedy. Back to the room to pack... 8am disembark at NYC.
Even through the bumps, we all agreed we would cruise again.