My partner and I booked this cruise because of an Aquafest event onboard - their annual Hallowe'en cruise. It was my first time on Norwegian, and even though I prefer set table and set time for dinner, I was impressed by the "freestyle" aspects of the experience. (Not that the other lines are so overly structured as NCL advertises.) We did eat in the main dining room only two of nine nights though. The first night, when we were favorably impressed. Then the next to last night, and were unimpressed. The menus change very little from night to night in the main dining rooms. We did enjoy the specialty restaurants the other nights, despite the additional costs. I justified it as we had an inside cabin! We ate at Le Bistro three nights, because we enjoyed it the best. Ask for Ratayya for your server there. She is FANTASTIC! Also, Le Bistro is the best food of the specialty restaurants. (If you're still smarting at the French for whatever reason - get over it - enjoy their style of food - and find out that you eat quite a bit of it anyway . . . )
One very sour note . . . the vegetarian entree in the steakhouse has pickled onions in it, on top of saffron and an assortment of vegetables. I ordered it as a side, looking for some genuine vegetables (i.e., not potatoes) to go with my meal. I ended up getting a whole serving anyway (lost in translation?), and the saffron (the rarest of spices) was pretty overpowering. I was enjoying the carrots that came with it, and then ventured over to the pearl onions, only to find that they were pickled cocktail onions! Eeeeewww . . . At first I thought someone was being lazy in the kitchen, and rather than peel the little suckers he contacted a bartender buddy and obtained a large jar of cocktail onions instead. The maitre'd then approaced our table for the third time - all smiles - "How is everything?" "Would you like to taste this onion? It's a cocktail onion!" "Oh, Sir, the chef concocted the dish that way - with cocktail onions." His confidence only caused me to pursue this further: "Why in the world would he do something like that?" The maitre'd quickly feigned a cell phone call and hurried from our table.
If you eat at the Asian restaurant you can have both the sushi and the Asian fusion for one cover. We did that. Just don't eat anything from lunch to dinner! Actually, the entrees on the Asian menu were smallish, so the sushi made a great prelude. And, you can take your time.
We ate at the Tex-Mex because Fire and Ice was perfoming in the atrium that evening, and we made a great dinner show out of it. Food there - OK. The cover price is not as high as the other specialty restaurants. Our black bean soup arrived cold, but the place was packed that night. The fish tacos here are primo. Worth checking out this venue just for them. The margaritas arrive way too fast to have been made just for you - but don't we all do a pitcher of them at home from time to time?
Liquor prices on board seem to be a buck or two higher than from my last cruise: Royal Carribbean, Alaska, May, 2009. Of course, as anyone on Social Security can tell you, there's been no inflation since then.
Entertainment: We found the production show to be only so-so. The chorus and band were definately more into in than the leads. The ventriloquist was a bit bizzare, and hard to hear. The best on-board entertainment was Fire and Ice. Watch for this pair. The lady is a vocal powerhouse, and the gentleman handles the keyboards and backup vocal really well. We tried to go to everything they did. Actually - NCL would be better off moving them to the theater, and ditching the production show. Hit their venues early. The seats fill up.
Our cabin stewart, Valentino, was superb. Thanks, buddy! A very clean and well-kept ship. I wish there was more shade around the pool deck. If you want to spend a sea day there, arrive early and get yourself situated, especially if you want a shady table. By 11:00 am they will fill up. The sun-bunnies will be able to find a lounge to bake on well enough.
Finally - unlike other lines, NCL charges for the steam/sauna and indoor pool. This is unfortunate. If you are a lap swimmer, do not believe their assertions that the pool there, in the "thermal suite", is a lap pool. It is not. Of course, it's never going to be long enough - on any ship. But, it's about 20 degrees too warm (in Fahrenheit), and is only three to four feet deep. I did my laps first thing in the morning in the brisk outside pool - much better.
But - a cruise to remember. A very great time! Thanks, guys!
Did an Aquafest beach day with the boys. A beautiful beach.
Catamarain! The best. Shore excursion booked with NCL. Great buffet lunch on board. Free rum and beer later on. Two snorkling opportunities - snorkle set provided. Like, wow!
Actually, this is Samana, in the Dominican Republic. I could not find it on the listing. I had been here once before. Best to take a shore excursion here. The simple beach day at Caya Leventado [sp] is a great time, if you just want to relax. Full beach facilities, except for umbrellas. Some shade under palms for those wanting it, and at the bar.
For those who like to get off the ship, but don't want to do a shore excursion or venture too far, there is some excellent shopping on the pier. This is one of the best set-ups I've seen. Some dining there, too, but I did not do that. We went with the boys to Cockleshell beach. The ride there and back was beautiful. The beach was nice, too, although the water was murky.
Rating this 5+. Do do the boat ride over to Virgin Gorda to see The Baths. You can do it as a ship shore excursion, or on your own from the ferry terminal, where two services go hourly between the islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda. At Virgin Gorda there will be cabs at the pier to take you to The Baths, and will arrange a pick-up time for you. People are very friendly, speak English (with the most beautiful patois), and all seems safe. The park entrance is $3.00 - after $30.00 for the ferry, round-trip, and maybe $10.00 to $15.00 for round-trip cab - maybe less for the cab - but, ALL THIS IS WORTH WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO SEE! An adventurous trail down to the beach. Some food there, ample drinks, no beach chairs. Lockers there for a small sum. In your bathing suit, follow the signs "to the caves". A couple "fat man's squeezes" here and there, but surprisingly accessible. You will see something you've seen on TV and in magazine ads so many times, yet so few get to see for real. A treat. You will clamber over some rocks to see more: "Climbing over rocky mountain . . . Let us gaily tread the measure, make the most of fleeting leisure, hail it as a true ally . . . "