Really pleased to see Chuck and his DW had a fantastic first cruise on NCL, as it should be. We are devoted NCL cruisers and we particularly planned to do a b2b in order to have a full week on board, see the Bahamas for the first time, and get away from cold weather.
Embarkation: Smooth as could be; had the same problem as Chuck with finding the VIP embarkation area in the past. You have to be vocal and tell the lady at the door that you are VIP. I hate to 'pull rank', but I won't miss the experience over it. We waited about 15 minutes and were escorted to our cabin (a suite)by a fellow who had trouble finding it. We were also on the bow with a huge deck, two loungers with side table, dining table and 3 chairs, and still room for at least 7 couples to do the Tango. Both of our Cabin Stewards (Edgar and Purdee) and our Butler, Lucky Lee, stopped by to introduce themselves. We were then off to Cagney's for lunch where I had the sliders (love the beef served by NCL) and DH had the ahi tuna burger; both were excellent as are the Cagney's fries. This restaurant is always consistent both in food and service. Our favorite place to dine. Sail away was uneventful after the call to muster and we headed to Le Bistro for our first meal aboard.
Restaurants: Already discussed Cagney's, but must say that Ashly, Genisis, Shavron, and all the rest of the wait staff are fabulous. It became a joke for each one of them to learn that I'm allergic to bell peppers and melons. The shrimp cocktails ARE to die for and in the evening the oyster's rockefeller are equally good. The prime rib, filet mignon, lobster and lamb chops are all fabulous. Il Adagio: The food is just as good as on the other ships, especially the Osso Buco. We had wonderful service except that I had to go to the hostess in order to have our dessert sent to our cabin. Every server should know that this is possible. Le Bistro: Although this used to be our favorite restaurant on board, due to hit and miss with the servers, we've had to move Cagney's up. Our escargot (you must try itbest ever) was delivered by another waiter to his passengers that arrived and ordered after we did. So we ended up waiting 45 minutes for our first bite of food; our waiter then lied to us about the mistake. That was not the thing to do; we see through these things. The seafood cold platter is especially delicious and DH had the bouillabaisse and said it was excellent. We each had crepe suzettes for dessert and they were very good too. Buffet: What a disappointment. A very small buffet with less than attentive staff behind the steam tables. We waited over five minutes for a slice of ham as the supervisor had all the servers huddled in a discussion. I'm sorry you don't do this when you have passengers to serve. Either deal with one at a time or call a group meeting later.
Cabin: Our suite was wonderful with a large living area complete with sleeper sofa, two side chairs that doubled as dining chairs and a round table that could be either fully extended for dining or low for a coffee table. The large flat screen tv was nice as was the stereo and selection of CDs. Our champagne was always chilled and our ice bucket always full. Our cabin stewards were the best we've ever had; I think they had a monitor or GPS system on us as we never saw them actually in the cabin! The queen size bed was just as comfy as we remembered and there was ample storage space for hanging garments and drawer space. The deck was just killer and wish we'd had better weather to utilize it. The only real drawback was the electrical situation; this is wired for 220 and there are only two 110 outlets (one in the bathroom, one in the bedroom for the phone plug). I asked for a converter and our wonderful Lucky left us a 25' orange extension cord! And you have to leave the bathroom light on in order for there to be electricity flowing. The coffee maker is great if you want espresso, so we ended up having our butler bring pots of coffee and hot water in the morning.
Ports of Call: Grand Bahama Is: Did not realize Freeport is where the dry docks are for all of the cruise ships. Three were there when we were and another NCL ship was just leaving. This is a working port, so no frills or fancies. We did meet some wonderful people that were selling handiwork just off the ship. For $5 each we took a van over to Lucaya where we enjoyed meeting a local artist and even bought one of his paintings. The beach was beautiful and we enjoyed watching the snorkelers, swimmers, etc. Nassau: Not at all what we pictured; especially Atlantis being so close. We stuck to walking around town and just happened to be present when the streets were closed and all the lawyers paraded to the court house for the opening day of the Supreme Court. Very interesting and colorful! We also wandered away from the tourist area and found lovely decor and fashion stores for the locals. As the drizzle began to fall we beat feet back to the ship in time for lunch. Great Stirrup Cay: The only time we regretted being forward (we're aft people) was hearing both anchors drop, one after the other, and then ten minutes later both being pulled up. Get your earplugs! It was too choppy for the tenders to load, so Capt. Harvard Ramsoey (Norwegian, pronounced Howard Ramsey)set off to find us some sunshine. Along with two other ships we floated and motored slowly off the coast of Grand Bahama Island. (For those of you who don't know, GSC is located between Nassau and Grand Bahama Island.)
Disembarkation: This was easy for us being on the b2b; you leave everything on board, leave the ship, tell the Customs man you are 'in transit' and you are on your way out the door and one of the first in line to reboard the ship. We also embarked well ahead of the others and had a ball being one of just a few passengers aboard.
This was a 50/50 for us for the following reasons: The first thing is the lack of consistency which, top of our list, was the lack of crew manning the hand hygiene stations. We actually stopped eating in the buffet due to this. It's the same when you come aboard from a port; a crewman just stands inside the door and nods at you; the sanitizer is 2-3 feet away from him and he never mentions it. The second biggest thing was being all but ignored by our Concierge, Monica. We spent the entire first day onboard searching for her without success. We are used to finding our Concierge in the Concierge lounge adjacent to Cagney's during breakfast and lunch hours. I think we saw her twice in Cagney's and once she completely ignored us. When she did ask on the last full day what she could do for us we asked for dinner reservations at Cagney's that night at 7:00. She said she would do so and confirm with us. When confirmation did not arrive I checked with the restaurant ladies and found that the reservation was for 6:45; we would have not had a table and we would have had the cover charge to pay. She never came by our cabin and only stopped to chat the one time. Further, we had 3 spoiled young men partying in the owner's suite above us. Finally called reception (at 4:15 a.m.) on the third night and security was called. Still they didn't quiet down so security visited again. When we told the Cruise Consultants (Rusty and David) about this they immediately sought out Joseph Boyle, manager of front office, and he said he'd take care of it. By that afternoon Joseph sought us out to say he and security had had a talk with our neighbors and all should be quiet. Very nice of the three of them to step in and take action. This should have been something Monica talked with us about. Why is there no ship's info on the tv? We missed seeing temp, humidity, miles to go, knots, etc. And there is no wifi in the suites; we had to go to the internet cafe to do anything online. Our butler, Lucky, was great I mean that. But...he needs to learn more about his ship. We asked about the smaller venues for meals and he didn't have a clue what they serve. The lack of personalized service when you are in a suite was very obvious to us, having been in Romance Suites, Penthouses, Courtyard Villas and ordinary cabins we know what normally happens on NCL and the consistency and personal service just weren't there. And no matter who you asked the same question of, you got a different answer every time.
The ship is a beauty! She harkens back to days of Queen Mary, with portholes galore and varnished teak. The carpets and colors are beautiful...unlike the big ships that look like a Caribbean party threw up. We're glad to hear She will be in drydock for refurbishment the end of April as the furnishings are showing their wear.
We learned not to take a small ship unless you have a suite all the way through (see my review for the next leg of the b2b). This IS a first time cruisers ship; especially if you get an upgrade or upsell. The Captain is a real sweetheart and very approachable. He does need to work on his 'voice from the ceiling' messages though.
Will we sail again with NCL? You betcha7 booked for this year and may add 2 more. Being free to whatever is for sure our cuppa tea!