We decided to take this cruise due to the price and the fact that it went out of New York (we live in Boston). We had done the NCL Majesty out of Boston to Bermuda a few years ago and loved it, loved the free style dining option and at that time brought 3 teenagers with us. Last year we did the Royal Jewel of Seas 12 day cruise out of Boston to Caribbean and Bermuda and that was great however we don't like the seating at the same dining room each evening with the same people (much older than us). I had read many good and poor reviews but we decided to do this trip on the cheap and booked an inside cabin. We had learned from previous that the lower the floor you are on the less your feel the ship rock so we were satisfied with being on the 5th floor. Did not miss the ocean view which we had on our last cruise. The room was very clean and plenty of space for two. The bathroom was nice and bigger than previous. Our cabin attendants were very thoughtful and answered every request we had from an egg crate for the bed, to multiple ice refills and even silverware.
Was a bit afraid leaving out of NY in January (fearing snowstorms) but the travel agent convinced us to take the bus from Boston to NY (Entertainment Tours). It was a great suggestions, picked us up right on time, nice ride to NY, and easy transfer on the pier and back. Was well worth the money!
Check in at the pier was not bad, about an hour and we were on the boat eating and drinking. Our luggage arrived well before 7:00 (the suggested time). We had researched each restaurant and made our reservations for 5 of the specialty restaurants as soon as we boarded. We did travel with two other couples so we made some nights table for 6 and some nights just the two of us. We had planned and researched ahead so we knew which nite was the captain's dinner, which nites we were in port, when, and times to be back, which nites the football games were on (poor Pats), etc.
The first two days at sea I took dramamine more for my own peace of mind than the fact that the travel was rough, in fact the trip down was smooth. First Stop St. Thomas which had great shopping and beaches, beautiful 82 degree weather, and a trip to Dickenson Bay Beach which was beautiful. The next day was Antigua, again a beautiful day weatherwise. We went to a beach and rented chairs and umbrella but it was a great day. Stop #3 was Barbados and we had booked on line thru NCL the Malibu Beach Break which was only $27 and was 3 1/4 hours, took us the the Malibu Rum Factory in an airconditioned bus and a lovely beach with a nice bar, snacks, etc. Again, a great day.Stop #4 was St. Maarten which we had been to last year and did a tour of the french and dutch sides so we decided this time to check out the shopping and then head to Divi Little bay Beach. We had been to Orient Beach last year and it is great but wanted to try something different. It was cloudy and rained a bit and we walked the board walk to what we thought was Little Divi but it was Great Bay?? Nice beach, nice swim in the ocean but not a sunny day. We had great ribs and shrimp and beers at a local place right on the beach at the dock.
Stop #5 was Tortola which was my favorite on this trip - lush, green, beautiful flowers, etc. We had booked another tour thru NCL on line to the Virgin Gorda Baths and it was great. A boat right at the pier took us on a 20 minute ride, it was gorgeous outside 84 degrees, then open air taxis took us to the Baths where we swam, did the rock caves, etc. The only problem was it was crowded due to all the tourists. Lovely little bar at the top of the hill where we sat and had a drink with roosters running about, a lovely day. A little gift shop was also nice.
The ship was very nice considering its age. The food went from good to great depending on where you ate. Windows and the Garden are the main dining rooms, both I felt provided excellent service and very good food. Cagneys Steakhouse was well worth the extra charge. LeBistro, unfortunately we had to cancel our reservation and didn't get to try. Shogun was awesome, we had such fun there and the food so fresh and a nice change. La Trattoria was nice Italian place, service impeccable and of course the Blue Lagoon (where you get chicken wings, chili, soups, burgers, etc.) was a famous stop for us watching the football games and ordering 6 orders of wings at a time! The lido buffet and raffles buffet were plentiful, varied their choices between pasta bars, salad bars, always multiple meats, veggies, etc. etc. etc. that anyone who complains about a buffet is just picky. I love the stir fry station where you could add any veggies, meat, chicken, pork and they stir fry it for you. The Bars on the ship were also great, although I found a bit pricey. Shanghai Bar, Biergarten, Galaxy of the Stars, Champagne Charlie's (where two girls from Barbados sang most nites and they were just awesome), Raffles Terrace, Spirit Club, etc. etc. great. I have to comment on the comedian, Dave Keenan (hope I got his name right). During the "family" show he had to keep it politically correct and clean and I thought he was funny. But later in the week he did a late nite adults only show and he was hysterical. So funny!!! Great way to end the week. And, the passenger talent show I thought was one the best shows of the week! Julie, the cruise director was okay, could have had more pool games, more passenger interactive stuff. I love the shopping, shopping, shopping guy "Miles" I believe, we went to his description of shopping the duty free islands. The family that performed acrobatics was good, the magic show good, the older man singer was okay for the older crowd.
What I loved about this ship is there were very few kids on board due to the fact that it was January 13th to the 23rd and most schools are in session so most kids on board we're under 5 and they have a separate SECTION AT THE END OF THE SHIP WITH THEIR OWN POOL. That was great. I love kids but if I'm vacationing without mine, I don't want them bothering me.
There were a couple of blips - we lost power one day for about an hour maybe, it was still daylight so not bad, and they extended our stay in the next port by 2 hours to make up for it. Some people missed their excursions because of this. ALso, on the way home we hit a storm, the captain did come on an announce it and we were so into watching the Patroits football game that no rough seas were gonna stop us but it was quite rough and in fact they but metal plates over the oceanview windows on our deck #5 as a precaution. I know this unnerved some guests but didn't bother us as much as Pat's losing did.
Overall I would say we had a great trip for a great price, great weather and visited 5 beautiful islands in January. What more could you ask for. I would travel again on NCL and love the freestyle dining option.
Okay, the downfalls - the drinks were expensive. The photo gallery expensive, we did pay $25 for ONE PICTURE! I think they would sell more if they lowered the price - they just throw them away. The Bingo expensive but fun. I thought the Duty Free shop and the Gift shop offered ample products (booze is cheap!). We loved the casino, its not huge but ample and we won we lost we won we lost enough to last us 10 days to play. The Beauty Salon and Spa were very nice, I did go in for a polish change, prices a bit high. The internet Cafe was very nice but again expensive. If you didn't buy a package it was expensive, I checked my email only twice all week. Same for telephone calls - we got no cell phone service but I did have to call home twice at an outrageous charge.