Travelled as a party of six including one child (3), two youngish Grandmother's, Mum & Dad & Sister. We all enjoyed our cruise very much but felt there were not enough ports of call. We booked this as there were four ports as opposed to the usual three but in retrospect we could have done with one or two more to make this an outstanding cruise. After travelling so far (from London & Paris) it seemed a waste to sit on the ship when we could have been swimming in the Caribbean. So we have noted that for next time.
This is my sixth cruise and probably the biggest ship. I have done Princess & Cunard before - both very enjoyable and one of us was a cruise Professional and had been on most ships including Seabourne.
Embarkation was very good we just followed the line and no hold ups. We were excited about getting on board and chatted to other passengers so it went quiclly. Our cabins were ready and we went to the buffet for lunch.
We had mid ship balcony cabins and one inside, all were great. I loved the cabin and my one had the bed by the balcony which I loved. We had no problem with the layout, in fact really liked it. Beds were so comfortable. We obviously didn't spend too much time in the cabin so no complaints. The inside cabin was a hit too. Our room steward was lovely - my only gripe was that he liked to park his trolley right outside our cabin which got a bit annoying as I kept bumping into it as space was tight.
We used the main dining rooms and also Cagney's & Noodle Bar. The main dining rooms were Ok - Taste was actually much better than Manhatten which surprised me. The service was much better here, quicker & friendlier. Dinner was OK not great. I think by the time it got to the table it was overcooked. Meats were very tough but fish a bit better. All a bit bland though - nothing great. Two of us had dinner in the buffet one night and I found the food much fresher and tastier there. Cagneys was alright if you like to eat half a cow! Portions were ridiculous and service not great - not worth the money really. The Noodle Bar was excellent. We usually had breakfast in Taste which was always excellent and would recommend. Lunch was usually the buffet which was very good. It was only really Dinner that was a bit disappointing really, but it was the main thing we done at night as we like long dinners and chatting. When Manhatten had long queues you would get a voucher for a glass of sparkling wine.
Four of the us done the Cirque show & dinner & loved it. Three of us done the murder mystery - it was so boring we wanted to leave. The entertainment group have all the fun and we just watched them - we thought we would be involved - it was dire. Do not bother going.
Room service was very good and quite handy when getting back from being at port but a bit too tired to go to a restaurant. Lots of fresh fruit avavilable and varied enough menu for us. There were plenty of soft drinks, water and fruit drinks available from machines in the buffet & on deck. Also teas and coffes. these were available all day and included.
We loved the shows. Blue Man was great, The Elvis/Katie Perry/Steve Tyler show was good, my Grandson loved Steve Tyler so I went back with him again and found it just as good the second time. No problem getting a seat - there was always spare seats. We went to the crew show one afternoon as we just came across it and it was really emotional. At the end loads of staff come on stage and they the cheered us all out of the theatre standing on each side of the exit. It was worth going to. The Cirque show was a hit, but don't waste your time or money on the murder mystery.
Pools & Deck
The pools were good for us. We had a three year old so he enjoyed the kids one and the main pools. Loungers had to be reserved early on ship days and unfortunately you had to hang onto them or you were left with nothing. The bands lent a nice Caribbean flavour. The upper deck had some good bits - like a bungee trampolone. The climbing wall looked good and the slides were excellent. My Sister thought they wre the best part of the ship.
This was not for us. There were very few children on board but some of the staff just couldn't be bothered. When we took our three year old (nearly four) there to see if he would like it the woman in charge was quite vile. She just plonked him on a bench and told him to sit there as she just chatted to her friends. After ignoring him for some time - and telling me to go which I obviously didn't, I asked her why she was so harsh? She sarcastically asked me "you don't expect me to carry him around do you?' With that we left and never went back. I should have put a complaint in about her but didn't want to waste our time. Probably alright for older kids but not for little ones. We went to some other events and games in other areas of the ship as well. The guys doing the quiz were lovely and I would have confidence in them. However we went to a dance party with one of the sponge bob characters on deck early one evening and again one of the staff was obnoxious and rude. He actually shouted at us in front of the children when we asked if could take a photo with the character. We asked this because other parents were taking photos. He shouted that he had run out of time and had to go!! All very, very strange. They seemed to be just there to entertain themselves and were happy to ignore the kids even though there were not many of them. Something very wrong with the whole kids set up that I couldn't quite fathom. I had no trust in it.
Ports & Excursions
This was our favourite part of the cruise. First of all I was so surprised at how easy it was to get off the ship. We had experienced long delays on large ships in the past so was really pleased about this.
St Martin - We booked independently with Bernard’s tours and were delighted with our day. We were picked up promptly by the lovely driver and taken to Orient Beach for a few hours. We stopped at an Iguana farm and to see sea urchins on the way that was interesting. Orient beach was great fun. We decided to sit at La Playa bar as one of our group knew the beach quite well and it was a great choice. Highly recommended. We took some beds and umbrellas right by the surf, which were about 10 Euros each - we had Euros on us but you can pay in dollars the same amount. Got a jet ski for 60 Euros, drinks were pretty cheap. It was great fun in the sea jumping over the waves. The sea was a bit rough but not too much.
After Orient Beach we went to the capital Marigot and had lunch for an hour and then headed off to Maho beach in time for the big planes to land. Stand at the Smugger’s Bar watching the planes. There is a great atmosphere even without the planes. We then headed back to Phillipsburg and some of us went back to the ship and some looked around town. Great day & highly recommend Bernard’s Tours.
St Kitts - Again we booked independently this time with Thenford Grey of Grey’s Tours. What a find! This was such a lovely day. We had the most unbelievable tour guide. He was a Pastor on the island a true gentleman. He was so enthusiastic about his island that you could not fall in love with it and his personality. He made the trip. We had the bus to ourselves so we could stay as long as we wanted. He showed us around the island enroute to Reggae Beach. Reggae Beach had a real authentic Caribbean feel. There were monkeys on the beach and there was a laid back beach vibe which we all loved. Beach shoes are a good idea though as there were lots of broken shells going into the sea. Some of us had wonderful massages as well. Reluctantly we headed back to the ship after about four hours of swimming, lounging and having a good time. Again we were shown some great spots on the way back and dropped off at the port. Another great day.
St Thomas – Two of us booked a ship excursion here and the other four headed off to Magen’s Beach by trolley bus picked up outside the ship. The ship excursion in truth was pretty rubbish. We booked the power snorkel to Turtle cove. We had to wait around some time before we headed to the catamaran and eventually got on board about and hour later. This was bit of a drag. The ride was nice and when we arrived those who were using the power snorkel were briefed and split into two groups – the deal being you only got about 15-20 minutes with the power snorkel and then had to hand them to the other six people as they only had six of them. The power snorkel isn’t really worth it to be honest. You don’t go much quicker than on your own steam and you waste so much time switching over that you could have seen snorkeling instead – which would have been a bigger deal if there actually had been any fish! There were NO fish so very disappointing. Would not recommend. Also there was no Caribbean vibe on the boat as the crew were not locals but youngsters on working holidays. They were lovely but lacked the personality of other boats.
After the excursion we picked up a taxi and headed to Magen’s Beach. All rides are $8 each way, taxi or trolley bus. The beach was stunning. It is a public beach with lots of picnic benches and bathrooms, which were good. Hardly any bars so bring your own stuff. We had made a picnic that morning from the buffet and were glad we did. We loved it here and were the last to leave for the ship as we wanted to stay as long as possible. Tip bring some sandwich bags/cooler bag if you can.
Nassau – Three of us took a self-drive powerboat trip and three went Atlantis. I would highly recommend the powerboat as it was the highlight of the trip. It was just so much fun. We booked direct with the company, as it was less than half price than booking it with NCL. We paid $160 for three for one boat whereas it would have been $360 with NCL – bargain. It is exactly the same trip, you meet at Fat Tuesday’s in Nassau if you book direct or with the ship and you make your own way back to the ship whatever way you book. The boats are for two or three if kids or adults under a certain weight. We went in a convoy of four boats, two of us booked direct, two with the ship. It was amazing.
The Atlantis trip was OK – they went to see the fish. Didn’t say too much about it but enjoyed it.
Had breakfast in Taste and got off the ship about 10am. However there had been the Miami Marathon that morning and all roads were closed so there were no taxis to pick people up. A bit scary for those getting flights. I think the ship should have been aware of this and warned people about it. It was absolute chaos as you can imagine. Hundreds and hundreds of people queuing. We waited patiently for an hour or so and then decided to find another way. Some people managed to get shuttles and then a taxi driver who was unbelievably ordered to go away as stupid regulations were not followed told me how we could flag down a taxi if it was dropping off someone else in a certain lane – so a few of us started doing this & so got away at last. I should imagine some people were there for at least three hours!!
We stayed in South Beach for four days at the Beacon Hotel which I would highly recommend and had a lovely stay. So overall a great holiday but would only cruise again if there were at least five ports of call.
I would also be wary of the kids club for younger kids as it did not seem to be run properly and don't expect too much in the way of food at night.