My husband and I selected this cruise to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. Being first time cruisers, we were unsure if a longer cruise would be a good idea, so the 4 night seemed to be the best option. Also, NCL's Freestyle concept was very appealing!
Sunday 9/18, Pre-Cruise: We flew into Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest since it was the cheapest. No problems at all. We stayed at the Hyatt Airport North, which we got on Hotwire for $60 plus taxes - total was $75. It served its purpose, but we would not stay here again. It was "pretty" to look at, but the beds were terrible, the air conditioner was like a freight train, and the "breakfast" was extremely limited.
DAY ONE, Monday 9/19: We had arranged QLS Transportation shuttle to pick us up at the hotel and bring us to the port of Miami. They were scheduled for 10:00am, and called us to say they were going to be early, at 9:45am. No problem for us - we were up early (the aforementioned crappy bed) and we were READY!!! The driver was very nice and professional. We had nice conversation with another family on the way to the ship, who were also going on their first cruise.
We arrived at the Port of Miami, gave our luggage to a Porter (tipped $1/bag) and got in line for check-in. Check-in was extremely quick, as the lines were fairly short at this point (it was only 10:30 or so). After a short wait in line, we checked in and found out they upgraded us for FREE from an Oceanview to a Balcony! I was ecstatic, because the last month before our cruise I battled with whether or not to upgrade ourselves but we couldn't justify the cost. What a nice surprise! If I had $1 for every time we said "I can't believe we got a balcony", we could book our next cruise already! ;)
We then proceeded into the waiting area, where they had juice, water, and I think coffee for everyone, along with some caribbean tunes playing. It was really nice and definitely set your mood. We were in Boarding group 2, so we didn't have a long wait here at all. Once onboard we proceeded to the Buffet for lunch, which was actually pretty good! We know that with most buffets the food can be iffy, but c'mon, they're trying to serve 2000 passengers! We never went hungry, that's for sure!
Staterooms were ready at 1:45pm and we made a beeline for ours! The view of Miami from our balcony was beautiful. Once we saw our room and dropped off a few carry-on items, we headed up to the Outrigger Lounge, Deck 11 Forward. We relaxed and enjoyed the scenery until it was time for the Muster Drill. Afterwards, we went back to our lovely balcony for Sailaway. One of our two bags was delivered to our room by 6:30, and it turned out that our other bag was down on Deck 5 with Guest Services because when they changed our room they didn't put a new luggage tag on that one bag. Minor hiccup, no biggie at all.
We chose the Crossings Main Dining room for dinner that night, which is on Deck 5, Aft. We both had the steak, baked potato, and green beans. It was pretty good, but I had a hard time eating because all of a sudden I was seasick. I was not expecting this since I grew up on a boat (on a Lake...) but thankfully I had brought Bonine just in case! Monday night was rough seas and very rough for me, but I survived and woke up better on Tuesday morning.
DAY TWO: Tuesday 9/20, FREEPORT: Room Service breakfast of coffee, cereal, pastries, and a banana. We did end up going to the buffet as we were still hungry, but it was nice having breakfast on the balcony! I had done my research and booked a Snorkel excursion with Paradise Cove Deadman's Reef. They have a driver who picks you up at the Port, and then drops you back off. It was a secluded beach with only about 20 people, which made it very relaxing, along with a bar with food and drinks. The only thing we thought was strange was that there is no swimming area here. You can walk in up to your knees and sit in the water, but that is it. The rest of it is snorkeling only. That being said, we would still book this excursion again!
Once back on the ship, we showered, napped, and then went up to the Buffet for dinner. Salad bar selection was fresh and wonderful, Roasted Chicken was excellent, and many other items to choose from. After dinner we lost some money in the Casino, walked the shops, and enjoyed our balcony some more. The show for the evening was Rich Purpura, a Comedian/Magician. Thoroughly enjoyed his show - he is hilarious! There was a rather intoxicated and rowdy group from Detroit there, which made it even funnier. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and enjoying the show. Before turning in for the night we did watch the "Dancing with the Sky Stars" show in Dazzles Nightclub. VERY entertaining!
DAY THREE: Wednesday 9/21, GREAT STIRRUP CAY: Room Service breakfast again! Loved having my coffee on the balcony every morning. We took one of the earlier tenders in, and were glad we did. We chose not to rent a Clamshell, as they have them off to one side of the beach with no view and not easy access to the water. Plus, I knew my hubby would not be up to laying on the beach ALL day. We spent the majority of our time in the water, which was beautiful and warm. Around lunch time it was starting to get very crowded, and a very rude group from France had taken it upon themselves to move their loungers directly on top of and if front of ours, making it near impossible for us and another couple to get to them. We shrugged it off and moved on. Back on the ship we had lunch at the Buffet, showered and napped again (LOVED those daily naps!) and went to dinner at Il Adagio. We had been given a card to give to the Maitre De at dinner and that got us a "Happy Anniversary" cake. The food in Il Adagio was delicious! We both had the Fried Calamari, I had a salad, along with a glass of Chianti - also delicious. My husband had the Chicken Parmesan and I had the Pork Saltimbooca. Both entrees were very large and very good! Dessert was Tiramisu, along with that little cake they presented to us. All in all, we were very pleased with our meal here and would definitely go back!
DAY FOUR: Thursday 9/22, NASSAU: Room Service breakfast again. We got off the ship easily and quickly at 8:30am. We had booked today's excursion with Bahamas Segway Tours, and were really looking forward to it. The van picked us up promptly at 9am, and the driver "Meeks" was a riot. She was very friendly, energetic, and welcoming. The ride to the location was about 25 minutes, and HOT. The air conditioning in their van was not working so that made it a little uncomfortable, but hey - we're in the Bahamas! We'll live! After a brief training with the two instructors; Meeks and Super Mario (he was a riot as well), we hit the trails! Riding a Segway is easy and fun, and the scenery was very pretty. The trail wound along the ocean inlets, the flora and fauna, and ended on a secluded beach that took our breath away. After a 30 minute rest on the beach with some much needed ice cold water, we headed back down the trail to end our tour. Excellent time, would highly recommend it!
Once back in downtown Nassau we walked in and out of the shops, bought a few things in Del Sol (since we don't have them at home) and from the Straw Market. We were not fond of the Straw Market. Too many people coming at you from all directions trying to get you to buy their stuff. We know that this is how they make their money though, so we just browsed a little and moved on. We headed back to the ship around 2pm, and just barely made it in time for a quick lunch at the Buffet. After lunch we relaxed in the room, watched a movie, showered, and then went to dinner in the Palace Main Dining room. Dinner was very good, I had the Carbonara pasta and my husband had the grilled chicken. Of course once I had a full belly, the ship started to rock and roll like crazy again, so I ran upstairs to take a Bonine. That stuff worked wonders! After that, we made our daily donation to the ship's Casino fund - but didn't lose too much thank goodness! We attended the "Fairwell Variety Show" in the Stardust Theatre, which was enjoyable. Rich Purpura was fantastic in this as well.
DAY 5: Friday 9/23, MIAMI:
We disembarked using their easy walk-off option, since our QLS shuttle was scheduled to pick us up at 8am for a 10:55am flight out of Ft. Lauderdale. Again he was prompt and professional. Would definitely use them again!
Overall our first cruise experience was fantastic. Small minor things that could not be helped (my seasickness, the spotty cell service, the bag mishap, etc) would not prevent us from sailing with NCL again. Every staff member we encountered was very helpful and friendly. Our room steward, Ritzel, was fabulous. We only saw her a few times, but each time she was friendly and accomodating. One thing we did notice was just how hard and how long the crew staff works! It seemed like they were always buzzing about, cleaning, assisting passengers, etc. We LOVED the NCL Freestyle experience - it was awesome to NOT be on a schedule. I've already started looking into another cruise with NCL in 2012, but this time we'll bring our daughter along because we missed her terribly!