The actual beginning of my wife, 14 y/o son and my cruise began four days before we left Alaska for the trip. I was sitting at my computer at 6:50 am when the phone rang and it was the upgrade fairy for NCL. I was being offered an upgrade from my BA balcony to an AA owner's suite for a small additional sum of money. I had to run upstairs and wake my wife to see if she wanted to do it and of course she said yes. Due to our flying out of Alaska we had to leave Sunday afternoon and arrived in Miami at 7:15 am on Monday. We hung around the airport until about 9:15 and then took a cab to the cruise terminal to become literally the first people in line. The doors opened about 10:30 and we headed upstairs and sat and waited for about 20 minutes before we were let in to begin check in. Since we were now VIPs we had a separate check in area and after that was accomplished we were personally escorted to the VIP waiting room where there was pastries, cheeses, small sandwiches, fruits, coffee, ice water and tea waiting for us. At around 11:30 all waiting VIPs were then escorted to the plantation lounge on the 12th deck to await the opening of Cagney's restaurant where we would have lunch. We were all told that our cabins would be available at 2 pm.
CABIN Our suite was wonderful to say the least. We had a separate bedroom with a queen bed, bathroom with separate tub and shower, small (skinny) walk-in closet with safe. The main part of the cabin had a separate living area and a dining area as well as a bar. There was also another bathroom that just had a stool/toilet and sink in it. The balcony was huge with a dining table, two chairs, two lounges and a four person hot tub. The hot tub's water temperature was only controlled by the hot water that was put in with the hot and cold water taps. Our butler name was Jeffrey and he arrived shortly after we entered the room. He told me to indicate the three bottles of liquor I would like him to get for me for our bar and also pointed out the bottle of imported champagne that was chilling for our bon voyage. Jeffrey would arrive every afternoon with a small tray of either cheeses, hors d'oeuvres, or pastries. Jeffrey was very good at making sure we always had fresh ice in our ice bucket. Our first morning on board ship we ordered room service for breakfast, and we were very happily surprised to have Jeffrey arrive, set up our table on the balcony and serve us our breakfast. We had assumed the food would arrive at the requested time and we would take care of it ourselves. We really took full advantage of the hot tub during the cruise. It was so nice to return to the suite at the end of the day and just jump in for a quiet soak with a rum and pepsi (no coke products on board) in my hand.
RESTAURANTS There are three specialty restaurants on board and we tried all three. Il Adagio was an Italian restaurant that had a cover of $10.00. We had no complaints about the meal. The service was good and the food was wonderful. Le Bistro was a French restaurant that we were very unhappy with. The cover charge was $20.00 and we had reservations for 8:00. We arrived at 7:45, intentionally a little early because we wanted to eat and make it to the 9:00 pm show. We were seated immediately and the restaurant was only about 25% full. With exception of my son's duck, the rest of the meal was not to our liking and took almost two hours to finish due to some reason that we were never made aware of. Our waitress and the maitre de both apologized a couple of times for the slowness of the meals but it didn't really matter because we missed the show anyway. The other restaurant was Cagney's steakhouse and we were very pleased with that. Cagney's has a cover charge of $25.00. My wife and I love our rib steaks and Cagney's rib steaks were very good but I wouldn't say they were any better quality than what we buy in our local Safeway stores. The shrimp cocktail was wonderful with three jumbo shrimp that were what I would call "three biters". There are two main dining rooms and we ate in only one during this four day cruise. The only real comment I could make on our meal in the main dining room would be that there shrimp cocktail consisted of a large tablespoon of very tiny micro shrimp that had been dredged through some cocktail sauce. You had to eat them with a spoon because you couldn't pick them up in your fingers. Because we were in a suite we had the privilege of eating all breakfasts and lunches in Cagney's restaurant. We did not eat any lunches there with the exception of embarkation day but did eat three breakfasts. You ordered your hot items off of a menu and all cold items were set up on an open buffet. The food and service was always good and they had a great selection. We never ate in the buffet but we walked by it a number of times and everything always looked great.
PORTS OF CALL We hit three ports of call on this four day cruise; Freeport, Nassau and Great Stirup Cay. In Freeport we signed up for the kayak excursion which included a trip down Gold Rock Creek in a two person kayak, a light lunch, some time at the beach and a short nature walk to some caves. Upon arrival at the creek everyone teamed up in two person groups. Since we were a party of three, my wife and son went together in one kayak and I was paired up with Orlando, an NCL excursion desk crew member. The process of getting in the water went like this. The kayaks were pulled up on a wooden ramp and both people got in, and then someone from the tour company would gently push the kayak backwards into the water. When it became Orlando's and my turn, we got in and the tour operator gently pushed us backwards but also sideway just a tad. That just a tad was just a tad too much and Orlando and I ended up swimming in the creek. We were told that this had never happened before so I guess Orlando and I were fore runner's for this event. Be sure to ask Orlando at the tour desk how this excursion is!!! Anyway, it was a great trip and all three of us enjoyed it immensely. When we arrived in Nassau we took the Atlantis Adventure excursion. It was quite expensive but all in all we felt it was well worth it. We took a bus to Atlantis where we were met by an employee there who escorted all of us to the water park area. During the walk there she explained to us all the features that the resort had to offer. Atlantis has one (if not the one) of the largest aquariums I had ever been to, with huge sharks and sting rays swimming and interacting with hundreds of thousands of tropical fish. There are viewing windows everywhere. The water parks major feature is a mile and a quarter river that you float on. This river has rapids and white water and you can only use it riding on an inner tube. This circuit around the river takes approximately 40-50 minutes and was really fun. There is a junction on the river where if you take the right hand route you will float to a conveyor belt that will take you to the top of a pyramid where you again decide which direction to take that will set you on a very fast ride down the side of the pyramid. There is also another pyramid at the resort that you walk up and then slide down a water slide that takes you through a tunnel through a shark tank. Atlantis is definitely a must see if you are into water parks.
CHILDRENS CLUBS We took my son to the teen center on the first day. The employee working there said for him to come back later and there should be other teens to mingle with. This particular cruise had very few children on board at all and quite frankly my son was bored a lot on this trip. The video arcade was a real bummer. The machine would only let you use your room key to play the games. We went to the credit department and set up an account just for him on his room key so that he could play the games. BE CAREFUL of this. NCL doesn't monitor that account so don't believe them when they say that it has a cap. The morning of disembarkation i received a bill for an additional $40.00 for his playing more games than he had the money for. I was not a happy camper about this, although I will say that the credit department and I came to an agreement where we both would share the blame. I paid $20.00 instead of the $40.00
ENTERTAINMENT We attended two of the shows during the cruise. Wednesday evening was the "On Broadway" show and Thursday evening was the "Farewell Variety & Comedy Show". The shows were entertaining but certainly nothing to write home to mother about. As Simon Cowell from American Idol would say, "very amateurish". Due to our having the suite, it was nice to have reserved seats.
DISEMBARKATION Another perk of having a suite was that any time there was the chance of a line forming to go anywhere the concierge would lead us to the head of the line. This was the case with disembarkation. We met the concierge in one of the lounges and she walked us to the gangway bypassing everyone standing in line. From the time we arrived at the gangway, until we were through customs and outside the building was about 15-20 minutes. My wife would have liked for the concierge to walk us all the way to customs but apparently the concierge couldn't leave the ship.
OVERALL This was a very nice cruise that all three of us enjoyed. Of course, the fact that we were in the Owner's Suite helped that feeling greatly. This was my third cruise (the first being 25 years ago) and my wife's and son's 2nd. We went on a Carnival cruise 3 years ago and it is difficult to really compare the two. We were in port during the day on each day of this cruise and only at sea at night. I felt that things were too busy with this kind of schedule, preferring to have a sea day in between port days. I don't think I would do another cruise like this one for that reason only. We felt that the crew members were very friendly and I don't recall ever meeting up with any of them that tried to avoid eye contact. One highlight of the cruise was the invitation to the Captain's reception. This was a private party on the second night of the cruise and we were able to meet all the major officers on board the cruise. This reception included some really nice appetizers and rum punch or wine.
Although we were in the Owner's Suite due to a stroke of good fortune, we would have been very happy with the BA balcony that we initially booked. I would never have been able to afford the suite that we had if I hadn't been given the offer that was made.