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59 Bahamas Holiday Cruise Reviews

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. ... Read More
Had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday on the NCL Sky. Husband, son(16) and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on Friday - rented a car for the 3 days before left on the Sky on Monday 11/24. Did the tourist thing around Miami for three days. We stayed at the Best Western in North Miami in the Bayside Marina. Location was great - just north of South Beach and 15-20 minute drive to Port of Miami. There were several other people we met in the hotel that were booked on a cruise. Picked this hotel from recommendation of other cruise critic reviews. Older hotel recently renovated. Continental breakfast was okay. Hotel restaurant was great - on the marina. Would definitely stay again. Dropped rental car off at the Miami Int'l airport. Cab fair from MIA was set a flat rate of $24. Lot's of road construction around the drop off area for the rental car companies. Got turned around - was late checking in and Avis charged us another hour at $39. Did call Avis and complain because of the road construction, etc. Got a credit back for the $39. Embarkation was easy. We arrived at 11:15 - paper work processed quickly. After passport check, etc. was put into a holding area with many other people. They didn't start boarding until 12:00. That went pretty quick. Rooms were not ready until 2:00 - so had plenty of time to have lunch and find our way around the ship. You could tell the ship was an older ship - but was very clean. This was our second cruise. First was with Carnival. Was sort of dissappointed in the room size. Had a balcony. Size of balcony was just fine. Room was somewhat smaller than that we had on the Carnival ship, especially the bathroom. Shower was really small - but we were okay. We were across from the crew service area but never heard any noise. Short walk to elevators. Cabin 9233 - mid ship - great location. Staff was great. Cruise director - Matt - was funny. Shows were good - the comedian was kinda lame. No complaints at all about room stewards. They kept our room changed and cleaned in am and pm. We didn't pay the extra to dine in Cagney's or the Italian restaurant. They wanted $20 pp extra. Previous reviews indicated $10 pp - maybe they charged more because of the Thanksgiving week. Food was okay in the buffet lines, seemed to have almost the same everyday. Dinning room was different - great food and great service. Never waited more than 10 minutes. Love the freestyle dining though. Husband and son went to breafast bar every morning - I had room service. They were prompt with time requested. Ports of call were good. Didn't book excursions until we got on the ship on Monday 11/24. Waited in the lobby for the excursion desk to open - was first in line. Great Stirrip Cay, NCL's private island, was wonderful; but you better get out there early. Lounge chairs and umbrellas go really fast. Walked right off the ship onto the tender boat. Waited just a bit for the boat to fill up before leaving for the island. The beach was a bit crowded - but had a great day. Debarkation was quick too. We put our luggage out the night before so we didn't have to drag our bags through the hallways with many others. Just kept a bag with morning essentials and change of clothes. We didn't get off until 9:00 or so. Took cab back to MIA and then rented a car to drive to Ft Lauderdale. It costs us about $15-20 more for the rental car and the cab to MIA than had we taken the NCL shuttle to Ft Lauderdale - our flight didn't leave until 4:15 from FLL to Atl so we didn't want to hang out at the airport all day. Overall cruise was great - will definitely travel with NCL again. P Fountain - Atl, GA Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal ... Read More
My fiance (24 years old) and I (27 years old) sailed on the Thanksgiving Cruise, Monday through Friday. This was our 3rd cruise. We first sailed with Carnival Miracle and then Carnival Destiny. One of the main reasons we chose Royal Caribbean was due to the feedback that "going Royal" is taking a step-up. After having an unpleasant experience with Carnival Destiny, we decided to give RC a chance. The first thing I must mention is that the Carnival Destiny was built in 1991 and RC Majesty of the Seas was built in 1992. Though, the Majesty of the Seas looks 10 times better than the Destiny. The decor was of better quality and class. It was not "bright" and tacky. Now on the Carnival Destiny, it was terrible as the ship's condition was the main factor as to why we had a horrible time. Therefore for a ship of this age and in such great shape, I can only imagine what the newer ships look like. The crew and staff of RC was very nice. I was impressed and taken aback by how nice they were. Carnival is known as the "Fun Ship" but I truly believe of the 3 cruises, this one by far gets the better rating in terms of the ships crew and their friendliness. In regards to additional tips, here is some things I noted to help all of you: Do not book a room on the 8th Deck near the Club. I would be pissed if I had a room here, because this is where ALL the traffic is at from 11pm-3am. The noise from the people walking to and from the Club would annoy me. I believe the room numbers were 8500. Please seek out the layout of the ship, and avoid getting a room their. Also, make sure you attend the Game Show "Quest". After being on 3 ships, the activities begin to look the same, but "Quest" was absolutely hilarious. I laughed so much that my voice was gone the next day! And please do enter yourself in the free giveaways. So many people sign up, but don't show up for the actual give-away. We were lucky to win a Spa Treatment after 30 names were called! We were excited about that! In regards to Ports, this time my fiance' and I decided to freestyle this one. We usually do intense research looking for excursions, but this time we decided to do it differently. Though I wish we had something set up for Nassau because although the Atlantis is nice to see, we were bored after a while. We did do the Kayaking in Coco Cay, and that was nice to do. Overall, I would do RC again. I would love to try out a bigger and newer ship due to my pleasant experience on this older ship. Though I will admit that as a young couple, we did find ourselves comparing the activities with Carnival. Both my fiance' and I agreed that in regards to activities, Carnival wins the cake! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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 just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though ... Read More
We just literally got off the ship just a few hours ago. This is not a comprehensive day by day review but rather a summary of lasting impressions, good and bad, from this particular cruise experience. We are first time NCL cruisers though have cruised in the past with Disney (recently) and Carnival (a few years ago). Our experience was made better by: a) People : The ship's crew were both friendly, courteous and industrious from our cabin stewards (Jacinto Anion and Ambari team), the bartenders, the pool deck staff, the cleaning crew, and the garden cafe staff (we're amazed at the temperament of the garden cafe staff as we've witnessed them being unfairly abused by a few rude and obnoxious passengers). The results of the ship's crew efforts is shown by how clean and nice the ship is, inside and out.However, This applies for the crew on the ship only. In the NY port, some people we encountered during embarkation were rude & incompetent but not sure if they are NCL employees or if NCL has direct management control over them. b) Entertainment : Excellent shows (the performers and the production band was awesome), excellent music performers (notably Randon & Kenosis) and a variety of entertainment programs available for all ages and taste (kudos to Jamie & team). Our experience was not made better by : a) So-So kids club: Our 3 Kids were in 3 programs (6-9, 10-12, and teen). The problems were more structural than people or execution. The counselors were lively and good with the kids. The problem was that they have to work on very confined places (except for the teen lounge), don't have hours beyond 10:30pm without having to pay extra, and the scarcity of technology options (computers, wii, xbox 360 etc). Our point of reference for this assessment for full disclosure is the Disney cruise line which we have recently sailed on over the past 2 years. This however is not a major negative as we can reset our expectations for this service the next time around and organize our kid's activities accordingly. b) Inefficient process : If there was anything that bothered us greatly on this cruise is having to be inconvenienced because of inefficient processes and procedures. I think this cruise can benefit by looking at its processes and procedures (LEAN, Six Sigma, 5S) leading to better productivity (lower cost) and higher customer satisfaction (higher revenue). This is very evident in the magenta and great pacific dining rooms. There seem to be a lot of restaurant staff moving around like headless chickens. Again, they are very industrious and friendly but that is not enough to have a seamless operation. The checkin/checkout process for the kids club and towels need to be automated (use the key card rather than manually signing in) and needs better queue management (removal of non-value added process and procedures). In summary, while the cruise is not perfect (not sure if one really is), this cruise is definitely a great value. The negatives mentioned above can easily be addressed through lowering expectations and working around it. The positives however definitely outweigh all of this. As long as NCL maintains its price point, it's friendly and industrious crew, keep its freestyle concept and continue to have NY as its port, we would likely be long time and repeat NCL cruisers. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
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
Christmas get away for my husband and me, our two young adult children, son's girlfriend and our niece. First time cruising for everyone but me, I have gone on 2 other Carnival cruises with friends. I have loved cruising so much, so I ... Read More
Christmas get away for my husband and me, our two young adult children, son's girlfriend and our niece. First time cruising for everyone but me, I have gone on 2 other Carnival cruises with friends. I have loved cruising so much, so I wanted my family to try it too. Pros: Fun group on board - there were 8 college basketball teams sailing, including one from our area - Northwest Iowa, so plenty of young people to keep things upbeat. Great food and plenty of it. The band that played at the main shows was amazing. Skip was a great cruise director, very funny guy. Amazing service, from porters, to waiters, to Customer service peeps. Variety of activities available at all times. Serenity deck - peace and quiet. Freeport = Junkanoo Beach. Clean, almost had the place to ourselves, beautiful Nassau = Blue Lagoon Island Beach Day. We booked it ourselves thanks to tips found here on Cruise Critic boards. Paradise - would recommend this anyone who wants to get away from the crowds and experience heaven on earth. Cons: There were a couple of not great things, but who cares? It's vacation - don't let it bother you. Bottom line: Our daughter suffered from sea sickness, no more cruising for her. But our son and his girlfriend are planning to go again, the jury is still out for our niece, and hooray for me......... dh is up for more cruising. That makes this cruise a success ! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Being from the mid-Atlantic region, the Port of Baltimore was very appealing for embarkation. In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Port and began the check in process. For the most part, it was painless. As we were traveling with a 4 ... Read More
Being from the mid-Atlantic region, the Port of Baltimore was very appealing for embarkation. In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Port and began the check in process. For the most part, it was painless. As we were traveling with a 4 year old, we didn't participate in the late night adult action but we had plenty of fun and opportunity to enjoy family time and couple time. We ate just about every meal in the My Fair Lady Dining Room and found it to be beautiful with exception service. We had Table 470, which was located right next to the Captain's Table (he only ate there once during the main seating of 6:00 pm). In addition to ordering off the extensive menu, we enjoyed the breakfast cereal/fruit bar as well as the lunchtime Tutti Salads. We were not impressed with the Windjammer Cafe but I wouldn't say it was bad. We are not buffet people and would rather be waited on instead of waiting in line and choosing food after others. However, the Windjammer is conveniently located on the Pool Deck. Speaking of the Pool Deck... it's fantastic. We had a few nice days to sit and enjoy the sun while our daughter splashed around. One day, the water was heated so mom got in with her! The Solarium is gorgeous and a nice, quiet getaway from the congestion of the pool deck. The water is always warm and relaxing. The Spa and fitness room is located next to the Solarium. I was able to enjoy a relaxing pedicure on the first day at sea. Very nice! The fitness room was up the stairs on Deck 10 and overlooked the sea. Very motivating! The LifeFitness equipment was in good shape. My husband and I enjoyed working out every day. Outside the gym was the Rock Wall. I am proud to say I gave it a try but only managed to get half way. My husband made the climb look easy and rang the bell at the top! Our daughter LOVED Ocean Adventure! This service was a treasure for us. She loved the time away from us to play with other kids (Aquanauts 3-5) and the staff was professional, organized, and FUN. They followed the posted schedule that included wonderful daily themes. Kudos to Little John, Tinkerbell, Marshmallow, Andy, and Simon! The Ocean Adventure staff played elves and helped Santa hand out gifts to all the children on board on Christmas Day. One complaint I have is that they held their 2nd formal night on the same day as the CoCo Cay Beach day. With the main seating time of 6:00, it was a mad rush for us to get tendered back, get all of us showered, dressed and dolled up in enough time. I think it would have been better to have it on an At Sea day (Christmas Day). It was an exhausting day! The only other complaints I have is the time spent in the ports. Port Canaveral was WAY too long at 10 hours whereas Key West was WAY too short! Great vacation!!! Thank you RCCL and Enchantment of the Seas! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough ... Read More
After a long year of work without much time off, this was a much needed respite for my wife, 2 daugthers (13 & 10) and me. The weather wasn't quite as warm as we'd hoped, but the cruise was fantastic anyway. After a rough first day and a half (the snowstorm that crushed the northeast made the ride aboard fairly bumpy), the weather was clear and beautiful in Florida and the Bahamas. We are fairly experienced cruisers; not looking for super-luxury or gourmet food, just an enjoyable family vacation that allows us to forget about work for a week. Mission accomplished. First, I have to congratulate whoever came up with the idea of Freestyle cruising, because in reality it's just another way of saying we're going to charge you more for the privilege of eating slightly above average food and pay a premium for it. The food: A couple of the restaurants were worth the extra money. Both the Teppanyaki and steakhouse are must-dos. Sushi was average at best; Tex-Mex slightly above average, but nothing spectacular. Main dining rooms were good, but again nothing superb. The buffet (Garden Cafe) was ridiculous. Almost always overcrowded with people pushing and shoving to get at the food, as though they were eating their last meal (of course, those who pushed hardest and whose plates were piled highest were also the ones who clearly didn't need that fourth piece of cake...). Food was what you'd expect from an average cafeteria, but omelets at breakfast were good. Bottom line -- get there early for breakfast and don't go back. Chocolate buffet not worth it at all. We were worried that there would be too few activities on the days at sea, but the cruise director did a good job of having enough varied activities to keep everyone happy. Ports: Florida -- the Universal trip for the family was definitely worth it; had enough time in the park to ride almost everything we wanted to. Great Stirrup Cay -- plenty of activities to keep people busy, from waterslides to parasailing to just relaxing on beach chairs. Nassau -- the Atlantis aquaventure and dolphin encounters were popular. And since it warmed up to over 70 that day, the water park was enjoyable. Cabin -- mini-suite -- was an ok size for 4, but would recommend a larger suite or separate rooms for slightly older kids. Cabin stewards were terrific as far as making up the room and turning it down at night. Kids' activities were fantastic in both the teens and tweens clubs; both kept the kids entertained for hours on end so we could enjoy some adult time. Maltings Whisky bar on deck 6 had some interesting scotch, bourbon and beer tasting seminars that are worth attending. Overall, one of the best family vacations ever. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Drove through a snowstorm on Christmas night from New Jersey to Charleston to beat the blizzard before it hit NY area. Virginia/NC got 10 inches or so, but we took it slow and steady - we were determined to make our cruise!!! ... Read More
Drove through a snowstorm on Christmas night from New Jersey to Charleston to beat the blizzard before it hit NY area. Virginia/NC got 10 inches or so, but we took it slow and steady - we were determined to make our cruise!!! Charleston: A very nice city - we spent a night before cruise ate at a great seafood restaurant (Hymans) and loved it. We stayed overnight at the Best Western they have a park and stay package, very nice hotel I would recommend it. They provided a taxi for the five us us to get to ship, did not include round trip though, which we were not aware of. Embarkation: Very messy port to use. It is a muddy mess, you cannot walk or be dropped off with luggage, you have to check your luggage in at a tent location, then get on a shuttle bus to take you to building. Ship was late getting into port due to rough seas night before (blizzard) and someone died on the ship that morning (freaked my kids out alittle). Once we were in the building we were on the ship in 20 minutes. Lines moved fast. It was just getting into building that was a bit annoying. Charleston has alot to see and do, so spend time doing this before, once you are on ship you cannot get off. Terminal is right infront of customs building in downtown Charleston, walkable distance to shuttles from downtown area and fleamarket. Ship is small, but nicely kept. It does show its age though, carpets and stairways look older. Ship is clean though, they work hard to keep it this way. We booked two cabins, an ocean view and an inside for our teenaged children. They were right across the hall from us, very convenient and they are older so I felt ok about it. Oceanview rooms are roomy and the inside rooms are a bit smaller it seemed. There was three beds in it though. Kids were happy, they could sleep as late as they wanted, no windows, they did not know the time!!! We had to bang on their door to wake them up. Cabins were clean, bathrooms were clean and big enough. No blowdryers, you had to ask for one. No irons, but there was a laundry room down the hall with two irons for use and 4 washer dryers, which with all my cruises I did not know you could do laundry!!! Very convenient with kids!! Next time I will pack less. One bad thing - very noisy, walls and doors were thin, so we did not sleep too well, heard noise all the time. I had to put a pillow over my head to sleep well. Our room was under a kitchen we think so we heard alot of noise. Dining: Breakfast - Windows had a buffet breakfast with standard food, not as nice as last cruise (Norwegian) but OK. My hubby and I only ate once, we went to Celebration dining room other mornings for a sit down breakfast - much better quality and fast service. I enjoyed this very much. Kids slept in and ate later or missed out all together and ate lunch for breakfast! Lunch: We ate on Lido deck and windows on the Sea all days, except for day infreeport, ate at Our Lucaya restaurant. Food was plentiful and good. Not great just good. Dinners were great, I thought food was very good and nice selection. We ate in Jubilee late seating. Our waiter AJ was great. Entertainment: We only went to one show and it was very good. Other show was a Beatles tribute and we opted to do pictures instead (it was New Year's Eve and we were all dressed up). Water park is great, but I can imagine it gets crowded on hot days, our weather was cool. Serenity deck is nice for adults, but small and was shady and cold most days. Two nice hottubs though with no kids peeing in them!! I recommend this deck. Nice cushioned lounge chairs, gotta get up early though to claim one!! Pool area was nice too, they did a nice job redoing this deck. I have been on this ship before renovations, very nice job renovating the decks. Kids clubs: My 13 year old loved her club, she is very outgoing and social so she made lots of friends, my 15 year old boy went to his club a few times, did not like it as much as she did. My 19 year old was bummed that he could go to bars and casino, but not drink. Carnival has 21 or older strict policy. Other lines are 18 with parents consent. He spent alot of time in casino - feeling like a big man. He also went to disco a few times to laugh at all us old folks!!! New Years Eve was a very spectacular night, Carnival really went out of their way to make it very special, exciting and entertaining. Champagne was flowing (for free no less!!!) Everyone was dressed to the nines, just like a formal night. It felt very special and it is one of the main reasons we did this cruise. Big party on Lido deck with a big 2010 Neon light that changed to 2011 at midnight and ship blew horn, alot of fun!!! Want to do it again next year. Nassau - we just shopped and walked around Bay street - we have been here three times, so felt like just shopping and enjoying the ship when it was empty! Kind of wish we did the beach or something though, ship was chilly and windy. Freeport - did the sanddollar snorkel cruise you can book online. It was TERRIFIC! It was only us and three others, normally 20-40 people. Catamaran was very nice (except for restroom - yuk) and reef was great. We have snorkeled before and never saw this many fish. It was great! Included all you could drink Bahama Mamas!!! Only $45 per person too, much cheaper than any ship excursion. Did a facial in the spa - a bit pricey by nice. It was a special on first day - the oxydermy facial, including a microderm abrasion and collagen treatment. Nice and relaxing hour! Fitness room is small, hot and very crowded early morning. I opted to use aerobics room and use freeweights and my pilates routine. I did use a treadmill twice but had to wait to get it. There is a sports track around mini golf area that you can run/walk on, windy though. Embarktation - a nighmare. We were told you could either carry luggage off and then they start letting you off at 7 am (early for me) or wait till 9 and they took your luggage night before. We opted for latter, but they told us only use elevators no stairs- total nighmare, so we tried stairs and they lied - we easily go right off ship if we had waited for elevators,like others, we would have been waiting over an hour at least. Very unorganized. Port is small, luggage was all crammed together you had to run off line to grab luggage then try to get back on line to go thru customs, then if you did not have a private ride, you had to get on shuttle bus and let them take your luggage again!!! We had a private ride - much easier, but still involved alot of walking with luggage and tired kids. Not fun. New port to open in a year, then I would go out of Charleston again, it is really a beautiful town and an easier drive than Florida from NJ and cheaper than NY Cruises!!! Overall a great cruise for the money and a great job by Carnival celebrating the New Year!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't ... Read More
I'm writing this only because I read the person who reviewed this cruise before me, and can't even believe it was the same trip. Parking in NY is expensive. This is a no-brainer, and has nothing to do with NCL. They don't set the cost of parking in a NYC owned terminal. Our room was always immaculate, the staff were accomodating and extremely friendly. Perhaps because we had a balcony, and there were only two of us, I was extremely satisfied. I never felt pressured to buy anything I didn't want to buy. The buffet was a buffet. I wasn't expecting gourmet food, and it was hot and plentiful. We ate there only for breakfast. To complain about the weather is asenine. When you get on a ship in NYC in the winter, you're taking your chances. We made the most of it, as did the (seemingly) thousands and thousands of children in the pools. We spent a lot of time reading out on the deck, and it was lovely and relaxing in jeans and a short sleeved shirt. There were several free restaurants, and only once did I have a meal I returned (fish--vastly overcooked). The for-a-fee places were all great with attentive service. When we didn't want wine or anything from the bar, they didn't nag. We didn't bowl because there were only four lanes and there was always a wait. The New Year's celebration was a lot of fun. It was good to see the crew hanging out with their friends and cutting loose. Disembarkment was a snap, we were out and off by 9:15. All in all, take everyone's review with a grain of salt. Some people look for the worst in everything. I had a great Christmas week with loved ones on a great ship! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My family of 4 had a wonderful time on the Pride on 12/19/2010. Here are a few of the ship & staff highlights: Embarkation in Baltimore was smooth. It took about an hour(moving lines), and we got there at 1pm. They allowed ... Read More
My family of 4 had a wonderful time on the Pride on 12/19/2010. Here are a few of the ship & staff highlights: Embarkation in Baltimore was smooth. It took about an hour(moving lines), and we got there at 1pm. They allowed boarding at 1:30, and the rooms were ready at 3:30. The ship was tastefully decorated - most of the holiday decor was in the atrium. I liked the Pride's decor, the renaissance style made the ship feel very opulent. We did not notice the ship vibrations that a few of the previous posters had mentioned. We had an extended balcony, and the pullman bed was directly above the sleeper couch. It was a better arrangement than RCI has on Grandeur of the Sea, and seemed more spacious. The food in the Lido was good (perhaps a touch greasy) - though difficult to navigate when crowded. The Lunch and Dinners in the MDR were very good. My husband has many food allergies, and the staff in the MDR were fantastic with accommodating that! The went above and beyond our expectations in this regard. Lactose-free milk was very hard to come by. We spent the first few days requesting it at every meal, it usually took more than 30 minutes to 'find' it. We had been assured by several staff members that the Lido, the MDR and room service would keep it on hand for us - but it didn't work out that way. It was annoying, but we lived with it. Our children were in 2 separate age groups in Camp Carnival - the 6-8 and the 9-11 groupings. They both were surprised when other campers were not corrected for rude, mean or hurtful behavior by the counselors. While the counselors did keep everyone 'safe' - they weren't very involved. My children both chose to spend some time there, but not a lot because of this. The pool, the 'covered pool', the ice-cream machines were some of my kid's favorite things. We just enjoyed spending the week together. I loved the food, the balcony, the ship layout, and reading a lot of books! My hubby and I also enjoyed a few of the adult comedy shows, but found the 'Vegas-style' shows tedious. The MDR chef did make a lovely Christmas night dinner, traditional turkey and stuffing etc. The debarkation process was the best one I've ever been on. They had a movie playing in the Taj Mahal, and the kids were completely entertained while we waited. We were one of the last groups to be called, and we were off the ship by 11:30. We had a great time! The ship is pretty, the staff is friendly and the food was yummy. Enjoy! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point ... Read More
Fascination Review - a little later than I would have liked. More about that at the end. This was cruise #24 for us and we did the 4 day New Year's Eve cruise to Freeport and Nassau leaving Jacksonville on December30th. The point of this cruise was for me to have a relaxing 60th birthday on December 31st and I certainly did. DH did too. Jacksonville is less than 3 hours away for us and the easiest of ports from which to sail. We drove to the port the morning of the 30th and were whisked through VIP check, obligatory photo op and had champagne in hand well before noon. Having sailed Celebrity Solstice over Thanksgiving we were interested to make some comparisons. While Fascination is an older ship and in no way as elegant as the Solstice, it is in very good condition with no problems that we saw. Although we prefer a balcony, because this was a last minute booking we ended up with OV and it was centrally located on Empress deck. Very convenient for everything. We had any time dining which worked well for us as we eat early rather than late. We always walked straight in. The first night our wait staff was so good that we asked to be seated in their area every night. Juan Pablo [head waiter] was great and Olga [his assistant] was fantastic. One of the best we have ever had. Making some comparisons between the Solstice and Fascination: [our opinion only] Better looking ship - Solstice Better DEcor - Solstice Better Menu Choices - Fascination Better Food in general - Fascination Better Service wait staff - Fascination [by far!!] Better Room Steward - Fascination Better Production Shows - Fascination Better Singers - Fascination Better Dancers - Fascination [by far] Better Costumes/Choreography - Fascination [I used to teach theatre so I notice] Better Secondary Entertainment - Solstice Better Captain's/past guest party - Solstice Friendlier staff - Fascination Activities - about the same number of offerings, just different types. We have been to Freeport before and relaxed onboard but in Nassau I went to buy perfume from my favorite store and discovered a parade instead. We stood chatting to locals and enjoying the spectacle. I never did get to buy perfume. I'll have to do that in March on the next cruise. The aim of this cruise was relaxation and we achieved that. Despite it being a NYE cruise, it so not too loud or rowdy and we did not see any problems. We purchased some more cruise credit certificates for future cruises so we obviously enjoyed ourselves. There is only one complaint I have and we did not discover that until we got home. My daughter had ordered a surprise for my birthday. She had ordered the cabin to be decorated, a birthday memory book and chocolate covered strawberries. When she asked if I was surprised I did not know what she was talking about as I had received nothing! She was horrified and after checking with the Bon Voyage Department, she was eventually told that, "We did not have any of those things on the ship, so the order was cancelled." Her credit card had been charged and she had not received a call to let her know that there was a problem and offer an alternative. Likewise no-one on board contacted me to say that something had been ordered and offer me an alternative either. I refuse to believe that Carnival did not have something on the ship they could have offered and I know I saw strawberries! Her credit card has been refunded now, but there has been no letter of apology either to her or to me which seems to me to be poor guest service. The really bad thing about the cruise is that as I am a scrapbook fanatic I had gathered together some great materials plus a big selection of formal pictures, and about 400 of my own photos to make a special scrapbook for my birthday but last Monday our house burned down and all my tangible memories of the cruise are lost. Oh well, guess we'll just have to look forward to the next cruise and more memories. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We booked this cruise because the itinerary included both Nassau and Grand Bahama and we wanted to scuba dive at both of these locations. We were not sure about cruising as we are used to sailing in a small boat as a family. However, we ... Read More
We booked this cruise because the itinerary included both Nassau and Grand Bahama and we wanted to scuba dive at both of these locations. We were not sure about cruising as we are used to sailing in a small boat as a family. However, we were very pleasantly surprised. Both the food and service were excellent. The entertainment was also good, especially the comedian Rich Purpura.The French restaurant cost a bit more but was totally out of this world. The daily special cocktails were also great. The freestyle aspect of dining was good for us as we did not want to be tied down to timings.We were also very impressed with the photographers on board and had some lovely photos.We also enjoyed the towel folding demonstration and bought the DVD!!!If you scuba dive, you must do the famous shark dive at Stuart cove's. This was a magical and unique experience.The main problem with the cruise was that it was only for 4 nights. We think a week or more would have been better if doing a lot of shore activities. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
First, let me say, we had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Fascination. We had 6 in our group. My wife and I, an accountant and travel agent respectively, have had 18 cruises, 14 of them on Carnival. (This was our fourth cruise on the ... Read More
First, let me say, we had a wonderful cruise on the Carnival Fascination. We had 6 in our group. My wife and I, an accountant and travel agent respectively, have had 18 cruises, 14 of them on Carnival. (This was our fourth cruise on the Fascination.) Also with us was my brother- and sister-in-law (a retired police officer and his wife); they cruise with us most of the time, so they have as many cruises as we do. The final members of our group were two sisters (a registered nurse and administrative assistant) who were on their first cruise. My DW and I booked a suite since we were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. The suite was nice, but for the extra price we paid, I think next time I will just stick to a balcony or ocean-view depending on the class of ship. We are planning a 15-day Hawaii cruise on the Splendor in 2013; I think we will have to book a balcony on that one. I love leaving the door open at night and listening to the sea. We checked in at Jaxport about 10:30 Saturday; by 11:15 we were on the ship. We parked at a local park-and-ride lot for just $5 per day, and they were Johnny-on-the-spot as far as getting us to the ship and being there when we got off. In contrast, the cruise port in Jacksonville charges $15 per day to park. I noticed as we set sail the Jaxport parking lot was only about 1/3 full, even though we had a almost full ship. It appears that cruisers are cutting corners by using these park-and-ride lots around the cruise ports. Can you blame them? Our first night at sea was a great kick-off to our cruise. Our wait staff, WeeWee and PeePee, were great. Our drinks were kept full, the bread hot and fresh. Our food was delivered in a very timely manner and was pretty good. Carnival has changed their menus and some of the dishes. My wife, who loves soups, commented that they were very good but not as good as past. I had a steak one night that was on the tough side, but the next one I had a couple days later was much much better. Our first full day was a "Fun Day at Sea." The food throughout the day was very good. Lines were not too bad; I don't think anyone in my party had to wait in one more than 15 or 20 minutes. The pizza was great, and the deli sandwiches were outstanding. All day long there were plenty of activities. I've read several pieces that have put down the CD, Jen. However, I thought she was pleasant and did a good job. Her staff was well prepared for all the activities they were responsible for. I have been on cruises where the CD staff was late for every event. Our sea day also included Formal Night. I really am disappointed that a good many of the passengers do not dress up for formal night as they did when we first started cruising 10 years ago. I have a tux I wear, and my wife will dress up also, but I only counted three other tux-wearers in our dining room. 650 people in our dining, and many of them were dressed like it was any other dinner seating! And the other nights the dress for dinner has gone downhill. At one time, shorts and T-shirts were not allowed, but that's not the case anymore. The show the first night was the same old tired show that Carnival has been doing for 5 or more years. It's a great upbeat show, but I think it's time for a change. The weather and seas were a bit choppy that day. We had a passenger get very ill around dinnertime, so the CD announced that we would have to go into Miami to get the passenger off the ship. As we made the turn back to the west, the waves went from 4-6 feet to 8-10 feet. As we got closer to Miami's port, the rain was hard and winds picked up. It took about two hours to get into the Port of Miami, get the sick passenger off and get back on our way. We were scheduled to get into Key West at 7AM the next day; however, we didn't dock there until about 8:30. We did get to stay until 4:30. Though our ride to Key West was bumpy, the day is Key West was absolutely gorgeous. We docked at the Navy base and had to ride a tram to the main areas. That went very smooth, and there appeared to be a steady flow, so I don't think anyone had to wait long. This is a wonderful island, and we enjoy our time there. This time, we just made our pilgrimage to Kermit's Key Lime Shop for a frozen slice of pie dipped in milk chocolate. Baby, this is so good, "It would make a puppy pull a freight train!" Day three we found ourselves in Nassau. We have been there several times. We now take the #10 bus from downtown to Cable Beach, $1.25 each way. We visit the Sheraton, which charges a daily fee of $25 per person to use their beach, pools, and non-motorized water sports. It was windy, and light showers moved in and out as the day progressed. We splashed around in the warm waters and enjoyed the time relaxing. On our way back to the ship on the bus, part of Bay Street was blocked for road work, so our driver took us the scenic route. If you have never seen the neighborhoods of Nassau, it's something to see. The people along the path we took were very poor, but they appeared happy. Some of the roads we traveled down, I wasn't sure if they were actual roads or someone's driveway. At one point the traffic was backed up and our driver had to aggressively apply the brakes, leaving some tire marks on the road and making the passengers on the full bus gasp. However, no harm, no foul. We made it back to the port area and were walking into the terminal/mall, and I noticed that the usual tourist harassment about taxis, hair breading, etc. wasn't as in-your-face as it has been in the past. There was some, but a polite "No, thank you," seemed to do the trick. We were not slated to leave Nassau until 10PM that night, so dinner population was light. This was a good thing, though, since this was the night of the past passenger reception. I don't drink, so I wasn't there for the free alcohol, but to cheer at the ship slideshow. I did get on stage for the Carnival trivia contest. I won it two years ago on the second question; this time, I was out on the second question. I couldn't remember the first Carnival ship that had the "whale tail." We didn't go to the show that night as we had seen it several times before. We elected to sit on the Lido deck and play several rounds of cards. I did sample a calzone from the pizza bar. It wasn't a tasty as is looked, so I picked it apart and shared the pepperonis with my wife, Shirley. The next day, the ship turned north, and we had a great day at sea. Between my wife and me, we totaled three 24-Carat-Gold-Plastic Ships-on-a-Stick. My wife also won a medallion. We really enjoy playing the trivia games. I also got on stage for the disco dance lesson. I did it to get our two "blue card" cruisers up there. I did pretty well since it had been several decades since I did my last disco dancing. The show that night was based on the 1980s. Before the show they played a 30-minute video of 80s commercials and TV shows. I like it; it brings back some good memories of my younger days. The Carnival dancers were very good; the male dancers were some of the best I have seen on Carnival. The two lead singers were good as well. We have had the female singer on other ships; she tries to sing notes that are too high for her, but she did blend very well with the guy. Getting off the ship when we returned to Jax was flawless. One of the CD staff told us the night before that Carnival already knew they would not be able to sail out for the next cruise until 8PM because of the high tide and bridge clearance, and they had already canceled their port call to Freeport. Bummer for the next cruisers. Overall, we had a great cruise. Of our 14 Carnival cruises, this would be in the top half of all of them. I read a lot of the reviews, and I see many negative remarks about Carnival. They are a good cruise line. Are there some problems? Yes, but what large cooperation doesn't have them? Can they do better with customer complaints? Many times. But there are people who will let one irritation fester the rest of the cruise and will then blast everything about the cruise. My DW and I try to find the positive and just enjoy our time together getting away from it all. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
It's taken me this long to get home, settled in, and down off the clouds after my back to back cruises on the Norwegian Sky. What an incredible cruise, and what an even more incredible crew!! My trip starts out with the usual ... Read More
It's taken me this long to get home, settled in, and down off the clouds after my back to back cruises on the Norwegian Sky. What an incredible cruise, and what an even more incredible crew!! My trip starts out with the usual arrival at the port of Miami. If you've not sailed out of Miami yet, have no fear, it's completely painless. You'll be dropped off right in front of where you need to be. If you were smart and put your luggage tags on back at the hotel, you'll simply drop them with the luggage handlers and go directly to the port house. At that point, you'll receive a little form to fill out to make sure you don't have the flu or other assorted bugs, and go thru an airport-security type screening checkpoint. As long as you don't have any opened bottles of anything, like at the airport, you will be fine. If you have an unfinished soda, you'll have to leave it behind. If you are staying in the suites or have a VIP designation, then head right over to the VIP Registration office and they will take great care of you while you snack on treats. If not, then proceed to the general registration counter with your flu form, your eRegistration docs (you did print them off, right?), and passport in hand. Hand the agent the paperwork, smile for the camera, present a credit card, and receive you stateroom key card. From there you will go to the waiting area (if you are early) to pause for full clearance of the ship, if it's after twelve, you will saunter right on board. I can tell you that it took longer to type this paragraph than it took me to board. It was smooth, seamless, painless and actually quite fun! As I made the final zig-zag turns and arrived on board, I was met by Richard Matic and Gio, the Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise Director respectively. They were grinning from ear to ear, waving, and joyously welcoming the guests on board. Now when you consider that this crew does 3 and 4 day cruises back to back, it's no small feat to be so upbeat, charming and energized time after time. Not to mention they are adorable! I'm already excited and I'm not even inside yet! In all fairness, I had met Richard before on the Pearl for my Alaska cruise, but none the less it had been nearly three months and a few thousand passengers for him. Yet he recognized me right away, we shared a big hug and promises to catch up later. He kept that promise and made this cruise one of my favorites. Upon entering Deck 6, you will marvel at the atrium lobby. Unlike the new ships with just 2 or 3 decks of atrium, the Sky's atrium ascends all the way to the top of the ship. The lobby is flanked by glass elevators that offer a fantastic view as you ascend! The lobby is bright and cheerful as are the assorted crew members all awaiting to take your wine order, sell you a soda package, hold your carryon's while you wander and wait for your stateroom, take your dinner reservations, and direct you to where you might find lunch or anything else your little heart desires. As the days passed, I experienced nearly everything possible on the Sky. And I do mean everything! From food, to fitness, to entertainment, to relaxation, to exploration, to more fun that I though imaginable sailing alone. That's right, this was a solo cruise for me, and I must say that I was attended to with as much care and interest as the larger parties and full families staying in the Suites. The cuisine was fantastic! I did eat in the Palace Main Dining room once and the food was delicious and the service perfect. I also ate in my favorite haunt, Le Bistro and the meal was nothing short of exquisite. Don't leave without trying the French Onion Soup and the Escargot. There is an up-charge for this restaurant but it will be the best $20 you spend on board. Another up-charge restaurant I sampled was La Cucina, and it didn't disappoint. Try your best to avoid the traditional pasta favorites and delight in some non-traditional but scrumptious Italian delights! Not because they aren't good, but because you shouldn't miss out eating something truly out of the ordinary. My breakfasts in Cagney's were way too yummy with my favorite being what I would call "pound cake turned into French toast"...need I say more? Then there is a buffet of fresh fruits and pastries that should be enough to fill you for the entire day. The Garden Cafe Buffet was adequate with plenty of selections that you would expect at a buffet, with some surprises such as some Indian and Asian food selections. I do miss the fresh chocolate chip cookies that are usually there, but can I really complain with a dozen other desserts to choose from? I do enjoy comedy and magic, but typically these shows on a cruise ship are more of an option for your evening's entertainment, rather than a "must see". My mind was changed when I attended Rich Purpura's comedy and magic show. I was hooked, and attended each and every one of his shows and events. I laughed so hard, and I can't begin to tell you why. There isn't a joke I could retell, because it wasn't really so much an "act" as a conversation with a man musing about things on the ship and in life. It was total hilarity on a level I've not experienced in a long time. The Norwegian Sky Production company was yet again another surprise. I've sailed several NCL ships, and I'll be the first to say that I miss the Jean Ann Ryan Company (JAC) performances. Most ship's productions companies I've seen were good and entertaining, but not the caliber of the JAC's. This theory was dispelled on the Sky. The Sky Production Company not only met and matched but exceeded what I'd seen with JAC. The connection between the performers was authentic and electrifying. You could see the chemistry and feel the energy among them and it was contagious! In addition to the regular stage entertainment, the Cruise Director Staff kept anyone and everyone that wanted to be involved very busy with an assortment of onboard activities that not only pleased but genuinely entertained. There was something for everyone among the assorted classes, tastings, clinics, game shows, bingo events, and exciting nightclub entertainment. Just to name a few of my favorites: Dancing with the Stars; The Fountains Show; Adult Quest (if you are over 18, you MUST do this); 70's and 80's Disco; White Hot Party; the Ship-N-Males Revue; and the assorted crazy pool deck antics such as the Mr. Sexy Legs Competition; Ice Sculpting demo; the Pub Hub crawl; and more. All that was just on the ship! They continued to carry on with more activities on the beach on NCL's private island "Great Stirrup Caye". Now admittedly, I spent my time holding a beach lounger down and not participating, but there were ongoing events on the beach such as a Hula Hoop Competition; a Limbo Contest; Parasailing; Snorkeling; Jet Ski use; and Kayaking, along with great live Caribbean music and a beach BBQ that left nothing behind. I would like to pause here and take a moment to mention the Cruise Director by name, Richard Matic. He has to be one of the most dedicated and under-rated Cruise Directors in NCL's fleet. You will not only have the time of your life on a ship with him, but you will leave the cruise with a new friend and having a better experience for knowing him. Richard went out of his way to make his guests feel personally welcome. If you sail the Sky, and Richard is still the CD be sure to tell him that "Tonette says hello" and if you are so inclined give him a great big hug. Richard heads a fantastic Cruise Directors staff including Assistant Cruise Director Gio, who also is an amazing personality that will leave a great big smile on your face every time you chat with him. I'm sure we will see Gio on a ship of his own as CD very soon! Please tell him hello for me also, and don't forget the hug! Another person that single handedly made my cruise everything it was, is Concierge Omar O'Besso. You simply cannot find a more dedicated concierge in all of NCL's fleet. Omar loves his job, but more than that he takes a very sincere interest in his guests in a way that I've not encountered before. By the time your cruise is over, you will want to take him home with you! Here is another chance for you to hug another NCL crew member for me! Give Omar two!! The Hotel Director -â€" Steven Knot, F&B Director - Mike Van Bokhoven, and Beverage Director - Raj Rodrigues, were also outstanding examples of Officers who take great pleasure in what they do, and that being making sure you are having the best experience possible. I don't think these men ever slept, as I saw them first thing when I got up and they were still going late into the night. I just have to add a couple of points of interest, and insist that you verify these facts. The Hotel Director and the Guest Services Manager can dance a very steamy, albeit rough tango! The Beverage Director is from India and quite possibly a reincarnation of Michael Jackson. These details may seem silly (and they are), but they attest to what lengths the Officers of this crew go to in order to not only entertain guests, but have a good time with each other! I've just been mentioning Officers, but let me assure you the remaining crew is equally as dedicated. I can attest that my room steward Gusti on the Norway deck, never sleeps and spent the entire cruise posted outside my stateroom door awaiting my every request. The charming young lady, Uneza Shaikin selling the "chain by the inch" in the gift shop never failed to stop me for a hug and a hello. The Cruise Consultant Martin took it upon himself to personally resolve an issue I was having with my Latitudes number without my even asking. Christian in the Crossings Dining Room met me on embarkation day, and she never failed to remember my first name. I could go on and on. Even the photographer staff is friendly and fun. The photos are still FAR too expensive, but I have to admit their charm even seduced me into purchasing a couple of the prints. You just can't help yourself when the photo was so great (me in my Queen of Hearts Halloween costume on the grand staircase), and the gang is just so friendly. Always a stop for me was the fitness center and the spa. The fitness center is more than adequate with state of the art equipment, and plenty of it. There is a free weight section as well as the rows of treadmills and ellipticals all facing the large picture windows with a great view. I have to wonder though, why do they attach televisions to the tops of those things when there is such an amazing view?? LOL I never had a problem finding a free machine. I did take a couple of classes but have to say I was a bit frustrated a couple of times, so didn't attend the usual amount that I normally would. Once the instructor decided to do "abs" instead of what was on the schedule which was "stretch and relax"; and once during a stretch class a cartoon was on the television at a pretty hefty volume. I was thinking more like Enya for a stretch class, and not Sponge Bob. I'm sure I could have said something, so the onus is on me for not doing so, but just some observations. The spa was nice, crisp, refreshing, and rejuvenating looking with a full salon and barber services, along with assorted spa treatments. There is a small one-person hydro therapy tub but it's an extra charge unless you purchase a Poultice Massage. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't able to use it for a bit before my Bamboo Massage, but those are the rules. There is also a steam room and sauna in the locker room, which you can use if you purchase a spa treatment. I took the spa tour on the first day, which is always fun, and you can sign up for the drawing which were several really great prizes. I signed up for a Bamboo Massage and a Therapie' Facial. Both were very enjoyable albeit it still pretty pricey. Make sure you take advantage of port day specials to make it affordable. I must say that I prefer the NCL Mandara Spa's with the Relaxation Spa section, but considering this is a small ship, they did quite well with their space. The spa staff is friendly and helpful and knowledgeable. Since I was on a back-to-back, I'd like to share some about that experience. I was lucky and was assigned the same stateroom, so that meant that I didn't have to pack up at the end of my first leg. I was able to get up, go for my run, work out in the gym, shower and get dressed, have a lovely breakfast in Cagney's, and leisurely make my way to Captain Cook's Bar at 10am. I was met there by a crew member from Guest Services that walked me off the ship, and handed me to a Port Crew Member who literally walked me off the ship, and down to Immigration and Customs. This was a simple process of handing them my Customs Document, my passport, smiling and answering "yes" to the question of "So you had so much fun you are staying on board?" I was then again escorted to the waiting area, and in very short order, as soon as the ship cleared, I was the first to be escorted back on board. I slipped back up to my stateroom, grabbed my iPad, and found a spot in the sun on Deck 11 to relax and await the rest of the new batch of passengers. Then I had a bright idea and went up to the spa and took advantage of it being completely empty and got a massage and facial. Ahhhhhh! When I emerged from my bliss, the ship was full of new guests and my adventure continued! The ports of call we visited were Freeport, Nassau and Great Stirrup Caye (GSC), all islands in the Bahamas. The four day portion of my cruise stopped at all three ports. The three day portion stopped at Nassau and GSC only. I must admit I didn't spend much time on shore in either Freeport or Nassau. My plan, to be honest, was to simply stay on board and exquisitely take part in every aspect of my floating 5 star resort at sea, but I did venture on land twice and want to share those highlights with you. Freeport is your typical port pier shopping experience with the "straw market" hawkers and a live Caribbean band that breaks into action whenever a passenger appears on the gangway coming off the ship. I can't tell you anything about any of the ship's excursions or any excursions for that matter, nor the famous or infamous "Our Lucaya" as I didn't make it anywhere near it. I can share with you one of the highlights of my cruise, and that was a visit to the Perfume Factory in the old International Bazaar in Freeport. I had read about it online, and decided that was my one stop. I disembarked and tried to get a taxi. "How much to the International Bazaar?" I asked. "It's closed lady, go to Our Lucaya, its better!" Now I knew this was coming. From having read on CruiseCritic, the taxi drivers make $5 to take you to Our Lucaya and only $4 to the International Bazaar, so they tend to stretch the truth. It's true that about 50% of the shops in the International Bazaar are closed. Due to the hurricanes and the main hotel there closing, many shops just never reopened. There is endless gossip about how may be buying the hotel and resurrecting the area, but those rumors have been going on for a few years now. Who really knows? One historical icon that still stands at the International Bazaar is the Perfume Factory. Its history goes back being founding in 1969 by Albert Whisnant, later sold to Peter and Patricia Aston in 1976, and since Mr. Aston's death in 1993, is now ran by Mrs. Aston and daughter Chrisanne, but you can read all about that on their website. In brief, it's a free standing building that appears to be a replica of an old Bahamian Mansion. Inside, your nose will be delighted with an exotic dance of refreshing delightful fragrances coming from tropical perfumes, lotions, oils and soaps. The friendly staff will be grateful you came and more than happy to escort you throughout the premises for a tour. If you are so inclined, you can sit down before a myriad of essential oils and create your very own fragrance, which you will hand mix and create yourself. For a very reasonable fee, you will leave with 1.5oz of your signature scent and a certificate of registry for your formula. It may sound very kitschy, but I spent my afternoon taking the tour, creating my fragrance and speaking with Chrisanne (daughter of the Astons). No doubt this lovely woman has given this tour hundreds, no thousands of times, but by her demeanor with me, I would have sworn it was one of her first. Her excitement and joy in helping someone understand fragrances was contagious. So I simply had to create my own. Make the time to visit the Perfume Factory. If Chrisanne is there, please tell her that I said hello. Great Stirrup Caye is NCL's private island that is still under construction. That said, there are many things ready and waiting for you. There is a functional dock now that the tenders use, and getting off and on the Caye is very easy. Unless of course there are high winds and rough seas. It is said that 2 out of 3 stops at GSC are cancelled due to this condition, so keep that in mind. My back-to-back had two stops planned at GSC, and one was cancelled. The day we made it to the Caye was lovely! There is a nice stretch of beach along a protected cove that makes for softly rolling waves onto a white sand beach. They still need to do some work grooming the beach regularly, as the coral embankment surrounding the cove is in an ever constant state of depositing broken pieces of coral and shells. This isn't a big deal, but be sure to bring aqua socks or beach shoes if you have tender tootsies. NCL's Cruise Director's Staff has a long long list of assorted beach activities going throughout the day, along with a variety of aquatic excursions. You won't be bored. There is live music, a simple straw market, three full bars, and a beach BBQ buffet that won't leave you wanting for anything. I chose to make it my mission to make sure that my beach lounger didn't try to escape and kept myself firmly planted on it most of the day. There are lots of beach loungers and beach chairs available at no charge, but I would still suggest you get off the boat early if you wish to make sure you have one closer to the water's edge. There are no beach umbrellas, but you can rent a clam shell style shelter. The cabanas are not yet completed, but there are a few assorted buildings that you can seek some refuge from the sun. There are also palm trees a plenty if you can score one early. Another blissful day on a white sand beach in a tropical island setting. Here are some random assorted tips: *Grab your breakfast and slip into the Long Boards Bar to eat it. It's quieter than in the buffet, and offers a unique venue for breakfast. *There is a fantastic bar outside Cagney's called the Plantation. They rarely advertise on ship, but most nights from 6p-8p they offer two-for-one martinis! The best alcohol deal on the ship! *There is a "quiet zone" just above the pool deck around the front of the ship; it has a nice quiet private hot tub and splash pool. *Take in the Art Auction preview for the free champagne and you might learn something about art. *Take in the Gift Shop Presentation for free liquor tastings. *Take advantage of the laundry special half way thru the cruise. Get all those delicates done before you go home. It's a great deal AND they fold. *At least ONCE, get up and go have coffee on the far aft of the ship on Deck 11 and watch the sun rise. *Do NOT miss the Fountains Show or anything with Rich Purpura. *Give Richard, Omar and Gio big hugs for me...did I say that already? Bon voyage! Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We live in Central Florida so it was an easy drive to Port Canaveral. I am 68 and my husband is 69 years old but we are young at heart. Embarkation was very smooth. No waiting line and top notch staffing to answer any questions we ... Read More
We live in Central Florida so it was an easy drive to Port Canaveral. I am 68 and my husband is 69 years old but we are young at heart. Embarkation was very smooth. No waiting line and top notch staffing to answer any questions we had. This is our 3rd cruise aboard the Carnival Ecstasy - 1992, 1997 and now 2011. We were very pleased at the cleanliness of the ship - very well maintained, in our opinion. Our stateroom had a balcony which was very nice. Our cabin steward (U201) was exceptional. One of the first ships we have cruised where the cabin steward actually cleaned the balcony every day - like new! The cruise director was very personable and had an amazing talent of playing the fiddle. The country show they presented was super thanks in a large part to the cruise director fiddle-playing. We normally do not eat in the formal dining room. We frequent the Lido Deck and the buffet they offer each day. We did not go on any excursions but we know the water activities are exceptional. The country show was the best of the shows on this cruise. There was a good variety in the show which made it enjoyable. We no longer get off ships when going to Nassau since we have been there so many times. Freeport was very nice and clean. Enjoyed the casino at Port Lucaya in Freeport. The four night cruise was just fine for a get-a-way! The waters are beautiful and the water excursions are top notch. Disembarkation: This was the first time we disembarked with self-assist. Being the first one off is not necessarily the best way to get off a ship. We were winded by the time we got out of the terminal and reached our car. We are just too old to try that again. We honestly couldn't find anything to complain about - very nice experience. The entire staff should be commended for their efforts! Great time! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Disney Dream thanksgiving cruise 11/23/2011 Background This was my 19th cruise. I have travelled on most major lines. What I look for is itinerary, timing, ship, cost, then features etc. For this cruise,it was just my wife and I. I ... Read More
Disney Dream thanksgiving cruise 11/23/2011 Background This was my 19th cruise. I have travelled on most major lines. What I look for is itinerary, timing, ship, cost, then features etc. For this cruise,it was just my wife and I. I did not have my kids for this trip. I believe a bad day on a cruise ship is better than a good day at work. As I go through this, I am pointing out details that may not be significant to all. That is understandable. I hope to inform all types of cruisers. Booking Right away, for the avid cruiser, you notice that the price is much higher than the other lines. Considering that many of the Disney cruises are the standard Nassau and Disney cay, it is unusual to see prices close to 700 to 1000$ per person. Considering this was a holiday, and it fit our schedule perfectly, I knew that we would pay more. We used a TA for this. Disney is so good with their product, all ways work well. I do not think their log on system is anything like their competitors. For example, once you login in, you have to type in your reservation numbers each time. Carnival, RCL, princess etc all quickly show any and all reservations that you have made. RCL even shows your previous dream trips you have saved. The Disney land vacation system is a little better. Getting to the port I always recommend going a day earlier for the trip. It allows you some prep time and peace of mind. In the case a plane is cancelled, you have time to get on another flight. We stayed at Caribbean beach. A cheaper Disney option that worked well. There is a nice transportation system to get you around. I definitely recommend the transfers. Cabs will cost you about 55$ for two one way airport to hotel. Keep in mind, when you stay at the resort, you will not be the first on the ships. Depending on what location you stay at, you may arrive just a few hours prior to departing. Your bags will be picked up from your room around 8am. You will see them next outside your cabin prior to the ship departing. Smooth process. Relax. It is about an hour to hour and a half trip depending on traffic and other pickups. If you fly in the day of, definitely do the Disney transfers, that will save you trouble. At the port Disney has a dedicated port. It is very nice. It is sandwiched between two other ports that house a variety of carnival, RCl, and HAL ships. We had the Carnival pride there when we left and sensation and freedom of the seas when returning. The check in process is almost a walk through if you are not there right when it opens. Since Disney transfers get you there later, it is a quick check in. On line check in works great. The ship There were two reasons we took this trip. The ship and timing. Both were a hit. The ship is beautiful. The first thing you notice is the beautiful foyer. It does not look like anything out on the see. Very 20's traditional with no neon and flare. Simply classy. The Christmas decor was perfect. The ship is filled with music 24 7. Not annoying music, unless you do not like Disney music. It is soft and pleasant. Staterooms are my favorite. The split family style bathroom was really cool. One room for the commode and sink. Another room for the tub/shower and a second sink. Lots of storage on the balcony room. Keep in mind that they won the 2011 award for best inside and outside cabins. Did I say storage? The beds are nice with a large space under for luggage storage. The balconies are standard size. Most rooms have the Pullman drop down beds. They are not in the way of course. The tv's have flat screens with 24 access to sports, on demand tv shows and disny movies. These Disney movies are free. Hundreds of them. Note.... If you are in the back of the ship, you will feel a shimmy. If this bothers you on those sea nights, get a room towards the center. If you are on the right side, you will get the best view of cast-a-way cay and the port. Aka starboard. The rooms have a iPod, I phone dock. All rooms have cell phones that are used to communicate on the ship while you are around the ship. No Wilkie talkies needed. Two for each room. I am sure they would give you more if needed. Three dining rooms This is a clever idea. Everything they tell you is true about the dining. You move from place to place. Repeating on 4 nights or more trips. The meals are a little more elegant than I expected. The kids like the kids menu. The food was well displayed. Multiple portions allowed without any problems. Best news..... Sodas are free, except for the bars. Easy access to sodas. They servers are quicker with it than other lines too. Self service of sodas are available on deck 11 in the cabanas lido restaurant and on the pool deck. The royal palace restaurant is beautiful. It is laid out well and actually allows the servers more room. You feel less cramped. No problems getting to your seat. They seat you quickly and service is fast. One thing we notices right away is that they do not clean up after each course, other than the used plates. Even on carnival, they will swipe the table between each course with the medal scoop. Not on Disney. They do give you wipes before you enter instead of the spray. That actually is a nice touch. It does not dry your skin. The animators pallet is a cute restaurant. It is different than the Disney wonder and magic. There are screens all around that give the illusion you are surrounded by a fish tank. Characters from Nemo entertain you through out the meal. At one point, crush actually talks to the people. I was surprised that he did not get to all of the sections. He only got to 2 or 3 of the 6 sections. The garden restaurant that is modeled after Versailles is very pretty. A low sealing with some clever lighting, make this restaurant evolve nice throughout the day. A little cramped compared to the other two, but very nice. Nice lobster ravioli. The cabana .... Aka lido deck. A wonderful surprise. Clean. Fresh chilled shrimp and crabs served during the day. You do not see that on other lines. The silver ware is wrapped and ready on the tables. Very clean and well kept up. I have to brag on one employee. I told their boss before we left. A little girl tripped and broker her plastic flashing cup. He asked for a look at it and notice the crack. He went and got her a brand new one. Nice touch!!!! Nice selections on deck. There are also 6 flavors of soft serve and three flavors of regular ice cream served throughout the day. The cones are not as good as the other lines.... Pizza is available.. , but Disney really has an awful pizza compared to the competition. Bring in new pizza Disney! Aqua duck... And he pools Relax, you will have plenty of time to ride it. They rush is right when everyone gets on the ship. Go at night. Hardly no wait. Ride during the firework show. Night rides till midnight! I rode it twice. Fun. Nothing amazing, but your on a ship!!! the pools are nice and were heated. The spa is nice, but needs actual bubbles. They hand over the side of the ship with glass sides and bottom. The adult pool does get general traffic, but is very nice. We saw no issues with young folks hanging out there. The towels are laid out for you. Easy access for towels. Service around the pools is pretty good. We have seen better. The drink options are plentiful. The kids will fill up the other pools. Cool feature..... The funnel vision is the biggest and best at sea. Followed up with an amazing sound system, it is the way to go. Wow!!! They showed several football games on it, most of the dads were out there watching the games. Four of carnivals could fit on this one screen. Three of princesses screens would be close. Wow! Entertainment.... This is where Disney rocks. All three shows, golden mickey's, the villains, and believe we're excellent. Great for all audiences. There is also a movie theater - very large - on board with an amazing sound system and 3d technology. We saw cars 2 in 3d, real steel, and the new muppet movie onboard. Throughout your trip, there are seemingly impromptu shows by the Disney characters. The kids love this. Times are announced for the kids. The downside for them is they have no live band, and their comedians and entertainment choices in the other areas are lacking. No band, very little options for the great live entertainment you get on the other ships. The district The adults only areas are not crowded. They are well decorated and are non smoking. We like the non smoking aspect. Each bar has its own feel. The dance club is nice. They look nice, but last the excitement you see on other lines. Expected for Disney. Service is great. Kids areas..... They rocked. This is what they are known for. They have the largest staff at sea to take care of the kids. We did not have kids on this trip, so I can only go by what I heard. Zero negative comments. Their kids areas were not an after thought, but a forethought. Service The service is great, but not excellent. If you go outside of their process, like carnival, they flinch or may even say "I don't know." this was a let down. I expected higher level of service. Still not bad, but not as expected. Itinerary Nassau - a nice stop with plenty of things to do. The water is a little cold, but not impossible to swim in. Not too bad. Not going into the stops as much. Cast-a-way Cay This is a great stop for Disney. You feel as though you just went onto a new deck of the ship. All you need is your room key. Food is provided and sodas are free. Ice cream and all sorts of goodies. A few Disney store shops and beach item shops on shore. It is all about the beach and the water sports. So many things to do. The bike rentals cost 6 dollars per hour. Nice easy bike ride around the island. Beautiful and wonderful time there. Debarkation was the best yet. No calling out. If you want to get off early, be in the lobby at 7am to hang out. They will start letting people out by 8 am at the latest. No issue over waiting in common areas. They actually like when you go to your breakfast spot and leave when things are free. The luggage tags are set up by character. We were Goofy. Simple process there. Walk out. All in order. Help standing by. Easy time through customs and out you go. Took us just a few minutes for the whole process. Busses are waiting outside to load up folks for the different destinations. Definitely recommend transfers. We actually went back to beach club resort for a day at Epcot. Wou walk out the back of the resort and you are next to the back entrance to Epcot. We stayed at Epcot until 4 pm. We took a cab from the hotel and got to our flight early. Our flight was at 7:30pm. The hotel held our luggage. Awesome service there. My favorite Disney resort! Disney did a great job. It was a wonderful cruise. I am a little nit picky due to costs difference, but don't lose sight, the cruise was great Read Less
Sail Date November 2011

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