This was my first time ever being on a cruise ship. I am a seasoned traveler for diving and was not sure how I would enjoy being on a cruise. The vacation was great overall but there were some troubles on fault of both NCL and Delta Airlines that would have completely shot this vacation to the worst in history.
To start off the vacation I live in Arkansas where it snows maybe twice a year. Well it snowed 8" the night/day we were scheduled to leave. Delta airline in anticipation of cancelling flights they rerouted us to Detroit. We were initially suppose to fly into Atlanta and then Miami. The flight to Detroit was an hour and forty minutes late due to de-icing and running out of de-icing agent. That delay made us miss our connecting flight to Miami by five minutes. There were no other flights to Miami that day. We worked with our great travel agent and the airlines and was placed on stand-by for a flight into Ft. Lauderdale. With five people traveling in our party we were unable to get onto the plane as they only had two seats available. We than made a flight to Ft. Myers and planned to rent a car to Miami. When we arrived in Ft. Myers we only had one of our six checked bags arrive. Delta had trouble tracking down the rest of our luggage and didn't know if it was on its way to Miami, Ft. Myers, or Ft. Lauderdale. Finally after 3 hours of tracking and waiting in Ft. Myers the airlines told us that our luggage was on its way to Ft. Lauderdale. We drove across the state and finally got our luggage. We spent the night at the Marriott near the port of Miami. For $200.00 a night the hotel was not that impressive. There was no free internet and the rooms were small.
When we arrived to the port for the cruise everything was running smooth and as planned until we went to check in. One of the ladies in our group was 22 weeks pregnant. We had asked the booking agent for NCL, prior to our arrival in Miami, if her being pregnant was going to be a problem and he stated that it won't be and there are no restrictions for pregnant women on cruise ships. We found out later that this person was fired from NCL. However, the new booking agent also didn't mention any restrictions for pregnant women. When checking in at ship side they have a health questionnaire and it asked if you are going to be more then 24 weeks pregnant during the cruise. The pregnant lady in our group stated no as she was going to be 23 weeks at the end of the cruise. When we at the counter a person acting in a supervisory position, just walking by, noticed we were talking about her being pregnant. He asked if she was pregnant and stated that she had to have a doctors note to be able to cruise. He was not going to let her get onto the ship. We were escorted to another area of the check in and attempted to get a hold of her doctor for a note to be faxed. With it being Saturday the doctors office was closed and we were unable to get a note. This supervisor named Carlos pulled out the rule book on pregnant ladies traveling on NCL cruises. The way that we understood the rule is that if you are 24 weeks or over you are not allowed to cruise and you must provided a medical doctors note if you are over 24 weeks. Carlos was very rude and unhelpful in helping us provide a solution for this problem. It was after we stated that pregnant ladies were part of a special class and we would file a discrimination law suit against NCL and Carlos that another supervisor step-in and was very helpful. The pregnant lady was escorted to the medical bay on the ship and the ships doctor had no problem with letting her cruise at 22 weeks. There was no compensation from NCL for our troubles.
The vacation was awesome after getting onto the ship. We were cruising with a group of 60 for a wedding. In our group of 5 we all had balcony staterooms that were beautiful. Mine was custom decorated with a bottle of wine, cake, and chocolate covered strawberries. There was plenty of room for all of our clothes and personal belongings. If fact we did not fill up half of the cabinets in our room. The balcony was awesome with two chairs and a table to relax and enjoy the sunsets and sunrises. There was only one outlet that we found in the cabin but we had brought a power strip so we were able to charge all electronics. The only down side to the cabin was that the bed was too hard for me. However, my boyfriend stated that it was comfortable. The cabin boy was great and he seemed available 24/7. He was very helpful with every question we had. He would make animals out of towels everyday that brought a smile to our faces.
The activities on the ship were endless. From private hosted parties for the wedding guest to repelling. There were three great water slides. There was a lot of wind and rough seas that forced the Epic to close the water slides. The hot tubes were awesome and just the perfect temperature. They also never seemed to be too crowded. The recreational staff did a great job of having games throughout the ship including Deal or No Deal. Even though we didn't have kids with us everywhere we turned there was great activities for kids. We are currently planning a possible cruise on the Epic for the kids in our family because of the Nickelodeon characters and events.
When we were on the ship there was food everywhere as expected on a cruise ship. However, the food was great. We mostly ate in the Manhattan Room. But the other dining areas were great as well. We loved the free style dining and choice to eat where we wanted. O'Sheehan had chilli cheese hot dogs that tasted like ones I loved as a kid. We were able to get room service free of charge throughout the day. We had the unlimited soda package and it was worth the money. We are glad that we did not get the alcohol package as we would have had to drink over $2100.00 for 5 people to make it worth it. It was stated that everyone in the same room and same payment method have to get the unlimited alcohol if one person got it. We spent about $400.00 in alcohol for 4 people because one was pregnant during the whole week.
We did get to see several shows that week that ranged from awesome to not good at all. The Blue Man Group and Cirque Dreams and Diner show were awesome. Blue Man Group was more then I had expected. Entertaining and funny in a perfect combination. In the Cirque show we were unable to see part of the show due to sitting in booths on the floor level. The show itself was great with a lot of talented individuals. True athletes to be able to perform and flip on various surfaces including each other while the ship was rocking despite the ship stabilizers due to bad weather. The Second City Comedy show was alright but it was the 9:00pm show which is still suitable for kids. The comedy was scaled down and the poor comedians were trying to keep it PG. We tried to attend the late night show on another night which is suited for adults only but since we had already had attended the show we were unable to get in. The Legends in Concert was horrible. The initial performer was acting as Steven Tyler was great and we were thinking that the rest of the concert was going to be a hit. However, then came out Katy Perry and the singer destroyed the performance. She was acting stupid and valley girl like. She was singing out of tune in every song. They then had Elvis which could have been a lot better with a different singer. Elvis is rolling in his grave after that performance.
We were sad to get off the ship at the end of the week. This diver is also now a cruiser. My only wish is that we were able to spend more time in the ports. We got to Miami four hours before we would be able to dock and those four hours could have been spent in the Bahamas. Getting off the ship and through customs was a breeze. The ship arranged for our transportation to the Miami airport and we had to wait four hours for our flight. I wish we would have arranged for other transportation and seen a little of the city.
This diver who likes small boats with only a hand full of divers is now a cruiser. I would enjoy to go on another cruise with NCL. The week was a blast and the wedding was beautiful. A perfect week once we got on board the ship. Thank you to the crew of the Epic for making the voyage a great memory!
I worked for several years as a lifeguard at one of California's best water parks and Atlantis was by far the best park I have never been to in terms of slides and rides. They combined the lazy river with a wave pool that made for an enjoying yet exciting ride. The slides were fun and unique to Atlantis. The resort was beautiful and the only downside is that the water park dose not accept cash. Only credit cards or Atlantis room key. The straw market was good but we didn't have enough time to truly explore it due to limited time on the island.
In St. Maarten a group of us did a private scuba diving tour. The dive shop Ocean Explorers was great. We had a member of our group who lost her c-card and they were able to work with her. I expressed to them that I am a dive instructor and that we had some new divers in the group that I wanted to look after especially on the shark dive. The first dive went great but while I was exploring the wreak that we were on the divemasters kept trying to tell me to stay close to them. They wanted the whole group around them. I was still in visual contact but not close to them because I was taking pictures. During the safety stop I stayed off the hang rope to allow room for others. Once on board the boat the divemasters stated that all divers regardless of experience must hang onto the ropes during safety stops.
The second dive was the shark dive. The was a good current and about a five foot surge. One of the new divers expressed that she wanted to stay with me on this dive. On the decent the divemasters kept trying to get me to continue the decent without the other diver. I refuse to leave a diver that has asked for me to stay with them. Once on the bottom they requested that we crawl on the bottom. It was mostly sand but you can see where divers along the bottom has damaged the reef. The sharks were awesome and I got a great video of the dive. One of the divemasters did take photos that were posted to flickr. I am still having trouble accessing those photos to this day even though I paid for them.
We walked around St. Maarten near the cruise ship after diving and it was beautiful. Nice shops along the boardwalk and great food. I would like to return to St. Maarten in the future.
St. Thomas was the wedding day for our group. We were in Belongo Bay and Iggies Bar and Grill for the wedding. The beach was beautiful and the host bar was great. The bay was a perfect backdrop for the wedding. Due to the awesome wedding we were unable to see the island. But on the bus ride back to the cruise we had a lot of other people doing the YMCA with us.