We booked our own tickets into San Juan and hailed a cab from the airport. No problems here. Our documents were to be a pier pick-up so I did not have NCL baggage tags for our luggage. When I entered the cruise terminal and got to the desk, the staff had no idea what I was talking about and said that the ship was sold out. After 10 minutes I finally got a supervisor to understand that we were booked on the cruise. I then received my boarding pass, cabin keys, etc.
The boarding process was very easy; just walked right onto the ship. There we were greeted by the staff and asked what our cabin assignment was so they could escort us. I'm feeling better now and am looking forward to the week. My joy was short lived as the gentleman took us to the opposite side of the ship than we were on. (Not port versus starboard but aft versus bow) When we got to our cabin #5201, we were pleased with the cabin itself. Its location is at the very front of the ship down a private hallway. We originally thought it would be nice and quiet. What is also down this hallway and not reflected in any deck plan are the crew cabins. Every night I had to open the door anywhere from 1-4AM to advise the crew to be quiet. Directly above our cabin was the jogging trail on the Promenade Deck. Although there are signs prohibiting jogging from 9PM - 8AM, the notices were ignored and continuous complaints were not answered. Needless to say we had to come home to get a full night sleep. Went to dinner in the Four Seasons Dining Room. Food was OK; service was slow although it was very early in the evening. Took 1 ½ hours for dinner. When we arrived back at the cabin our bags were there and 1 was damaged. I brought the bag to the reception desk and they advised that the carpenter would repair it.
Monday - St. Thomas Scheduled to be in port from 8AM - 5PM and had pre-arranged a tee time at Mahogany Run Golf Course. I am not a golfer myself but I enjoy the ride and this was one spectacular course. For those of you who are golfers, you are basically hitting blind, the whole course is quite challenging, especially Devil's Triangle. The beverage cart is constantly coming around and you can pre-order lunch at hole #7 to pick up after hole #9. The food was good and reasonably priced for a golf course. Full pro-shop with a good selection of items. Price per golfer through the cruise line is $180.00. We paid $130.00 and $20.00 for me to ride. Cab from the pier is $9.00 each way.
Tuesday - Dominica My husband specifically chose this port so he could go to some cigar factories. There were none to be had. Where we did find cigars, not only were they overpriced but not stored in humidors. Originally scheduled to be docked in town but we arrived late and were docked at another pier. Cab into town was reasonable $1-2 per person each way. Let me say that arriving later than the other ships was a common occurrence on this sailing. Since I was up during the middle of the night, I noticed that we would not be moving. All I can figure is the captain took a siesta in the middle of the night instead of sailing to our respective port.
This night was also formal night. Since NCL offers Freestyle Dining, the choice to dress up is optional. I have always enjoyed formal night and look forward to having our pictures taken. This too would not happen as the cabin steward ruined the dress. I had the dress hanging on the inside of the bathroom door to steam the wrinkles out. That day while we were in town, the cabin steward cleaned the room. No problem except for the fact that he sprayed cleaning solution across the dress. So obviously I am mad at the fact that my new dress is ruined. When I take it to the reception desk they advise that they will fix it and have it delivered to my cabin by 600PM. At 630PM, my husband goes back to reception to see where the dress is while I finish getting ready. At this point we are advised that they will clean the dress but only if we release them from liability. Obviously this was not acceptable. The next morning I am called back by reception and told to claim the dress on my homeowners insurance!!! What I realize later in the week that the person who advised me to do this was none other than the first officer.
Dinner that night again in Four Seasons Dining Room. Over 2 hours to be served dinner.
Wednesday - Barbados
Again, we arrive late and have to be shuttled to the main pier. It was raining that day so we decided just to shop. Shopping plentiful at the pier and we made a number of purchased, one of which was a print by a local artist. I'll bring this print up again later.
We had reservation this evening at Le Bistro. We had dined at Le Bistro on previous NCL cruises so we were looking forward to the experience again. This was also the evening of the Latitudes party. Now NCL is fully aware who on board is a Latitudes member, yet we had to go to another desk to receive our invitation. Basically they handwrote our name on a form letter and gave it to us. Doesn't give the "warm fuzzy" feeling. The party was lame and the captain gave wrong information regarding the deployment to Hawaii. Before dinner I decided I would play Bingo as we had time before our reservation. The staff was more interested in playing with each other than running the game. My husband had to go to Le Bistro without me as the game was running behind. I met up with him 20 minutes later. Service at Le Bistro was the worst I had ever experienced and the food was not as good. The only highlight was a little girl from Poland who was as friendly as can be.
Thursday - St. Lucia
Golf again. My husband went alone on this excursion, which again, was less expensive booking directly with the course. $95.00 for a golfer versus $109.00 through the cruise line. Since they were already picking golfers from the ship, they gave him a free ride. Another beautiful course and very challenging. He had a good time.
I was not feeling well and needed to see the ships doctor. $50.00 to just speak with someone. There are 2 doctors on board. After speaking with other passengers on the ship, I was treated by the good one, a female doctor from South Africa. Very nice. She gave me some antibiotics (enough to last 2 days) and some over the counter medication. Overall my 10-minute visit cost me $125.00.
I did get some shopping in right at the pier and found some lovely shops. The people were very friendly and helpful.
After my husband returned we went up to the pool area so he could smoke a cigar. We sat there for an hour before I finally grabbed a waiter and asked him how long we had to sit there before someone took our order. He said that we must have just sat down. When I advised him that he walked past me at least 10 times, he just walked away. This day I buy a cute souvenir cup, which is made out of a coconut in the shape of a monkey head. $9.95 for the cup and first drink and refills are $4.95 (normal price). Great little investment as the drink stayed cold much longer.
I chose to eat dinner in the cabin that evening, as I was still not feeling to well. Room service was very friendly and the food was better than what I had received in the dining room. Friendly staff as well. My husband went to the dining room and actually found an area where he could eat in less than 1 hour. We asked specifically for this area the next night.
Friday - St Kitts
Originally we were schedule to go on the Kayaking excursion through the cruise line but decided to cancel since I was still not up to par. From those we spoke with, the excursion was a hit. We went into town and did some shopping. For the best prices for Alcohol and cigars, St Kitts is the place to go. My husband had a field day in the walk in humidor. In the center of town there is a Piccadilly like in London with shops all around. We found Tommy Bahamas shirts for $59.50 (normally around $100) and ate at the Circus Restaurant for lunch, which overlooks the center of town. I highly recommend the Seafood Kabobs. Service was good, food was excellent. My best meal on the trip.
When we get back to the cabin I become enraged. My print from Barbados, which was rolled up and lying on the couch, had been knocked to the floor and stepped on by the cabin steward, thereby creating a huge crease through it. Our "monkey cup" which had a "hinged" top was obviously picked up by the top and broken. Now in 5 days my luggage has been broken, my formal dress ruined, my print crushed and a cup broken. What is so hard about cleaning a room without wrecking the contents?
I immediately make a beeline to the reception desk and demand to speak to whoever is in charge. My husband and I are led back to the First Officer's cabin where lo and behold, there is my suitcase, which was supposed to be with the carpenter. So I proceed to tell this woman al that has happened to my belongings on this ship and my demand that it be replaced. What I am told is that she will see what she can do. Now, after all that has happened I want some sort of guarantee; at a minimum I was a guaranteed time that I will be gotten back with. She refuses and tells me to go back to my cabin. I tell her I'm not leaving until I get some sort of guarantee. At this point she looks at my husband and tells him to escort me out of her office. Basically he laughs and advises her that she better start producing some answers. Finally she relents and tells me she will get to me by 6PM. Now I have a guarantee and I leave the office.
At 6PM she arrives at the cabin as promised (progress). The cup is replaced (easy to do). I am advised that when the ship returns to Barbados that my print will be repurchased and sent to my home address. The dress will have to be handled by the home office. The suitcase damage is now being blamed on the Port Authority in San Juan and there is nothing they will do. I tell her that I want some written guarantee for all of this, which she states she will get me. While thinking more about the suitcase issue, I grab my brochure and look at their Terms and Conditions. There is a reimbursement for damaged luggage. I go back to her office and show her the documentation, which is issued by NCL, not me, and demand a $100 shipboard credit. I go back to the cabin where I receive a call stating that the shipboard credit will be applied.
Saturday - At Sea We decide to try and sleep in, as we have received no real sleep on this cruise so far. Due to all the noise we realize that this is impossible and get ready to go to the buffet breakfast. It was pitiful. The eggs were water, the juice machine was broken (as it had been all week) and the breakfast meats were literally sitting in pools of grease. When we attempt to find a place to sit we see that there are no clean tables yet there are 3 busboys talking to each other. I take it upon myself to bus the table myself. At this point a busboy arrives and takes the linens off the table and leaves. And they expect to be tipped for this? I proceed to lead him back to the table and advise him that he may not know it but cleaning the tables is his job, not mine. I did have a massage appointment at the Spa but cancelled it the day before as I could only imagine what other bad experience I would pay for.
While in the cabin early that afternoon I am watching the TV about booking a future cruise. The one that catches my eye is the Norwegian Sea traveling out of Houston. Since I am from Dallas I sell a lot of this ship. The information about the sailing is wrong. It incorrectly lists the ports of call. Now this was not a recent change, it had been done months before. I go to the Cruise Desk and advise Duncan, the Port and Cruise Consultant that the information on the Sea is incorrect. He asked me what ship that is. So I tell him and he says, "Oh yeah its doing 3 and 4 day cruises". No Duncan, it's doing 7 nights out of Houston. "Yeah" he says, "What ports of call?" I asked him if he was joking with me. He said he was serious. Now I'm sorry, but here is a gentleman who is paid by NCL to be an expert on their product and I have to tell him? I just walked away disgusted. When I met my husband at the pool he just laughed and said it was typical.
We actually had an enjoyable afternoon in the casino. The blackjack tournament was holding its last round of qualifying sessions that afternoon with the finals at 430PM. $10.00 entry fee, free beer, glass of wine or soda and $2500 to play 7 hands. I never got into the finals but played 10 qualifying rounds anyway. $100 spent but I had 10 drinks. I did stay in the casino and won back the entry fees so I broke even for the day.
Sunday - Disembark No problems this morning as I still had not received my written guarantee from the first officer regarding my print. When I reach her by phone she tells me that the Hotel Director is taking care of it. Since I trust nothing she says at this point I advise her I will not leave the ship without something in writing. 20 minutes later I receive a beverage receipt with a 2-line guarantee and a stamp of the Hotel Director. Yes, it's in writing but not very professional.
What scares me most is that the Sky is being renamed the Pride of Aloha and will be deployed to Hawaii. Not only are these cruises expensive but also a very discerning traveler purchases them. I not only will not sell this ship but also have given serious concern to selling any NCL product in the future. When speaking with other passengers on the ship, my experience was not unique. I did not find one person happy with the cruise. One gentleman had booked back-to-back cruises and was considering leaving the ship and going home versus spending another week on board. One gentleman advised me that things should get better once the ship is in Hawaii with an all American crew. Really, I said. Do you feel that strongly about the work ethic of the American youth? I have 2 children age 15 and 21. Considering I can't get them to bring their dishes to the sink or their laundry to the washing machine I have a hard time believing that the service will be that much improved.