First of all, we did a 16 day Panama Canal on the Jewel last September and thought that trip, ship and personnel was great. So the fact that we found many things lacking on this trip may have to do with making comparisons. Who knows? We are CAS guests and enjoyed great discounts/deals on both trips and for the record, would do them again in a heartbeat. And as I have waited a bit to post this, I may be forgetting somethings....but will try to hit the high and low points.
High points include the Haven butler Maxi, a couple of waiters in Cagney's and my Favorite bartender in the champagne bar who had a bottle of Veuve chilled and ready for me on ice each and every day....staff in the casino were awesome and staff in Azure? The smaller of the main dining rooms.........wre so nice that we ended up eating there quite a few times despite having more than enough vouchers/offers to eat in specialty restaurants as much as we wanted.
Weather was great, and not as hot as we had experienced on our September canal trip. Haven staff was also great as was the two bedroom suite. We have found that although it is just usually my hubby and I md I, that having the second bedroom and bath works great as we have two showers and hubby has an entire room where he can spread out his work stuff and study stuff and it doesn't interfere with my OCD about keeping things perfectly neat! Snacks were abundant and our butler Maxi quickly learned what we liked and when and I could always count on the fridge being full of ice cold diet pepsis and a bottle of Moët or Veuve on ice.
High points on food include Cagneys for breakfast - although I do wish that I had known earlier that you could have regular hash browns instead of those roasted potato things! Cagney's dinners were great and we ate there three times for dinner. I find their lunch menu limited.....so only had lunch there once or twice.
Platinum Behind the Scenes tour was nice. I especially enjoyed the laundry area tour as those people really do a LOT to ensure all of those clean towels, bedding, cloth napkins at every meal, etc. it was also interesting to see the recycling area. We toured the galley and backstage.....did NOT see the Bridge - but not a problem as they all look alike to me! This captain also seemed to NOT enjoy being out and about much. I think that I saw him once the entire 15 days.l
Now for the LOW points.....our concierge - Monica, left a lot to be desired. I found her to be artificial....although my husband said that she was "trying" and has probably just not reached that level of confidence and comfort yet. We only contacted her a couple of times for dinner reservations as it was really easy to pick up the phone and dial ourselves. We did not have any tender ports so did not need her services for this area. I DID however call her one morning as we were waiting at the appointed place for our Behind the Scenes tour and no one was there.....only to be told that my watch was wrong and we were two hours EARLY! Poor cabin steward had placed a card telling us to set our clocks AHEAD one hour.....instead of BEHIND!
Food in the buffet was not great.....and was much better on the Jewel in September. We however NEVER had an issue getting into the specialty restaurants as we had so MANY passengers on this trip that had done or were doing up to 30 or so days total. So I think that lots of those folks were many budgeting a bit more? they even CANCELLED the Jazz Brunch as only 4 people had signed up!
Italian restaurant was also just ok......always took forever despite them having only 6-10 people to handle. Yet despite the small number of guests to manage, the food was always cold. We ate there 2-3 times. teppanyaki was good......but when we arrives for our reservation, we could tell that there was an issue and after watching the hostess and waitresses whisper for about 5 minutes or so....we were finally told that they had given our table /reservation away. But we agreed to wait so no big deal. The only BIG issue that I had with dining venues was the one night that we decided to try the Shabu Shabu. It started out great....and we were pleasantly pleased with the food but when our meal was coming to an end, I asked the waiter for the rest of our meal......I.e. the egg rolls and dessert.....and he mumbled something about the restaurant being closed? Which was ridiculous as it was about 9:00 and all of the Asian specialty restaurants closed at 10:00. He finally said that he would go and check with the hostess, etc.......but never came back! As this was a PAYING meal.....at some point later in the cruise, our BUTLER brought the bill to our room and asked if we would sign as it appeared that we had "forgotten!". I explained how badly that they had handled the situation and he wanted to go and complain....but I told him no.....that it was not worth worrying about and signed the bill. It just left a bad feeling and we did not bother going back to any of the Asian specialty restaurants again this trip.
Another LOW point.....was the shore excursion department. We had THREE excursions cancelled on this trip and many at the LAST minute - which makes it hard to make other plans/arrangements. And although we totally understand the need to cancel due to lack of reservations/interest, in many cases they just lied about the reason for the cancellation. One of these cancellations was SO last minute, that weHAD already gathered in the appointed meeting area of the ship ready to disembark! We were told that the ocean/water conditions were too dangerous to enable our beach day trip. I had finally had enough as this was the third cancellation.....and told the shore excursion rep that I did not believe that the conditions were "rough" as we had just sailed past the beach in question while docking.....and conditions seemed perfect! He chastised me for thinking that they would put passengers "in harm's way".......bottom line is that we took a taxi to the SAME beach AND the ship had NUMEROUS boats landing on the SAME beach for snorkeling tours, etc. Later during the trip, my husband finally got one of the reps to admit that ALL of the excursions that had been cancelled were merely due to lack of interest and they had a bottom line that they had to meet. My husband told him that there was no reason to lie and that've would have been happier to justhavebeen told the truth in a more timely manner. Again......MANY people on this cruise trulyseemed to be watching their spending......so I think that there were a lot of tours that did not have enough bookings in order for them to proceed. Honestly, I too hope to be able for hubby and I to be able to cruise for 30 days plus......BUT this group was really not spending much money on specialty dining, shore excursions, gift shop, etc. it seemed to put a bit of a damper on the "feel" of the cruise as most passengers were also in bed by 10:00 or 11;00. AND when we docked in Los Angeles, as we were walking off of the ship....I took one last glance back to say goodbye to the Pearl and I swear.....the ship looked as thou it was full of refugees as many had their laundry HANGING out on their balconies! Seems to me that this should NOT be allowed? And maybe at some point they were told to take it all down.....but it made me think twice about doing 30 day voyages....at least on THIS line.....as this group seemed to not be up for dining, shore excursions AND laundry fees.......again, the fact that most passengers (or at least a large number that we met) had come from Australia, Europe, the Phillipines.....and points beyond.....seemed to play a large part in the fact that they were onboard for a "long" time.....and they were not only trying to se money but were TIRED......and did not participate in many activities that normally make up a more energetic cruise.
And another "minor" low rating was the staff in all gift shops and jewelry shops. I found them to be condescending and almost rude. At one point, I merely asked if I could step closer to the suntan lotions behind the counter in order to read the labels and determine th item that I wanted. I was told that this was NOT possible and that they would have to HAND me one item at a time.....I saw the same scenario with a poor gentleman that had a horrible cough/cold and only wanted to read the labels in order to determine which remedy fit his needs. We were treated worse than misbehaving kindergartners ......
Did we have a great time? YES! Would I sail the Pearl again? YES! Although if itineraries were similar- I old choose the Jewel and John Disouza as Concierge ANYDAY! Food was better and crew just seemed more "jelled".......I even wondered if the fact that this captain was NEVER seen out and about....could have anything to do with moral?
I have come to LOVE the Haven.......especially with the rates due to our CAS level......but also had an awakening as when we were boarding, we were of course heading towards the "Haven/Suites" check in area/lines.......where it always seems that the employees are almost HOPING that you are NOT entitled to me there as their attitude alwayws leaves much to be desired.......and we came upon a family with TWO small girls....complete with backpacks, dolls, doll strollers.....and numerous other "kiddie" type toys and supplies. I am almost ashamed to admit it BUT my hear dropped as I had SO enjoyed our last Haven experience and was looking forward to more of the same. I suddenly realized that I would now be sharing this marvelous space with small children.....and it DID bother me.
For the record, I DID say that I did say that I was hesitant to admit these feelings! As I have probably no more right to the Haven than this family and their small children.....BUT I did avoid the Haven when this family was playing in the Haven pool area.....would sometimes go up to the sun deck...or would just wait until they were finished. I have nine children and 13 grandchildren....and do not dislike children.....I just had not anticipated having them in the Haven. I know there have been discussions about this issue on the boards and I do not know what the answer is......just wanted to be honest on my experience. I wanted to enjoy the Haven in a more leisurely manner.....and was not up to the hinting and noise levels that go along with even the best behaved children (which these were not!) but that is besides the point. Even if they were PERFECT - which is impossible.....I was just not as happy having children in the Haven as I was on our last Haven trips when there were only adults. I think that I had just assumed that a Panama Canal trip lasting 15 days - would NOT be a trip that appealed to families with small children.
Ports? Love Cartagna....we did a jewelry making class as we have already seen the colonial areas....am tired of Tapachula as we have seen the ruins and not much else there....missed Cozumel as it was NOT offered on this run....am tired of Puntarenas as we have DONE the rain forrest numerous times ....LOVE Huatulco! And could spend a week there on the beaches......love Puerto Vallarta despite having been there over 20 times......just enjoy our far hotel on the beach and massages.....missed Cabo as also not offered on this run.....San Diego might appeal to some.....but for us was silly as it is just an hour or sofrom our home so we have been there tons of times....BUT the views from the port AND sailing out from there was SO beautiful! Weather was unseasonably hot for San Diego....we took an excursion to the zoo but left after an hour and grabbed a taxi back to the ship as it was just TOO hot! And all of the animals were of course hiding.....due to the heat so there was not much to see......can't remember if I missed a port? Disembarkation was a bit delayed as we had a lot of foreign tourists onboard but were still curbside before our driver pulled up!
Now time to start planning our next trip! We already have a week on the Star booked for November with the ENTIRE family.....but need to find something for just hubby and me!
Not sure if this will be helpful to anyone...it is my first review! But thought I would try......so be "gentle" with me as I only am relaying MY experiences and take on the trip.
Bottom line I love NCL....LOVE CAS....love the Haven.....and have even gotten accustomed to NOT dressing up for formal nights! As this used to be something that I enjoyed.....