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157 Bahamas Holiday Cruise Reviews

Embarkation Day Due to my school schedule, we were unable to fly into Miami the day before the cruise. Flying day-of is stressful, and for good reason. About 3 PM on the day before the cruise, we were contacted by Delta to tell us ... Read More
Embarkation Day Due to my school schedule, we were unable to fly into Miami the day before the cruise. Flying day-of is stressful, and for good reason. About 3 PM on the day before the cruise, we were contacted by Delta to tell us one of our flights had been cancelled (ATL to MIA leg). Instead of routing through Atlanta and arriving at 10:27 AM, we were rebooked to route through Detroit and arrive at 11:27 AM. No big deal there, except we were "confirmed" on the new flights without seat assignments. With an early morning coming anyway (2:30 AM wake up call), this did not help sleep come easily. However, props to Delta ... we had seats assigned at the gate on both of our (completely full) flights and everything ran on time. We flew with checked luggage (free with Delta credit card), and once that was collected, we grabbed a cab from the taxi queue outside of the MIA baggage claim and headed to the ship for a $24 flat rate charge. Upon arrival at a little after noon, we found a porter to tag my parents' bags they had taken advantage of a price drop to upgrade the week before the cruise. After that, we proceeded through security (you need to show your passport/ID and SetSail Pass to get in the building, then go through a metal detector once up the escalator). In the past, I have found this security to be a bit lax, but they actually made me take my belt off on this trip ... interesting. Anyway, we were quickly through, to the C&A priority line, and immediately shown to an agent. I had had my fingers crossed for an upgrade as the sailing seemed to be having trouble filling up, but alas, I was kept in my 3rd deck interior cabin while my parents had their 9th deck superior ocean view. By 12:20 we were checked-in, onboard, and heading to the Windjammer for a much needed embarkation day lunch. The Ship As with many mass-market lines, the short Bahamas cruises are relegated to the oldest ships in the fleet, and the Majesty is no different. I had first sailed the Majesty after her major refurbishment a few years ago, and no startling changes have been made since then. She offers quite a bit for an older ship, with many large lounges, bars, and showrooms. The Schooner Bar, for example, is much larger than on newer ships. This offers more space, of coure, but also cuts into the coziness of the surroundings ... a trade off. The dining rooms, on the other hand, cover two decks and are wholly contained on each deck. Unlike other ships where the dining area shares a large open space between decks, the dining rooms on the Majesty feel a bit cramped with lower ceilings ... it's not hugely detrimental to the dining experience, but it was something I felt/noticed on the first few days. In contrast to the main dining rooms, the Windjammer has a great, open feel. Like newer ships, the WJ has been organized into food sections instead of one long buffet line. This works when the WJ is not overly busy, but when it is overflowing, people start approaching from all angles and get clustered up. This happened duing the one night we ate in the WJ and it was a mess. Seating can also be an issue, especially if the managers are reluctant to open the back area of the dining room. The top floor of the WJ is reserved for Sorrento's pizzaria, the Compass Deli, and Johnny Rockets. Sorrento's was typically open from noon-5AM (I believe), the Deli from 11:30-6:30, and Johnny Rockets with varying hours in the afternoon and evening. There are some sports offerings on the Majesty, incluing a half-basketball court and a rock wall. The deck 7 promenade goes around the entire ship for walking/jogging, though passengers are asked not to jog on that deck between 10PM and 10 AM as it is directly over passenger cabins. There is also a fitness center on deck 9, though it is fairly tiny and, due to the low ceilings, does not offer eliptical machines. There are two pools on deck 11. While the Majesty shows her age, the number of venues and the constant upkeep by the crew make her feel like a younger ship. The biggest sources of passenger consternation I noticed seemed to be the elevators and deck 6. As for the elevators, there is only one main set in the middle of the ship, with three elevators on each side of a large lobby that have seperate call buttons. These elevators fill quickly, especially when people are going to/returning from port as they exit in the embarkation/debarkation area. The centrum elevators are less seldom used, but they only run from between decks 3 and 7. The aft elevators are my personal favorite and pretty much what I exclusively used, even when I was at the bow of the ship. They run from deck 5 up to deck 14 (Viking Crown) and are mostly forgotten besides showtime as they are across the ship from the WJ. As for deck 6, it is a tween deck that only occurs on the front of the ship. In the back of the ship, the decks skip from 5 to 7, leading to confusion for some. Ports Nassau I'll be frank here ... Nassau is not one of my favorite ports. The two big attractions are Atlantis and the straw market. Other than those things, at least in my experience, there is not a lot to distinguish this port. On our first stop (3-day, Sunday), we did not really do much besides get off the ship to look at the Oasis of the Seas and visit the shops at the pier. The shops are definitely lacking, stores have limited hours on Sunday, and with 4 ships (inlcuding Oasis) docked, lines to re-enter the pier area were long as there were a lot of people digging for their ship cards and photo IDs. This stop was a day stop with Majesty pulling out around 5 PM. On our second stop in Nassau (Wednesday), we took the trip to Atlantis. This can be reached by water taxi ($3/pp) or regular taxi ($4/pp in a shared-ride van), though there is evidently quite a walk from the water taxi to the hotel itself. As Majesty had a late night departure (midnight), we visited after 5 PM because we heard there were more things available to see for free in the hotel after that time. We ended up looking at the aquarium, wandering around a bit, and making a small donation in the casino. There were plenty of vans waiting to return us to the ship, but outside of Atlantis, the area seemed pretty shut down in the evening, even with two ships remaining in port. Even Senor Frogs near the pier seemed to close early. Key West (4-day only, Tuesday) The Majesty docks at the Westin pier, which is right near Mallory Square and Duval Street in Key West. This is much better than the Navy pier that Carnival uses which requires a tram to take passengers through the base. Many of the attractions in Key West are very walkable, so I would not recommend ship-sponsored excursions unless you want to do something out of the ordinary. Popular attractions such as the Conch Train, Sloppy Joe's Bar, etc, are within a few blocks of the ship. There is also a CVS pharmacy a few blocks away in case you forgot any supplies or want to buy a few cheaper Cokes ... things like sunblock are definitely cheaper here than in the Majesty's general store. Coco Cay Coco Cay is the cruiseline's "private island" and requires tendering, which is a process by which passengers are shuttled over to the island on small boats or ferries. The water was a bit rought on our first stop (Saturday), but much smoother on our second (Thursday). Once ashore, it is essentially a beach day, though there is a small straw market (cash only). There are also bars on various parts of the island, as well as sports areas, buffet facilities, and a nature trail. There is ongoing construction on the island, and it seems clear that RCCL is definitely trying to improve the area with quite a few changes since my last visit. The general rule for Coco Cay is that the further away you get from the pier, the less crowded the beachers and hammocks are. Traveling to the far tip of the island offers much fewer people (and sometimes seclusion) though of course you are also away from food and beverage servers (if that's a worry). We took the nature trail which is a nice, cleared area that goes to the tip of the island. It takes about an hour to travel the trail (as is warned on the sign), and while the trail has been cleared, there is some stepping and uneven ground. There are also numerous exits from the trail towards the beach. Once you've reached the end, you can return back through the trail, along the beach (if the tide is out), or via a road which is much faster and smoother than the trail. They seem to be creating a shuttle system, but I never saw it running. The tender process is definitely less convenient than walking off of the ship, but isn't horrible. Tendering starts at about 8:30 (I think) and seems to get really crowded at around 10-12 which is when the majority of people seem to have gotten up, gotten breakfast, and gotten ready to head to ashore. There can be waits, especially in between tenders and while the tender is loading. The voyage itself isn't long at all (maybe 5-10 minutes) but is definitely rougher than on the Majesty, so if you are at all prone to seasickness, you are much more likely to feel it on a tender. Food I would rate the food on Majesty to be a bit above average. Admittedly, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to cruise food, but I felt that there wasn't too much that was absolutely outstanding, but neither was there too much I ate that was completely awful. We ate breakfast every morning in the dining room (in the Diamond section) which was OK ... probably the weakest meal of the day in the MDR. I found the pancakes uninspiring and opted for french toast on most mornings. One morning there was also Chocolate breakfast, complete with chocolate waffles, pancakes, parfaits, and even a chocolate milkshake. The pancakes and waffles were not that great, though the milkshake was pretty tasty and definitely indulgent. Cooked-to-order eggs seemed to come consistently well after the rest of the food, even if the items were asked to be delivered together. At new addition, at least for me, was a self-serve cereal bar with various varieties. Cappucinos and other specialty coffees tended to either take most of the meal to arrive or never arrived at all (saying the machine was broken). I did not find service in the diamond portion of breakfast to be up to par with other ships, but part of this may have been that there were different waiters in charge of the section every day as opposed to other experiences I've had where the same team worked those tables every day and learned preferences pretty quickly. Lunch was offered in a variety of venues. One lunch per cruise was in the main dining room. On the 3-day, the MDR is when the ship is at Coco Cay. On the 4-day, it is the day of an early-afternoon arrival to Nassau. Lunch in the MDR is open seating in that unless you request a private table for your party, you will be seated with others at a large table. There is a set menu as well as a great salad bar where you can go up have a salad made, tossed, and chopped to order (with toppings like proscuitto, fresh mozzerella, etc). Besides the MDR for lunch, other options include the WJ buffet (except for Coco Cay day on 3-day) which I found just OK. We actually ate most of our lunches at the Compass Deli on deck 12 which offers a ceasar salad bar, sandwiches, pressed-to-order paninis, and made-to-order crepes. I generaly stuck with a cuban or cheese panini with a sweet crepe (five minute wait) for dessert. My mom enjoyed the savory mushroom crepe. Many people never seemed to discover the Compass Deli, though at a few points between 11-noon, it is the only food venue open, so it seemed very crowded at those times. Other options for lunch were Sorrento's pizzaria (not the greatest pizza, but kind of OK), the BBQ buffet on Coco Cay (never tried it), and Johnny Rocket's ($4.95 cover charge + upcharges for sodas and milkshakes). We mostly ate dinner in the main dining room and had a few repeated menus on the B2B. I thought that appetizers were generally very good, though of course the shimp in the cocktail were tiny. Entrees were decent, though some of the beef dishes were just not make with good cuts. I ordered a NY strip that was served thin and gray. After that, I tended to stick with pasta or poultry and was generally happier. Desserts, I thought, were much improved over past cruises with almost no "gel" desserts where creams are replaced with a wobbly, weirdly textured gelatin (though these were still in abundance in the buffet area). Dinner in the MDR was fairly quick in on the first leg with our wonderful waiter Godfrey, taking about 1.5 hours. The second leg was a different story, however, with dinners extending up to 2 hours and actually cutting into showtimes. The one dinner we ate in the WJ was during the late night in Nassau on the 4-night cruise. We arrived at about 7 PM and the WJ was overwhelmed. Only the front portion was open, there were people swarming every station from every direction, and not nearly enough free tables. The WJ manager would keep moving the ropes blocking the back portion of the dining room back one table at a time to accomodate more people, but it seemed obvious they were not prepared for dinner that night. FYI ... Dress in the main dining room was unsurpisingly casual, though there seemed to be more of an effort to dress up on formal nights. About the only dress code enforcement I saw (and experienced on debarkation breakfast of all times) was the denial of hats. Cabins This is the one area where you really know ... well ... that you are on a Sovereign class ship. I had a standard interior cabin for both cruises, and make no mistake about it, those puppies are tiny. The cabin itself consisted of a queen bed (two twins pushed together) in the back corner under a TV suspended from the wall. With the beds together, there was perhaps a two foot gap between the edge of the bed and the wall. There is a chair with a desk/vanity (mostly taken up by snack bar items ... which can be moved ... and the ice bucket. The closet has a few sections and a safe. The bathroom is tiny with a stool, sink, and shower with curtain. One of my cabins had a long shower curtain and the other had a short one that did not effectively block the water which was annoying. Though tiny, it was perfectly comfortable for just me. Shared with another, it could be a bit cramped. With 3-4 people ... I have no idea how that works. On the first leg of the B2B, my parents had a superior oceanview on deck 9 and the difference in rooms was astounding. Besides the large window, there was much more room around the bed as well as a half-sofa with a coffee table. The drawer space in this room was doubled from the interior, and the bathroom was also larger and much less cramped. I'm not saying these cabins are huge by any means, but compared to the interiors, they are expansive. Crew Every crew member I interacted with seemed friendly and helpful. There definitely seems to be a satisfied quality to the crew on this ship, and they seem to have a good bit of comraderie. Both of my cabin stewards were fine. As noted above with food, Godfrey was an outstanding waiter. Zelpha and Suzzianne (sp?) in the Viking Crown Lounge were always outgoing during the nightly Diamond event. The biggest area of complaint I have is about the guest relations desk. I don't know if it was just staffed with slow workers or there were mostly new cruisers with lots of questions, but there always seemed to be a long line at the desk on both cruises. At one point in the evening after early dinner, all of the switchbacks were completely filled and there was only one person working the desk. On debarkation day, there would be lines of 30-40 people waiting to settle bills or address problems and there would only be 2 people behind the counter, and some people were quite upset, mentioning they had been in line for over an hour. Again, I don't know if this is par for the course nor not, but I had a complaint with guest relations the last time I was on Majesty and things seem not to improved over the years (though I will say the crew members were exceedingly nice once you finally reached them). Entertainment We only attended the Welcome Aboard show the first night of the first cruise and it was OK. As the other shows seemed to be clones of ones we had seen on other ships (Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, etc), we did not see any production shows. I personnally didn't care for any of the comedians. I spent a little time listening to music in the Schooner Bar in the evening which was decent, though some of the songs really needed an electric acoustic guitar instead of a straight electric. The lounge singer, generally placed in the Centrum, was almost laughably bad as she seemed to only have a phonetic understanding of the songs she was singing (my dad swears it is the same woman on every cruise we've been on). As for daily activities, these seemed more sparse than I remember in the past. There were a few trivias, but other activities such as scapbooking have switched into pay events. There was actually a progressive trivia, but it was held during the Diamond event each night. rown and Anchor I'm always interested to look at the current state of the loyalty program. I haven't cruised since March, and the coupon books are definitely a step up from what they were then. Majesty had a Diamond event each night in the Viking Crown was was only lightly attended on the 3-night and decently attended on the 4-night. I don't necesarrily think that room is quite make for socialization and most seemed to keep to their own groups. We recived chocolate-covered strawberries in our cabin for both cruises as well as robes. On the 3-day, the welcome back party was held in between dinner seatings. On the 4-day, it was held in the morning before arrival in Nassau. The LA seemed pleasant and of course spent the time talking up the RCCL credit card and the Allure. B2B The B2B process was fairly simple (at least in theory). On our last evening of the 3-night cruise, we received evelopes in our stateroom with our new keys (unfortunately they messed this up and gave us the wrong keys) along with directions for the next morning. Since we were moving cabins, we packed, then put the luggage tags for the next cruise on our bags. These were left in the cabin on debarkation morning and then moved to the new cabin by the room steward. We ate breakfast in the main dining room, then since we had no plans for getting off the ship, were directed to the library on deck 4 by 9:30 AM. We waiter there with the other B2Bers until a little after 10 when the ship was finally cleared. A crew member came by and checked us off of his list. We were then lined up, taken off the ship to a customs agent waiting to take our declaration forms. We were then led back on the ship (with officers welcoming us back), had security photos take with our new cards, and then were let go to do as we wished. We headed to the pool deck and read/talked until passengers started boarding at 11:30. When we made it to our cabins at 1 PM, we were given a nice letter thanking us for staying along with a fruit basket and a bottle of champagne. Conclusions While the Majesty shows her age, she is more than adequate for a week's worth of relaxation and entertainment. Besides the tiny cabins, you would be hard pressed to be bored on the ship unless you can only be satisfied with Voyager or Oasis-class offerings. The best part of the smaller ship is the crew who all seem to know each other, and their seeming happiness makes it a happier ship. There's definitely more new cruisers and hard-drinkers on these short cruises, espeically the 3-nighter, but I didn't notice an above-average level of obnoxious behavior. People seemed to be having fun (at least until it came time to settle the bill). For a reasonable price (and sometimes dirt cheap), you get quite a lot, meet new people, and can spend a few days doing only what you want to. Sounds good to me.  Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Reviewer This was a family cruise. DH and I have cruised six times, four of them on Carnival. Our kids are 4 and 7. This was their third cruise, all on Carnival. We live NW of Baltimore and drove to the port of Charleston. ... Read More
Reviewer This was a family cruise. DH and I have cruised six times, four of them on Carnival. Our kids are 4 and 7. This was their third cruise, all on Carnival. We live NW of Baltimore and drove to the port of Charleston. Photos http://picasaweb.google.com/cyntil8ing/ThanksgivingCruise2010# Pre-cruise We hit the road as soon as my daughter got off the school bus Friday afternoon. We headed west hoping to avoid DC rush hour, but a mishap with our GPS had us heading right back into the thick of it. It was after 7:00pm before we got around DC. After that, we made great time down I-95. We stopped for the night in Florence, SC about 2:00am. We slept until 8:00, ate breakfast at the hotel and continued on without delay. We stopped at a grocery store for last minute items and arrived at the Port of Charleston just before noon. Embarkation The line to check documentation (boarding pass and passports) was fairly long, but since we were in the comfort of our car, we just popped in a Jimmy Buffet CD and made the best of it. It probably took about 20 minutes. Next, there was a less than five minute wait to pay for parking ($15/day) and then another five minutes to drop off the luggage. We parked our car, caught a shuttle bus across the street and got in line to go through security. Again, it was only a few minutes. We waited about 10 minutes to get our sign and sail cards and were onboard by 1:00. Cabins were not available until 1:30 so we were taken up to Lido for lunch. Cabins This was our first inside cabin. We've always been balcony snobs. We originally booked an inside guarantee because the price was too good to pass up. Then, about three weeks before the cruise, the prices dropped even more and we chose a 4C. We were in U196, which was port side aft on the Upper deck. We liked the location, except for early in the mornings when we were docking. The thrusters were loud and vibrated the room enough to wake up me and dh. The kids slept right through. Our cabin steward was very efficient and kept our room nicely. Our shower head broke one morning and it was replaced by the time we returned to our cabin that afternoon. Main Dining Room We were waitlisted for anytime dining, but ended up assigned to late dining. This has always been our normal choice anyway as we rarely eat before 7:45 at home. The kids enjoyed the dining room and my seven year old occasionally tried some new things from the adult menu. My four year old stuck to the kids menu. Many nights, they ate plain pasta. We were seated at a table for 10 and had hoped to meet some new people, but we were alone at the table every night. Our server told us another family with two kids about the same ages was assigned there, but I guess they always ate at the buffet. We were disappointed. When we boarded, we checked the table size and had it been a four top, we were going to ask if we could move to anytime dining so we could eat with our roll call friends. But since it was a large table, we decided to wait and meet our dining companions first. Our wait staff, Amira, Jean Paul, and Alexis were fantastic. They were the best we have ever had. I'm not sure if this is fleet-wide, though I suspect it is. About two months ago, they told us they switched to three person teams so that there would always be one person with the guests. We found our needs anticipated and when my daughter accidentally knocked over a glass of water, they were cleaning it up before she even reached the glass. The food was good. I am doing Weight Watchers, so I ordered from the Spa menu every night. I enjoyed most everything. DH had his warm chocolate melting cake every night and has started our seven year old along the path to the same addiction. We ate breakfast there twice, but we weren't normally ready to go to breakfast before they stopped serving. We ate there for lunch all three sea days. I really enjoy dining room lunch. It's relaxed and the food is interesting. I am not a buffet fan. Buffet Nothing remarkably good or bad here. We ate breakfast here most mornings. The kids had cereal and I had fruit and yogurt. DH tried many things. For lunch, we tried the pizza and the deli and were pleased. I waited for the Mongolian Wok twice and thought it worth the long wait. Other food DD and I enjoyed tea time all three times it was offered. It was very crowded at the beginning, but within 10 minutes, there were always empty tables. It was held in the piano lounge. The salmon sandwiches were very good. The sushi bar was open most nights and it was ok. We're sushi fans and this was nothing to rave over. Entertainment We went to both the production shows and enjoyed them. We went to Punchliners family shows for all four comedians. We liked one and the other three were just ok. We always went to the 7:30 show, which fit well with our 8:15 dinner. We arrived 20 minutes early to get seats up front. The one time we got there about 5 minutes before the show started, I had to hold ds on my lap and dh stood in the back of the room. We dropped the kids at Camp Carnival babysitting and went to the disco one night. We were the only ones in there for nearly half an hour. It was after midnight before the place picked up. We left to get the kids at 1:00. The seven year old really enjoyed Camp Carnival. She went at least some every day except the Key West day. Every evening that there was dancing at the disco, she was there. My four year old only went twice for about an hour. He isn't as social as his sister and preferred to hang out with us. We did the family activities, even winning a ship on a stick in the scavenger hunt. Ports Nassau. We walked around the port area. DH bought a pair of cigars and sampled the local beer (Sands). Freeport. We took a taxi over to Our Lucaya ($5 each, even though DS sat on my lap). We walked along the beach for a bit then wandered through the shopping area. It rained for about an hour. Key West. Another walking around day. Since we were in port for so long (8:00am to midnight) we spent the morning at the deserted pool and water works onboard. Around 2:00pm, we went ashore and had lunch. We walked to the southernmost point and watched the sunset, then went to the Key West Toy Factory store. Debarkation We were in no rush, so we used general debarkation. We got number 15. It was about 9:45 when our number was called. It took quite a while to get our luggage, get through immigration, on the shuttle and back to our car. It was 11:00 before we got on the road home. Here's a hint -- choose the immigration line to the right. There are six immigration stations and two lines. However, the left line shares the stations with the special assist line so the wait is much longer. Also, the left hand line goes out the side of the terminal building and all the way around to the front where the shuttles are. The right side goes out the front of the terminal building. I'm sure we lost a good 30 minutes by choosing the left hand line. Overall This was my favorite cruise. I really liked the atmosphere. It was a holiday and everyone was in a good mood. Fellow passengers were pleasant and polite. Our last cruise was on the Valor, and the ship was just too big and busy for me. I liked the smaller Fantasy much better. I would do this cruise again, even with the unexciting itinerary and the long, long drive to the port. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We were on the Gem the week of Thanksgiving and I will most likely never sail on a holiday week again. Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 12:30 pm and we were on the ship by 1:30. After we received our key cards, we ... Read More
We were on the Gem the week of Thanksgiving and I will most likely never sail on a holiday week again. Embarkation We arrived at the terminal around 12:30 pm and we were on the ship by 1:30. After we received our key cards, we were able to board the ship. Port of Calls We stopped at Port Canaveral, Great stirrup Cay and Nassau. Great Stirrup cay tender ticket process was pure chaos. Tickets were to be distributed at 10 am at one of the bar lounges. People were waiting for tickets at 9am. The line stretched onto the staircases at which point you could not tell where the line ended. We were on the first tender (which holds 450 people)and people were pushing and shoving to board waiting to board the tender. The island was well-kept despite construction. The barbecue food was standard fare with long lines. I would advise wearing beach shoes because the lagoon has lots of sizable rocks. Food: The waits for the main dining rooms was ridiculous on certain day. I will assume it was because it was Thanksgiving week.The wait to be seated was 45 minutes and longer. After a hour, we decided to eat at the buffet. I thought breakfast was pretty good and the crepe station at the Great outdoors. Whatever was on the menu for lunch at the buffet was on the menu for dinner with a few changes here and there. Overall, I would never sail on a holiday week leaving from NYC. I will stick to the one-night cruises from NY. I would sail on NCL again. However, only for 3-4 night sailings. Kudos to the housekeeping staff on the Gem. I was very pleased with my room stewards as they went above and beyond. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
My wife, 4 year old son, and I took a Thanksgiving cruise in November, 2008 on the Sky and had a wonderful experience. So we decided to repeat the experience in November 2010. It was good, but not as good. Allow me to itemize. Checkin: ... Read More
My wife, 4 year old son, and I took a Thanksgiving cruise in November, 2008 on the Sky and had a wonderful experience. So we decided to repeat the experience in November 2010. It was good, but not as good. Allow me to itemize. Checkin: Very smooth. Attendant was very helpful funneling us into the quickest line. No longer than 30 minutes from parking garage to onboard. Food: No complaints. Service: Dining Room: The first night, Lobster night, we had Thomas. He was excellent, so much so that we bragged about him to the asst. maitre'd. Big mistake. After that, his service went from 10 to 1. The assistant waiter brought a bowl of lobster tails to the table next to us for seconds, and did not even acknowledge us. After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally able to get her attention to request another lobster, and she acted like how dare you disrupt my system. Poor service. They brought me a dry lobster tail with no butter. The next night we dined in the forward dining room and had Pasek. Totally different experience. If we had had Pasek the first night, I would have no complaints regarding restaurant service. Other dining venues: Overall, very good. However, I found that if you asked a bar runner for a soft drink and showed him my drink card, he became very uninterested in serving. As a matter of fact, I ordered one Pepsi from a bar runner in Il Adagio at lunch and still have not received it. I guess they figure no tip, so why bother, but they got their tip when I bought the drink card. Bartenders were sure to explain that they made the drinks "extra strong, just for you". Not really. Cabin Steward: very good. After the first night, he did not make up the sofa bed for my son. We got him to do it again on the fourth night. Also, had a hard time getting him to return to the cabin to bring a change of sheets (toddler accident). But overall, he was very good. Kids program: OK, two years ago, when my son was 4, he could not wait to get to the boys and girls programs. I mean like he would sprint down the hall and be the first in line when they opened. I mean like 10 minutes early so he wouldn't miss any of it. This is the main reason we chose to take this cruise again. But now he is 6, and in the older group. I watched as an older kid prodded him as they were sitting around in a circle, and the leader said nothing, even did not appear to notice. There were more than 30 kids in that 6-9 yr old kids' area room and only one leader was apparent. Poor supervision. They simply did not have enough staff to accommodate 700 kids on this cruise. And I think they should have had some idea of how many kids were to be on this cruise. On a positive note, with the staff being composed of primarily Canadian workers, there were no accent issues to deal with, like we had on the Carnival Inspiration (heavily European). Entertainment: Trivia, game shows, entertainment, and quest were excellent and well run. Matt and Felix did an excellent job. Pools: COLD Casino: Only had 1 $5 blackjack table open the night I was there. $25 tables sat unused with attendants smiling at guests. Specialty restaurants: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants, but we did sign up for the murder mystery dinner ($20 each) at Il Adagio. However, the meal was held in the rear dining room at 5:30 to 7:00. This was Ok, except when the dining room opened up to everyone, the noise made it difficult to hear at our table. This could have been held at the specialty restaurant. However, that is really my only complaint. The food was good and the murder mystery was fun (I didit). Shore excursions: Nassau: we took a buggy ride tour. Interesting. Ate at a Bahamian restaurant. Not bad. I bought a "Cuban" cigar. Horrible. I would not recommend anyone buy a "Cuban" cigar from the Bahamas. The one I bought last year in Grand Caymans was great. This one, and the one I bought two years ago in Nassau, were HORRIBLE. Did Atlantis two years ago, not worth it again. However, Avoid Johnny Rockets on Paradise Island. Very expensive. Freeport: Pat and Dianne's snorkeling cruise. Boat was the Fantasia. Two snorkel ladders on the back, waterslide into the ocean on the front. Great, with very attentive and friendly crew. Would love to do them again. Great Stirrup Cay: A lot of fun. Snorkeling was awesome, food was great. Note to NCL, do your pizza that way ON the ship too. Overview: Enjoyable but not superior. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Not a 1st time cruise, but as we'd only cruised the Maldive Atolls before, it was 1st time on a ship this scale/size.This cruise was picked due to embarkation port & duration. We flew UK to Newark the day before we were due to ... Read More
Not a 1st time cruise, but as we'd only cruised the Maldive Atolls before, it was 1st time on a ship this scale/size.This cruise was picked due to embarkation port & duration. We flew UK to Newark the day before we were due to sail (unfortunately storms in NYC prevented us landing in the city till 4+ hours later than scheduled so couldn't do planned sight seeing that day). Sunday had a few hours of sight seeing then headed to pier. Dumped cases at port and joined the queues to collected key card etc. All very organised & straightforward process. Boarded ship & found it a bit chaotic as many people (like ourselves) seemed to congregate in the same area on board. After a drink ventured around to try to get our bearings. Had 1st meal in the Garden Cafe. Buffet style and lovely. Fail to see how anyone couldn't find something to suit as the choice was so vast. Then went to see stateroom. We weren't disappointed as we'd expected it to be tiny and although very compact - we did have enough storage space for everything. Not sure I'd have been too keen to have a room without a balcony right enough.Sailing out of New York was enjoyable. Great seeing the Manhatton skyline, Statue of Liberty etc.Then got unpacked and explored a bit more. After dinner it was off to bed for us as the 26+ hours spent up the previous day, caught up on us!1st full day sailing was cold & windy but from the Tues onwards - weather was great. Right up till the last day (which was an unexpected pleasure as we'd expected another cold day at the end)!At Florida we did the Cocoa Beach trip. Bit of a disappointment to be honest - it was just a beach same as any other! Not sure what I expected.Great Stirrup Cay was gorgeous. Didn't know to take cash tho so couldn't make any purchases from the Straw Market. Fortunately all the drinks are chargeable to your room and they have a buffet on the island to cater for lunch I'd recommend getting there early to get a sunbed etc.Nassau was fun - well for me anyway cos I like shopping - not sure my husband would agree! ;-) Spent a few hours doing that then back to the ship.Food in general was really good. No need, in my opinion to eat anywhere that charges as the food was good enough elsewhere. However, we did eat at Le Bistro as part of the anniversary package and I can't fault it - the food was excellent. Best steak we'd had! Loved it.Didn't do all the shows or activities as our aim was to have a laid back relaxing time. But from what we did see, recommend the comedian (Rod Long, I think was the name), JP the magician/comedian and Le Cirque Bijou.As we'd left the kids behind we were concerned that we'd be overrun by them - but this wasn't the case. We didn't lie around the pool deck & yes they were in the restaurants etc. but can't say we were bothered by them.Disembarkation was an easy process too. Would recommend, if you're able, doing the walk off with your cases. We didn't do this but probably could have. That said we were still of quicker than anticipated.All in all we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise. Can't compare to any of the other cruise lines but would definitely consider NCL for future cruises. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We really enjoyed sailing the Ruby Princess, but not for the reasons we thought we would. It had been about a year since we last sailed on Princess Cruises, our last sailing on favorite ship Caribbean Princess. Since then we had sailed ... Read More
We really enjoyed sailing the Ruby Princess, but not for the reasons we thought we would. It had been about a year since we last sailed on Princess Cruises, our last sailing on favorite ship Caribbean Princess. Since then we had sailed on several other cruise lines, some not as great, some about as great and one greatly less than wonderful. We are on a health management program that required we follow certain guidelines and hoped we would be able to on the ship. What we found were plenty of good, healthy options aboard Ruby Princess that worked well with our program. What we did not count on was a deadly combination of two factors that drove us off our plan: Fabulous food and an equally fabulous, helpful crew. We just were not counting on either being as good as they are. As a result we went far off our plan, have no regrets and nothing but nice things to say about both. This ship truly blew us away in most all areas so let's get right into it Embarkation A breeze. We entered Pier 2 at Port Everglades about 11:00 and were on the ship by 11:30, in our aft balcony stateroom by 11:40. Very nice. Food As mentioned, fabulous. What made it difficult to stay strictly on our plan was Maitre d' Jose who just could not do enough for us. From a personal phone call upon embarkation, to his personal commitment throughout the cruise, this was a first for us. It seems more the norm for Maitre d's and other dining room management people to stop by tables occasionally during a cruise. This man was really into being sure we had a good time and did what it took to see that happened. The ship Beautiful. As this was a holiday cruise the ship was decorated quite tastefully and was spotlessly clean throughout the voyage. The familiar basic layout of the ship mirrored other Princess ships so we felt at home and enjoyed the new features added, especially the International Cafe offering a nice variety of light meals and snacks throughout the day plus some fabulous coffee selections. The crew Again, fabulous. From our cabin steward to electricians and maintenance people met in random encounters walking the halls, everyone seemed so happy to be there doing what they do. It was really refreshing to see. Not that other lines do not have happy people on board there working, they do, the crew on this ship just seemed so over the top happy to be there that it was a real pleasure to see. Itinerary This was the perfect ship to miss a port when we could not stop at Princess Cays for safety concerns about the tender operation in high seas. It was a great day to spend in our stateroom for the most part even though a revised and updated activity schedule was promptly distributed and featured plenty for everyone to do on the ship that day. Disembarkation We needed to get off the ship early for our drive back to Orlando and got just that, off the ship and on the road before 8am. Very nice. I like that they keep it simple and their "silent disembarkation" without a bunch of annoying announcements was pure heaven. Some highlights: Internet Access in-cabin- Decent. We had an aft balcony cabin, all the way at the back of the ship, probably about as far away from the Internet Cafe as possible and got a signal. A low signal but it worked. Others I talked to, closer to the center of the ship, had signals much better. I chose to go sit at the International Cafe, within view of the Internet Cafe on deck five, to connect. Very good signal there Motion in the Ocean- We sailed away under rough sea conditions and a rain storm. I can not remember sailing on rougher seas since a transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 but this ship handled it well. Our aft balcony stateroom on the Baa deck was rocking and rolling all night long that first night. Lisa always takes Bonine for this purpose, forgot to take it until we were well under way and had no problems but I would suggest a more midship location for those who experience motion discomfort...and a note to take precautions before getting on the ship Quality of the food- It is difficult for me to believe that the cuisine on this ship could be rated anything less than remarkable but as I have said many times before, food is such a subjective thing that I suppose it could happen. Our experience as noted earlier: fabulous. For those with food issues, look forward to your sailing on this ship; they really try hard to make it work for you. Dining room issues: None. Best advice: see the Maitre d' once on the ship no matter what. I think this is going to be a new rule for us, just something we do. Knowing the Maitre d' proved to be richly rewarding for our dining experience. These people really do want us to have a good time, we just need to give them the chance to make that happen Clientele- Short cruises on lines that don't do a lot of them often draw the curious. I know we had never sailed Celebrity until the Century offered shorter cruises so we could give them a try. We saw and talked to a lot of people just like that. Nice people who were regular guests on other lines, trying Princess for the first time. It might have been just luck but I did not talk to anyone who was not blown away by the Princess experience. I also talked to a number of repeat Princess guests, all mostly happy to be there. Front desk personnel- Bob from Tulsa had experienced less than wonderful service from the Pursers desk on a different Princess ship and was concerned. Bob, relax, this was one of the best bunches of Pursers desk staffers I have ever seen. I did have some issues with my bill, a double charge that was just a mistake and a charge for something I did not buy. Both were handled quickly and efficiently. I could not have asked for more. Past Guest perks- Sailing on Princess a bunch in the past had earned us Elite past guest status which was fabulous. From complementary laundry, to a priority disembarkation lounge and very accessible Captain Circle host, this program is a real winner, I think the best of the bunch. A couple we talked to while waiting to board who had not sailed the ship before had booked this one and the next two sailings for a total of 22 days on the ship. We happened to see them the last day at breakfast and were happy to see that they really enjoyed the ship. Princess past guests can be a really vocal group and don't hesitate to mention something they don't like. This couple thought there should be more places to sit and "people-watch" but were solidly loyal Princess fans who had tried other lines and said they "always come back to Princess". I can sure see why. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We ... Read More
My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all. Embarkation was rough. We could not get into our cabins immediately and had to take our carry on luggage with us to lunch. The service for lunch in the Grand Pacific was extraordinarily slow and I did not get all of the food I ordered. The food we got was very good. Our key cards worked fine as key cards, but not for the onboard account and when we went to the desk to get them fixed, both my husband and I were chastised about putting them near magnets which neither of us did. The cards didn't work from the moment we got them. The first night was rough. The seas were very rough (which I know no one can control) and many people got sea sick. It took the staff until the next day to put out vomit bags and by then everyone was fine. My husband and I didn't sleep very well that night due to the high waves. The first sea day was nice. We did a wine tasting and a beer tasting. The wine tasting was not very good. The sommelier was knowledgeable, but the location was overflow dining for the Garden Cafe so we had a hard time hearing about the wines over the crowd. The beer tasting was a lot of fun. The bartender was excellent and we all had a good time and they were pretty generous with the beers. We also went to the art auction where we enjoyed a free glass of champagne and saw some great paintings. Most were well over our budget point. We ate in the La Cucina restaurant which was a specialty restaurant with a $10 additional cover. The food was excellent. The second day was spent in the Orlando area. We took the shuttle to Historic Cocoa Village and did some shopping. Unfortunately on Monday a good number of the stores were closed which was unfortunate. We did buy some excellent Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from a shop called From Grapes and Olives. We ate dinner in Teppanyaki back on the ship which was another speciality restaurant and probably one of the best ones on the ship. There was $25 cover charge per person, but it was a good show and good food. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. We ate this night at Le Bistro where we both had the duck which was excellent. This really was an excellent place to eat and I would go there again. Then we did go to Nassau where we participated in the stingray adventure which was pretty neat. The island we went to for the stingray show was quiet and sunny and we had a lovely day. We would have liked to have more time in the Bahamas than in Florida. We ate in another specialty restaurant-Orchid Garden, which was okay. It isn't worth the cover charge and I don't recommend it. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we were told we could not get dinner reservations until after 9 PM. This was not entirely true. We were frustrated by this fact because we were told we could not make a reservation until the day before. My husband went as soon as the reservation desk was open and they were booked. He can be very persuasive and got us a 6:30 reservation at Teppanyaki for Christmas Eve, but we were still going to have to wait until 9:00 for Cagney's on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve Day was a fun day at sea. We had a martini tasting at Shaker's Bar which was another great time with the head bartender. They are very generous with the alcohol and we really enjoyed ourselves. We also bought a painting at the art auction (no more champagne though) and ate at Teppanyaki again. Christmas Day at sea was not very much fun. There were very few activities scheduled that were of interest to us (as you can tell-tastings and art). They had game shows and Bingo and a toga party-none of which suited our interests. It was too cool to sit outside and read and we were left with nothing to do. We did have brunch at Le Bistro which was again excellent. We took a long nap and prepared for our late dinner at Cagney's. We met some friends for drinks before and we spoke to the manager and got into dinner an hour earlier than our reservation. The food at Cagney's was good-not as good as Le Bistro though. Our friends ordered prime rib and it was tough. I had lamb chops which were also rather tough and a little overcooked, but overall the food was good. Dessert was delicious. Cagney's also has a $25 cover charge per person. Throughout the cruise we also ate at Grand Pacific and the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon for breakfasts and lunches. We never went to the Magenta because it was always insanely crowded. They do have a sign board posted everywhere which indicates how crowded each restaurant is at all times which is helpful. The food at Grand Pacific is good but the service is terrible. It is slow and some servers are truly rude and unpleasant. The food at the Garden Cafe is okay-it is a buffet. Eating after 8 AM will mean a long wait and overcrowding. About halfway through our cruise they started serving people at the buffet which was annoying as we had to wait in long lines to eat. We also typically got up for the early breakfast at 6:30 which they stopped providing without notice. The Blue Lagoon service was good sometimes and awful sometimes and slow always. The food there is okay. Coffee on the ship was consistently good wherever we ate. We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. The guides did a great job and were very entertaining, but they were not shy about asking for their tips! We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We sailed on Dec. 19. The cruise was to celebrate my Mother's 87th birthday. We were so glad when it was over. I've been on many cruises. This was horrible. First let me say the food was ATROCIOUS! It was overcooked, over ... Read More
We sailed on Dec. 19. The cruise was to celebrate my Mother's 87th birthday. We were so glad when it was over. I've been on many cruises. This was horrible. First let me say the food was ATROCIOUS! It was overcooked, over seasoned, over sauced or otherwise tasteless. Even the deserts were bland. I enjoyed one creme brulee. I am not picky but expect well prepared food on a cruise. If anyone from NCL is reading this, please, take a cruise on Princess to see how it's done right. The NCL Garden Cafe buffet is a joke. No trays, one buffet area and not enough seating. My elderly Mom could not manage. There is no place to relax near an adult pool. Only one adult pool! And it's adjacent to the childrens pool with slide. Very noisy. To top it off people were smoking cigarettes and CIGARS in the lounge area next to the children's pool. Who planned this ship!! To top it off I got a horrible stomach bug and then my Mother got it. She was very sick on her birthday! I read on a previous review that people also got the bug on the previous week's cruise. And I know other's on our ship got it. We literally spent most of the week in the cabin. The room stewards and waiters were very sweet and helpful although they and the crew denied anyone was sick! The daily newsletter was difficult to read and there wasn't anything about daily activities on tv except for sales promotions. Not well organized and difficult to get information on this ship. Not even weather on the tv. Psgr services only had it for the next day. I made it to a bingo game and thought the bingo announcer mc, whatever person, was unclear, rude and generally lacking in personality. On the positive, the minisuite was quite nice and spacious. The entertainment seemed good, although we only got to 2 shows. Talented singers and dancers. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS SHIP! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This is our first cruise and considering that it was to depart when the east coast was experiencing some of the heaviest snowfall in many years we were very happy that our departure port was baltimore as it was a couple of hours drive for ... Read More
This is our first cruise and considering that it was to depart when the east coast was experiencing some of the heaviest snowfall in many years we were very happy that our departure port was baltimore as it was a couple of hours drive for us. Getting on the boat was a lengthy process starting from dropping your luggage off(1hr)to getting thru security and giving your credit card information(1 1/2 hr). When we finally made it to the boat we headed straight up to the Lido deck to grab a bite. Im gonna break my review down by category as I think it is easier to write. Decor: OMG, so GAUDY!!! Considering that the reputation of carnival includes kids I did not feel that their decor was appropriate at all. Lets start with the wall paper upon entering the cabins. They were 1/2 naked women with breasts exposed. Mermaid grill had lots of breasts exposed. Davids restaurant had all of David exposed. Just was not impressed with the designers choice of decor and placement. Its not that the materials were even cheap...there was granite, mosaics, slate etc..that could have been placed very tastefully....BUT WASNT!!!The atrium was dark and garish, the dining room although nice and bright was very old fashioned looking. The casino had beat up tables, torn vinyl on the tables,stained chairs, and was congested. Food: On a scale of 1 to 5 I would say that the food was a 2.5. There was a variety of food on the first day but then I felt that the following days(7)it was all the same. I just wasn't so impressed with the quality of food. I didn't feel that it was upper/top quality especially where the steak, shrimp, sushi was concerned. I didn't feel that they had a lot of healthy options for snacks like fresh veges, fruit was there but other options??? I just wasn't impressed. Entertainment: Was not impressed with the shows at all. I didn't feel that there was variety in this area. Bingo was okay. Comedian, mark simmons, was funny and I did enjoy his show. A variety show?? Chrismas show was okay. Love and marriage show--okay. Hairy chest contest--I guess that this is entertainment for some. On the Lido deck 2 calypso singers would sing with a keyboard--this was okay. I felt that there should have been more interactive activities like dance classes, couples shows, more comedians, game shows etc... Kids club: My kids btw the ages of 5 and 8 did enjoy it however I felt that whenever i dropped them off i had to pick them up an hour later due to lunch time or break time etc...they did enjoy the activities. People: Okay we by no means are snobs and enjoy mingling. I would consider us to be a white collar hard working family. We enjoy spending time with our kids and doing activities with them, we like to vacation at least 2 times a year and we enjoy eating out at non-fastfood places.  I was very disappointed in the quality of people. There was not even a handful of people that I spoke to more then hello. Very disappointing. I will never leave out of Baltimore again, NEVER!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This cruise departed from New York City on 12/19/2009 with three scheduled ports (Port Canaveral, Big Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas) before returning to New York on 12/26. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me but our first ... Read More
This cruise departed from New York City on 12/19/2009 with three scheduled ports (Port Canaveral, Big Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas) before returning to New York on 12/26. This was the fourth cruise for my wife and me but our first cruise with NCL. I had read many positive to very positive reviews about the NCL Gem and its crew. Many had said good things about the NCL's "Freestyle Cruising" so we were prepared for a great holiday cruise with our two adult daughters who had never been on a cruise. Having outrun the Blizzard of 2009, we arrived at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal just after 11:00 am on 12/19, easily found the parking area, paid for parking, checked our luggage and quickly made our way through check-in. We made it onboard the Gem about 1:00 pm and did some exploring until our staterooms were available just after 2:00 pm. After we checked out our staterooms (deck 4 forward), we made our way to the Garden Cafe (deck 12) for some lunch. It was very, very crowded and we ended up sitting outside (in the freezing cold) because there was no room in the inside dining area (this was a chronic problem throughout the cruise). By the way, no trays were available to carry your plates and drinks which made things cumbersome. The most favorite things on our cruise were the efficiency of the stateroom stewards (they were very pleasant and asked how things were going every time we saw them), the evening shows, the easy embarkation, the walk-off disembarkation (very quick), the availability of the elevators, the large showers (at least for a cruise ship), numerous storage shelves in the stateroom and the comfortable beds (which were by far the most comfortable we have slept in on any cruise). While much of the food was a disappointment compared to our other cruises, it was far from our biggest disappointment. The biggest disappointments on this cruise were the uninformed crew (particularly at the Guest Services desk and dining servers), the always crowded buffet dining room (Garden Cafe), the long waits for seating in the main dining rooms (Grand Pacific and Magenta) and the unwillingness of the crew to help with most problems. The most common answer we received whenever we asked a crew member a question was, "I don't know," with no willingness to do anything to find out. Let me provide some examples of issues that we had (these are just a few). After dinner on 12/19 in the Grand Pacific at about 7:15 pm, we stopped by the Guest Services desk to ask if there was going to be any religious services on Sunday. The answer was, "I don't know." We asked about Christmas services, (note: my travel agent had told me that NCL had services scheduled at 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve and midnight and 6:00 am on Christmas). The answer from Guest Services was, "I don't know, but you can check in the Freestyle Daily on Christmas Eve." As we are Catholic, we asked if a priest was on board. The answer, "NCL does not provide a priest, if a private family has a priest with them, I am sure they will offer daily services." We learned from the 12/20 Freestyle Daily, which unfortunately had not been delivered to our stateroom on the evening of 12/19, that there was a priest onboard who offered Sunday and daily masses at 8:00 am. A member of the Cruise Director's staff mentioned to those in a lounge, where we were playing a game, to remember to pick up tender boat tickets at the Shore Excursion desk for our second port (Great Stirrup Cay). Before dinner, we stopped by the Shore Excursion desk and asked when tickets for the tender would be available. Their response was, "I don't know. Maybe you should ask at Guest Services." We went to Guest Services, which is about 20 feet away, and asked about the tender tickets. The answer, "I don't know, but you should probably check with the Shore Excursion desk." When we returned to our stateroom after the evening show, we checked the 12/22 Freestyle Daily and, sure enough, it directed us to pick up tickets for the tender at 10 am on 12/22. However, it did not say whether everyone had to pick up their own ticket or whether a single member of a group could pick up tickets for everyone. We didn't even call to ask because we knew the answer we would get. So, all four of us lined up at the Excursion Desk at 9:30 am. (Note: The tender tickets really seemed like a great idea, as it was meant to prevent crowding the disembarkation deck. A great idea which failed because of very poor communication.) With our tickets in hand, we went back to our stateroom and waited to be called. When the first ticket number was called, I opened our door and asked several passengers that were filing past if they had their tender tickets. Surprise, surprise, most did not and had even heard about the necessity of getting tickets. My final examples happened on Christmas Day (last day of the cruise). These examples demonstrate our general frustration with the dining staff throughout the entire cruise. In every previous dinner menu, NCL provided an "Always Available" menu in addition to each specific day's selections. On Christmas Day, the menu was formatted differently and did not show the "Always Available" menu. My daughter didn't care for any of the Entrees and asked if she could have a steak (which had been shown on the "Always Available" menu). The server looked at her as if she did not understand the question. My daughter repeated her request. The server just pointed to the menu and asked which entrEe she wanted. No offer to find out if the steak was available. Under the Desserts, Ice Cream was one of the choices, but on Christmas Day the menu stated that there were "special favors available, just ask". So I asked. The server's answer was, "I don't know." I requested that she please check in the kitchen and let me know. She said okay. As the dishes from the main course were being cleared, we asked the server if she had found out what the special flavors of ice cream were. She said she had not, but would go find out. About 15 minutes later, she returned and told me the special flavors were Frozen Peach Yogurt and Pineapple Sherbet (both of which had been listed separately on the menu above the Ice Cream choice). On my way out of the restaurant, I asked the Maitre D' what the special flavors of ice cream were. Her response, "I don't deal with the menu." To make matters worse, on Tuesday, the Garden Cafe went from self-serve, to crew service only. This unexplained action immensely increased congestion and wait times. We began using the main restaurants and Blue Lagoon for breakfast and lunch in order to get a seat. (The rumor was that there were numerous, severe illnesses onboard during the first two days.) Here is my estimate of the average wait times at the main restaurants after being seated; to get a menu - 5-10 minutes, to place an order after getting a menu - 15 minutes, service time after finishing each course - 10 minutes and very, very slow water refills (my daughter had to hold her glass up above her head for 5 minutes at breakfast one day to get a refill). We only ate in the Grand Pacific, Magenta, Blue Lagoon and Garden Cafe. (I suspect service in the Specialty Restaurants was much better but can not comment.) Overall, our take on Freestyle Cruising means that NCL has disregarded their responsibility to accommodate their guests and has shifted that responsibility to the guests to take care of themselves. On our first day at sea, my wife and I attended the CruiseCritic.com Meet and Greet with the senior crew including the Captain. The Captain even gave us his and others' phone extensions so we could contact them if there was a problem. To quote the Captain, "I don't want you to write a review stating that the trip was the Cruise from Hell without giving us a chance to rectify the problems you are experiencing." I noted the numbers but figured I never have to use them. However, when I did use them, a notice came up on the phone that the extension was either "incorrect" or "out of service." So much for getting help from any of the senior staff. During the Meet and Greet the Captain said that we had 2,970 passengers on board. This significantly exceeded the 2,466 passenger capacity listed on NCL's website. In NCL's frequently asked questions, the maximum passenger capacity is shown as 2,807 with a crew of 1,110. While the extremely high number of passengers may explain much of the overcrowding, delays and wait times, it does not explain the lack of information, the misinformation and general lack of helpfulness that we received from many of the crew throughout the entire cruise. (Not the "Cruise from Hell", but certainly close enough that we won't be returning.) Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Let me begin by saying our family vacation on the Carnival Pride was memorable and wonderful. We choose the Pride mainly because of the location, much more convenient (and cheaper) to drive to the port for our family of five. I've ... Read More
Let me begin by saying our family vacation on the Carnival Pride was memorable and wonderful. We choose the Pride mainly because of the location, much more convenient (and cheaper) to drive to the port for our family of five. I've read other posts where past passengers were somewhat disappointed in various parts of the cruise, such as dining, entertainment, tipping, ports of call, activities, etc. We aren't seasoned cruisers, so we don't have much to compare the experience against, so for us, the cruise worked and we had a family vacation full of positive memories. Our fellow passengers were a true cross-section of the country... practically every age, gender, race, color, creed, nationality, religion, weight category, etc were represented... each bringing their own unique perspective to the entire experience. If you are the type of person that likes to stay in your own comfort zone cocoon (and thinks everybody else should be in that cocoon with you), then you might have some challenges enjoying your experience. However, if you enjoy talking to and getting to know different people, then your perspective and trip might be more enjoyable. Embarkation and Departure - Driving to the Port of Baltimore is so easy... it is literally right off I-95 (from either direction). The only downside to the entire cruise experience was the operations by the port authorities from the time we arrived in the lot to the time we entered the terminal. After spending several extra hours on the road due to the road conditions following the snow storm, we spent almost two more hours in the car waiting in line to offload luggage, then to pay for parking. They only had one credit card terminal to pay for parking and it was a very slow process. I don't believe these operations are tied to Carnival, but they should be improved to get the cruise started off on the right foot. The security and check-in operations inside the terminal were fine. We boarded the ship at around 4:30 and headed straight to our rooms to drop off our carry-on bags. An announcement was made at around 5:00 that the departure time would be moved to around 8:00 to accommodate those passengers delayed due to the winter storm. I wish they would have made this decision sooner, like when we were on the road heading to Baltimore and calling the emergency travel number. There was a message, however, on our home answering machine when we got home telling us the cruse departure time was delayed. Since we got there later in the afternoon, and we were all hungry and frazzled from the long trip (we drove straight to Baltimore with very few stops), we went upstairs to Mermaids for dinner... The food line set-up was a bit confusing, particularly since there were so many people up there at the same time and all of us were trying to figure our way around the operation. Our luggage was waiting for us when we got back to our rooms after dinner. After unpacking, we attended the registration and orientation for Camp Carnival (more about CC later), walked around and got orientated to the ship, visited the arcade with the kids and the casino with wife... Days One and Two - On Monday we had to turn around near the Outer Banks of NC to take a very sick / hurt passenger to Norfolk. The only impact was the casino and shops were closed for a few hours once we entered Hampton Roads. Since it was pretty cold outside there weren't too many people hanging out around the outdoor pools, but there were various other activities planned on the sea days, pretty much something for everyone. We did the art auction (didn't buy anything, but learned a lot), food demonstration in David's, gambled, consumed some adult beverages, Love & Marriage show (hilarious), beanbag toss tournament, just to name a few activities... The dinner during the first day at sea was the first of two formal nights. Sailing was smooth and we didn't seem to have the rough seas that I've read about in other posts. Day Three (Port Canaveral) - Instead of booking a shore excursion through Carnival, we arranged for a car rental and purchased Disney tickets from the military ticket office (all in all, saved us around $300). Had originally booked the rental through Enterprise, but they weren't there to pick us up when we got off the ship and the Hertz guy offered us $20 off whatever rate we had from Enterprise. Dive to Orlando / Disney couldn't be easier... just make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to the ship. Disney was PACKED!! Not much time to take in any rides, but did see the parade and people watch. It was great just to walk around and be with the family. Depending on what you do, this is a long day... You get up early and stay up late with activities once you get back on ship. If had it to do over again, would have probably still rented the car, but gone to Downtown Disney instead (wouldn't have been as crowded and less expensive). Day four (Nassau) - Christmas Eve and temperature was around 82 degrees... Didn't book any shore excursions, figured we could just find something our own once off the ship. Wife and daughters did some shopping in the market and jewelry shops... Had some snacks and adult beverages in Senor Frogs... took a water taxi to Paradise Island and walked to the public beach. If had it to do over again, would take a regular taxi vice the boat (the public beach is a pretty long walk from where the water taxi drops you off) and would have maybe looked at one of the lower cost shore excursions to one of the resorts. We didn't take in any night life in Nassau, too tired from the previous day and all the walking in Nassau (can't say it's because we are getting old, the kids were beat as well). Day five (Freeport) - Christmas Day and upper 70s and a bit windy... We were delayed in off loading, apparently a young teen on board for a "Make a Wish" trip passed away over night... very sad. The captain extended our departure time a few hours to make up for the delay. The ship docks in a pretty industrialized area (there is the obligatory basket market and trinket shops right off the boat). You either have to take a bus on a pre-arranged excursion or get a taxi to the different beaches (there were a large number of passengers waiting for cabs, best advice is to just be patient and not get caught up in the riot... there are plenty of taxis... it just takes a little bit of time). We were able to book a dolphin encounter for our kids to give them for Christmas at the last minute and they loved the experience. Wife and I went to Port Lucaya beach and did some shopping and had some snacks and a few adult beverages at Rum Runners. There was a Christmas show in the Taj Mahal after we get underway... it was very nice and featured the kids from Camp Carnival and a very touching singing of Silent Night that included members of the crew representing their various countries. After we left Freeport the seas were pretty rough... the dinner that night was the second formal night. Unfortunately, there were so many people queasy from the waives they had to get up from the dinner tables. Day six - Similar to days one and two sea days, there are so many different activities planned on board to keep everyone busy. Went to Kirk's disembarkation talk... very informative and it included a nice recognition for the ship's crew. This was actually the only day we ate lunch in Normande and it was pretty good. One of the on board shops had a watch sale, men's and woman's watches for $20 each. I thought the mob scene waiting for taxis in Freeport was bad; this was worse... reminded me of a Black Friday stampede at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. Pushing, shoving, grabbing, hording, all for a $20 watch... Dinner was nice and is a great opportunity for you to thank your waiter and assistant with a nice additional tip... during dinner they all sang a funny farewell song. We chose to check our baggage for the debarkation so we needed to have the bags packed and outside of the room before midnight. Day seven - As mentioned above, we checked our bags so we didn't have too much to carry for the debarkation. However, if you choose this option, be prepared to leave the ship after all the self-debarkation passengers. The key for this day is to relax and just wait your turn. A lot of passengers choose the self debarkation option and I can't believe some of them were able to carry all their stuff off the ship by themselves. There are porters in the terminal to assist you in getting your luggage to your car. Few tips, notes, observations, and thoughts: - The Ship - I've seen various posts from previous passengers who were taken aback or offended with the dEcor. Again, we aren't seasoned cursers, so don't have much to compare the dEcor against, but we didn't have much of a problem with it. My nine year old son did chuckle the first time he saw the David stature up in the Steakhouse, but hey, he's nine. We didn't think it was as bad as others have made it out to be. The atrium and other indoor common areas were decorated with some nine holiday decorations. - Rooms - We were on Deck 5 and had two balcony rooms (8B category) next to each other, we didn't have an adjoining door (which was fine and worked out better for our situation). We requested through Guest Services that the divider between our two balconies be opened and it made movement between our two rooms easier. One room had two twin beds together and the other had two twin beds and sofa converted to a twin. The rooms were adequate and had plenty of storage (to include room under the beds for luggage). We found the beds surprisingly comfortable and slept great. You can't hear hardly any noise from the hallway and having the balcony is great. The in-room TV is fine and has a decent channel selection of both on-ship and cable channels (it does seem kind of odd that the CBSABCNBC affiliates were all out of Colorado). Our room steward, Cayaha, took care of everything. All you had to do was ask, and he was on it right away. - Normandie Restaurant - We had the late seating. If had it to do over again, we might select open seating (but with that, you will get a different waiter each time and don't build a relationship and connection with a particular wait staff team). Our waiters were great... Dedi and Felix were terrific and did everything to make us happy. I've read other posts where people had bad dining experiences or complained about the food or the wait staff... I tell you, they must have been on a different cruise or are just never satisfied with anything. Those guys are working their tails off to make you happy and get all the meals out correctly. Treat them with respect and dignity, and you'll be amazed at how they'll treat you. Dinner portions were more than adequate and tasted fine. If you want one or all appetizers, all you have to do is ask. If something didn't taste right, just ask for another plate or another entrEe. They'll quickly take care of it. Many times we'd ask Dedi for a recommendation on a particular entrEe and he would give an honest opinion and sometimes would recommend another choice. Between the five of us, we tried almost everything, some stand outs include the jerk pork loin (was awesome), filet mignon, lobster tail, barbeque ribs (too many to eat - half of the order would have worked just as good), chicken/mushroom pasta, all the salads, cappuccino pie (surprisingly delicious), and of course the chocolate melting cake. We ate a few breakfasts in Normandie as well... and requested seating in Dedi's section. Just like the dinner, you can ask for as much as you want (for example two orders of hash browns or corned beef hash). I wasn't totally impressed with the eggs benedict, but realized it is hard to mass produce a dish like that... so I just got eggs to order the next time. If it's not too busy during breakfast you have a good chance to talk to and get to know your waiter. - Mermaids - We ate a few breakfasts, lunches, and late-afternoon or midnight snacks here... And apparently most of our fellow passengers did too... it is a very busy place and can get pretty crowded at peak times. It is buffet style and there is a different theme each day for the main entrEe selections. You can get pretty much anything you want... for breakfast - eggs to order, omelets, hash browns, bagels, toast, pancakes, French toast, oat meal, grits, sausage gravy, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit, danishes, etc... and for lunch and dinner - burgers, dogs, fries, deli sandwiches, themed entrEes and sides, pizza, salad bar, sushi (in the evening at the end of the salad bar - go easy on the wasabi, it will definitely clear out your sinuses), dessert, etc. Overall, food wasn't bad... just understand, it ain't the Normandie or David's. One downside, there isn't a wide sections of healthy options during non-peak times (such as late-night snack time). - David's - My wife and I ate dinner there on the Wednesday night. I had booked this online before the cruise, but when I checked on the reservation on board, it wasn't in the books (don't know what caused this, but recommend if you want to schedule a dinner there, do it once you get on board). We originally made reservations for 8:30, but were able to change to 7:30. This is a first class experience that I strongly recommend, and well worth the $30 per person cover. Everything was perfect, from the small starter from the chef, to the appetizers, main course, desert, and wine. Don't go there expecting to get in and out in short order, this is an experience that must be savored and enjoyed. I ordered the 9 oz. filet mignon and my wife got the 24 oz. porterhouse (there isn't a similar smaller cut and that's her favorite cut of steak). The meat was prepared to order and beautifully presented. I wanted to try something different for desert and got the cheese selection, which was wonderful (although it didn't do wonders for my breath). We were seated in a location where we could watch the chefs at the grill and it was a pleasure watching them work. If it's not too busy in the restaurant, ask to talk to the chef... we asked to talk to the head chef during desert and had a real nice conversation with him. We told him how much we enjoyed watching the food demonstration the day before and complemented him on the entire evening (plus it was just cool talking to him). - Cruise Directors - Kirk and Jamie were fantastic and worked great together, as were other members of their team... all of them had great personalities and full of energy. - Entertainment - Again, I've see other posts where people really knocked the shows and entertainment (I sometimes think some people just like to hear themselves complain). In our opinion, the entertainment wasn't too bad. We went to many of the shows and thought the singing and dancing was fine. My wife and teen-aged daughters went to some of the comedy shows and said they were pretty funny, but not out of the park funny (but that is the way some stand up comedy acts are and the same when we go to comedy clubs at home). The singers in the various clubs and lounges (casino, atrium, piano bar, etc) were good, and guess what, sounded about like lounge singers (this isn't a critique, but its true). I didn't go, but I heard some passengers talking that they really enjoyed the piano bar and sing along. Go to the shows understanding this is a cruise ship, not Broadway. These entertainers are performing at about the right level (hopefully that doesn't sound bad, I meant for it to be somewhat of a compliment). - Casino - Denver gave a great class on craps, blackjack, and roulette on day one. He is very personable and we really enjoyed talking to him about his home in Australia. My wife loves to play slots so she spent quite a bit of time (and money) in the casino. There are plenty of blackjack tables, two roulette tables, and one craps table. There is also a pretty neat electronic poker table. All the dealers and casino workers were professional and took the time to explain many of the games to the novices. - Camp Carnival - This is a great service that Carnival offers. They had activities planned for the kids every day and evenings (even those days we were in ports, which I thought was kind of odd, but I guess is a need). Our nine year old son loved going and making friends with the other kids. He was able to sign himself in and out during the days and then we would arrange to meet him back in the room. They had late-night activities one evening and even brought him back to the room in the wee-hours of the morning when they were done. He had an awesome time. They also have babysitting services available at a very, very reasonable price. - Tipping - The basic tips are taken care of on all your bar purchases and pre-paid on your S&S account, but you can always give more. We choose to give our room steward, waiter, and assistant waiter additional tips the evening of day six for the great service they gave us. The afternoon of day six your steward leaves you various debarkation paperwork, plus an envelope to put a tip in for the Normandie matradee; again, we aren't seasoned cruisers, so we thought this was a bit odd... considering the first time we saw him was at dinner that night standing at the door waiting for people to give him their envelopes (maybe we were wrong, but we didn't give him a tip... we preferred to tip the wait staff that actually waited on us). - Weather - I've got a little secret for you, If you book a cruise that sails out of the northeast in the December, January, February timeframe, it is going to be cold outside and you should pack appropriately. Don't expect too much deck time on the Lido Deck to work on your tan... Even Florida isn't terribly warm during that time. Buy some kind of travel insurance, just in case... - Passports are a must, but only seemed to be needed during the embarkation and debarkation in Baltimore... all other times you just needed a picture ID and your Sail & Sign card to get back on ship. - Bring a bungee cord to hold your balcony door open to enjoy the sounds of the water and catch the sea breeze... however, be careful opening you cabin door at the same time... - I wished Carnival would have scheduled some kind of service on board ship for Christmas. - Follow the message boards on both the Carnival and Cruise Critic websites. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was our first cruise on this ship. Previous cruise was on Carnival Destiny. We booked at the very last minute for a New Year's Eve cruise. This ship was completely full. Our cabin (coach)had two lower bunk style beds. This was ... Read More
This was our first cruise on this ship. Previous cruise was on Carnival Destiny. We booked at the very last minute for a New Year's Eve cruise. This ship was completely full. Our cabin (coach)had two lower bunk style beds. This was the primary negative to our experience. The mattress was hard and the bed had a metal frame around it that made it uncomfortable. Surprisingly there was no top sheet, just a quilted blanket that was too warm for our taste. Otherwise the room was adequate for a two night cruise. We had to take an interior room so we missed out on a view. Dinners were excellent! We are picky about our food and must say that paying the extra $25 each for dining in the Cove was well worth it. We had a superb and relaxing dinner befitting a true four star restaurant. It barely misses a five star rating by a tad. Make it your business to eat there. The other night we dined in the Crystal Room, and this was just a tad below the Cove so I would say it is a solid four stars. The help were friendly, and the shows were worth watching. Embarkation went fairly smooth as well as disembarkation which took a bit longer. We spent the day at Atlantis and did the dolphin encounter. Loved it! All in all I would say that if they upgraded their bedding we would be steady passengers, but would not return unless they improved on the bedding. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Overall the cruise was good. Food was decent but not as good as others, activities were fun, shows were mediocre. Room was excellent, as was the service. Only complaints were that the only "dance club" on the boat was 18+, which ... Read More
Overall the cruise was good. Food was decent but not as good as others, activities were fun, shows were mediocre. Room was excellent, as was the service. Only complaints were that the only "dance club" on the boat was 18+, which meant most of the people in it were under-21 and the adults were elsewhere. I wouldn't recommend this cruise to anyone with teenagers as there seems to be a steadfast rule regarding the age cutoffs for each of the various kid's clubs. I have a 14 year old who has cruised extensively and participated in the teen clubs (as opposed to the 12-14 group) and a 15 year old who "qualified" for the teen club. Spoke to Allison (youth director) and was told "no way, no how" that my 14-year-old could move up (even though she's done so on many other cruises). Because they didn't want to hang out with the 12-year-olds, my two daughters wound up roaming the decks every night in an unsupervised manner, watching 18-year-olds smoke and throw up due to alcohol consumption (particularly on new years eve). Again, this isn't the cruise for anyone who has children that don't perfectly fit into the categories assigned for the various children's clubs. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We cruised on the Gem this past week(12/26-1/3) and overall were not disappointed. Pros: We breezed through registration and embarkation with ease. The pink princess had a great time at the kids crew program;she met a lot of great ... Read More
We cruised on the Gem this past week(12/26-1/3) and overall were not disappointed. Pros: We breezed through registration and embarkation with ease. The pink princess had a great time at the kids crew program;she met a lot of great kids there. We spent time hanging out with fellow passengers shooting the breeze,playing bingo and trying the restaurants. Made it to all but Cagney's & Le Bistro, didn't have a bad meal. Tepanyaki was a blast. New Years Eve on the Pool Deck was off the hook. Cabin stewards were very attentive. Cons The coffee in the buffet was far better than in the restaurants. Couldn't add a passenger to our cabin 5 days before cruise due to homeland security,or so the NCL cruise consultant said. No more chocolate at turn down Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I knew that we wanted to go somewhere to start our Christmas holidays, we just did`t know where. We are on a limited budget, so wanted to get as much for our buck as we could. I signed up for many web sites with all ... Read More
My husband and I knew that we wanted to go somewhere to start our Christmas holidays, we just did`t know where. We are on a limited budget, so wanted to get as much for our buck as we could. I signed up for many web sites with all inclusives and cruise lines for emails with vacation specials. I practically lived on the computer for the months of October and November reading all the specials on the emails I was receiving. I have always wanted to go on a cruise, but hubby wasn`t too excited about spending a week on a boat. Boy, was he mistaken! When the last day came, I think he was more depressed than I was and I was pretty bad. He now wishes I would have talked him into a longer vacation. The balcony we had was sooo much bigger than I thought it would be. It was clean and set up very professionally by the stateroom stewards. The service was impeccable starting with the people at the call centre when I called to book, the bar stewards, the cooks and servers in all the restaurants (and there was lots to pick from), the captain, the great and funny entertainment. I know I am rambling, but their was so many things that were just perfect! Our first port excursion was the Grand Bahama Island and we went on the Caves and Beaches tour. What a let down! The caves were just holes with water in them and the fish we were suppose to be able to feed were little minnows and we could not feed them. The beach was ok - a little raw - no buildings, no bathrooms, not very nice. Although the water was beautiful. Then we get back on the bus and go to lunch which you had to buy and spend one and a half hours at lunch and another beach. Well we just came from an hour at another beach. The lunch was not cheap, the food on the boat is free.........It was a waste of time. I wished we would of just walked around town and looked at the local shops. Will know better next time. Great Stirrup Clay was sooo nice. We decided to try the snorkeling, which we had never done before. The only complaint I have is that there is no one to give you a lesson on what the heck you are doing. My husband got the hang of it pretty quick, but I had the can`t breath problem. But the water was perfect temperature and beautiful. The boats were taking passengers back and forth all day, so you could go as early as you want and stay as long as you want. It was a great time. Only next time I think I would save the money and pass on the snorkeling and just go for the beach and swimming. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
2009 had been a hectic year for my husband and I. We decided to send 2009 out in a big way and welcome 2010 in on a fun note. The choice of Carnival Pride was based on departure port and dates. We had been to The Bahamas before and enjoyed ... Read More
2009 had been a hectic year for my husband and I. We decided to send 2009 out in a big way and welcome 2010 in on a fun note. The choice of Carnival Pride was based on departure port and dates. We had been to The Bahamas before and enjoyed it so we decided to go again. We began our cruise journey on December 27th at 5 a.m. by leaving our RI home and driving to the port of Baltimore. It was sunny and cold, but the ride was an easy one with little traffic. We were off to a good start. We arrived at the port at 1:45 P.M. Parked at the port looking at the ship, and we were struck by it's beauty and size. Check-in was easy and quick. The Staff at the dock were pleasant and cordial. Once on the boat, we headed for the buffet area. The outer decks were open but it was cold. We stayed inside after a brief foray to look out over Baltimore. Brrr... COLD. :) The Pride is a beautiful ship with a great crew. As 50 somethings, we know what we like and fun entertainment and varied activities fit our needs. The first few days we were limited to inside activities due to the high winds and cold temps. We choose not to hang out at the pool area that was open, because of the crowds. The pool area was lovely and clean. Long pants and a light sweater were the daytime attire and we changed for dinner according to attire recommendations. The atmosphere was festive in Keeping with the Time of year and people were dressing up in elegant cocktail attire for the formal nights. We enjoyed the shows and the live entertainment at various lounges. The Atrium bar was a favorite, the bar staff Katharine and Anton were pleasant and fun. The public areas were kept immaculately clean in such a lovely unobtrusive way by the staff. Bring a couple of books for traveling this time of year, there a re many comfortable spots to watch the seas and cuddle on plush chairs and sofas. We had dinner at David's Steak House one evening and the food and service was fabulous. We had Fillet Mignon, and could not finish the meal. Portions are huge. The salads and appetizers can easily be shared. Bring your appetite! We enjoyed the Anytime dining option, and that suited us well. The staff was top notch . The entrees were varied and very good, My favorites were the Grilled chicken breast ( always available because it is a Carnival Favorite), The Steak options were prepared as requested, and quite tender. Please try the signature desert: "Bitter and Blanc" a chocolate bread pudding dish that was only offered one evening on this cruise and once I tried it I would have liked to have it another night. The Cruise director Kirk and His assistant Jaime were lots of fun, watch their morning show, they are a riot! On one of the sea days Kirk and some of his staff have a question and answer session on what it is like o work on a cruise ship, great info, get there early because the lounge area fills up quickly. I was not sure what to expect on New Years Eve, But the ship was all abuzz about the New Years eve festivities, We went to the deck party where the House band, the Jafar Curry band and the ships singers put on a Jam Session with rock and roll flair. The entertainers were having a ball on stage and their enthusiasm carried over into the crowd. People of all ages were dancing and swinging o the great music. The countdown was like being in Times Square and we had a ball. My recommendations would be: Bring warm weather clothes for 3-4 days only if you go during the end of December or January. Nylons will keep you comfortable in the evenings the first two night and the last two nights during evening activities. Ladies shawls or light cover was needed most evenings. Men wore suits or sport coats on the formal nights and often to dinner. The photogs took great photos, be prepared! We used room service a couple of times, and were very pleased with the promptness of the service. On port days we used room service for lunch instead of trying to get through the buffet area with everyone coming back on board together at the same time, and this worked well for us. Very relaxing. I hope that you will consider a holiday cruise in the future, I know we will do I again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Just got off the Gem New Years cruise from December 26th to January 2! We had an amazing time with very few complaints, or rather, suggestions. We have been Princess loyalists since 2002 when we went on the Grand Princess for our ... Read More
Just got off the Gem New Years cruise from December 26th to January 2! We had an amazing time with very few complaints, or rather, suggestions. We have been Princess loyalists since 2002 when we went on the Grand Princess for our honeymoon. We wanted to do a cruise that year but were worried that we'd get stuck sitting with others for dinner if we went on another line. We're sociable people, but we like quiet romantic dinners. Princess had Anytime Dining so we went with them. We weren't aware that Norwegian did Freestyle as well. So six Princess cruises later and hearing lots of negatives about Norwegian, we saw this Florida to Bahamas cruise that left out of our backyard (NYC) and decided to book it. I never really pay much attention to either very negative reviews or very positive reviews. Some seem way too biased in one direction to be reliable. I'm glad to say we experienced absolutely NONE of the negatives I always heard about. We were dropped off at the pier by my father-in-law. I had him let us out a little before where everyone else was unloading as it was very congested right in front of the doors. We just walked a little and walked right in. There was a long line for security, but it moved very quickly. We were given number 77 to board. About 1:00 pm they started calling from 22. They did skip large chunks of numbers and they called 77 and all the rest at about 1:45 or so. We walked right onto the ship, got our glass of complimentary champagne and headed up to the buffet. (This was the first of many times we encountered the dining staff armed with a bottle of alcohol hand wash and the automatic hand sanitizer dispensers.) I didn't plan on doing this as I heard about how crowded it is on the first day and there aren't enough seats. This was true, but not a big deal. We then went down to the Grand Pacific and the hostess gave me a pager. We didn't walk more than 10 feet away when the pager rang! We went into the dining room after doing washy, washy and sanitizing our hands, and had an amazing first lunch. If the quality of the food on this first day was an indication, we knew we were in for some good food! We were cruising with my sister in law and brother in law on this cruise. As an aside after my father in law dropped us off, he drove back to the Bronx and my brother in law and sister in law were getting ready to leave and he dropped them off at the pier as well. Very nice of him! If you are lucky enough to have somebody drop you off, it is VERY convenient. He enjoyed watching the ship sail away while he stood out in the pouring rain near the U.S.S. Intrepid. After our lunch we sat at the Java Bar on deck 7 in the atrium. This is a very nice area with lots of comfortable seats and couches and the very large screen TV. The screen showed a few movies throughout the cruise as well as Monday Night Football and the college bowl games. At other times they showed weird images of skydiving and other assorted images to different types of music. I think the screen could have been better utilized. Maybe music videos or more movies would work well. But this area became one our favorite places and meeting points throughout the cruise. As we waited for my in-laws to board I sat down and ordered my first of many buckets (helmets) of beer. I was served by the charming and warm barmaid, Cris from the Philippines. She called me by name from that first bucket on through the whole rest of the cruise even when she saw me in other places. She was always smiling and made a difference in our cruise. She received a STYLE card and a little extra cash as a result. If you go on the Gem tell her Freddie, Lou, and the Twins say hi! While sitting at the Java Bar, we got to hear the wonderful singer/guitarist Randon. He did party/cruise standards like Margarittaville, New York State of Mind, etc. My in-laws boarded right near us, they had a few drinks with us and the cabins were ready. We all dropped our luggage off and they grabbed some food as we headed to the sail-away party. They usually have it on the pool deck if weather permits. This evening, weather certainly did NOT permit. It was raining sideways, brutally cold, and windy. They still had a great sail-away party in Spinnaker's lounge where I added to my many buckets of beer! It was a very nice touch on Norwegian's part as the ship passed the Statue of Liberty. One of the show singers sang the National Anthem and it received a very nice ovation. Nice job! As we passed under the Verrazano Bridge, which is usually one of my favorite parts of the cruise, I had to brave the elements and go outside. My in- laws had never sailed out of New York before and I wanted to see them experience it. It was really amazing as it was dark out already and we got some great shots. It was worth the cold and pelting rain!!! My wife decided she would forego it this time. (But as I write this, she is at the NY Jets game where it is 7 degrees! Go figure!) Hey I went out for a few smokes and after the second bucket of beers, I didn't really feel the cold anymore, anyway!! We went to Magenta that night for dinner and had absolutely no wait, just like every other night to follow. Maybe it depends on when you go, but we never experienced any type of line or wait. We did go a bit later between 7:30 and 9:00, so maybe that's why. Either way, it was good. After dinner we walked casually around the ship and had a drink at a few different lounges. My brother-in-law loved the cigar lounge and I stopped in here before or after dinner a few times to have a smoke myself. We ended up in Spinnaker Lounge again and had a blast with the rock/pop/dance band Prism. This night was a welcome aboard party and it was packed. This is where one of my suggestions comes in. We were having a blast and the place was packed. It ended abruptly at 12:30 to a full house. They said the party was moving down to Bliss Ultra Lounge. Had they kept this party going, they would have been selling a ton more drinks for 2 or 3 more hours. Most people wanted to stay in this place, but the lights went on and they started cleaning up. We did head down to the Bliss Lounge and it was crowded, but not really with people that were in Spinnaker. It was a much younger crowd here. I am in my mid thirties, act like I'm in my twenties (ok-5, lol) and my whole party could pass for mid to late twenties, but we felt out of place in Bliss. The drinking age on the Gem was 21, but 18 and older could drink with parental permission. This meant that there were 18 year olds buying for 15 and 16 year olds. I wanted to hang out and party, but them cutting the party at Spinnaker caused me and doubtlessly countless others to end the night earlier than we probably would have. I'm sure there are reasons like workers ending their shifts, but keep some of those workers on and I'm sure drink revenue would certainly make up for it, and the workers should be compensated for longer hours if they choose to work them. If it is to give these workers a bit of a break, then I fully understand. The second day was a sea day. I slept late as my slight cold/winter allergies and night before's partying took a toll on me. We had a late breakfast at the Great Outdoors which is aft on deck 12, behind the Garden Cafe buffet. This area had a very nice selection for breakfast and a nice seating area outside. It was still a bit chilly, but not unbearable and we ate outside. We walked around the ship some more and explored. We got excited that it felt so much warmer outside than the previous day and sat on a couple of lounge chairs for a few minutes. Once the wind picked up a little, it made it a bit colder. We went back inside after walking a few windy laps on the walking/jogging track. Had lunch from Garden Cafe and brought it out to Great Outdoors again. As the day went on you could feel it gradually get warmer. We went into Spinnaker in the afternoon and all four of us fell asleep in those funky bed type lounge chairs they have in there. I had my headphones on and while they were playing bingo, I had no idea as it was drowned out by Bon Jovi! That night we had dinner in the Grand Pacific dining room for the first time. As mentioned we had eaten our first lunch there. It is a very nice dining room and this is the dining room they request no jeans in. We went in dressed very nicely and did see some people in jeans. But I have to say, nobody looked un-presentable or sloppy. Towards the last night of the cruise, we went in wearing jeans and were far from alone. I definitely enjoy this about Norwegian. It is NOT so ultra casual as people look like slobs. But, people are dressed in what they might wear to a decent family type restaurant on land. Some people of course were dressed to the nines every night. We fell in the middle. I loved not taking a suit. After a nice evening of making our rounds through bar city on deck 6 and then onto Spinnaker followed by Bliss, we called it a night as we were going to hit our first stop at Port Canaveral, Florida the next morning. We wanted to be rested to see Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and company. We had a transfer-only excursion to The Magic Kingdom for Monday. I bought the Disney admission tickets in advance online for much cheaper than buying the whole excursion (transfer and park admission) through Norwegian. I would have even considered renting a car and driving for much cheaper, but buying the transfer through NCL gave me peace of mind in case there was a delay getting back to the ship. It was well worth doing it this way. We boarded the bus at about 1:00 pm or so after meeting in The Stardust Theater at 11:50am. The theater was full of people going to Kennedy Space Center, Disney, and Universal parks. They were pretty orderly and it probably made sense to do it this way as it streamlined people off of the ship instead of everyone getting off at once and causing chaos at the bus area. We got to the Magic Kingdom at about 2:00. The bus driver announced to us that it was closed because it was full, but not to worry. Even when we got to the front gate, the attendant let the bus in, but said the park was closed because it was full. The driver told us to still not worry. He then dropped us off at the entrance area to get on the monorail. We did this and got right into the park with no problem using our credit card type admission tickets. The park was jammed. We heard the lot that holds 80,000 cars was full. I believe it. However, it was about 65 degrees out and very comfortable, so it wasn't like being in a jammed park at 95 degrees. We walked around and my wife was as happy as one of the 6 year olds that she teaches!! I was so glad we got in with no problem. She loves Disney and was looking so forward to it! As soon as we got in, she took a picture with Pluto and I had to stand in line with families and 3 year olds to get the pictures. Priceless. Taking pictures with characters was the norm throughout the day. They even have photographers around the park that give you a photo card. Each picture you take, you hand them your card and they scan it when they take the picture. You then log-in online and view your pictures. The ones I took came better, so we didn't buy any. We went on a handful of rides as the lines were so long. I was using an APP on my I-Phone that told me the line times and it was very accurate. We really just enjoyed a very nice day of walking around, but in the future I will probably get the express pass where you go back to the ride at an assigned time. It would allow us more rides in less time. But we had a great time. It got chilly at night and the sweatshirts we bought at the gift shop came in very handy. It was a very nice experience walking through Disney in December and seeing it all decorated for Christmas. It was a very memorable night, especially when they started blowing man-made snow off the top of the buildings on the main street. Nice touch! We met the bus in the lot and had a noisy ride back to the ship. We were so tired and were amazed that many of the kids on the bus back were not as pooped as we were and were singing and chatting up a storm. I guess the roles were reversed and we adults get more tired from that type of day. When we got back onto the ship, we quickly just changed our shirts and met my in-laws at the Magenta dining room for another nice dinner. They had gone to Universal that day and had a great time, so it was nice talking about our days and relaxing on a nice evening. My brother-in-law and I went up to Great Outdoors while the ladies looked at photos in the gallery. We enjoyed some beers and a few smokes in the meantime. You can smoke on one side back there. It was empty at night usually. We did our rounds of Bar Central and then hit Spinnaker for 80s night. It was another night where it was fairly busy and could have stayed open a bit later. Oh well, we headed to Bliss and left there a little early as it was very crowded and young. The next day was Great Stirrup Cay, the NCL private island. You had to get tender tickets from the shore excursion desk. They started at number 1 and we had 9. I have been to Princess Cays a few times and if I'm not wrong, Princess lowers their lifeboats as tenders. NCL only had two double-decker ferry boats going back and forth. It took long to get everyone off the ship and then back on. I'm not sure if anything prevents them using lifeboats, but it was very quick and efficient for Princess. Not a very big deal, but just a suggestion. It took a very long time, but we found a nice spot on the pool deck in the sun on a lounger and waited for our number. We made our way down and got onto the tender fairly quickly. The tender ride is about 5 minutes and it was a nice day so not too bad. When we got to the island it was very crowded. We got something to eat and we sought out very scarce chairs. None were to be had, so we laid out our towels and laid near the water. I bought a bucket that went down very easy in the warm sun. It felt amazing and so strange that I was on this warm beach on December 29th. I could get used to it. At this point, some chairs opened up, and we hopped in. About an hour later, we decided to move to the other side of the island near the food and restrooms. We found a spot and the bar waiter that we ordered from couldn't find us, even though we told him where to look for us! Anyway, I found him and it was getting close to departure time and we were going to start chugging all the beers. We were saved when one of the tenders apparently broke down and the line got longer as they had to use only one. A little more time on this tropical paradise was nice. We took the ferry ride back to the ship and while the ladies went to get ready for the evening, I headed to the Great Outdoors for a few beers and to see the ship sail away. From back there, we were able to see the private islands of the other cruise lines, particularly RCCL. You can see that they are not very populated if at all. It looked pitch black as the ship was leaving. That night we met up in Bar Central before dinner and went to the Grand Pacific for another fantastic dinner. We were seated tonight at the table that we would end up, coincidentally, being seated at for the rest of the cruise when we went into The Grand Pacific. That must be where the most tables for two are. It was a great table right at the aft windows, center ship, overlooking the wake. It was a great spot to look out while enjoying a great meal. After dinner we headed up to Spinnaker. I believe this was the night they had the scavenger hunt which was pretty funny. We hung out for some more live music from Prism and when that was over (too early again,), we headed down to Bliss. There was a teen gathering still in progress. I think this should not happen. Adults are not allowed into the Leopard Lounge (teen club), so they should leave the adult clubs exclusively for adults. OR they should have made the event in Spinnaker run later. We walked around the ship a little longer and then headed back to Bliss. The event was supposed to have ended already, but it was still filled with younger teens. We ducked into a little side room in Bliss and waited until the teens cleared out. By then we had gotten tired. Everyone headed back to the cabins, but I made a pit stop at The Blue Lagoon for a grilled chicken sandwich after 1:00am. The trappings of 24 hours of food on a cruise ship!! The next day was Nassau. I did lots of researching what to do here and even that morning, we didn't decide what we were doing until we got off the ship. We all wanted to see The Atlantis, but didn't want to pay the high excursion price for a day at the beach. The ladies weren't going to do the water park and neither was my BIL. I would have, but it was not a deal breaker for me. I had heard of a deal at the Comfort Suites next to Atlantis that offered a deal if you rented a room, you got full access to Atlantis. We took a cab to Comfort Suites and went to the front desk. They do allow all access to Atlantis if you get a room here, but they have a two night minimum at more than $400 a night. No thanks. We decided to just head to Atlantis and see if they had a day pass for cheaper. In the cab there, the driver saved us a lot of money. He told us if we were only interested in the beach, he'd take us to a free beach. My in-laws were interested in the Dig. He told them it was only $35 for that. We decided to split up and we went to Cabbage Beach while they went to the Dig. Best decision we made all day. (Thanks, Bahama John!)We stayed at a great beach, rented chairs for $10 each, and bought a few sodas. It was a nice place. My wife took a walk and came back and said she was able to see some of the Atlantis, so we packed up and took a walk down there. We were able to walk around much of the Atlantis property without a wrist band. We saw the lagoon, crossed the rope bridge, saw Hammerhead Sharks and Baby Sting-rays. We saw a lot that we wanted to see without paying. We were even able to buy a hot dog and fries from one of the concessions. I am glad that cab driver saved us about $150 a person. If we wanted to use the waterpark, then we would have coughed it up, but there was no need to spend any money to do what we did that day. The cab fares were reasonable as well at about $4 per person pretty much anyplace we went. After some walking around Atlantis, we walked through the casino and some of the stores and then hailed a cab right out front. As another side note, and an unfortunate one, we were docked that day next to the RCCL Monarch of the Seas. We had seen her earlier in Port Canaveral which was her home port. When we got back to NYC, we read a news story about a woman who jumped overboard when the ship left Nassau on the same day. It was reportedly the wife of a RCCL crew member. Very sad story and I'm sure it saddened the many crew members and passengers aboard that ship. What a shame. When we got back on the ship, we grabbed some food from Topsiders Grill near the pools. They had a similar selection as The Great Outdoors would have: burgers, hot-dogs, fries, salad, pastas, chicken, vegetables, etc... A good enough selection for when the main buffet, the Garden Cafe, was closed. We had another nice dinner in The Grand Pacific that night. I forget what I ate most nights, as I ate so much. I should have noted it somewhere. I have to say I didn't have even one bad meal. Food is subjective, but I cook myself, come from a family of very good Italian cooks and eat all types of food. I really liked the food. Some of the portions were tiny. My wife ordered a scallops appetizer that we were actually laughing at due to its size. But I did order an extra appetizer on most nights and one night I was bad and ordered two entrees when I couldn't decide. The next day was New Years Eve. We didn't do too much during the day. We went and watched the belly-flop competition at the pools, only because it was comfortable out and we knew it would only get colder. It didn't get colder that day, but it started to pour hard. We were worried that the New Years Eve party on deck would be cancelled. Staff was saying that they didn't know. We went to Spinnaker where they were having some sort of dance lesson so I left and went to buy some t-shirts. They had a buy 2 get 1 free deal and the shirts were decent so I took advantage of the deal! We decided we would get ready early and meet up for dinner earlier than normal to get a jump on our NYE partying. We didn't know if we were going to buy champagne bottles or by the glass. My BIL and I are beer drinkers and the girls drink wine and champagne. We figured we'd see how the night went. After a very nice dinner in Magenta with a great waitress whose name escapes me, us guys hit the cigar lounge, while the women sat outside of the lounge and watched Randon perform with his guitar. This really is a nice little lounge area with couches and soft chairs. Then there is Magnum's champagne bar, Malting's whiskey and beer bar, and Shakers martini bar. All of the bars are really one area in the middle. They are one large bar, broken into three. On the other side of these three bars is another lounge area which is connected to Maltings. This is really a nice little area and each bar does have a different selection of what its intended specialty is. I am a smoker and enjoyed this area as it was right outside of the cigar lounge and we'd have a few drinks and I'd sneak in for a smoke now and again. I heard from non smokers that the smoke was not too noticeable. This says a lot as this area is also right near the casino. I have to admit that it was definitely smokey in there, so if smoke bothers you, avoid it. It is also one deck down from the promenade deck where I would smoke. The girls had ordered a few glasses of champagne. They then decided it was more convenient and economical to buy it by the bottle. So they bought the first of a few bottles that evening. I didn't think I'd be drinking only champagne that night, but got a decent deal when we went up to the pool deck New Years Eve party. Prism was playing and it seemed almost all of the passengers of the ship were up here. This was a New Years Eve I won't soon forget. The rain had stopped and it was in the mid 70's. People were dancing and having a great time. I walked around the pool deck while the ladies danced. Close to midnight, waiters were going around with glasses of champagne. I grabbed a few for our group and we got together for the countdown. The noisemakers and hats were provided by the ship. We got hats at dinner time in the dining room and they provided noisemakers as we were leaving Bar Central, but also up on deck. The captain made a speech from the bridge, but it was very hard to hear as people were blowing noisemakers. After the captain's speech, they started blowing the ship's horn. I believe this was the correct midnight, but for the sake of having a countdown, the cruise staff started a 10 second countdown. Everyone counted along and went wild at 0. It was great to be in such a great place on NYE with my wife and in-laws. I also enjoyed seeing a lot of the crew from a variety of different departments, some in their work attire, some in regular clothes, enjoying themselves. About this time we decided we needed another bottle of champagne. I went to where they were selling them from the hot tub. I was going to buy a certain bottle my BIL recommended, but the salesperson told me he'd sell me a magnum of the same brand for $130 and I'd get another bottle for free. At this point, it seemed like a good deal as the bottles were expensive enough and this was a pretty good deal. My BIL who knows more about champagne said it was a good brand and the deal was pretty good. It was much better than if we were going to keep buying glasses or one bottle at a time. I had to wait a little while as they got the bottles from Bliss on deck 7, but they brought it back and put it into ice for us. We grabbed an ice bucket each and walked back to where the ladies were dancing. It was around this time that the party was about to wrap up and it was ONLY 12:45am- on NEW YEAR'S EVE!!! When the band finished their last song, I and the guy next to me started chanting "5 more songs! 5 more songs!" Cruise director Andy was NOT amused by this. He kept trying to shoo people away and sell everyone on the party at Bliss. We fully intended to go to Bliss, but this party still had legs and should have gone on!! He begrudgingly told the band to play some more and they did one more song!! Almost both decks were covered with people, and they pulled the plug on the party. I can't even begin to wonder how much more they would have made if the party went even just 30 minutes longer. So we were forced to go to Bliss, which we enjoyed, but for a much shorter time than if we were on the pool deck. All in all, it was a great night. I only wish it was a little longer. The next day, the champagne kept me sleeping a little later than I wanted to, but we packed our stuff and walked around the ship one last time. It got quite a bit colder and we couldn't really go outside. We were pretty lazy as we would normally be on New Year's Day, but it was still a nice enjoyable day even though we were getting off the next day. They were showing the college bowl games on the big screen in the atrium and it was crowded. We met for a few drinks with Cris in the Java bar and bid adieu to her. It's always sad saying goodbye to people who really made your vacation something to remember. I guess it means we need to book on the Gem again soon to see her, Matt in Spinnaker (Yeah Baby!!), Randon, Prism, and many others who made our cruise a great one. Of course we ended the night in party mode and started in Spinnaker. They had karaoke, which had I not been sick, would have done every night. I felt so much better by now, so I decided to sing a Bon Jovi song. It was lots of fun. We stayed to see The Second City Comedy Troupe. It was packed in there. It was pretty funny, but not side stitch funny. It made me laugh though! The farewell party, though short, was fun. Prism did a short, but good, set. It was time to leave Spinnaker soon enough and we said our goodbyes to the band. They got a STYLE card for entertaining us just about every night. And they were nice people as well. We then headed to Bliss where there was the Toga party going on. It was fun, although we didn't wear togas. The drinks were going down very nicely, but at a point we had to say goodbye to Bliss one last time. Before bed we made like lots of Bronx nights in the 90's and hit the diner after partying. Really it was The Blue Lagoon, but it felt like one of those nights. The next morning we woke up at 8:45. We opted for self-debarkation and it was a good choice. We got ready, went to breakfast, but the buffet was jammed. We got our food and went out to eat at the seating area of The Great Outdoors. It was FREEZING!! Welcome to New York!! We ate quickly and went inside and found my in-laws. We took our time eating and then went to our rooms for our luggage. We took the elevator up to hang at Java Cafe to wait for my in-laws. Once they got there, it was literally like walking out of a hotel. We didn't have to look for our luggage in what looked like pandemonium! We went through customs in no time and were out on the street. Guess what? It was snowing!!! Again, Welcome to New York!! Random thoughts: So we had an amazing time. I swore when I started this review I wasn't going to do a point by point comparison to my Princess cruises. I'm sticking to that, but will point out some things that were different or the same. They may be for better or worse. We joked that the ship should've been called the Norwegian Germ! They were very germ phobic and anytime you got on or off the ship, went to a dining venue, or blinked your eyes, they wanted you to washy, washy/ smiley, smiley,/ happy, happy. I have no problem with this. I do think having servers at the buffet is not a bad idea as well. However, keeping salt and pepper shakers and no ketchup and mustard in the buffet was a little overboard. I know there were reports of people being sick the few cruises before us, but people get sick, it happens. If everyone keeps their hands clean and take other precautions, you should be ok. They did let us serve ourselves and put shakers and condiments back on the table when we got to Nassau, day 5. There are things that people are bound to touch like menus that are passed to everyone. Unless I don't know and they are sanitizing them between uses, what's the difference in keeping shakers and condiments on table? This really was not a big deal and we thought it actually pretty funny. It made for good conversation and even the staff thought it was funny and made sarcastic jokes about it. I guess in the long run if it kept me from getting sick it was worth it. If washy, washy makes NCL happy, happy, I'll do it with a smiley, smiley on my face! As I stated, I heard negative things about NCL Freestyle. I love Anytime on Princess and I can now say I might like Freestyle on NCL even more. We didn't do any specialty restaurants as we LOVED all of our meals in the dining room. We never experienced a wait. There are TV screens near dining rooms that give estimated wait times. I think they may be a bit off. Some said the main dining rooms were full, but we walked up and were seated right away. Maybe they do it to slow people down from going all at once. The ship was very nice. The bathroom was a plus. The shower stall was a little bigger than on Princess and it had a glass door as opposed to the curtain. It also had a handheld shower head! Awesome!! The inside cabin was an adjustment as we usually get balconies, but with cold days going and coming and it being our second cruise, inside cabin this time. It was clean and comfortable, thanks in no small part to our great stewards, Gioffre and I think his assistant was Mark. I tipped a 20 when we fist met as he went out of his way with his hands full to get me a bottle opener. I also tipped him at the end another 20. This was of course in addition to the tips charged to the room. I have to say that this ship may have had the friendliest staff I ever encountered. Everyone you saw repeatedly would greet you by name and always a smile. Even the captain was walking by in the atrium one evening and we took a picture with him. He was very friendly and even pointed out that the flash didn't go off and posed for another. Little things like that stick with you. The buffet was a little hectic on most sea days, especially upon embarkation. On that day only, we then just went to the Grand Pacific dining room for a great lunch. It was a bit confusing at times what buffet was open at what time. I like that Princess keeps the buffet open 24 hours. But Blue Lagoon is there to serve late night hunger. Relaxed dress code was something we could get used to. I may leave the suit at home on my summer cruise on the Caribbean Princess. Again, people were not dressed like slobs, just not as dressed up every night. There were jeans around at night, but there were also people dressed smart casual. Nothing that was very noticeable. On "Dress Up or Not" night, there were more people dressed up than I thought there'd be. One night, my brother in law felt out of place in jeans, but it wasn't the more formal night. My wife thought there were more vegetarian options on Princess. She did temper this by saying that vegetarians who ate a wider variety of food than her probably would think the selection is just fine. She is not just a vegetarian, but not a very daring eater and pretty much sticks to her favorites. This being said, she enjoyed everything she ate and never went hungry. I have 6 Princess cruises under my belt and one more booked. I do get some perks that would take me awhile to catch up to on NCL, but I am thinking long and hard about booking the same cruise for next Christmas vacation. The only thing I am considering is the weather, which of course the cruise line doesn't control. I may just rather fly somewhere much warmer and be in the warmth that much sooner! Entertainment was pretty much the same as Princess. I caught some of a 70's tribute show and it was entertaining and well put together. It featured TV themes and other 70's pop culture references. As mentioned, Prism was very good and we had fun with them almost every night. They appealed to a broad spectrum of people. Cruise director Andy was good, but I feel some of the events being cut short are in his control. He was very visible and seemed to truly enjoy his job, but I think he needs to reconsider the timing of some events and when to end them. Also, there were some events that said "11:00pm until whenever.." sometimes whenever was 20 minutes after it started. I couldn't comprehend this. I'll wrap up by saying that I never, ever expect perfection on a cruise. It doesn't exist. Therefore I am never disappointed. I have never had a bad cruise. I was a little under the weather on the start of this cruise and still had a blast. It would really take a lot to ruin a cruise for me. Two thumbs up! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Explorer of the Seas Thanksgiving Cruise (8 nights) Bayonne, Port Canaveral, Nassau, Cocoa Cay, Bayonne November 21-29, 2009 Let me start by saying that as this was my first RCCL cruise, it was a great cruise. Even with the slightly ... Read More
Explorer of the Seas Thanksgiving Cruise (8 nights) Bayonne, Port Canaveral, Nassau, Cocoa Cay, Bayonne November 21-29, 2009 Let me start by saying that as this was my first RCCL cruise, it was a great cruise. Even with the slightly rough seas, on the return two sea days, the trip overall was excellent and well worth trying RCCL as past guest of Carnival. I will preface my review by stating that I'm not going to (or try not to) compare RCCL and Carnival. As mentioned in a previous thread, I made a reservation with Vista Parking (20 Frontage Road) for $82.80 total using a coupon off their internet site. You pay one days charge of $10.35 in advance to hold the reservation. We were in the area two hours early so I dropped off my party at the Sheraton Hotel on Frontage Road to wait for the pickup by Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle. The Vista Parking shuttle dropped me back off at the hotel, which is a few blocks from the hotel. Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle arrived at 11:30, and we had a total of eight people making the trip for the cruise. The rate was $15.00 per person. We found out while driving to the port that BT&S is used by RCCL for their transport service, which cost $27.00pp! We arrived at the entrance to the port in around 10 minutes. Then the line of cars waiting to get into the port took another 30 minutes or so Upon approaching the van drop-off and embarkation area, it looks like mass confusion. The old buildings, tents, and shuttles caught me off guard. I was expecting a terminal like Miami or Port Canaveral. But looks can be deceiving. From the time we exited the shuttle, to check-in, to stopping for our departure photo, to catching the shuttle to the ship took all of 15 minutes. If all your paperwork is in order, the lines move very fast. We entered the ship on deck #1, and took the elevators to Windjammers for lunch. There was large variety of items to select from, and everything was very well prepared and presented. It took me a couple of days to get use to the Windjammer waiters clearing the tables in a timely manner, and checking to see if you wanted a beverage refill. We were then off to check out the ship, when they announced the rooms were ready. Our balcony cabin, category D2 on deck seven was large enough for two or three people with plenty of closet and ample drawer space. The bathroom was the right size for what it's used for. The ship was in great shape, and the crew were always cleaning or repairing something. I really didn't notice anything really worn out or broken. After checking out the ship it was off to the muster drill (no life vests), which was painless, then off for sail-away on Decks 11 & 12. We checked out Dizzy's first, which is great for sail away or just relaxing and taking in the view. We then went outside just in time to pass under the Verrazano Bridge. The first day was spent checking out the rest of the ship, unpacking, and then dinner in Windjammer's. The second day was spent lounging around the ship, hanging out in the library (one of my favorite places) and the hot tub. It was still a bit cool outside, so most of the time was spent participating in onboard activities. This was also the Captains Night and Formal Dinner, and everything went as expected with no problems or complaints. The third day was warm (off the Carolina Coast), so most of the time was spent outside by the pool. Lunch and dinner was in Windjammers. Most of the time, if I wasn't participating in an onboard activity or hanging out in the library or pool, I was in Schooner's. Even though I never thought of myself as a piano bar type of person, this was one of the best spots on the ship. Schooner's was also the location for a lot of trivia games. I spent more time here than in my cabin! Steve, Milan, Kevin and the rest of the crew in Schooner's are great!!! You guys said not to miss the ice show and you were right. This was a very well choreographed, professional show! The skaters, costumes and skating rivaled anything I have seen by Disney on Ice, Nancy Kerrigan or Stars on Ice. I had tickets for the first show and waiting stand by for admission for the second Friday show. Yes, it was that good. Day four we were in Port Canaveral and had great weather although it was cloudy most of the day. We spent the entire day in Magic Kingdom. The park was not really crowded. The one ride I did want to get on (Space Mountain) was down most of the day, even though it just had a multi-million dollar and a several month rehab. Fast Pass was a joke! We were in line at just after 9:00am, and the Fast Pass return time was already at 3:30-4:30pm. Needless to say we'd be gone by then. The parades, shows and music on Main Street have been updated to reflect the times and this generation, and there is entertainment in the streets (jump rope, hopscotch, hula hoops, hokey pokey dancing, etc.) with the kids to keep them entertained before the parades start. In Disney several us of noticed that the dancers and entertainers in the shows and parades were not the youthful teens that had been portrayed in the past. Several cast members could have easily been in their 30's and 40's! The Explorer only offered transport to the park ($33.00pp), and the normal price of the tickets would have cost $84.00 including taxes. This did save us around $20-$30 dollars from what cruise ships normally charge for this excursion. Day five was in Nassau and the weather was beautiful, and not too warm. I guess all cruise lines have deals with Diamonds International. The area just outside the pier was a mix of the typical souvenir and craft shops. The main strip looks like Rodeo Drive with Gucci, Rolex and Fendi. We picked up a few things and stopped at a local place for lunch. After dropping our things off at the ship, we hopped in a taxi ($4.00) to Atlantis in Paradise Island. The place is gorgeous and the aquarium is a bonus. The money spent to view the full aquarium was worth it, along with getting to tour most of the exterior beach areas. The casino (slot machines) was very, very quite (hint, hint). Day six was in Coco Cay which is a tender location. It was hot out on the beach. We spent most of the day lounging on the beach and splashing in the water before grabbing some of the BBQ, which was very good. We picked up more souvenirs in the craft shops and then headed back to the ship early. It was Thanksgiving, and I couldn't see how all those people were going to get back on the ship in time with three tenders, so we left around 3ish or so. Once back on board, we could see the wind and waves were kicking up a bit, so the Captain cancelled the remaining shore leave, as a majority of the passengers were still on the island. All made it back safely. Dinner was in the main dining room, with the Traditional Thanksgiving meal as one of the selections. Day seven and eight, what can I say. The wind and waves begin to get stronger and you really felt the boat rocking. I did take Bonine on the first two days, and again today. I didn't get sick, but heard of several people who did. Most of the time was spent in the library, Schooners or Maharaja's playing trivia, bingo, karaoke or piano sing along. Lunch was in the dining room, and I should have eaten lunch in there every day. I also checked out the Chamber during the day for dancing lessons and at night for the music, which were both comparable to land based locations. I forgot to mention that one of the crew had to be airlifted by the Coast Guard for emergency surgery, but is doing well now. This was one of the highlights of the cruise. You hear about it, but seeing it live is whole nother story. Debarkation even though was well organized; something on the pier threw a monkey wrench in the timing of getting the passengers off in a timely manner. We (Purple Tag, #1) were supposed to meet in the DR and be off at 9:30-9:45, but were delayed by about an hour. Once our color and numbers were called we went down to deck one to disembark (a few minutes), waited on the shuttle to take us to the terminal (a few minutes), waiting to disembark the shuttles (ten minutes). Once in the terminal, we had our luggage and were through customs in less than five minutes. The night before, I called Bayonne Taxi and Shuttle to confirm the pickup at the port, and they instructed me they had a Dispatcher and continual shuttles and taxis running from the port. After customs, we made our way to the taxi area, found the Dispatcher, and were loaded within 3 minutes. We had a 15 minutes wait, while they waiting for more passengers, but we pulled out with 4 people on board. The shuttle took 30 minutes or so to get back to the Sheraton due to a bridge opening in Bayonne/Jersey City. We were dropped back off at the Sheraton, and the Vista shuttle was there in 3 minutes once we called for a pickup. The parking rate and transports was excellent overall. Even though we were a short drive from the port, it was worth not having to worry about if they would be painting this week or not. As a note the rate to the pier was $15.00, while the return rate was $14.00. Taxi cab service would have cost $45.00 plus tolls, if we didn't want to wait for the shuttle to fill-up. The Wrap-up: Overall this was the best cruise I have taken so far. The staff, service, food, activities and accommodations met or exceeded my expectations. The Ice Show along with Comedian Freddie Roman were the best entertainment acts onboard. The Royal Caribbean Dancers and Singers were good, but something was missing from their shows. I don't know if it was the theme, timing, choreography or songs. That is my only little peeve, which really didn't bother me as I sat through all of them, while some people left. The theater was not crowded on the nights I went either. I expected the weather to be cool with possible rough seas the first two and last two days, so this didn't bother me much. It was well worth not having to fly to Florida! I'm already looking into the Explorer for next summer. She'll be like brand new just coming out of dry dock in January. The eight night cruise was the perfect length. Even though we relaxed the first two days, by the time we reached Port Canaveral, we were more than ready for our first port of call. Nassau and Coco Cay were great ports of call as well. Now I'm going to do what I said I wasn't going to do in the beginning. Carnival being the "fun ship" has "fun" activities for the young and young at heart constantly. Notice I did not say partying. The Explorer had a much more "mature (and older)" crowd and "mature activities" even with the amount of children on board. The activities were structured more towards "mature" and "family oriented" cruisers. Having cruised both lines, now believe that when deciding on a vacation if I want to have "fun" I can choose Carnival, and when I want to relax and enjoy my vacation I can choose RCCL. There will be other factors to determine which line or ship I choose, but the next one will be on RCCL. I forgot to sign up for the meet and mingle and once onboard didn't remember to inquire about it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
We are a family of 4, with 11 year old twins, looking to go on a cruise for the first time. We wanted a budget priced 20th Anniversary/Thanksgiving cruise with a port we could drive to. So we ended up picking the Fascination out of ... Read More
We are a family of 4, with 11 year old twins, looking to go on a cruise for the first time. We wanted a budget priced 20th Anniversary/Thanksgiving cruise with a port we could drive to. So we ended up picking the Fascination out of Jacksonville, a 6 hour drive. EMBARKATION - Probably the area that I have the most comments on, mostly negative. Jaxport is minimal facility not really designed to handle the crowds of a fully booked cruise ship. Take our advice - if you do not have your luggage totally organized and ready to hand over to the porters, skip the front of the terminal and just go park. Then, you can take your time without cars backing up behind you. Just tow your luggage over to the building. It's not that far. Once inside the building, the lines were long, but moved along quickly and the Carnival staff did a decent job getting people through. But, the biggest disappointment was when we finally walked on the ship. I wasn't expecting much, just a smile, a "welcome aboard" and some suggestions as to where to head to first. None of that. Just people milling around in the lobby of deck 3 trying to figure out where to go. I finally tugged on the arm of a Carnival employee and she said that we could go to our stateroom and then eat. Felt kind of like being herded like cattle. STATEROOM - It was great! Even with 2 adults and 2 kids, we felt very comfortable in the space. Luxurious compared to our tent camping trips! The room was very clean and we had plenty of places to store our clothes and stuff. Nigel, our steward was very pleasant and unobtrusive and came by several times a day to straighten up the room. The kids loved the towel animals. Because of weather, we spent more time in our stateroom than anticipated and it felt very cozy. And we loved having a window - so much to see! ACTIVITIES - This was probably the biggest challenge for us. We are kind of low key people and would have been very content to just sit on the deck and read. But during our days at sea, the sky was kind of cloudy and often, the wind was very strong and chilly. Not Carnival's fault, though. We went to the Not So Newlywed Game, which was pretty funny. When not too windy, we played mini-golf. It was hard to get a ping pong table and even harder to play on a rolling ship. :) The kids did some Camp Carnival activities and seemed to enjoy them. My son especially enjoyed the dodge ball games and family scavenger hunt. My daughter is a little bit more shy and didn't spend as much time at the camp as her brother. We decided that our next cruise would like to have more ports and less time at sea. My husband was disappointed by the casino. He was hoping for more variety of card games, not just 21 or Hold 'em. But, I guess that Carnival wants to provide the most popular games. We did visit the gym twice and found the facilities to be very satisfactory. Nothing like working out on an elliptical trainer while the ship is rolling! DINING - We ate in the dining room each night and were pleased with the service. The food was good, not great though. It's hard to crank out 2300+ plus dinners every night and not sacrifice some quality. But, it was all fine and I, being a working mom, was delighted that someone else was doing the cooking. Our waitress was charming and the kids really liked her. The chocolate melting cake was fantastic! Breakfast in the dining room was more relaxed and the food better quality than eating at the buffet in the Coconut Grove. The buffet lunch, both on the Lido deck and in the Coconut Grill was often very busy, but you were able to eventually get around, get what you wanted and find a place to sit down. One word of advice, though. If you are picky about how your soda tastes, bring your own or spend money on the cans in your stateroom. I made the mistake of buying a soda card and discovered that the sodas from the bars, where you get them, were very watered. $27 I really regretted spending. ENTERTAINMENT - We went to one show, Hey Mambo. It was well done, the singers and dancers very good and countless costumes changes. All very Vegas-like. My kids were bug-eyed. We need to get them out more. Both of the ports that the Fascination stops in were fun places and we had a wonderful time ashore. We did excursions on our own, rather than through Carnival and everything worked out fine. It's interesting to observe how cruise lines try to separate you from your money. But, it's not hard to keep the spending under control. We brought 2 bottles of wine and bought a couple of mixed drinks. We also bought a couple of the pictures, a Christmas tree ornament and some time playing laser tag. I didn't mind the built in gratuities. Nearly everyone on the crew was friendly and very hard working. The ship was well maintained most of the time. Any problems we encountered, like public restrooms not always clean or tables not cleaned off in a timely manner, seemed to stem mainly from the sheer overwhelming number of people on the ship. I think that the ship had about 500 people more than it's regular sailings. Disembarkation went very smoothly and we were in our car heading home by 10am. We learned a lot, this being our first cruise. We hope to do it again in the near future and, unless our financial situation drastically improves, it will probably be on Carnival again. You can't beat the overall experience for the price. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
To start off...embarkment went very smoothly. I went directly to the counter and got my sail and sign card....then you had to wait for your zone to be called, which took less than 10 minutes. My first impression of the ship is that it is ... Read More
To start off...embarkment went very smoothly. I went directly to the counter and got my sail and sign card....then you had to wait for your zone to be called, which took less than 10 minutes. My first impression of the ship is that it is very colorful. I did get dizzy when i first got on the ship and so did my step mom, but once we boarded and walked around a while, we were ok. We headed to the lido deck for the buffet. At first, it was hard to find the food. There wasn't a big selection for that afternoon. The food did not impress me at that time. We spent some of our time waiting in line to see the maitre de- Ken (Who was very polite and nice). We had to see if we could get a table for my dad to sit with us at diner. He told us that there was no room, but he would make arrangements to ask the people who were at our table to switch if they would like to. After that, we headed to our rooms. We were in room 10220 lido deck. We didn't see our cabin stewart at that time, actually we didn't get to see him until the second day...his name was Rodney. He never got to know our name and never called us by name. That night, the 1,400 children who were on board, decided they didn't want to stay in the kids clubs. Some children were running on our floors,soi put my head outside my door, gave them the eye, and after that i never saw then again. The food on the ship was nothing out of the ordinary...same as on most ships. The Steakhouse also didn't impress me, but this might be all due to the fact that im a picky eater. They do give you alot to eat there. The cruise Director Todd, kept everyone busy. He's just a pleasure to look at. I do have to say,The dream has the best looking crew i have ever seen on my past 8 cruises i have done. The weather was nasty going out of NYC...We had rain for two days, but as soon as we got there the weather got better. In Florida, I went to CoCo beach with the shuttle. It's 5 dollars each way. I walked on the beach...the water was pretty warm and my dad went for a swim. I also went shopping in Ron Jons and then we went back to the ship. In Nassau, it was very windy. We went to Atlantis, but what was supposed to be a ferry turned out to be a small banged up boat. They loaded about 75 people on a boat that could hardly hold 30 people. I really thought we would sink, but we did make it to Atlantis. Atlantis didnt impress me at all. They wouldn't let you on the beach unless you bought a pass. We went shopping in the town and then went back to the ship. Thanksgiving diner on the ship was not good at all. Not like the average Thanksgiving diner. I was disappointed in that and so was my dad and step mom. Freeport was very nice. We went to the beach by van . We passed the casino, but didn't go in. I rode the banana boat, which was a highlight of my trip. I was the only 51 year old, who had the guts to get on it. I was on it with three kids. The banana boat stopped in the middle of the ocean...the guy ran out of gas, so i spent 20 minutes trying to calm down the kids who were scared and starting to cry. I told them not to worry, we will be OK. They called another boat, and got us the gas and then we were on our way. We had the greatest waiters...SASA, MAXIMO- I called him tea man, and Ne mo-my dad nicknamed him Nicholas, because we couldn't spell his name or ever get it right. I'm glad I got to test out the hot tubs on the ship. I never got to go in the pools, they were too crowded. Some nights i would go back to my dads room To meet him for a show and he would have beautiful towel animals (he was on deck 9) I would be disappointed in what i got...i got all flat things, so i wrote on my comment card, that my room steward needs towel making class lessons. I think he could have taking some more time on what i got in my room but that didn't hurt my cruise. I still gave him an extra tip anyway. All of the activities and shows were fantastic...It would have been nicer to have one or two more shows going on in the afternoon. I especially loved the laser shows. The crew did the best they could with all the people they had to deal with on this sailing...and believe me...some of them were not so nice. They are all very hard workers and i appreciate all the stuff they have done for us. All and all, I loved my cruise and will definitely stick with Carnival Cruise Lines. Thank you Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
After waiting enthusiastically for months to take our Carnival Dream cruise, we embarked from Manhattan, New York for what we believed to be 8 glorious days aboard Carnival's newest, largest, most highly anticipated cruise ship, The ... Read More
After waiting enthusiastically for months to take our Carnival Dream cruise, we embarked from Manhattan, New York for what we believed to be 8 glorious days aboard Carnival's newest, largest, most highly anticipated cruise ship, The Dream. The embarkation went smoothly enough. It took about an hour to get onto the ship. Because the cabins were not available, cruise guest were directed to the Lido deck where we could get lunch. We immediately went to the Mongolian station where we waited in line for over an hour to get food. The food at this station was very good. The area inside was crowded so we had to seat outside which was cold. We then went to our cabin which was very nice and clean. As people began to file onto the ship, space began to slowly become an issue. It slowly began to feel crowed with nothing to do. It was clear the planners seemed to overlook the fact that it was cold outside therefore people, some 4,500 plus crew would be wandering around inside, bumping into each other. By the end of the second night, it was obvious that the staff had overlooked the 18-20 yr olders as there was absolutely nothing planned the entire 8 days for this age group. A friend had an 18 yr old who showed up for a meet and great which was supposed to be planned (it was listed in the cruise caper), but noone, including activity crew showed up. Therefore, they just ran lose, drank ed liquor and got in trouble. She tried to talk to the Cruise director, Tood several times leaving written requests, but he never responded. This lack of response seemed to permeate the cruise ship. Crew members were rude, seemingly tired and overworked. While this was a ship twice the size, 130,000 tonage as one of their regular size ships, 80-90,000 tonage, the crew appeared to not reflect the increase in number of cruise guests. Often our cabins were cleaned after we returned from late dinner seating which was after 9:30pm which would include getting ice, clean drinking glasses, etc. Getting ice and drinking water were indeed a nightmare!!! Of course, if you wanted water in your cabin you could buy it for almost $4 or wait 45 minutes to an hour for room service. Often we did not receive a cruise caper, so you would find out that something happened after the fact. The food was one of the two biggest disappointments of the cruise. Other than the Mongolian station, the food simply did not taste good. The lines were always long no matter where you tried to get food. The pizza was awful. The food in the two restaurants (I ate in the Scarlet restaurants some evenings) was simply not good. As the days past, the number of people eating in the restaurant began to dwindle. One night I asked for a fruit salad (it was on the menu) and simply asked to not have pineapples (as I am allergic) to be removed. This would have left watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. I was told that this could not be done because the food it "pre-prepared". My last night I tried it again, asking to have some red sauce removed from my shrimp plate and was again told it could not be removed. The sauce completely changed the taste of the shrimp. We ate at Scarlet's 5 of our 8 nights, not one of the night did we get offered tea, juice, even alcoholic beverage until after dinner, during desert. This was only after we asked. Drink order were never taken!!!!! Our table guest just gave up and stopped eating in the restaurant. Between 2:30pm and 6pm, it seemed that hot foods became scarce. However, until 2:30 or 3pm you could get the Mongolian food if you choose to stand in line for over an hour to get it. And, even at that the food station closed down at that time regardless how long you had been in line. I witnessed daily arguments between guest and crew over this fact. Room service had a limited menu, cold and again took nearly an hour to get it. Only continniel breakfast in your room. In short, the food, taste and service was sub par. The second disappointment was the entertainment. The shows were just not good. I did not go on a cruise to see break dancing, ventriloquist acts. The dancers were slow and just not good. This was not my first cruise, however it was my first carnival cruise. So, I had some sense of what I thought I would experience. Please note, the cruise had two comedians during the first 3 days who were very, very good. At this point, I'm speaking of the Encore theater entertainment. However, the other acts were also sub par. I am sorry, but I just don't have the words to describe it. The buzz around the ship was its level of disappointment. You could always judge by the majority of seats being empty, always more seats empty than occupied. One night there was a big party on the Lido deck. For the first time during the cruise it was really full. It was fun even though the music selection was not good. After about 2 hrs it ended. The planner immediately started this "Laser show" which was consistently not good. The laser show lasted about 25 minutes just long enough to clear out the crowd. This was one of the warmer nights, you would think folks would hang around for the show and listen to the band. The reason is because the laser show and band was awful. It was one of the bahamas port nights and good planner would have kept with the theme, perhaps Bahamian or island music, but no, a bad band playing rock music. Often the cruise seemed to lack coherent, just poor planning. I don't recall one crew member, other than the spa staff who seemed to pay attention to the guest, other than trying constantly to sell me a drink. I observed a waiter serve alcoholic beverages to a table of kids I know where under 21 yrs of age. Because the ship has 14 decks, the elevators were the means of getting from deck to deck unless you choose to walk the stairs. They were always slow. The ship is big and beautiful without a doubt. The service, friendliness of the crew, food and entertainment is indeed sub par. This was a Thanksgiving Holiday cruise. which means it extended into the beginning of the Christmas holiday. I expected the ship to reflect at a minimum the thanksgiving holiday, at the most a Christmas tree.....something that reflected the Holiday. Absolutely nothing!!! We went to the restaurant that night, again nothing. they had turkey on the menu, but I guest I expected the planners to take into account that it was Thanksgiving, maybe wear a pilgrim hat, crave a turkey, put a piece of thanksgiving decoration on the table, play holiday music.....nothing happened!!! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Just returned from our 7th cruise, on the Carnival Dream, the largest in the Carnival fleet, sailing out of New York. Don't expect the Dream to return to New York anytime soon, as it appears it's doing most of its sailing out of ... Read More
Just returned from our 7th cruise, on the Carnival Dream, the largest in the Carnival fleet, sailing out of New York. Don't expect the Dream to return to New York anytime soon, as it appears it's doing most of its sailing out of Port Canaveral. Embarkation went very well. The wife & I arrived at the docks around 2pm, and within half an hour we were on the ship, which was a pleasant surprise. The Dream is huge !! Over 1000 feet long !! Everything was nice and clean, as it should be, as its less than a month old at this point. We made our way to our inside cabin, which is fine for two, but no more. Three large closets, but only two electrical outlets. Our room steward Elio was nowhere to be found, but the room was perfect, so we didn't really need him. We went off to explore the ship... Most of the action takes place on Deck 10, Lido deck, including the main dining hall. It's big, but not as big as I thought it was going to be; it doesn't appear that they could seat everyone on board if they wanted to. The weather for the first couple of days was bad, but the Dream seemed to take it in stride. We're not big gamblers, so we didn't care for the casino, which again was not as big as I expected it to be. I lost my $20 allowance pretty quickly, so I didn't really spend too much time there. The shops are good, but nothing special, just standard Carnival fare. Plenty of Bingo, if that's your thing, but we didn't care for it. We arrived @ Port Canaveral on Thanksgiving Day, and all went well. The wife & I stayed on-board, since we didn't care to go to Orlando or the beach at this point. They offered Disney for about $180 per person, including the bus trip, which seemed steep to me. Can you imagine going with the wife and kids ?? Bring your wallet !! The second day brought Nassau in the Bahamas, which is interesting, but... we've been there so many times, and it's NOT getting better with age. A lot of the local shops have closed down, probably due to the economy, so there are more vacant shops than occupied ones. We did get a good deal on Bacardi rum at only $5 per bottle !! The Paradise is located here, but we've already been. Beyond that, I've read some articles about the recent crimes that have taken place here, so we never ventured too far. We always felt safe, the police are everywhere, and the locals seemed friendly, so do as you will. Our last port was Freeport in the Bahamas, which again is interesting, but... The port is located in a shipyard, so you have to take a taxi or shuttle to see anything. We didn't care for any of the excursions being offered, especially at the prices, so we just wandered on our own for a while before returning to the ship. Back to the Dream... The food ? Good, but not great, as is typical with Carnival. I enjoyed the Mongolian Grill (45 minute wait...) Pasta Bar (30 minute wait...) Indian Grill (No wait !!) and more. We were always able to find a seat, but sometimes you have to look for it. We didn't try the extra-cost Steakhouse, especially since we heard from others that it's nothing special. The shows ? Dancin' In The Streets was excellent, Get Ready was good, but then there was Hee Haw night.... The performers were fine for the most part, but not as good as some others we've seen, especially on the Miracle or Valor. Other shows were fine, but nothing we haven't seen before. Literally. I think we saw the same Juggler and Ventriloquist, with the same acts, years ago. The comedians were very good, too, as long as you don't mind the colorful language, which we don't. Some other things that come to mind... Where did all the children come from ? Aren't they supposed to be in school in November ? Also, while we met some nice people, we also met some not so nice people. Do you really need to leave your dirty dishes in the elevator ? Do you really need to slam the door to your cabin ? Can you wait in the food lines like the rest of us ? And finally, one of the best things Carnival has ever come up with is Serenity, the "adults only" area. No kids, better seats, and finally, some peace and quiet. If Carnival is listening, I would love to have an entire "Adults Only" cruise ! Perhaps once a year, couldn't each ship in the Carnival fleet have such a cruise ? Overall, we enjoyed ourselves, and would love to sail on the Dream again. Carnival met our expectations as usual, and we look forward to our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
this cruise was the worst i have ever gone on . If this is there newest and best ship i do not want to see the older and smaller cruise ships I do 2 cruises every year ! to start the food disgusting ! The same repeat food items every meal ... Read More
this cruise was the worst i have ever gone on . If this is there newest and best ship i do not want to see the older and smaller cruise ships I do 2 cruises every year ! to start the food disgusting ! The same repeat food items every meal and what we did get was poor quality , the service what service did not exist , the ship was always dirty tables at lunch still full of empty trays full of breakfast food in the dining halls and the pool areas , the floors covered with pieces of food , the stairways even had plates of food on the steps for hours , the main dining area is too close to the kitchen dish washers the main room smells like a sour dish rag that has been sitting out . the stage shows and the comedy acts were very good . the smaller entertainment like trivia ,planed group activities ,pool side games were very disorganized . my wife loved the spa package ! It was cold and rainy i got board on the cruise after the first day . The ship is cut up into small pockets there is really no promenade to gather in either your in a lounge or a hallway . it was hard to get across this ship sometime having to go to higher or lower floors to cross . we booked theis cruise because it was a little cheaper than royal caribbean wow ! was that a mistake i wont make again ....the kids programs an hour wait to drop off the 6 year old to the kids club, just too drop off she was already registered , and almost as long too pick up , the 14 yr old program had no rules , and no supervision .there were 5 fights in the halls ,i had too stop my daughter from going there ! she had fun but at what cost ? Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
It was a dark and dreary day in New York City. We were very disappointed with the weather. As we arrived at the pier, we couldn't help but marvel at the size of the Dream. Could this really be our ship for the next 8 days? George and ... Read More
It was a dark and dreary day in New York City. We were very disappointed with the weather. As we arrived at the pier, we couldn't help but marvel at the size of the Dream. Could this really be our ship for the next 8 days? George and I dropped our luggage off with the porters, and then went inside to the cruise terminal. As usual, embarkation was a breeze. We were on the ship no later than 12:45 P.M. As we waited on Deck 0 for the elevator, we couldn't help but notice how brightly lit the area was. We were very impressed with the way they presented the ship right from the start. However, we were not pleased with the amount of time we had to wait for an elevator. With over 4,000 passengers, you'd think there'd be enough elevators for everyone. It wasn't so in that case. When we finally were able to grab one, one of the crew members was taking us up to the 10th floor for the Lido Deck. When we stepped off the elevator, again, we were impressed with the way the ship looked. We ended up running into Michelle, one of the members of cruise critic, who we had met on our previous cruise, on board CCL's Triumph in June, 2009. She was with her friends, Jessica and Joe, with whom she worked with at West Point. Justin, Michelle's fiance, wasn't with them at that point. George was somewhat disappointed that he wasn't there. We went to find out what line was the shortest, as we scoped out the food situation. Justin had gone to see a man about a horse, and was heading back as we ran into him. George and Justin bonded on our last cruise, and it was great to see Justin once again. We finally found a place to stand in line. George got food at the Taste of Nations, while I sat and held our seat. We weren't too impressed with the lay out of the Lido dining area. It wasn't as spread out as we'd hoped. At times, it was too crowded. We could barely move. Once we both had our lunch in front of us, we discussed what our game plan was for the day. We had been assigned the late dinner seating, and wanted to go and talk to the Matre'D about changing to the early dinner seating. When we got to the Crimson Dining Room, we met with some guy who wasn't the Matre'D. The Matre'D came in as we were standing there, trying to get our request accepted. He wasn't even working. He wasn't dressed as the Matre'D, and we were not at all impressed with his persona. We were told that we'd get our response in our stateroom the next night. After we had our first disappointment, we ended up going up to our room. We got in contact with Justin and Michelle later on that day. It turned out, againb, we were seated at the same dinner table. George and I were pleased to know who we were sitting with. Jessica, Joe, and Joe's two boys were also sitting with us. It was great to know that we were eating with people we could get along with. The shops on board the ship carried the best of everything at rock bottom prices. We bought some souvenirs and ended up spending quite a lot on them. However, we didn't care because we were on vacation. They had cartons of cigarettes and bottles of liqour for sale, and they beat the prices we have in Connecticut. We had this African-American sales representative who was very friendly, and quite a gentleman. He made our shopping experience comfortable asw we purchased away. The shows were fantastic! We saw "Dancing in the Streets" which will make it big in the theaters some day. It was by far the best show we have seen on the high seas. The costumes, dancing and music really captured our attention. The lead singer had an awesome voice, as she sang her heart out. However, there were some down sides to our trip. We went in to see the Matre'D on the first Fun Day at Sea. It was formal night, and we had gone into the dining room in our regular clothes, just to see if we could change our seating. Claudio, the Matre'D, insulted George. He said that it was formal night, and he wasn't allowed to wear shorts in the dining room. George got really offended, because we weren't there to eat, just to plead our case for the early dinner seating. That set George off on a bad note. There were plenty of things he wanted to say to him, but instead, we turned the other cheek, and walked out of the dining room. However, George was fuming! He shouldn't have been treated like that. Our waitresses were Tatiyana and Romona. They were a lot of fun, and met our every request. Even though we didn't have the early dinner seating, we still enjoyed our company. Justin and Michelle are the two coolest people we've met on our past cruise. At one point, I found out that we were arriving into New York earlier than expected. Our friend Pete was going to pick us up around 8:30 AM, however, we found out we'd be arriving around 6:30 AM. I found a quiet place on the Lido Deck to call Pete, but these people, who sat down after I was talking on the phone, asked me to move. I responded with "I was here first." If they didn't want me talking on the phone, they should have found another place to sit. So of course, they were making rude comments behind my back. I turned the other cheek, and left when I couldn't make any progress with my phone call. However, we enjoyed the ship, and most of the people we met on board. We went to the Cruise Critic meet and greet, and met Justin and Michelle there. Everyone ignored us, so we just left and went elsewhere. I was disappointed. Thanksgiving dinner was great. They had the traditional turkey dinner, but we all opted for something different. There was shrimp and steak. Of course we decided on that food instead of a turkey dinner. They really made our time worthwhile, and we were glad to be with friends we enjoy spending time with. All in all, the ship was a great experience. 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Sail Date November 2009
Having not been on an NCL cruise in almost 8 years I was a little unsure what to expect. But we were eager to get away from the cold of NE Pennsylvania and a have a nice break after the Thanksgiving holiday. Overall, I was extremelly ... Read More
Having not been on an NCL cruise in almost 8 years I was a little unsure what to expect. But we were eager to get away from the cold of NE Pennsylvania and a have a nice break after the Thanksgiving holiday. Overall, I was extremelly pleased with our experince on the SKY. She may be an older ship, but having recently refurbished, she showed no signs of wear. Sure, she isn't the biggest and she is missing a lot of the bells and whistles....but one thing she does have is a really great price tag!! For just over $200 we spent 4-days and nights floating around the carribbean and loving it!! Try and find a place in South Florida (or anywhere) that will do that and include all meals and entertainment!! YOU CAN'T! I have read a lot of the negative reviews and do what I did...try it out yourself. You won't be disappointed! My partner and I travelled with several other couples. Most of us agreed that the ship was nice...but some prefer the Atlantis cruise where couples of our type are catered to. I found the staff, crew & ammentities just fine. I found the food, for the most part, to be quite good. Sure...it wasn't 5-star...but it was by no means diner fair. Definitely try the prime rib, the rack of lamb, the 8oz sirloin (add bleu cheese crumbles!) & the seafood and more seafood pasta (w/ Lobster tail). And remember...you're on vacation...order seconds...or mix and match entrees. I don't think there was one meal where we didn't order almost one of everything amongst our group. Sure...you could pay extra and go to one of the 'specialty' restaurants...but I don't know why you'd want to! The food was definitely better than I expected. My only major complaint was the slow service in the main dining rooms. Becuase it is freestyle, you run the risk of hitting the restaurant at it's peak time. Dinner took over two hours on two occasions...but we were a group of 10 and we had no where to go! It was worth the wait. Another minor complaint...Freeport.....BORING...Either book an excursion or stay on board and pretend it is a day at sea! All things considered, I would do the same cruise tomorrow! Worth every penny! And hell, it beats the 6" of snow we got over the weekend! Read Less
Sail Date November 2009

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