Having been long time "Cruise Critic" lurkers it's our usual pattern to start frequenting the "boards" as our cruise times start to get near. Who writes these reviews ?... folks that either love or hate their cruise experiences. The guys that don't write... generally just are happy enough to leave the rest of us to the fodder.
Like a mail-ordered-diploma none of us have to be qualified to speak our minds... some reviews have a basis... others not. The most frequent contributors are those folks who have a gripe... understandable... if they actually have enough previous cruise experience to know what to expect on the ship they're writing about. We do about 2-3 cruises a year... this review is being written as we walk in our door from our 7 day love/hate relationship with NCL... Norwegian Cruise Lines.
You can be sure that the reason we booked this cruise was for the convenience and the price... certainly not the food... but we'll get to that later.
Our favorite line is Celebrity... there's a certain dignity & style that is part of the Celebrity experience (especially in Europe)... so unfortunately for most other cruise lines we tend to compare just about everything to Celebrity, often overlooking the difference in value that some cruise lines offer.
We didn't expect much in this category and reluctantly went to "Mama's Italian Kitchen", "Tapanyaki" (sp?), "The Mongolian Hot Pot", and the "Blue Lagoon". All of these alternative restaurants were moderately priced (the Blue Lagoon was "free")and offered tasty meals, great service, and unique dining experiences. While the buffets and general seating dining were fairly good these restaurants were easily worth the extra money we spent on them. All-in-all a very pleasant surprise and a real find !
Mr. Nathaniel Reed... that name says it all. His cabaret-like performances on solo piano combined with the great ship band & "Jean Pierre"... magician extraordinaire contributed to a seldom equaled flurry of creative & captivating entertainment. We only wish that Celebrity did it as well.
Put all of your favorite aunts, uncles & cousins into white naval uniforms and you have the senior officers crew of this ship. From Hugo to Claus to the "Captain" these guys were genuine and warm. Hats off to all of them.
The Wait Staff:
While the buffet attendants pretty much worked on "auto-pilot" busily cleaning and maintaining their areas the bartenders and servers in the smaller restaurants were charming & attentive... two thumbs up !
Of course, we can only report on ours. A mini-suite on Deck 11 mid-ship. Roomy, very clean, and totally relaxing. From the towel animals to the extra pillows... thank you room steward Ceaser... indeed "Hail Ceaser". Others we'd spoken to were equally impressed by their cabin stewards.
Don't count on great desserts... at least not in the general dining room or buffet. Also don't go in for the "Spa" package... even if the hot tubs were actually "hot" and the reclining heated ceramic lounges were actually "heated" it would still be greatly over-priced. Also don't fall for the $55 ships tour... these are free on any other ships we've been on.
Lastly... "Dan the Man"... The "Cruise Director"
I purposely gave this fellow a hard time, have a few laughs along the way. He's 30, my kids are about his age... I give them a hard time... why should he be treated any differently ?
"Dan the Man" is one of the most congenial fun-type cruise directors we've ever encountered.... he's affable, intelligent, and talented. It's too bad NCL can't turn him into a "franchise"... things could only be that much better !
A far better than expected cruise at a great price. A "marriage made in heaven".. no... but one hell of a one night stand !