We have cruised quite a few cruise lines in the last 20 years covering an array of service standards on each line. We attempt to go with an open mind to the differences and similarities among cruises. We have cruised as a couple, with our children as they've grown over the years, with and without other families accompanying us. Our son celebrated his 12th birthday on this cruise. (His 1st and 10th birthdays were celebrated on our cruise vacations also!) Our college age daughter, her friend and our teenage son rounded out our crew! Two cruised free except for port charges and fuel surcharges totaling about $60.00 for each of them. What teenage boy can't eat $60.00 worth of food in 3 days! Our daughter's friend had never cruised before so it brought back memories of being a cruise "newbie "for us!
We live about 6 hours from Miami. We picked up our Alamo rental van and drove to the LaQuinta Inn in Naples Thurs. night. $45.00 for a new, clean room that came with hot breakfast (make your own waffles) assorted cereals and fruits the next morning. Sure beats trying to get 6 people up and out of the house by 6 AM the morning of your cruise! We arrived at the Alamo car rental office near Miami Airport at 11AM, took our luggage out of the car and literally walked across the sidewalk to the bus to take us to the Port of Miami. The buses run every 30 minutes. Due to security there are no car rental agencies at the Port itself.
Embarkation was a breeze! We were on board in 20 minutes! Thank you Jack! You were awesome dealing with our herd! We have cruised bringing friends of our children's before and although we have never been asked for it make sure you have a notarized form from the parents authorizing travel out of the country and emergency medical treatment. NCL has their own on their website. Champagne and OJ welcome was a treat. We headed off to the Garden Cafe and Il Adagio (pizza & ice cream) for lunch. We sat in Il Adagio. Although there was not a beverage station there they had pitchers of ice water and iced tea near the ice cream counter. Loved the hand gel stations at the entrance to all the eating venues! Great idea! Went to check out our cabins. Michael, our room steward, introduced himself. He was absolutely great! Room was very clean and stocked with all the bathroom goodies. He kept us well stocked with ice! Thought we had trouble with the hairdryer but seems it was a finicky plug in the bathroom so Michael showed us another plug it in by the room vanity. Yes the shower stall is a bit tiny, but the water worked just fine! No AC problems either. We had balcony cabins on the Norway Deck. They were located mid ship just under the stage area on the pool deck. Hello...what was I thinking! Well to our pleasant surprise we didn't hear a thing when we went to bed at night! And they had deck parties on two of the three nights! If we were on our balcony we could hear the music softly. The parties were not "all nighters" by any means anyway!
The cabin was small, but the fold out bed was on the far side of the balcony room so we didn't have to climb over to get to the bathroom! . After the "3mile limit" the gift shop doors and casino opens and if you are 18 or older you are now of legal drinking age on NCL (with signed parental consent only of course). We took care of this at the reception desk. The 20 year olds' room key cards were changed to allow them to" purchase beer and wine only-one at a time". And the bartenders are particular about this rule. This rule did not seem to encourage any drunken antics on board that we noticed.
The sail away BBQ was great. Good food cooked in huge "Webber" grills served by the pool. We ate at the Crossings restaurant for dinner each evening. Our teenage son thought that we should pick a time to eat dinner each evening (I'm sure the reason was so that he could make plans after dinner with others he met!) so we decided on 7:30. We have never sailed on NCL before and this is where Freestyle worked for us! We weren't exactly ready at 7:30 each night! We weren't met at the door to the assigned seating restaurant with the "your late" look on the Maitre'D and waiter's faces! Chicken fingers and sirloin steak were on the menu every night-that took care of our two sons! Everyone was pleased with their dinner selections each evening. The lamb was very good. We asked to have mashed potatoes with it instead of the selection on the menu-no problem! One night was a lobster tail and grouper. Lobster was very good, especially when served "surf-n-turf" style-we ordered steak too to go with it! All the desserts were fabulous! With all 6 of us at the table I don't think we missed one! We didn't eat in any of the "fee" restaurants. We had 2 college students on a budget and we all wanted to eat together. Resalme (sp?) was our waiter the first night and was just wonderful!! Excellent service and a great personality! We mentioned that it was our 12 year old's birthday and he brought out birthday cake and waiters singing "Happy Birthday"! Breakfast brought us to the Garden Cafe, the Great Outdoors and Il Adagio. They are all grouped together. There are 2 buffet lines at the Garden Cafe and another one aft on deck called the Great Outdoors all serving the same fare. Il Adagio had waffles and omelets to order. (Yummy!) There was another omelet station on deck just before entering the Garden Cafe. We always found seating inside. Either in the Garden Cafe or Il Adagio. There was also plenty of outdoor seating on the aft deck by the Great Outdoors. Lunch on Great Stirrup Cay was also a very delicious BBQ. Pizza and lots of fresh fruit were also served. .
Nassau: Have a plan when you go through the port entrance building to get out onto Bay St. The taxi drivers and tour guides will swarm! But, keep in mind that their job is to sell. If you dawdle around and look uncertain and hesitant they feel they still have the chance to "close the deal" and sell you something! A pleasant "Hello" followed by a firm "No thank you" as we walked away worked. We shopped in Nassau from one end of Bay St. all the way to the Straw Market. We enjoyed chatting with many of the shop owners and vendors in the Straw Market. The Pirate Museum was cute and interesting. It's about a block over from the Straw Market. Our 12 year old enjoyed it as did my daughter and I. It took us about ½ hour. This was our wee bit of culture (history) on our shopping trek!
Great Stirrup Cay: Disembarking was held up by the "local authorities" so tender boarding didn't begin until about 9:45. We were still eating breakfast anyway! The island was beautiful and relaxing. Brought our own snorkeling equipment and was never asked to purchase the rental of a vest (as it stated on their website). They rented large rafts for $25.00, but I had packed 4- $1.00 rafts I had bought at Wal-Mart and packed them in the beach bag. At the end of the day we threw them out. The hammocks and umbrellas and picnic tables were plentiful-and we had the "best weather in weeks" per the ship's Captain!
Entertainment: The Carnivale Party the first night was Latin themed. Enjoyed sitting in the hot tub listening to the music and watching the dancing! The White Hot Nights Party the second night was good as well. The toga party on the last night was in
The night club. Our 12 year old wanted to see his sister in a toga. Security was at the entrance and allowed him to look at everyone in togas and then it was time to go! They were very kind and professional. This was our first cruise that we didn't see any of the shows! We were having dinner at the 8:30 show time. And as for the Newlywed Game and Quest…been there, done that! Caribbean Plus was excellent everyday by the pool and especially in Great Stirrup Cay!
Children's Activities: hours were limited and even our 12 year old had to be signed in and out so there was no way he was going! He's signed himself in and out on other shipboard kids clubs for the last 2 years. This is where a pair of $20.00 walkie talkies comes in handy!
We enjoyed our first NCL cruise so much we took advantage of their"Freestyle Cruise Rewards". Deposit $250.00 toward your next NCL cruise and receive an instant $100.00 shipboard credit for your current cruise!