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157 Bahamas Holiday Cruise Reviews

We booked this cruise because the itinerary included both Nassau and Grand Bahama and we wanted to scuba dive at both of these locations. We were not sure about cruising as we are used to sailing in a small boat as a family. However, we ... Read More
We booked this cruise because the itinerary included both Nassau and Grand Bahama and we wanted to scuba dive at both of these locations. We were not sure about cruising as we are used to sailing in a small boat as a family. However, we were very pleasantly surprised. Both the food and service were excellent. The entertainment was also good, especially the comedian Rich Purpura.The French restaurant cost a bit more but was totally out of this world. The daily special cocktails were also great. The freestyle aspect of dining was good for us as we did not want to be tied down to timings.We were also very impressed with the photographers on board and had some lovely photos.We also enjoyed the towel folding demonstration and bought the DVD!!!If you scuba dive, you must do the famous shark dive at Stuart cove's. This was a magical and unique experience.The main problem with the cruise was that it was only for 4 nights. We think a week or more would have been better if doing a lot of shore activities. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Christmas get away for my husband and me, our two young adult children, son's girlfriend and our niece. First time cruising for everyone but me, I have gone on 2 other Carnival cruises with friends. I have loved cruising so much, so I ... Read More
Christmas get away for my husband and me, our two young adult children, son's girlfriend and our niece. First time cruising for everyone but me, I have gone on 2 other Carnival cruises with friends. I have loved cruising so much, so I wanted my family to try it too. Pros: Fun group on board - there were 8 college basketball teams sailing, including one from our area - Northwest Iowa, so plenty of young people to keep things upbeat. Great food and plenty of it. The band that played at the main shows was amazing. Skip was a great cruise director, very funny guy. Amazing service, from porters, to waiters, to Customer service peeps. Variety of activities available at all times. Serenity deck - peace and quiet. Freeport = Junkanoo Beach. Clean, almost had the place to ourselves, beautiful Nassau = Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day. We booked it ourselves thanks to tips found here on Cruise Critic boards. Paradise - would recommend this anyone who wants to get away from the crowds and experience heaven on earth. Cons: There were a couple of not great things, but who cares? It's vacation - don't let it bother you. Bottom line: Our daughter suffered from sea sickness, no more cruising for her. But our son and his girlfriend are planning to go again, the jury is still out for our niece, and hooray for me......... dh is up for more cruising. That makes this cruise a success ! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Being from the mid-Atlantic region, the Port of Baltimore was very appealing for embarkation. In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Port and began the check in process. For the most part, it was painless. As we were traveling with a 4 ... Read More
Being from the mid-Atlantic region, the Port of Baltimore was very appealing for embarkation. In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Port and began the check in process. For the most part, it was painless. As we were traveling with a 4 year old, we didn't participate in the late night adult action but we had plenty of fun and opportunity to enjoy family time and couple time. We ate just about every meal in the My Fair Lady Dining Room and found it to be beautiful with exception service. We had Table 470, which was located right next to the Captain's Table (he only ate there once during the main seating of 6:00 pm). In addition to ordering off the extensive menu, we enjoyed the breakfast cereal/fruit bar as well as the lunchtime Tutti Salads. We were not impressed with the Windjammer Cafe but I wouldn't say it was bad. We are not buffet people and would rather be waited on instead of waiting in line and choosing food after others. However, the Windjammer is conveniently located on the Pool Deck. Speaking of the Pool Deck... it's fantastic. We had a few nice days to sit and enjoy the sun while our daughter splashed around. One day, the water was heated so mom got in with her! The Solarium is gorgeous and a nice, quiet getaway from the congestion of the pool deck. The water is always warm and relaxing. The Spa and fitness room is located next to the Solarium. I was able to enjoy a relaxing pedicure on the first day at sea. Very nice! The fitness room was up the stairs on Deck 10 and overlooked the sea. Very motivating! The LifeFitness equipment was in good shape. My husband and I enjoyed working out every day. Outside the gym was the Rock Wall. I am proud to say I gave it a try but only managed to get half way. My husband made the climb look easy and rang the bell at the top! Our daughter LOVED Ocean Adventure! This service was a treasure for us. She loved the time away from us to play with other kids (Aquanauts 3-5) and the staff was professional, organized, and FUN. They followed the posted schedule that included wonderful daily themes. Kudos to Little John, Tinkerbell, Marshmallow, Andy, and Simon! The Ocean Adventure staff played elves and helped Santa hand out gifts to all the children on board on Christmas Day. One complaint I have is that they held their 2nd formal night on the same day as the CoCo Cay Beach day. With the main seating time of 6:00, it was a mad rush for us to get tendered back, get all of us showered, dressed and dolled up in enough time. I think it would have been better to have it on an At Sea day (Christmas Day). It was an exhausting day! The only other complaints I have is the time spent in the ports. Port Canaveral was WAY too long at 10 hours whereas Key West was WAY too short! Great vacation!!! Thank you RCCL and Enchantment of the Seas! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We have traveled many times with RCCL. We normal go for a 7 day cruise with a balcony. This ship was an older ship 18 years old and we wanted to see what changes they have done and also a quick Christmas weekend. The price was right. They ... Read More
We have traveled many times with RCCL. We normal go for a 7 day cruise with a balcony. This ship was an older ship 18 years old and we wanted to see what changes they have done and also a quick Christmas weekend. The price was right. They added some great things a Johnny rockets, Delly, Pizza place. Rock wall. The cabin have all the new bedding. The ship really looks great for the age. The entertainment was a joke. Small stage the head liner was a juggler and dropped his stuff more then you could count. The main show was so bad we walked out. Some things need to change. They need more food around the ship. There was no extra things like afternoon or late snacks except for pizza. The staff seem to not really care much about the passengers. The shop area is so small that one night there was a riot to get a sale. Im use to lots of different venues for food. This was the first cruise we lost weight. I like the my time dinning and the food in the dinning room was ok. They even offer a chops menu in the dinning room at a small charge. The ship was nice for a small get away but im staying with the larger ships and new ones. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We received cruise as gift from Mom so I would be more MAD if I had to pay for this crap... EMBARKATION Got ride into NYC pier from family member... if you wanted to leave car at pier could cost $30 a day...Being Latitude ... Read More
We received cruise as gift from Mom so I would be more MAD if I had to pay for this crap... EMBARKATION Got ride into NYC pier from family member... if you wanted to leave car at pier could cost $30 a day...Being Latitude members, the line was relatively short and embarkation a painless process... BOAT As soon as you enter the boat there is somebody there already trying to sell you a drink(get ready for the nickel and diming to death)Entry in atrium is nice and boat is nicely laid out with many activities but a few years ago they did not charge for bowling w/c they do now and free meals only limited to dining rooms blue lagoon. Many rest. require an additional fee. CREW Mostly Filipino and maybe it is the way Norwegian pays their employees, compulsory gratuity or maybe it was b/c of the holidays but staff seemed inattentive, slow and uncaring for the most part. FOOD Garden grill has quick making grills ranging burgers, fries, sandwiches, soups, salads and deserts..pretty standard fare.. you get a little better quality, but you have to pay for it and it aint that much better... Cagneys(steaks and lamb chops) and LeBistro(French food, escargot, duck,foie gras). CABIN Unfortunately the cabin was and inside stateroom and with 2 adults and 2 kids quearters were pretty thight... it did not help that weather was cold the entire trip, swimming at your own risk of hypothermia, so when we wanted to chill, we got cabin fever really fast and felt compelled to leave. Also people smoking cigarttes and marijuana on our floors, called security, and told they have zero tolerance for drugs... unfortunately you cannot control other passengers behavior CRUISE DIRECTOR Robert Sugar... WORST cruise director... actually NONEXISTENT we've been on the Oasis of the Seas and had the pleasure to meet Richard Spacey who by far blew this guy away ACTIVITIES standard stuff, trivia, dance lessons, drink tasting but you still have to pay for stuff(see a pattern yet) SPA if you do need to go on the GEM spend the $100 for the spa w/c was our saving grace... therapy pool, sauna, steam and quiet place EXCURSIONS port canveral... Kennedy Space Center.. very cool to visit since it wont be around in a couple of years anyway Stirrup cay... would have been nice if weather was better... nice beach and nice barbecue... need a tender to get there Bahamas... aquairum at Atlantis but honstely also a big rip off.. you are probably better off going someplace else... felt like a second-class citizen when walking the grounds KIDS ACTIVITIES Tree Toppers... left our kids there on many occasions and they enjoyed their time there...entry and exit could run more smoothly but overall well run OVERALL DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY... If you like bad food, bad service and waiting in long, exasperaring lines this is the cruise for you... if you like to be with a crew that has NO clue what they are doing and feel that you basically have to fend for yourself... you will enjoy this cruise... needless to say we will NEVER cruise on Norwegian ever again... HAD been on PEARL and DAWN and they were great but quality has gone down SOOOO much...! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough ... Read More
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough first day and a half (the snowstorm that crushed the northeast made the ride aboard fairly bumpy), the weather was clear and beautiful in Florida and the Bahamas. We are fairly experienced cruisers; not looking for super-luxury or gourmet food, just an enjoyable family vacation that allows us to forget about work for a week. Mission accomplished. First, I have to congratulate whoever came up with the idea of Freestyle cruising, because in reality it's just another way of saying we're going to charge you more for the privilege of eating slightly above average food and pay a premium for it. The food: A couple of the restaurants were worth the extra money. Both the Teppanyaki and steakhouse are must-dos. Sushi was average at best; Tex-Mex slightly above average, but nothing spectacular. Main dining rooms were good, but again nothing superb. The buffet (Garden Cafe) was ridiculous. Almost always overcrowded with people pushing and shoving to get at the food, as though they were eating their last meal (of course, those who pushed hardest and whose plates were piled highest were also the ones who clearly didn't need that fourth piece of cake...). Food was what you'd expect from an average cafeteria, but omelets at breakfast were good. Bottom line -- get there early for breakfast and don't go back. Chocolate buffet not worth it at all. We were worried that there would be too few activities on the days at sea, but the cruise director did a good job of having enough varied activities to keep everyone happy. Ports: Florida -- the Universal trip for the family was definitely worth it; had enough time in the park to ride almost everything we wanted to. Great Stirrup Cay -- plenty of activities to keep people busy, from waterslides to parasailing to just relaxing on beach chairs. Nassau -- the Atlantis aquaventure and dolphin encounters were popular. And since it warmed up to over 70 that day, the water park was enjoyable. Cabin -- mini-suite -- was an ok size for 4, but would recommend a larger suite or separate rooms for slightly older kids. Cabin stewards were terrific as far as making up the room and turning it down at night. Kids' activities were fantastic in both the teens and tweens clubs; both kept the kids entertained for hours on end so we could enjoy some adult time. Maltings Whisky bar on deck 6 had some interesting scotch, bourbon and beer tasting seminars that are worth attending. Overall, one of the best family vacations ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and ... Read More
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and pleasant. Waited until noon when promptly they started calling groups to board. They boarded on two gangways so it went quickly. We were aboard by 12:15PM. Headed for Grand Pacific dining room for quiet civilized luncheon. Met Christopher who would be my liaison for my Gluten-Free ding needs. He recommended I eat there with him in the Grand Pacific Dining Room and just let him know where else I wanted to eat during the cruise. Every night I picked my dinner selections for the next night. Christopher was a Gem himself!! They announced staterooms were ready about 2PM. Had a lovely balcony room deck 9 aft port side. Mark took good care of us all week. He and his partner were very visible in the hallway, whistling a happy tune most days. Ship. Big, glitzy and brightly colored. Thought the Grand Pacific Dining Room the loveliest area aboard. Stardust Showroom was also especially nice. Buffet area was cramped due to a terrible selection of chairs -- too heavy and the chair arms made it impossible to get between tables. NCL, if you are paying attention to this -- DITCH THE CHAIRS!!! Replace them with armless slightly smaller chairs. I heard complaints about the ships layout, but we found it rather straight forward once you got the hang of the three stairwells and which one you needed to be able to get up or down to the location you wanted. Crystal Atrium --interesting concept as a gathering place. Horrible furniture. Someone was on drugs when they selected it, or had a brother-in-law in the business that got the Line a deal on the ugly non-functioning over sized plush ugly stuff (IMHO). Likewise the furniture up in the Spinnaker Lounge. Horrible. Kept us out of these two venues. We didn't have a lot of pool / sun weather but spent a couple days around the hot tubs. Enjoyed the hot tubs, the music, the lunches on deck. Food. I know it's terribly subjective subject. We have travelled and cruised a great deal and thought the food overall very good. Nice presentation, enough variation to always have something that was good. Kudos to Chef Vaughan Sanft (sailed with him on the Norwegian Crown in 2005). Breakfasts we took in buffet, and lunches we tried Grand Pacific, buffet and Topsiders at the pool. The usual fare, nothing too outstanding. I did enjoy the Indian offerings as something different. I wasn't shopping for it, preparing it, or cleaning it up, so perhaps I am easy to please. But overall the food was better than I was expecting. Bars. Lots of opportunity for a cool one at any time of day or night. I thought prices were a bit high for the portions given, but oh well. I did enjoy my BBC and my Bahama mama at the pool, and wine before dinner. I never felt pestered to consume anything if I just wanted to sit somewhere and listen to the music. And the wine steward always arrived at our table when seated for dinner, but if we didn't want wine for dinner, we never felt pressured. We spent the most time at Magnums Champagne and Wine Bar and at the Star Bar which we thought was a lovely and small venue. Pre Ordered Champagne for New Year's Eve which came to our stateroom about 7:30PM. Drank it there while watching football. Then headed to Star Bar to ring in the New Year. Michael the Piano Man was there, with a quiet crowd and superb atmosphere tor the Captain's countdown at midnight. Good times! Staff. Super staff. Never saw a frown, never was treated with anything but the utmost professionalism and courtesy. Had good service in all the food venues. Officers were very visible and approachable. Very eager to interact with the passengers. Much more so than on other lines I have cruised. We enjoyed that. That being said, we turned Freestyle into our style which is NOT Freestyle. We ate early 5:45 - 6:30 every night. Zena Petrova, hostess at Grand Pacific did a great job juggling every-one's reservations and walk-in times. We never had more than a minute or two wait before being seated. We always wanted a table for two and there were plenty of them. We did see some unhappy people that would show up at 7:00 and want a table for 12 or more without a reservation. We learned very quickly to make a reservation at breakfast time for the next night. Because of my gluten-free eating needs, we did not eat at the other restaurants aboard for dinner. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. Thanks to Dan for setting up the Meet & Greet. It was at 10AM on the Monday we were due into Port Canaveral at noon after 24 hours of very rough seas so some of those signed up didn't make it. It was so nice of the officers to show up to mingle with us and listen to us all. Especially Hotel Director Steven Jacobsen. It was good to meet the other Cruise Critics that are merely a moniker on the Boards. Now I have faces to put with many of those monikers. Shows. We enjoyed the Singer/Dancer shows the best. They really did a lot with a small stage and limited time. Not Broadway, mind you, but entertaining. The juggler was okay. The comedian wasn't. Skipped the Improv show. Ports. As far as we were concerned Port Canaveral was a waste, Didn't get off the ship and it was only 50 degrees so we didn't even use it as a pool day. Took a nap! Great Stirrup Cay: would have been better on a warmer day with lots of sun, but I went over, looked around, and went in the water so I could say I did. Nassau: I have been to Nassau numerous times, but DH had not. I had printed out a walking tour of Nassau on the internet which we did in the morning. Then I had arranged for a local birder to meet us and take us around to the local spots to look at birds. Had a great time birding and seeing parts of the island no ever gets to see. Disembarkation. I had read so much about this procedure, I was dreading it. But it seemed to work well. We were self disembarking, so we had breakfast in the buffet about 7:30AM. We were at the dock early so the ship was cleared right on time. We went to Crystal lobby about 8:45 to see what was happening. Sat for a while and when the passenger line started moving off the ship (9:00AM), we joined the line. Line was quite long. but moved quickly. Once in line we were off the ship, through Immigration and Customs and at the taxi stand (no line!) by 9:20AM. I was impressed with their organization with this. We chose this cruise because it left from NYC -- DH said no way he was getting on a plane Christmas weekend due to crowds and weather uncertainties (and he was right about that!!) so for us that meant the Gem or Jewel. I love cruising out of NYC anyway so I was okay with using a northern "winter" port,. We normally sail Cunard or HAL as we like a dressier, older, more traditional line and crowd. We cruised NCL once before and didn't mind Freestyle too much, so we were determined to enjoy ourselves this week. We packed light, but were dressed appropriately for evenings. We were a bit concerned there would be rampaging hoards of kids and teens, but there were not. It seemed for the most part the children were very well behaved and just really "into" the cruise and what was going on. So, yes, I'd sail on the Gem and with NCL again, and I would look forward to it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Drove through a snowstorm on Christmas night from New Jersey to Charleston to beat the blizzard before it hit NY area. Virginia/NC got 10 inches or so, but we took it slow and steady - we were determined to make our cruise!!! ... Read More
Drove through a snowstorm on Christmas night from New Jersey to Charleston to beat the blizzard before it hit NY area. Virginia/NC got 10 inches or so, but we took it slow and steady - we were determined to make our cruise!!! Charleston: A very nice city - we spent a night before cruise ate at a great seafood restaurant (Hymans) and loved it. We stayed overnight at the Best Western they have a park and stay package, very nice hotel I would recommend it. They provided a taxi for the five us us to get to ship, did not include round trip though, which we were not aware of. Embarkation: Very messy port to use. It is a muddy mess, you cannot walk or be dropped off with luggage, you have to check your luggage in at a tent location, then get on a shuttle bus to take you to building. Ship was late getting into port due to rough seas night before (blizzard) and someone died on the ship that morning (freaked my kids out alittle). Once we were in the building we were on the ship in 20 minutes. Lines moved fast. It was just getting into building that was a bit annoying. Charleston has alot to see and do, so spend time doing this before, once you are on ship you cannot get off. Terminal is right infront of customs building in downtown Charleston, walkable distance to shuttles from downtown area and fleamarket. Ship is small, but nicely kept. It does show its age though, carpets and stairways look older. Ship is clean though, they work hard to keep it this way. We booked two cabins, an ocean view and an inside for our teenaged children. They were right across the hall from us, very convenient and they are older so I felt ok about it. Oceanview rooms are roomy and the inside rooms are a bit smaller it seemed. There was three beds in it though. Kids were happy, they could sleep as late as they wanted, no windows, they did not know the time!!! We had to bang on their door to wake them up. Cabins were clean, bathrooms were clean and big enough. No blowdryers, you had to ask for one. No irons, but there was a laundry room down the hall with two irons for use and 4 washer dryers, which with all my cruises I did not know you could do laundry!!! Very convenient with kids!! Next time I will pack less. One bad thing - very noisy, walls and doors were thin, so we did not sleep too well, heard noise all the time. I had to put a pillow over my head to sleep well. Our room was under a kitchen we think so we heard alot of noise. Dining: Breakfast - Windows had a buffet breakfast with standard food, not as nice as last cruise (Norwegian) but OK. My hubby and I only ate once, we went to Celebration dining room other mornings for a sit down breakfast - much better quality and fast service. I enjoyed this very much. Kids slept in and ate later or missed out all together and ate lunch for breakfast! Lunch: We ate on Lido deck and windows on the Sea all days, except for day infreeport, ate at Our Lucaya restaurant. Food was plentiful and good. Not great just good. Dinners were great, I thought food was very good and nice selection. We ate in Jubilee late seating. Our waiter AJ was great. Entertainment: We only went to one show and it was very good. Other show was a Beatles tribute and we opted to do pictures instead (it was New Year's Eve and we were all dressed up). Water park is great, but I can imagine it gets crowded on hot days, our weather was cool. Serenity deck is nice for adults, but small and was shady and cold most days. Two nice hottubs though with no kids peeing in them!! I recommend this deck. Nice cushioned lounge chairs, gotta get up early though to claim one!! Pool area was nice too, they did a nice job redoing this deck. I have been on this ship before renovations, very nice job renovating the decks. Kids clubs: My 13 year old loved her club, she is very outgoing and social so she made lots of friends, my 15 year old boy went to his club a few times, did not like it as much as she did. My 19 year old was bummed that he could go to bars and casino, but not drink. Carnival has 21 or older strict policy. Other lines are 18 with parents consent. He spent alot of time in casino - feeling like a big man. He also went to disco a few times to laugh at all us old folks!!! New Years Eve was a very spectacular night, Carnival really went out of their way to make it very special, exciting and entertaining. Champagne was flowing (for free no less!!!) Everyone was dressed to the nines, just like a formal night. It felt very special and it is one of the main reasons we did this cruise. Big party on Lido deck with a big 2010 Neon light that changed to 2011 at midnight and ship blew horn, alot of fun!!! Want to do it again next year. Nassau - we just shopped and walked around Bay street - we have been here three times, so felt like just shopping and enjoying the ship when it was empty! Kind of wish we did the beach or something though, ship was chilly and windy. Freeport - did the sanddollar snorkel cruise you can book online. It was TERRIFIC! It was only us and three others, normally 20-40 people. Catamaran was very nice (except for restroom - yuk) and reef was great. We have snorkeled before and never saw this many fish. It was great! Included all you could drink Bahama Mamas!!! Only $45 per person too, much cheaper than any ship excursion. Did a facial in the spa - a bit pricey by nice. It was a special on first day - the oxydermy facial, including a microderm abrasion and collagen treatment. Nice and relaxing hour! Fitness room is small, hot and very crowded early morning. I opted to use aerobics room and use freeweights and my pilates routine. I did use a treadmill twice but had to wait to get it. There is a sports track around mini golf area that you can run/walk on, windy though. Embarktation - a nighmare. We were told you could either carry luggage off and then they start letting you off at 7 am (early for me) or wait till 9 and they took your luggage night before. We opted for latter, but they told us only use elevators no stairs- total nighmare, so we tried stairs and they lied - we easily go right off ship if we had waited for elevators,like others, we would have been waiting over an hour at least. Very unorganized. Port is small, luggage was all crammed together you had to run off line to grab luggage then try to get back on line to go thru customs, then if you did not have a private ride, you had to get on shuttle bus and let them take your luggage again!!! We had a private ride - much easier, but still involved alot of walking with luggage and tired kids. Not fun. New port to open in a year, then I would go out of Charleston again, it is really a beautiful town and an easier drive than Florida from NJ and cheaper than NY Cruises!!! Overall a great cruise for the money and a great job by Carnival celebrating the New Year!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program ... Read More
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program because of the opportunity to leave from Manhattan and avoid flying during the busy holiday season. This was a very full cruise; the capacity of Norwegian Gem at two passengers per cabin is about 2,400. There were about 3,000 passengers on board, but the Gem's staff did a very good job keeping people moving around the ship. There were only a few isolated situations where the ship felt crowded. We had a party of three: my wife, my 16 year old son, and myself. We have cruised a fair amount, with 20, 18, and 19 cruises, respectively, on six lines. This was our third cruise on NCL. Embarkation Embarkation was relatively easy; since the cruise departed on Christmas day, we weren't anxious to get to the pier and on the ship at the earliest possible minute. We had intended to leave the house about noon, but ended up leaving 30 minutes later and arrived at the terminal a little after 2:00 pm. As is usually the case at this terminal, the check in process was relatively efficient and without any major incident. We received our cruise cards and proceeded to the gangway with bags in tow, ducking around the embarkation photo as we usually do. We travel light, so we did not check bags and had everything with us in carry-on bags and backpacks. After having our cruise cards scanned at the ship, we were greeted by bar waiters with embarkation drinks for sale. Now, on some lines, one may receive a complimentary flute of sparkling wine (definitely not Champagne), but on NCL the embarkation drinks are for sale. Some reviewers of NCL cruises have a problem with this and at this point bitterly complain that they are being "nickled and dimed." The reality is that on all but a few lines, drinks are available only at additional cost. If you don't want to buy a drink, use the three magic words, "no, thank you," and the waiters will move on to the next guest. In fact, while I'm on the subject, a little more use of "please" and "thank you" on the part of some passengers would go a long way. Cabin We had a category G obstructed oceanview aft cabin on Deck 8. The room was accessible for persons with disabilities, and the bathroom was somewhat less claustrophobic than the standard cruise ship bathroom. The cabins on board seem to be fairly standard ones - colorful, with lots of fake woodgrain. We had a queen bed with a single bunk that folded down for our son, with a small desk, flatscreen tv, and minibar/fridge. The view out of the cabin's picture window was over a lifeboat tucked into the side of the ship, but it still provided a good view of the scenery in port and while underway. One plus with this cabin was that it was extremely conveniently located to restaurants, public areas, and bars. We've cruised in inside, oceanview, and balcony cabins, depending on cost and itinerary; on this trip this cabin worked for us. Dining One feature of NCL is a large number of specialty restaurants that require payment of a cover charge, as well as several options that do not have an additional charge. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, and I won't comment on them, but we ate in the outdoor casual restaurants (Great Outdoors and Grill), the Blue Lagoon indoor casual dining restaurant, the Garden Cafe, and the main dining restaurants (Grand Pacific and Magenta). The food was not life changing, but it was good, on about the level of the restaurants in a business hotel like Radisson, Hilton, or Marriott. Appetizers and entrees were generally better than deserts, and there was no real "signature" desert as is true with some lines. I have seen some reviews of the Gem that describe the food as "inedible" and "disgusting," and that certainly wasn't our experience. Other reviewers have said that the food is the same at every meal and there was nothing available that was worth eating (except at the sainted specialty restaurants that come at an additional cost); we did not find this to be true. I am not sure where the authors of these negative reviews are eating, but I'd be surprised if they have better food at home. It is true that NCL has a core of dishes that are available every day, but there are other options in the non-specialty restaurants that change from day to day. The exception is the Blue Lagoon, which is open 24 hours and serves breakfast and non-breakfast menus that do not change from day to day Freestyle cruising is not the same as traditional cruising where one eats at the same time at in the same room at the same table with the same waiters. I personally like having our waiters get to know our preferences and getting a chance to talk with them and learn something about them as well. We generally give our waiters a gratuity in addition to the recommended amount, but that really doesn't work with the freestyle concept and different waiters every day. Also, the maitre 'd's didn't seem to be as involved in dealing with the passengers as on other lines, but this may be by design. We did notice that NCL did seem to be making some efforts to make the specialty restaurants a more special experience. There was not, for example, a traditional "lobster night", and the staffing in the main dining (i.e.: free) restaurants appeared to be somewhat tight, although the high occupancy on the cruise may have had something to do with this. There was sushi at the Garden Cafe as well as the specialty restaurant, but the Garden Cafe sushi was vegetarian, without seafood. While some dishes were available only at the specialty restaurants, many items on the specialty restaurant menus were available at the main dining restaurants or the Garden Cafe. Many of these dishes were a real treat; the Indian items that I sampled from the Garden Cafe were uniformly excellent. Entertainment The parts of the production shows that I saw were fairly standard and just so-so. My DW attended a cabaret style show with the production singers and thought that they were in some cases very talented and comparing favorably with Broadway and Off-Broadway performers. The featured performers (juggler Barry John, singer Lumiri Tubo, and comedian Rod Long) were all good. The ship has a resident Second City troupe, but I'll just say that I've seen better and leave it at that. The ship's orchestra was, as is usual on ships, excellent. The musicians who performed at smaller venues around the ship were generally very good; we particularly enjoyed a guitarist named Leo Jostol. We found the most enjoyable entertainment was generally the events and shows organized by the Cruise Director's staff. The crew show was the best of its kind that I've seen and was very funny. Ports Okay, it was cold. When we got to Port Canaveral on Monday (third day out) the temperature was in the 50's, and that was once it warmed up. As every cruise line, NCL wants to sell you their shore excursions, but they were at least honest about what is available through their excursion desk and otherwise. We attended the shore excursion presentation where we were told that the Disney Magic Kingdom might reach capacity and be closed to additional guests before NCL could get you there and that passengers might consider another option. While the ship's excursions weren't the lowest cost option, they appeared to be fairly priced. The ship also set up an easel with port information for Port Canaveral, including taxis and non-NCL shuttles, which is different from some ships where the prevailing attitude is that the only way to get off the ship is through the official excursions. By the way, there were a number of shuttles to Cocoa Beach at Port Canaveral, including a free one sponsored by a local bar and surf shop. We used it to and from the beach area, and went from there to Cocoa Village for some shopping; this worked out well as we weren't up for the Orlando attractions and heard that the Kennedy Space Center was a zoo. NCL's private island, Grand Stirrup Cay would have provided a nice beach day if the temperature had made it over 70 degrees. There was a barbecue and activities like volleyball, and we had a good time hiking down to the end of the island, but the weather wasn't ideal for the beach, to put it mildly. The range of activities in Nassau, likewise, was impacted by weather. The afternoon temperature wasn't much over 70, and we stayed away from the beaches. We did a little sightseeing and shopping in town, but not much else. Again, there are abundant options either through the ship's shore excursion desk or off the dock. Services and Shopping The on-board shopping was serviceable but not great, with the standard duty-free liquor, jewelry, t shirts, clothing, and souvenirs. There weren't as many rotating sales and specials as we've noticed on other lines. Other reviews have mentioned feeling pressured to spend money, but we didn't find this to be the case. I didn't feel that there were more announcements promoting on-board sales than is the case on other cruise lines, as some reviewers have claimed. I did attend the art auctions twice and thought they were rather slow paced and left to do something else. Management I don't think that you can say that these guys don't care about the quality of the experience on the ship. I've never been on a ship where the department heads were as much in evidence. Steven Jacobson, the hotel director seemed to be everywhere and we spoke with him on several occasions. At one point I saw Vaughn, the Executive Chef, working with a group setting up a deck barbecue. Rob Sugar, the Cruise Director, put something of a different spin on the CD role, but was visible around the ship and very approachable. Rob Sugar and Steven Jacobson were out in the cold on our arrival back in New York on New Year's Day sending the passengers off. Overall I'd give the cruise a four out of five. It wasn't perfect but in general the staff appeared to be making a legitimate effort to make the passengers' experience a good one. NCL doesn't control the weather and there were some elements of the cruise that don't fit into my vision of an ideal cruise. For what NCL is seeking to do, the Gem seems to do fairly successfully. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
First time NLC Cruise, New Years from New York My wife and I have cruised a number of times both on smaller ships ( Windward and Nautica and larger ships Princess and Costa Atlantica). On an impulse we booked on NLC on their ... Read More
First time NLC Cruise, New Years from New York My wife and I have cruised a number of times both on smaller ships ( Windward and Nautica and larger ships Princess and Costa Atlantica). On an impulse we booked on NLC on their New Year's cruise out of New York on the NLC Jewel. The sheer luxury of going from home to a ship without first flying somewhere is a major pro. The boarding process was flawless. Bravo NLC. They surely show other lines how to do it! All around there is a sense of great thought in the decor of the rooms and restaurants. IMHO without much inspiration. A few touches would have made a big difference. The Staff is extremely pleasant, helpful, and truly sweet. We had the pleasure of the service of a butler whose services we appreciated more and more as the week went on. Once I got past feeling I was being a jack-ass ( butler? Ha!) and asked politely for what I needed he was always helpful and delighted to make our stay as luxurious as we could imagine. The specialty restaurants were generally vey good. Cagney's a "prohibition" style steak house , was quite adequate . Chin- Chin, Asian fusion, in my wife and my opinion the best of the lot, food wise. Tappanyaki , a Asian fare we cooks that perform for the kids, quite good. The buffet seemed ample, though crowded and had a sense of a cafeteria at high school. Too much going on, so we avoided it, the food though, looked adequate. We saw only one "big" show with a comedian and a Magician/comic. The comedian was not very funny. The Magician was very good. The rooms very tiny. We had a penthouse suite, which was OK but not a suite, just a large room. I peeked into our neighbors rooms and they were really bearly adequate. If you put more than 3 people in a room , it is really tight. As this cruise was during vacation time for the kids there were many on the ship. Much of the time it was no problem at all , and rather charming. To hear a child have a temper tantrum at the next table through dinner is no geat pleasure , and some of the charm of their presence surely is lost. If you are contemplating bringing the kids, they seem to be having a ball! by and large and there were activities for them, throughout the day. We were very grateful to have a place to retreat too. It certainly would have been more difficult for us , if we had not had the privilege of having breakfast and lunch at Cagney's which , from our perspective was worth the added expense. Leaving the ship was not quite as flawless , not NLC's fault security and immigration has to cooperate and they do, but only a little. One has the sense on boarding that one is there to be pitched. beer, drinks, raffles, art, diamonds, precious jewels , specialty restaurants, expensive shore excursions, future cruises , massages, spa packages , they are all paraded before you. Though the passenger is never pressured to buy , I found the constant pitching off putting. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't ... Read More
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't set the cost of parking in a NYC owned terminal. Our room was always immaculate, the staff were accomodating and extremely friendly. Perhaps because we had a balcony, and there were only two of us, I was extremely satisfied. I never felt pressured to buy anything I didn't want to buy. The buffet was a buffet. I wasn't expecting gourmet food, and it was hot and plentiful. We ate there only for breakfast. To complain about the weather is asenine. When you get on a ship in NYC in the winter, you're taking your chances. We made the most of it, as did the (seemingly) thousands and thousands of children in the pools. We spent a lot of time reading out on the deck, and it was lovely and relaxing in jeans and a short sleeved shirt. There were several free restaurants, and only once did I have a meal I returned (fish--vastly overcooked). The for-a-fee places were all great with attentive service. When we didn't want wine or anything from the bar, they didn't nag. We didn't bowl because there were only four lanes and there was always a wait. The New Year's celebration was a lot of fun. It was good to see the crew hanging out with their friends and cutting loose. Disembarkment was a snap, we were out and off by 9:15. All in all, take everyone's review with a grain of salt. Some people look for the worst in everything. I had a great Christmas week with loved ones on a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 ... Read More
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 per day is more than the airport, but we wanted the security of having our car visible and waiting for us upon our return. We were impressed with the sign-up tables for the spa and restaurant reservations, and we purchased the Spa Thermal Room package for $99 that lasted the whole cruise. We were also impressed that we were allowed to board the Gem shortly after noon, which guaranteed a table in the Garden Cafe buffet for lunch, while we waited for our stateroom to become available. The spa package turned out to be problematic. Cruising in cold temperatures meant that lots of people also signed up in anticipation of not using the outdoor pools. It became obvious during the cruise that the advertised limit of 84 passengers had been overbooked. During the seven day cruise, we were only able to use the thermal room twice, and each time it was extremely crowded. At the pier, we were assured by the NCL staff that the spa experience would be quiet and restful; the reality was the opposite - the spa was very crowded and some passengers became rude and abusive to others. Stormy Start: We already knew that a snow storm was going to hit New York City the day after Christmas when we boarded the NCL Gem on December 25. But, the realization that we were going through the Nor'easter hit us almost immediately the first night. The rocking began on Sunday and became so intense that many passengers vomited in elevators and corridors. We later learned that the previous week's cruise on the Gem was much worse, but this was no consolation. I give the crew a lot of credit for donning haz-mat suits and cleaning up the mess immediately. Also, we already learned the benefits of using hand sanitizer on previous cruises. This simple washing protects everyone on the ship. Unfortunately, the seas were rough until we docked in Port Canaveral. The bed kept jumping around and we found it almost impossible to walk to the bathroom at times. The public restrooms were often dirty with vomit and we ended up using our private bathroom at all times to avoid the possibility of contamination and sickness. I witnessed one worker in the Garden Cafe leaning against a wall with the look of sickness on their face. They recovered enough to continue serving food, but we were now concerned of more sickness among the staff behind the scenes in the galleys and the safety of the food being prepared. We became very careful about the food we put in our mouth. Port Canaveral: We chose the trip to Historic Cocoa Village for our Monday shore excursion. It was a choice between Cocoa Beach/Ron Jon Surf Shop and shopping and sightseeing in the "historic" town. The guide for the shuttle bus trip used the 15 minute ride to have us looking for dolphins and manatees in the bay, and gave us little in the way of "historical" information on the location. She also made a big deal of pointing out Osprey nests along the road. We were dropped off at the perimeter of Cocoa Village and given a rudimentary map that a fifth grader could have improved on. Upon entering the first shop, we found a much better map produced by the Village, which gave us far more information that the guide did. However, it didn't take much time to visit the few shops that were open. A few restaurants were also closed (possibly due to it being a Monday) and we took the one suggestion of merit made by the guide to eat at Norman's Raw Bar & Grill. Norman's Chili was superb, and we learned from the waitress that it had won an award at the Annual Chili Cook-off. I also ordered the Fish Taco, which was great, and far superior to those I had on the California coast in Pismo Beach. There was nothing more to do in Cocoa Village, so we took the next shuttle back to the ship. We felt that the $20 per person charge for the shuttle was too high, considering Cocoa Village has little to see. Great Stirrup Cay: NCL's private island is usually a nice stop. But, because of the cold temperatures, we were not able to go into the water. We did have a nice BBQ lunch on the beach; however, we returned to the ship within an hour afterwards rather than be uncomfortably cold. We spent the rest of the afternoon attending lectures onboard. We were impressed with the lectures on "Boosting Metabolism" and "Detox" held in the fitness center. We both had our Body Composition tested in the spa for a couples price of $52. We refused to accept the recommendation of a staff member to purchase an expensive detox product package until we consulted with our doctor, which we felt was prudent; but, the staff member told us that our doctor doesn't know as much about detox as she does. This sent up red flags and we stopped going to the free lectures because we now felt pressured to purchase questionable treatments and products. Nassau, the Bahamas: We finally found some heat in the Bahamas! We were able to shed the windbreakers and jackets and wear shorts. We only had one day in port, so we had to make the most of it. We booked the Harbor Cruise and Atlantis Tour for our Wednesday excursion. The tour departed late due to an inexperienced guide who led us the wrong way to the ferry boat to Paradise Island. When we got to Atlantis, we found that security was very tight and we were treated like third-class tourists and not allowed to deviate from the tour. The guide is only given a limited time to complete the tour and we were not allowed to linger or fall behind the group. To our guide's credit, she spoke well and was able to be heard by the large group. But, her schedule didn't allow many questions, and she departed as soon as she made sure each one of us exited the private sections of the Atlantis resort. The aquariums at Atlantis are beautiful, however, and we took many photos of the undersea world of the Bahamas. The cost of food and beverage is extremely high in Atlantis and Paradise Island, as well as the high-end stores in the public shopping village. We returned to Nassau for a fun-filled day of inexpensive food and drink on Bay Street. The Straw Market was also excellent, and we ended up buying all of our souvenirs for the cruise in Nassau. It was Junkanoo Festival time in the Bahamas, which included the music and lavish costumes used in this local custom. It was a wonderful time of year to be in Nassau, and this port made up for all of the discomfort experienced during the rest of the cruise. We would have loved to spend another day in Nassau, but instead faced two sea days until our return to NYC. One highlight of the cruise was the Second City ComedyTroupe that performed onboard. They also held workshops that taught improvisation and comedy history and techniques. The other entertainment was spotty, with the exception of the two major shows, "World Beat" and "Get Down Tonight," which were very well done. New Year's Eve was festive, but the music was sporadic and confined to only a few venues. We chose to greet the new year in the Crystal Atrium with the Caribbean band, which we believed was better than the piano players in other lounges. We all received a champagne toast provided by NCL at midnight. Overall: The cruise was very enjoyable, which is why we continue to book with NCL; but, the weather was very cold. In the future, we will either choose warmer seasons or cruise out of Florida, to avoid the rough winter seas and temperatures. The quality and diversity of the food on NCL is not as good as Royal Caribbean and other lines, but the salads and weight management selections are better on NCL, as is the service of the staff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My husband & I booked this cruise as a present to ourselves to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As our anniversary is on December 30th, this meant we would also be onboard for New Years Eve. This is our 4th cruise; prior to this ... Read More
My husband & I booked this cruise as a present to ourselves to celebrate our wedding anniversary. As our anniversary is on December 30th, this meant we would also be onboard for New Years Eve. This is our 4th cruise; prior to this we've cruised on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas once and Grandeur of the Seas twice. We've been to the western Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and most recently Canada/New England. I'm in my late forties, and my husband is in his early fifties. My husband does have mobility issues and is unable to do much walking. We're not the most outgoing people, but enjoy just getting away and being able to relax. This was our first cruise without the kids. Pretty much by the second or third day of the cruise, we had decided we would probably not cruise Carnival again. We both feel that Royal Caribbean is far superior in food, elegance, helpfulness and friendliness of the staff, and overall a better value for our money. Our Carnival cabin did have more storage space, and it seemed the room had a better layout. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
There was a group of 6 of us (ages 67-15) to celebrate my 40th on New Years Day. The day before the cruise we arrived in Cape Canaveral and stayed at the Best Western Oceanside (great deal) and Thursday morning took the shuttle to ... Read More
There was a group of 6 of us (ages 67-15) to celebrate my 40th on New Years Day. The day before the cruise we arrived in Cape Canaveral and stayed at the Best Western Oceanside (great deal) and Thursday morning took the shuttle to the pier. Customs/registration was a breeze and we were on board within 30 minutes of arrival. A quick lunch and our rooms were ready at 1:30. We splurged and had a balcony, which was great. The room was nice & clean-smaller than our balcony room on the Legend, but still roomy. The ship is very 80's and even though its clean,clean,clean, she is a little worn in some places.But that didn't bother me any! What did bother me was how crowded the Lido deck got when everyone was waiting to dock in Nassau-yikes! But once we docked, it was great. We went on shore and did a little shopping and headed over to Fish Fry area to try some Conch Salad at Goldy's. Yum! We actually were in Nassau for New Years so we grabbed a spot on deck for the Countdown. It was awesome! At midnight there were fireworks from a couple places on island and they could all be seen from deck. Alter, part of our group went ashore to see the Junkanoo parade-a kind of Mardi Gras/Carnivale celebration. It was awesome. The food was good, with some really yummy dishes here and there. I do wish there was a 'snack' time at like 4:30-5:30 when chips (and veggies/pretzels), dips & cheese/crackers were out for snacking....i ate far too much cheese pizza to fill that role! Overall it was a really fun couple of days...plotting our next cruise in 2012! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older ... Read More
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older hotel, yet has been very nicely remodeled and updated. They offered a good deal on a stay and cruise package with breakfast and transportation to and from the port. This hotel is on a street with a whole row of hotels as well as restaurants, good location even without a car. We got up on the 30th, had breakfast, and took the 10:00 shuttle to the port. We had our bags dropped off, through security, and checked in in under 20 minutes. We were in group 2 and when boarding started we were on in 10 minutes. At 11:25 we were on the Lido deck with champagne in hand headed for lunch, they were passing out free champagne upon boarding for New Year's, nice touch. We got to our cabin around 1:30 and both bags were there by 2:30, fastest ever. Our cabin steward was Gabby and he did a great job and was always so polite and cheerful in the hallways. We unpacked and checked out the ship until muster which was at 3:30. Right before and during muster we watched as a bus of people pulled up and ran frantically to the ship that was due to leave at 4. We had late seating in the Sensation dining room with Glenn as our headwaiter. He did a great job and we had great tablemates. Lobster night was not formal night as they had a special NYE menu and gave out party favors. We seemed to stop in the ocean for New Years as I think everyone was on deck after the 11:30 balloon drop. There was music, free champagne, and Time Square for the big count down. The ship's horn blared in the new year so anyone trying to skip the party was out of luck! Freeport is miserable, but we knew that. Had to pay to go anywhere or do anything as it is in an industrial area. They herd everyone to Port Lucaya for $5 a person each way where they advertise shopping, beaches, and fun. We tried to get to Taino Beach as planned but the taxi drivers wanted too much for the 2 of us, $80 round trip which was what they were getting for Port Lucaya. So we went with the herd and walked around for a while. Got some $1 Eclipse beer and then hit up happy hour for $4 margaritas and mojitos. :) Nassua was ok, been there before. We were there during the Junkanoo Parade, definitely something to see with all the costumes, dancers, and music! Afterwards we went to Junkanoo Beach and just lounged. The ship was very clean and it seems the dry-dock removed some of the tackier decorations that went with the theme. The dining room was also the most neutral of the ships we've been on. Casino was a little small, but it is a smaller ship. There is only 1 pool, but it was too chilly for that to be an issue. The kids packed out the hot tubs on the lido deck but we spent a lot of time on the Serenity deck with no kids and really enjoyed the less crowded hot tubs and padded lounge chairs. Overall it was a little different crowd than we're used to doing 7 days (def not as "loud" as I was afraid of) but it was a great vacation. Jacksonville is a VERY efficient port and the ship looked as good as new with a great crew! We were pleased for a short winter getaway over NYE. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Embarkation: Lines weren't too bad because we had preferred check-in. Stateroom: All the balcony staterooms on the Gem are not created equal. Having cruised on the Gem 2 years ago, I thought I knew what to expect. Our stateroom ... Read More
Embarkation: Lines weren't too bad because we had preferred check-in. Stateroom: All the balcony staterooms on the Gem are not created equal. Having cruised on the Gem 2 years ago, I thought I knew what to expect. Our stateroom was much smaller and there was no glass enclosure for great visibility. Our balcony was metal half way up, limiting the visibility. Check before you book! Our room stewards did a great job. Ship Info: I like the Gem's decor. Its bright and colorful and has a wonderful library, funky furniture in the Spinnaker Lounge, and just brightens your day. Dining: I thought there was a lot of variety on the buffet, but seating was always a problem. The service in the Grand Pacific Dining Room was a little disjointed. Tables with only one water glass, or one bread plate, or lacking silverware happened more than once and the service was slow getting them replaced. We had to ask for our water glasses to be filled and then never saw anyone with water again. They gave us six rolls at dinner, but only two pats of butter. We struck it rich in the Magenta Dining Room. Our first night there, we had the pleasure of being waited on by Joanne. She was just great! The service was so good, that we went back three times. We also went to Cagney's one night. The steak was good as well as the service, but I don't know if it was worth the extra $25. Overall, I did like the food and some of it was exceptional. Activities: Because this was a Holiday cruise, there were about 800 more passengers on board than usual, mostly children. There were adult activities that the children were allowed to attend and in some cases it was totally inappropriate. Staff & Service: I felt there was little customer concern on the Gem. I was not invited to the Latitudes party (for passengers who have cruised on Norwegian before) and missed it. I spoke to Cruise Consultant Paloma Leon and her attitude was one of total indifference. I spoke to the front desk and they very grudgingly said I could have a bottle of wine with dinner. This was my fourth Norwegian cruise and I thought they could have been a little more concerned with customer satisfaction. On the second day of the cruise, my girlfriend entered a dance competition on board and won! During the competition, dancers were told to go to the front desk and pick up a copy of the video. Cruise Director Rob Sugar very rudely told my friend that no one ever told her to pick up a copy and that she couldn't have one (even though it was clearly heard on the video). He said he would have to get releases signed by the other five dancers and he wasn't going to do that. However, the video was shown on the ship channel several times each day of the cruise without getting releases from the passengers that participated. In fact, they didn't even know they were being taped initially. There was certainly nothing sweet about Rob Sugar. He was the most annoying Cruise Director ever. Norwegian needs to take a lesson from other cruise lines on how to treat their passengers. I just booked my next cruise on Carnival. Entertainment: There was some great entertainment on the Gem. I have to say I really liked the crew's show that they put on. Shore Excursions: Norwegian ruined their private island. It was so pretty and unspoiled when I was there two years ago. Now they've built some huge, ugly building (I was told it will be a hotel) right on what used to be their beautiful beach. What a shame. Anyone travelling to Nassau definitely needs to swim with the dolphins. What a phenomenal experience! A little pricey, but I'd do it again. At Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center is the main attraction. Well worth a visit. Disembarkation: We chose to carry our own bags off, but there was quite a line waiting to get off. Summary: My cruise on the Gem two years ago was wonderful. This time it was spoiled by the uncaring and indifferent attitudes of the staff (not all the staff and not the same staff that was on the Gem two years ago). When you have a Cruise Director and a Cruise Consultant who clearly never heard of customer satisfaction, it truly spoils the whole cruise experience. I saw Norwegian's CEO on Undercover Boss. I wish he would have been on the Gem to see the uncaring attitudes. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My family of 4 had a wonderful time on the Pride on 12/19/2010. Here are a few of the ship & staff highlights: Embarkation in Baltimore was smooth. It took about an hour(moving lines), and we got there at 1pm. They allowed ... Read More
My family of 4 had a wonderful time on the Pride on 12/19/2010. Here are a few of the ship & staff highlights: Embarkation in Baltimore was smooth. It took about an hour(moving lines), and we got there at 1pm. They allowed boarding at 1:30, and the rooms were ready at 3:30. The ship was tastefully decorated - most of the holiday decor was in the atrium. I liked the Pride's decor, the renaissance style made the ship feel very opulent. We did not notice the ship vibrations that a few of the previous posters had mentioned. We had an extended balcony, and the pullman bed was directly above the sleeper couch. It was a better arrangement than RCI has on Grandeur of the Sea, and seemed more spacious. The food in the Lido was good (perhaps a touch greasy) - though difficult to navigate when crowded. The Lunch and Dinners in the MDR were very good. My husband has many food allergies, and the staff in the MDR were fantastic with accommodating that! The went above and beyond our expectations in this regard. Lactose-free milk was very hard to come by. We spent the first few days requesting it at every meal, it usually took more than 30 minutes to 'find' it. We had been assured by several staff members that the Lido, the MDR and room service would keep it on hand for us - but it didn't work out that way. It was annoying, but we lived with it. Our children were in 2 separate age groups in Camp Carnival - the 6-8 and the 9-11 groupings. They both were surprised when other campers were not corrected for rude, mean or hurtful behavior by the counselors. While the counselors did keep everyone 'safe' - they weren't very involved. My children both chose to spend some time there, but not a lot because of this. The pool, the 'covered pool', the ice-cream machines were some of my kid's favorite things. We just enjoyed spending the week together. I loved the food, the balcony, the ship layout, and reading a lot of books! My hubby and I also enjoyed a few of the adult comedy shows, but found the 'Vegas-style' shows tedious. The MDR chef did make a lovely Christmas night dinner, traditional turkey and stuffing etc. The debarkation process was the best one I've ever been on. They had a movie playing in the Taj Mahal, and the kids were completely entertained while we waited. We were one of the last groups to be called, and we were off the ship by 11:30. We had a great time! The ship is pretty, the staff is friendly and the food was yummy. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Carnival Pride Dec 19- 26, 2010. Short review since others taking this same ship in the fall of 2010 present some good advice. First problem: ALWAYS ask your agent (or call Carnival) to tell you what is directly or almost directly ... Read More
Carnival Pride Dec 19- 26, 2010. Short review since others taking this same ship in the fall of 2010 present some good advice. First problem: ALWAYS ask your agent (or call Carnival) to tell you what is directly or almost directly above your cabin. Don't trust that the floor plans will reveal problems. We selected 8210 based on other reviews, but the first night, we were up and down and up and down with rumbles and thump-thump from above. Monday morning I paced off distances and discovered that 8210 is directly under the kitchen entrance for the Mermaid Grill on the 9th (Lido Deck) level. The Mermaid Grill is the major food service facility other than the sit-down dining room (The Normandie Room). It serves food from early (6 or 7 am) to late (10 pm) and then offers pizza all night! The thumping and rumbling above was the food service carts, dish carts, etc., crossing the threshold from the kitchen to the walking area. The walking area is tiled, with stone tiles, while the tables areas have carpeting. But keeping the walking areas clean would be impossible with carpeted floor. We asked for a change of rooms, but Carnival said, "have none." Tuesday, our second full day, they found us a room (5214) that was identical to 8210 but on Deck 5 rather than Deck 8. We moved ourselves in 15 minutes, and that solved the problem. One trial learning: Never, ever, book a room without knowing specifically what is above you! Second problem: we're Baltimore Ravens professional football fans. The BIG game that week was on Thursday, and Carnival noted on their daily Fun list (distributed to every cabin the day before) that the Ravens game would be on the TVs in the Casino and adjacent Sports Bar. We asked about room television but were told that it was only on the Casinos and Sports Bar televisions. But the only inside smoking areas are the Casino and Sports bar! To watch the game, we were trapped in the smoky Casino and Sports bar. We estimate that at least ¾ of the passengers on the ship didn't smoke. That is a common ratio for the USA today. Carnival forced anyone who wanted to watch the game to breathe the stinky air in the Casino or Sports bar. Be aware of this smoking area—it's really unpleasant and we stayed away from the Casino as much as possible, but if we wanted to watch the Ravens football game, we had to stay there. Not very thoughtful of Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point ... Read More
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point of this cruise was for me to have a relaxing 60th birthday on December 31st and I certainly did. DH did too. Jacksonville is less than 3 hours away for us and the easiest of ports from which to sail. We drove to the port the morning of the 30th and were whisked through VIP check, obligatory photo op and had champagne in hand well before noon. Having sailed Celebrity Solstice over Thanksgiving we were interested to make some comparisons. While Fascination is an older ship and in no way as elegant as the Solstice, it is in very good condition with no problems that we saw. Although we prefer a balcony, because this was a last minute booking we ended up with OV and it was centrally located on Empress deck. Very convenient for everything. We had any time dining which worked well for us as we eat early rather than late. We always walked straight in. The first night our wait staff was so good that we asked to be seated in their area every night. Juan Pablo [head waiter] was great and Olga [his assistant] was fantastic. One of the best we have ever had. Making some comparisons between the Solstice and Fascination: [our opinion only] Better looking ship - Solstice Better DEcor - Solstice Better Menu Choices - Fascination Better Food in general - Fascination Better Service wait staff - Fascination [by far!!] Better Room Steward - Fascination Better Production Shows - Fascination Better Singers - Fascination Better Dancers - Fascination [by far] Better Costumes/Choreography - Fascination [I used to teach theatre so I notice] Better Secondary Entertainment - Solstice Better Captain's/past guest party - Solstice Friendlier staff - Fascination Activities - about the same number of offerings, just different types. We have been to Freeport before and relaxed onboard but in Nassau I went to buy perfume from my favorite store and discovered a parade instead. We stood chatting to locals and enjoying the spectacle. I never did get to buy perfume. I'll have to do that in March on the next cruise. The aim of this cruise was relaxation and we achieved that. Despite it being a NYE cruise, it so not too loud or rowdy and we did not see any problems. We purchased some more cruise credit certificates for future cruises so we obviously enjoyed ourselves. There is only one complaint I have and we did not discover that until we got home. My daughter had ordered a surprise for my birthday. She had ordered the cabin to be decorated, a birthday memory book and chocolate covered strawberries. When she asked if I was surprised I did not know what she was talking about as I had received nothing! She was horrified and after checking with the Bon Voyage Department, she was eventually told that, "We did not have any of those things on the ship, so the order was cancelled." Her credit card had been charged and she had not received a call to let her know that there was a problem and offer an alternative. Likewise no-one on board contacted me to say that something had been ordered and offer me an alternative either. I refuse to believe that Carnival did not have something on the ship they could have offered and I know I saw strawberries! Her credit card has been refunded now, but there has been no letter of apology either to her or to me which seems to me to be poor guest service. The really bad thing about the cruise is that as I am a scrapbook fanatic I had gathered together some great materials plus a big selection of formal pictures, and about 400 of my own photos to make a special scrapbook for my birthday but last Monday our house burned down and all my tangible memories of the cruise are lost. Oh well, guess we'll just have to look forward to the next cruise and more memories. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Being that this was our 23 cruise and 2nd on the Jewel ,we should have known better than to book a 7 day christmas/newyears cruise. We've been on 3 holiday cruises before ,but they were 14 day cruises. What we also didn't know ... Read More
Being that this was our 23 cruise and 2nd on the Jewel ,we should have known better than to book a 7 day christmas/newyears cruise. We've been on 3 holiday cruises before ,but they were 14 day cruises. What we also didn't know was that the Jewel added a Nickelodeon program for kids. My wife and I have nothing against kids ,we have one of our own ,grown.But there was just too many under 18 kids on this ship . Plus the normal passenger load is something like 2300 as advertised in brochure ,their was over 2840,passengers on this cruise, 1200 of them being under age 18. Teenagers hanging out in the halls and elevators to the early morning hours ,not that they were misbehaving or causing trouble ,just to many of them . The cruise ship personnel did there best to please everyone. But it was difficult because of the amount of under 18 year olds. The ship was nice the service was good ,being that we are platinum members we had some nice perks ,we eat mostly in the additional cost restaurants ,which were quite good . Don't think that I'm some old fart that has nothing better to do than complain,that's not the case .I;m a 55 year old biker that knows how to party and have a good time and so does my wife. Overall this was a decent cruise,[just getting away from the N.Y. weather was great] But we prefer longer cruises with less kids. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though ... Read More
We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though have cruised in the past with Disney (recently) and Carnival (a few years ago). Our experience was made better by: a) People : The ship's crew were both friendly, courteous and industrious from our cabin stewards (Jacinto Anion and Ambari team), the bartenders, the pool deck staff, the cleaning crew, and the garden cafe staff (we're amazed at the temperament of the garden cafe staff as we've witnessed them being unfairly abused by a few rude and obnoxious passengers). The results of the ship's crew efforts is shown by how clean and nice the ship is, inside and out.However, This applies for the crew on the ship only. In the NY port, some people we encountered during embarkation were rude & incompetent but not sure if they are NCL employees or if NCL has direct management control over them. b) Entertainment : Excellent shows (the performers and the production band was awesome), excellent music performers (notably Randon & Kenosis) and a variety of entertainment programs available for all ages and taste (kudos to Jamie & team). Our experience was not made better by : a) So-So kids club: Our 3 Kids were in 3 programs (6-9, 10-12, and teen). The problems were more structural than people or execution. The counselors were lively and good with the kids. The problem was that they have to work on very confined places (except for the teen lounge), don't have hours beyond 10:30pm without having to pay extra, and the scarcity of technology options (computers, wii, xbox 360 etc). Our point of reference for this assessment for full disclosure is the Disney cruise line which we have recently sailed on over the past 2 years. This however is not a major negative as we can reset our expectations for this service the next time around and organize our kid's activities accordingly. b) Inefficient process : If there was anything that bothered us greatly on this cruise is having to be inconvenienced because of inefficient processes and procedures. I think this cruise can benefit by looking at its processes and procedures (LEAN, Six Sigma, 5S) leading to better productivity (lower cost) and higher customer satisfaction (higher revenue). This is very evident in the magenta and great pacific dining rooms. There seem to be a lot of restaurant staff moving around like headless chickens. Again, they are very industrious and friendly but that is not enough to have a seamless operation. The checkin/checkout process for the kids club and towels need to be automated (use the key card rather than manually signing in) and needs better queue management (removal of non-value added process and procedures). In summary, while the cruise is not perfect (not sure if one really is), this cruise is definitely a great value. The negatives mentioned above can easily be addressed through lowering expectations and working around it. The positives however definitely outweigh all of this. As long as NCL maintains its price point, it's friendly and industrious crew, keep its freestyle concept and continue to have NY as its port, we would likely be long time and repeat NCL cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
OK, just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem November 20-27, 2010 (Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas, round trip from New York). We had a group of 25 family members, including children ages 6-11, some ... Read More
OK, just returned from a one week cruise on the Norwegian Gem November 20-27, 2010 (Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau, Bahamas, round trip from New York). We had a group of 25 family members, including children ages 6-11, some teens, and adults. This was our seventh cruise, but first on Norwegian (previously Carnival and Royal Caribbean). The first day did not start out well-I jotted down over a dozen "cons" in the first four hours based on comparisons to the other cruises we have taken. I am not usually a complainer, but I just expected a few things to be "automatic". By the end of the cruise, some aspects redeemed themselves, but overall I would rate this experience AVERAGE. We will most likely not cruise on Norwegian again, but we enjoyed the Thanksgiving week with our family together. Here are the good points: 1) Our cabin stewards were top notch 2) I would rate the food above-average for quality and variety 3) The prime rib was one of the best I have ever had 4) The Tex-Mex restaurant was well worth the $10 cover charge. I wish we hadn't waited for the last night-I could have enjoyed every item on the menu 5) You don't have to wear your lifejacket to the safety drill 6) Check in process was reasonably smooth. We arrived at 1210pm and were on the ship by 1pm 7) The ship is in very good condition-I guess this should be expected for a 3 year old ship 8) They serve a full breakfast on the final day in the buffet, not just continental 9) You are allowed to contest the absurd service charge (see below) And now for the "areas of improvement": 1) There was a general feeling that the whole process was unorganized. 2) There was a general feeling of being "nickeled and dimed to death". Extra charges for everything: bowling and 8 specialty restaurants. For comparison, on Royal Caribbean we did the FloRider, rock climbing, and ice skating for no extra charge. Typically I only see 2 or 3 specialty restaurants. 3) FREESTYLE is difficult for large parties-you MUST make a reservation for dinner at least one day in advance. We missed the set dinner time where everyone would meet each day and build a relationship with the service staff. 4) Speaking of service, my biggest complaint is the Service Charge. On other cruise lines, the charge is $10 per day for the first two persons in the cabin ($140 for seven days). On Norwegian, I suppose they want your wallet to be FREESTYLE. The service charge is $12 per day per PERSON OVER AGE THREE! For my family of four, that was $332. To Norwegian's credit I filled out a form giving my reasons and request for reduction-they issued a credit on my final invoice. I prefer to reward individual service performance, but the FREESTYLE approach requires all these fees to be spread amongst all crew-little incentive to give the best service in my opinion. 5) Twice, my reservation for 20 people was messed up at the same specialty restaurant. First, they "forgot" about another reservation for 22 and offered a different venue and/or time. On the second, they booked the wrong restaurant. Fortunately on the second time, the manager was able to honor our original reservation, but not until after some tense moments (since I had already told twenty people when and where to meet for dinner!) 6) Design Problems a. The cabin layout is poor-you cannot easily access the balcony with the bunk beds down b. The cabin was tighter than on other cruise lines-there is no long counter and only 3 small drawers c. The tables and chairs in the seating area of the buffet are way too tightly packed d. On the most populated decks (Promenade and Pool/Buffet), you can only traverse the ship on the starboard side 7) Juice machine is only available at breakfast. After that it is Iced Tea, water, or coffee. 8) The TV is tiny-about 13" and ours was set so that you could not view the whole screen (scores were not visible during football games). 9) There is NO network TV (NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX) and no Kid's channels. The one "ESPN" channel showed cricket, equestrian, tennis, and European basketball. They did get the feed for some NFL games during the trip, but all on this channel-no choices like FOX and CBS on Sundays. 10) There were three red drops on our cabin carpet and a red stain in the bathroom that looked like blood. 11) The first day sign-in for the Kid's Club was a ZOO. The process is so inefficient and they appear very understaffed. 12) My kids were both in the 6-9 age group and rated it "BORING". 13) Only one show time on the first night. 14) The tender process at Great Stirrup Cay was a Catch 22. Either fight the NYC mob to get on the 7th tender. Or wait a half hour and get tender number 13. You then go ashore after two hours, leaving about 3.5 hours of beach time. 15) The BBQ lunch at Great Stirrup Cay was closed at 230pm, before some tenders arrived. 16) I don't expect any improvement-No evaluation feedback form was provided in our cabin on the last night. Maybe they will send us one in the mail after we have forgotten the bad points. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Let me begin by saying that the wife and I had a great time on the Fantasy for the Thanksgiving sailing. Personally, I am not a fan of the smaller ships, and I think there was room for improvement in a few aspects of the ship. Let's ... Read More
Let me begin by saying that the wife and I had a great time on the Fantasy for the Thanksgiving sailing. Personally, I am not a fan of the smaller ships, and I think there was room for improvement in a few aspects of the ship. Let's start with embarkation. First of all, Carnival did a good job with what they had to work with. I've read in some previous posts that the port staff was unfriendly/unhelpful, and that was not our experience in any way whatsoever. We found the people to be nice, professional, and courteous. What was an issue, however, was the layout of the terminal. We had to go one place to drop off luggage, then drive another place to park, and then catch a shuttle to the terminal, then get in line to check in, then go upstairs to get your picture taken, then go downstairs to get on the ramp to get in line to board the ship. I heard that there were going to be some upgrades to the port by the end of 2011, so this may not last forever, but I can tell you that by the end of 2010 the process just wasn't as streamlined as it is in other ports. Our sailing was the last sailing of the Fantasy for two weeks. She is going into dry dock to renovate the common areas. I thought the layout was fine, not as gaudy as most Carnival decor, but I guess some modernizing wouldn't hurt. Our cabin was a decent size. It was our first time sailing with a balcony, and I don't think we could sail without one again. Our room steward was great. We had early dinner seating, and loved, loved, LOVED our wait staff team of Elder, Sigit, and Janet. They were AWESOME! The food wasn't the best I've had, but far from the worst. I'm sure that in trying to please as many palates as possible they can't get too creative or inventive. Dietetically, I'm pretty adventurous, but my wife is not. She seemed to be fine as long as she stuck to steaks and fruit and potatoes. I experimented with dishes I wouldn't normally eat. I liked some a lot, and some were just so-so. Nothing was bad. Oh, and the sushi at the sushi bar was really good. I thought that the entertainment was a pretty weak, overall. Not much else to be said about that. I didn't get our cruise director "Sexy Craig E." I'm sure many people find his schtick funny, but I wasn't one of them. You're wacky and crazy because you always wear two different colored socks... and because everyone you introduce is a good friend of yours... and it is always their birthday... and they should get a big kiss when you see them... It was old by day 2. I thought the activities were thin as well, especially on days at sea. Port 1- Nassau: We only shopped in Nassau. Some decent shopping, but I think we got off of the boat too early, because many of the shops we still closed at 9:30, and by the time we were done, we just didn't backtrack. Port 2- Freeport: We had a beach day, and apart from it being a little overcast, we had a great time. Port 3- Key West: We rented an electric car and drove up and down the streets of Key West. We got the car for three hours for $85. and it was probably the best $85 we spent. We got to see so much more of the island than we would have on foot. In rereading what I have, I'm afraid it seems like we didn't have a good time, and that was far from the case, but as with most things in life, your vacation is what you make of it. The wife and I had a fabulous time. As for the ship, I think that they may need to work some things out first. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We just returned from our cruise on the Pride out of Baltimore. Our teens had the full week off school for Thanksgiving this year and we decided on this particular cruise simply because all the criteria fit...we could drive to Baltimore ... Read More
We just returned from our cruise on the Pride out of Baltimore. Our teens had the full week off school for Thanksgiving this year and we decided on this particular cruise simply because all the criteria fit...we could drive to Baltimore from our home in just about an hour, the price was right as was the length of cruise. We did not specifically look for a Carnival cruise and we did not pick this sailing for its ports of call. This was the first ever cruise for my kids and the first CCL cruise for my DH and myself (we have sailed with Princess and NCL before). Embarkation - We had hoped we could board earlier than 1:30 since we were the first cruise post dry-dock but our TA said "regular boarding time." That being said, we wanted to avoid traffic or parking issues, or any unforeseen problems so we left a little early and ended up getting to the port just before 1:00. Parking at the port was a piece of cake and from the parking lot, we could see that passengers were already starting to board! Once we got into the terminal, there was quite a long line but it moved steadily (I hesitate to say quickly). Once through the metal detectors, we were ushered into a second line where we were issued our sign & sail cards. There must have been 14-15 counter agents working this and the line moved very quickly. We were on board before 2:00pm. We went straight to the guest services desk (which only had 2 people in line ahead of us) so we could get additional key cards for our kids' cabin. While we were there, we requested the door between our 2 balconies be opened and they sent someone the following morning who secured the door open for the duration of the cruise. Cabin - we had 2 cabins on deck 7 (Verandah) mid-ship with extended balconies. The rooms were fine, clean, comfortable bed, sofa, small table, ample closet & shelf space. The bathroom was smaller than other ships BUT the water pressure in the shower was amazing and there was plenty of shelf space in the bathroom for toiletries etc. I loved having coffee on my balcony in the morning and also coming back there to read in the late afternoons. We did not end up leaving Baltimore until 7:30pm even though our scheduled departure was for 4:30. I just think they didn't get everything done in dry dock that they needed to accomplish so they were probably scrambling all day in Baltimore. Dining - We had early seating dining and were issued a booth for the 4 of us. Our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful and remembered our names and favorite items after the first night. He had a running joke with my DS about the chocolate melting cake (and yes, it's as good as everyone raves about). The service at dinner was great and the food was quite good (better than NCL but not as good as Princess - in my opinion). Call me sappy, but I enjoyed the singing and dancing the waiters did on most nights. They did Flo Rida (Low) one night, Tally Ho, Leaving on a Jet plane the last night (with their own carnival words) and I forgot the last song. It was silly and entertaining and I just wish my kids were willing to get up and bust a move with them. We ordered coffee from room service on 2 occasions and it arrived within 20 minutes. We had buffet breakfast a few times and ate in the dining room a few times. Same food in both places. I must say the service in the MDR for breakfast was slow. In many cases they filled tables of 8 and although they took your order when you sat down, the food didn't come out until everyone at the table was seated and had ordered. I just don't think breakfast needs to be an hour long ordeal. We did not eat at the steakhouse nor did we get around to trying the sushi. If you have any specific dining questions, throw them my way...I just don't want to bore everyone with the details of what was served. Ports - We did not book any excursions ahead of time. These ports weren't the reason we were on this cruise and we weren't terribly excited about the excursions. We were in Port Canaveral the day before Thanksgiving and were warned the Disney and Universal Parks would be a zoo so we steered clear (and we had just been to the Space Center 2 years ago). I had booked a rental car before we left for about $43 (which is less than a shuttle anywhere would have cost us as a family) and the Budget shuttle ran continuously from the port to their location and we didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for it to pick us up. We ended up driving to Cocoa Beach where we did the obligatory surf shop shopping and spent several house at the beach. In Nassau, be prepared to be accosted by independent taxi drivers who want to take you on a tour of the island and to Atlantis etc...it's a hard sell but if you're firm and say no, they'll move on to the next victim, er, visitor. ? We did some shopping in town and walked to the public beach (Junkaroo). I couldn't justify the cost of a day pass at any of the hotels when we had the beach right there. There was a volleyball net, some food and drink shacks (folks were drinking wonderful concoctions out of coconuts and eating jerk chicken, burgers, dogs etc). That was about it for Nassau. It was Thanksgiving day and there were 3 other ships in port with us that day so it was fairly crowded everywhere. We were happy to get back on the boat and hit the hot tub! In Freeport I had read about snorkeling that I wanted the kids to try but I'm glad I held off booking because the water was rather rough that day. We took a cab out to our Lucaya and went to the beach there. The sand was soft, the water beautiful and the vendors came by in a steady stream but if you said "no thank you" politely but firmly, they'd move on without hassling you at all. They had a tour operator right on the beach offering various excursions (parasailing, snorkeling, dolphin watching, jet skiing and banana boat rides) so there's really no need to book ahead of time if you want to try out some of these activities. We were content to splash around in the water for a few hours before doing some souvenir shopping in the shops of Lucaya. BTW, taxi costs $5 per person each way and we were fortunate to have a driver on the way out who gave us some history and points of interests on the 15 minute drive from the ship to Lucaya. Activities/Entertainment - There was plenty to do for those who need constant organized activities but nothing was pushed too hard. What was really nice was walking by the piano bar or any one of a number of lounges and stopping to listen to the talent on the ship. They even had some performers behind the bar at the casino...so you could watch a game, play some blackjack, get a drink and listen to someone performing all at the same time. Talk about sensory overload! ? I played several of the trivia games and that was fun. Didn't do bingo so I can't comment on that. My kids were eligible for the 2 older teen clubs (Circle C and O2). They went the first night, met others who they hung out with for the rest of the cruise, but didn't necessarily do all the scheduled activities. My DS did pizza night, movie night (they showed Date Night) and played in the basketball tournament. He was bummed it was too windy for the ping pong tourney the last night. Mostly they hung out on the 9th deck. I rarely saw my 14 year old DD. She made a million friends and they were always on the go or in a hot tub somewhere. We did go to some of the shows after dinner as a family. I can really appreciate how hard those dancers work and it was amazing to think about how many costume changes they had. My favorite show was called Vrooom and it was a journey of rock and roll from the 50s to the 80s and encompassed everything from Elvis, Diana Ross, Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Culture Club, Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Elton John and about a dozen others. Very cool costumes and special effects. We also went to some of the comedy shows (the adult-only ones) and really enjoyed all of them. We hit the casino most nights...my DH won in craps but gave it back at the poker table. I was content to play slots all week. They were hot and cold but I was entertained for long chunks of time without losing too much! Debarkation - We pulled into Baltimore around 10:30 (about 30 minutes late because Friday night we had to detour towards the coast so the coast guard could air lift someone in medical distress - it was quite something to see a helicopter hovering over the ship at 1am and they did an amazing job in windy weather). We did self-assist and were off the ship, through customs and in our car by 11am. The fastest we've ever gotten off a ship. Misc - We thought the deal on Absolut in the ship's store was a good one (2 liters for $24.99) so we purchased that and it was delivered to our room the last night on the ship. They had many flavors and had deals on other booze as well. As for the dEcor - it was cool to have artwork everywhere. I didn't find it dark or gloomy and my kids didn't notice one way or the other. Certainly not the reason to pick a cruise. There were places to sit everywhere. Comfortable couches and lounge chairs placed throughout the hallways, near windows, in the lounges...and you never felt like a sardine. There was plenty of room for everyone and they worked hard to keep the ship clean. We must have had every demographic represented on the cruise...babies through folks in their 90s and everything in between. Great group of people. I never witnessed any ridiculously bad behavior and i met many folks traveling with larger groups of family for the holidays. Most of the folks we encountered were from MD, VA, PA, and DE although there were some from NY, OH, MI and IA. Just a nice mix. Would I sail Carnival again? You bet. They work very hard to dispel the "budget cruise" feeling and the crew was more than pleasant and helpful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We sailed on the Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville to Nassau and Key West over Thanksgiving. Since we have cruised out of Jacksonville before on a similar itinerary over Christmas a few years ago, our expectations were not ... Read More
We sailed on the Carnival Fascination out of Jacksonville to Nassau and Key West over Thanksgiving. Since we have cruised out of Jacksonville before on a similar itinerary over Christmas a few years ago, our expectations were not unreasonable. We knew the ship was smaller and older. We also knew it would be crowded. Even so, we were sorely disappointed. Embarkation went smoothly enough. Jacksonville does do a fairly good job of getting you on board quickly. We arrived at about 11:45 and were on board by 1:00. Since our cabin wasn't ready until 1:30, we headed up to the Lido for lunch. We knew enough not to stand in the long, long line on deck by the pool. We made are way to the back of the ship where the line was much shorter for the buffet. At the very back there is also pizza and a deli where they make sandwiches to order -- nice. The salad bar was always very fresh as well. We explored the ship and found what we expected. It's nothing fancy. She's an older ship, but well maintained. The casino, shops, and fitness center are all pretty small. The grand atrium is nice, but nothing spectacular. The highlights of this ship are on the upper decks. The pool is small and basic. But the water slide and water park for the kids on the top deck are awesome. Unfortunately, we had no kids with us and had no use for it. What we did have use for was the Serenity Deck which is a quiet adults-only area. It has great padded lounge chairs, umbrellas, and an adults only hot tub. Its a very peaceful place- unfortunately is was also pretty crowded on this trip. We always opt for the late seating at dinner so that we do not feel as though we have to rush back on board after being in port. Unfortunately, on this cruise it also meant that we did not have the option of attending a lot of the entertainment since many things were scheduled during the late dinner seating. More on that in a minute. We ate in the Imagination Dining Room. The ceilings were very low in there and left me feeling a bit claustrophobic. The decor was average, but our waiter was phenomenal! He was the highlight of our cruise in terms of service. The food was average. Not at all bad, but nothing outstanding either. There was a good selection of main courses, appetizers were excellent, but dessert choices were a bit limited and generally weren't all that great. Overall we enjoyed the service, most of the food, and good conversation at our table with our new friends. Our first "Fun Day at Sea" left a lot to be desired. This is where our real disappointment began. We are used to a lot of entertainment on a Carnival cruise and a lot of fun interaction with the staff. We did not get that on this cruise. There was a whole lot of nothing going on. The staff was not enthusiastic at all. The CD, Squishy, was just as his name implies... squishy. Not sharp and exciting, just kind of there. If you're into laying by the pool surrounded by 1000 of your friends and their screaming kids, you're in luck. If not, you won't find much else to do. Unless you are into downing very, very outrageously expensive drinks -- there are plenty of poolside bar staff ready to bring whatever you want - just keep that sail and sign card handy! But beware -- I asked for a drink of the day by the pool and was served a disgusting concoction is a plastic sippy cup (which can't be refilled by the way) that looked like the ship's funnel then charged $14 for the one drink!!!! Don't expect the entertainment to pick up at night either. The evening shows have always been a favorite part of our cruising experience. We were highly disappointed on this cruise. There were only two full production shows and neither was all that good. If you're into karaoke though, there seems to be plenty of that going on... cheap entertainment for Carnival I guess. What about the ports of call you ask??... Nassau is okay if you've never been there - but you have to be back on board at 2:30 -- you arrive at 7 and nothing opens until 9 or 10, so you don't have much time. We booked an independent charter through Flying Cloud on a 52' catamaran to snorkel on Rose Island. It was awesome - not at all overcrowded and we actually sailed. Most trips of this sort put 100 or more people on the boat the use the motors to get to the spot. Not ours, we had a comfortable number of about 30 on board and we truly sailed -- it was great! Our snorkel spot on Victoria's Reef off of Rose Island was very nice -- live coral and lots of fish. The rum punch was yummy too. A quick word about getting off the Fascination -- it is utterly unorganized and ridiculous! There is only one line to get 3000 people off the ship. It's stupid! If you have to be somewhere, you'd better get in line early... and if you're claustrophobic, you'd better take some Valium! Key West is just fun - its the highlight of the trip if the weather is good. Unfortunately it rained on our day there (Thanksgiving Day). We enjoyed poking around the shops for the day. We were supposed to enjoy a sunset cruise on a schooner with Danger Charters. I pre-booked online. But the weather was not conducive, so I asked for a refund. I expected a hassle but got none -- even though they were still going out, they cheerfully said no problem and gave us a full refund. We will definitely go back and do the trip with them! All in all this cruise is what it is... a quick budget getaway. The lines are long, the food is mediocre, the entertainment is sparse and the staff is disinterested. But you are not at work, you don't have to cook or clean and someone is always more than willing to poor you a drink! Read Less
Sail Date November 2010

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