So I finally talked my wonderful girlfriend into going on a cruise to share our first experience at cruising and other then trying some other cruise lines may be our last for some time. I'll start with the good and don't blink. The service staff (waiters, waitresses, photographers, housekeeping) are phenomenal hard working people and I looked forward to seeing some of their familiar smiling faces as much as the few friends we made along the trip. The majority of people on the cruise were extremely pleasant, friendly people. Our room steward Clark...couldn't thank him enough and his quick action saved a life. The 2 american photographers took amazing pictures and the female (can't remember her name) was an absolute sweetheart and if she were allowed to do so I would have loved to invite her to dinner or to hang out with us. We made sure we filled out the cards recognizing each staff member who we felt deserved to have their work recognized and I truly hope they hear about them. Best part of the cruise was the watches I bought myself and my girlfriend and the salesman who was knowledgable, non aggressive about the sale, didn't push more expensive watches and truly was just a friendly staff member with a fabulous personality.
Now on to the rest:
When we first arrived at the port we were immediately concerned at the demographics of our fellow travelers being most of them were silver cruisers. Little did we know that once we got on board we would quickly realize the flip side of our concern and that was the large population of college kids on spring break and their alcohol infused loudness. If I wasn't being run over by a electric wheelchair, or listening to the silvers complain about something insignificant, I had to deal with frat house behavior. The first night I was awoken by a group of college kids having a grand time in the 10th deck aft hallway which I politely asked them if they could take their conversation somewhere more appropriate. Of course in my face they were polite (I'm not small by any means) and a few minutes after dozing back off one wanted to be a smart ass and yell outside my door. After dealing with noise most of the night on our 2nd night I spoke to the front desk about the issue and of course...nothing was done. Speaking with several other cruisers this seemed to plague the ship throughout the sailing.
The entertainment other then the main shows I basically walked out of every single one I attended out of boredom or to salvage my eardrums. The musical shows I like the best and the ladies in the show were very talented singers with strong voices. The comedian was marginal but hey he is working cruise, the hypnotist was entertaining and led a fairly funny show. The "action comedian" I walked out on 20 minutes into the show as there is only so much juggling I can take and I didn't pick up on where the comedy part came in. The singer who did the Beatles tribute...what can I say other then...nails across a blackboard. There was one decent singing group who primarily played on the outside deck and was pretty decent..but if I had to listen to the "dollar" song one more time I think I was going to jump overboard. Basically every night we ended up back in our stateroom bored as the entertainment was not geared for our age group (36) even though we are active night scene hawks in the NY City social scene. The DJ in Dazzles couldn't keep much of the college kids on the floor let alone us and while occasionally nice piano music only helped me get drowsy enough to be put out of my misery for the night. Sorry but I'm not going to bingo, tried jeopardy but couldn't get my fix and again with the silver cruisers felt like I was visiting an assisted living facility. I found more entertainment on the ships TV system with the movies they ran as I got to see 2 movies I had yet to enjoy on land.
Food wise...I overall can't complain. When it comes to a buffet you have to keep an open mind and for the most part when I opted to eat at it (breakfast/lunch) I never really had a complaint. Only downside is the traffic flow of the buffet isn't conducive to the space its in and if you really want to get an experienced silver cruiser in a frenzy interrupt their buffet etiquette and its like the world is going to end. The buffet runs from 2 directions and ends in the middle where the salad bar is but the salad bar isn't laid out in 2 similar settings but one which leads 2 groups fighting for middle ground. I had to actually get vocal with a male silver cruiser when my girlfriend came from the side we started and he got mouthy because she was getting salad. I mean seriously dude..we were in the middle of the caribbean sea what was the rush.
Speaking of breathing...unfortunately we had to miss our port in Guatemala due to a silver cruiser who went into cardiac arrest just a few doors down from my stateroom. While disappointing, overall it was for a good reason as the medical staff assisted by other staff members resuscitated the gentleman. In the process we had to turn around and return to Cozumel to offload him on a boat for better medical attention. But this is where some other issues arise. First we found out a few hours later that this was occurring and the cancellation of the Guatemala port of call. We ended up jogging into Belize at like 6-8 knots and giving an extra day at sea. Whoever quoted another fellow cruiser who didn't like the cruise and said that cruise lines lose money by not going to port...I suggest you read into the matter more or find the TV show (I believe it was 20/20) who found that cruise lines love when ports are missed as they make more money having over a 1000 people on board drinking then in port. Not to mention the amount of fuel they didn't use as Guatemala was the farthest port from Cozumel then Belize (we pay a fuel surcharge). I'd be amiss if I didn't compliment the crew who responded to the medical emergency and ended up saving a man's life. The response from the time of the announcement was very prompt and coordinated and it was evident the crew knew their roles. Kudos to them in the end. But with that said, there was more money to be found that should have been returned to all of us on the ship. But low and behold what was the added entertainment for the extra day at sea? A pub crawl...glad some enjoyed it but NCL loved it every more with the conga college kid line in tow ordering drinks in between each "pub."
If you were on this cruise good luck trying to get into the any of the pools or hot tubs. The college kids flooded the hot tubs and the minute they cleared it was like a mad dash of the rest of us to get in with the silver cruisers leading the pack. The pools? No problem if you wanted to dodge empty beer bottles and floating plastic cocktail glasses or splashed by the college kids apparently trying to do a mating call via cannonballs and can openers. With that said I have to say I got a good laugh at watching drunken generation Y college kids make an attempt at synchronized swimming which was about the best entertainment the whole week.
The Key West stop was way to short. We booked a bus tour which helped get us to customs faster but we did lose a little time as we ended up in the middle of the ship in line to get to the 2 customs agents.
The final Quest...wow what to say. Nothing like promoting heavy drinking (2 for 1 shots) while getting college kids to take off their underwear, show piercings on their body and expose everyone without warning to breasts, penises, vaginas and cross dressing. I wasn't offended but just found it distasteful to do such without explaining what may go on when in such a format. I mean why not lap dances in the Windjammer while your at it? How come I couldn't get 2 for 1 glasses of wine? Oh that's right college kids generally drink wine.
My final parting shots deal with a hostess who opted to not seat me at the seven seas restaurant because I had on a pair of pleated dress shorts with a long sleeve collared dress shirt. I mean this was suppose to be free style cruising right? But apparently not when it came to my dress shorts..nor the group of behaved college kids in sports jackets and ties but with shorts on. But by all means, be a silver cruiser wearing clothes that have holes, cigarette burns or that look like they haven't been washed since their last cruise walked right in along with younger female cruisers who had shorts on.
So other then some friends telling me to try the newer carnival fleet or royal caribbean or princess I think my cruising days are on hold until I get a little silver on top...but definitely no NCL for me anymore.