We are a week back from our 7 night cruise May 10-17th. This is our first cruise and we are in our lower 40’s with no children. For this cruise, we opted for the Haven Spa Cabins (#14132). Overall we loved the NCL experience and want to share our views.
Embarkation: For all Haven guest, we were glad to take advantage of priority boarding. At the Miami Port, we were directed to go to a special designated Haven guest room where we were quickly checked in and issued our ID/Cabin Key Cards. There is a designated waiting area with sandwiches and beverages, but we did not wait long as we joined a couple other guest and boarded the ship directly to the Haven Lounge. We were greeted by the concierge staff and offered lunch. We opted at the bar to sign-up for the unlimited alcohol/beverage package which totaled $749 for two. NCL has a contract with Pepsi apparently, so no Coke products onboard. Not helpful for my Jack and Coke needs. Our cabins were ready and we went there with our hand carry bags to change.
Cabin #14132. The cabins are quite nice. Although reviews on You Tube show that they are on the compact side including the balcony, it met our needs just fine. There was a complimentary bottle of champagne and water on ice awaiting us when we walked into the cabin. We would advise buying quart or gallon sized bottled water ahead of time and having it in the cabin. Otherwise, be prepared for $4.50 per bottle pricing. We also met our butler, Alamondo, who was great. He showed us the cabin and made sure we knew about room service and special Haven ordering.
Haven Lounge: This is what made a big difference for us with cruising. It was worth the additional cost IMO. The Haven Restaurant made us feel very special and although they keep the same menu, we had enough variety to meet our desires. Rose is a fantastic hostess. At the Haven Bar, the bartender Joyce is super-talented with the drinks – my favorite is a Bourbon cocktail that is one of their specialties. She also made a origami style Rose out of a napkin for my wife. They had TV’s which played the NBA playoff games so I didn’t miss out. We also enjoyed having Michael as one of the Haven wait staff, very friendly and the best smile. We miss them!
Entertainment: I have rather medium expectations for the entertainment, but thought it would be good enough to past time and relax. I was incorrect about this assumption. We were very impressed! We started with Burn the Floor which is a Latin-based dance show. The performers were top-notch professional. We live in DC and visit New York quite a bit on business and long weekends. We would rate the show quite comparable to top acts in these cities. Legally Blonde was equally impressive. Beyond the great performance, the stage set was quite impressive and again commensurate with Broadway. Illusionarium was a fantastic magic show using lots of high tech equipment, but even more so, very talented magicians/illusionist. We truly enjoyed them all.
Spa/Gym: The settings in the gym and spa are top notch. However, here is where we think improvements could be made. The gym/fitness center is divided into two areas. The cardio room has the ~16-20 treadmills and ~12 elliptical machines equipped with TV screens. The room has large floor to ceiling windows and excellent views of the outside. However, the fitness center where there are machines and free weights --- it’s quite compact. Given the ship’s demographics, there is an increased population of fitness conscious passengers that are now stepping over each other to workout. This area should be at least 50% larger and with additional benches and equipment for the guest. For the spa, we did enjoy it and used it throughout the week. One improvement that really needs to be addressed is around amenities. The spa is beautiful and comparable in look and feel to top spa resorts. In the spa dressing areas, they should provide more amenities beyond lotion (e.g., hair gel, deodorant, cologne/perfume, combs, and mouthwash). My wife complained that the lotion dispenser was empty for two days. In the spa area, some fresh cut fruit would be a good addition. There should also be a scent added to the steam room (e.g., eucalyptus)
Restaurants: We took advantage of the specialty restaurants and recommend Moderno as our favorite among the options. Cagney’s Steakhouse was very good, however, I have a bias toward the steaks I grill at home. Ocean Blue had excellent appetizers and desserts. The main menu has great fish selections but limited shellfish options in our opinion.
Club Bliss: Although we are in our early 40’s we still have a little club left in us. So, we ventured to Bliss on a couple nights and again were impressed with the surroundings and especially the DJs (Onyx and Vibe). We liked their music selections and mixing capabilities. One more thing to note is that at the ports, it was great to have our cruise ship DJ’s pumping the music at the entryway. Clearly, other cruise lines did not have this and we found guest from neighboring ships dancing to our DJ.
Onboard Activities: Great use of the ship. The activities were spread out throughout the day. We like the morning show with our cruse director giving us the “scoop” on the day. He is very a perfect person for the job. We found him extremely entertaining as he hosted the main cruise shows and entertainment. We also met the senior staff on the ship including the captain and the two senior guys named Errol. The attitude of the staff our very pleasant and warm.
As you can see, we have become fans of this cruise experience. We are already planning for our next experience, very likely one with NCL. However, who knows…there are so many new cruise ships in the pipeline. We hope the next will be as exciting as this last.