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42 Bahamas Holiday Cruise Reviews

We are a family of 4, with 11 year old twins, looking to go on a cruise for the first time. We wanted a budget priced 20th Anniversary/Thanksgiving cruise with a port we could drive to. So we ended up picking the Fascination out of ... Read More
We are a family of 4, with 11 year old twins, looking to go on a cruise for the first time. We wanted a budget priced 20th Anniversary/Thanksgiving cruise with a port we could drive to. So we ended up picking the Fascination out of Jacksonville, a 6 hour drive. EMBARKATION - Probably the area that I have the most comments on, mostly negative. Jaxport is minimal facility not really designed to handle the crowds of a fully booked cruise ship. Take our advice - if you do not have your luggage totally organized and ready to hand over to the porters, skip the front of the terminal and just go park. Then, you can take your time without cars backing up behind you. Just tow your luggage over to the building. It's not that far. Once inside the building, the lines were long, but moved along quickly and the Carnival staff did a decent job getting people through. But, the biggest disappointment was when we finally walked on the ship. I wasn't expecting much, just a smile, a "welcome aboard" and some suggestions as to where to head to first. None of that. Just people milling around in the lobby of deck 3 trying to figure out where to go. I finally tugged on the arm of a Carnival employee and she said that we could go to our stateroom and then eat. Felt kind of like being herded like cattle. STATEROOM - It was great! Even with 2 adults and 2 kids, we felt very comfortable in the space. Luxurious compared to our tent camping trips! The room was very clean and we had plenty of places to store our clothes and stuff. Nigel, our steward was very pleasant and unobtrusive and came by several times a day to straighten up the room. The kids loved the towel animals. Because of weather, we spent more time in our stateroom than anticipated and it felt very cozy. And we loved having a window - so much to see! ACTIVITIES - This was probably the biggest challenge for us. We are kind of low key people and would have been very content to just sit on the deck and read. But during our days at sea, the sky was kind of cloudy and often, the wind was very strong and chilly. Not Carnival's fault, though. We went to the Not So Newlywed Game, which was pretty funny. When not too windy, we played mini-golf. It was hard to get a ping pong table and even harder to play on a rolling ship. :) The kids did some Camp Carnival activities and seemed to enjoy them. My son especially enjoyed the dodge ball games and family scavenger hunt. My daughter is a little bit more shy and didn't spend as much time at the camp as her brother. We decided that our next cruise would like to have more ports and less time at sea. My husband was disappointed by the casino. He was hoping for more variety of card games, not just 21 or Hold 'em. But, I guess that Carnival wants to provide the most popular games. We did visit the gym twice and found the facilities to be very satisfactory. Nothing like working out on an elliptical trainer while the ship is rolling! DINING - We ate in the dining room each night and were pleased with the service. The food was good, not great though. It's hard to crank out 2300+ plus dinners every night and not sacrifice some quality. But, it was all fine and I, being a working mom, was delighted that someone else was doing the cooking. Our waitress was charming and the kids really liked her. The chocolate melting cake was fantastic! Breakfast in the dining room was more relaxed and the food better quality than eating at the buffet in the Coconut Grove. The buffet lunch, both on the Lido deck and in the Coconut Grill was often very busy, but you were able to eventually get around, get what you wanted and find a place to sit down. One word of advice, though. If you are picky about how your soda tastes, bring your own or spend money on the cans in your stateroom. I made the mistake of buying a soda card and discovered that the sodas from the bars, where you get them, were very watered. $27 I really regretted spending. ENTERTAINMENT - We went to one show, Hey Mambo. It was well done, the singers and dancers very good and countless costumes changes. All very Vegas-like. My kids were bug-eyed. We need to get them out more. Both of the ports that the Fascination stops in were fun places and we had a wonderful time ashore. We did excursions on our own, rather than through Carnival and everything worked out fine. It's interesting to observe how cruise lines try to separate you from your money. But, it's not hard to keep the spending under control. We brought 2 bottles of wine and bought a couple of mixed drinks. We also bought a couple of the pictures, a Christmas tree ornament and some time playing laser tag. I didn't mind the built in gratuities. Nearly everyone on the crew was friendly and very hard working. The ship was well maintained most of the time. Any problems we encountered, like public restrooms not always clean or tables not cleaned off in a timely manner, seemed to stem mainly from the sheer overwhelming number of people on the ship. I think that the ship had about 500 people more than it's regular sailings. Disembarkation went very smoothly and we were in our car heading home by 10am. We learned a lot, this being our first cruise. We hope to do it again in the near future and, unless our financial situation drastically improves, it will probably be on Carnival again. You can't beat the overall experience for the price. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Just returned from our 7th cruise, on the Carnival Dream, the largest in the Carnival fleet, sailing out of New York. Don't expect the Dream to return to New York anytime soon, as it appears it's doing most of its sailing out of ... Read More
Just returned from our 7th cruise, on the Carnival Dream, the largest in the Carnival fleet, sailing out of New York. Don't expect the Dream to return to New York anytime soon, as it appears it's doing most of its sailing out of Port Canaveral. Embarkation went very well. The wife & I arrived at the docks around 2pm, and within half an hour we were on the ship, which was a pleasant surprise. The Dream is huge !! Over 1000 feet long !! Everything was nice and clean, as it should be, as its less than a month old at this point. We made our way to our inside cabin, which is fine for two, but no more. Three large closets, but only two electrical outlets. Our room steward Elio was nowhere to be found, but the room was perfect, so we didn't really need him. We went off to explore the ship... Most of the action takes place on Deck 10, Lido deck, including the main dining hall. It's big, but not as big as I thought it was going to be; it doesn't appear that they could seat everyone on board if they wanted to. The weather for the first couple of days was bad, but the Dream seemed to take it in stride. We're not big gamblers, so we didn't care for the casino, which again was not as big as I expected it to be. I lost my $20 allowance pretty quickly, so I didn't really spend too much time there. The shops are good, but nothing special, just standard Carnival fare. Plenty of Bingo, if that's your thing, but we didn't care for it. We arrived @ Port Canaveral on Thanksgiving Day, and all went well. The wife & I stayed on-board, since we didn't care to go to Orlando or the beach at this point. They offered Disney for about $180 per person, including the bus trip, which seemed steep to me. Can you imagine going with the wife and kids ?? Bring your wallet !! The second day brought Nassau in the Bahamas, which is interesting, but... we've been there so many times, and it's NOT getting better with age. A lot of the local shops have closed down, probably due to the economy, so there are more vacant shops than occupied ones. We did get a good deal on Bacardi rum at only $5 per bottle !! The Paradise is located here, but we've already been. Beyond that, I've read some articles about the recent crimes that have taken place here, so we never ventured too far. We always felt safe, the police are everywhere, and the locals seemed friendly, so do as you will. Our last port was Freeport in the Bahamas, which again is interesting, but... The port is located in a shipyard, so you have to take a taxi or shuttle to see anything. We didn't care for any of the excursions being offered, especially at the prices, so we just wandered on our own for a while before returning to the ship. Back to the Dream... The food ? Good, but not great, as is typical with Carnival. I enjoyed the Mongolian Grill (45 minute wait...) Pasta Bar (30 minute wait...) Indian Grill (No wait !!) and more. We were always able to find a seat, but sometimes you have to look for it. We didn't try the extra-cost Steakhouse, especially since we heard from others that it's nothing special. The shows ? Dancin' In The Streets was excellent, Get Ready was good, but then there was Hee Haw night.... The performers were fine for the most part, but not as good as some others we've seen, especially on the Miracle or Valor. Other shows were fine, but nothing we haven't seen before. Literally. I think we saw the same Juggler and Ventriloquist, with the same acts, years ago. The comedians were very good, too, as long as you don't mind the colorful language, which we don't. Some other things that come to mind... Where did all the children come from ? Aren't they supposed to be in school in November ? Also, while we met some nice people, we also met some not so nice people. Do you really need to leave your dirty dishes in the elevator ? Do you really need to slam the door to your cabin ? Can you wait in the food lines like the rest of us ? And finally, one of the best things Carnival has ever come up with is Serenity, the "adults only" area. No kids, better seats, and finally, some peace and quiet. If Carnival is listening, I would love to have an entire "Adults Only" cruise ! Perhaps once a year, couldn't each ship in the Carnival fleet have such a cruise ? Overall, we enjoyed ourselves, and would love to sail on the Dream again. Carnival met our expectations as usual, and we look forward to our next cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
It was a dark and dreary day in New York City. We were very disappointed with the weather. As we arrived at the pier, we couldn't help but marvel at the size of the Dream. Could this really be our ship for the next 8 days? George and ... Read More
It was a dark and dreary day in New York City. We were very disappointed with the weather. As we arrived at the pier, we couldn't help but marvel at the size of the Dream. Could this really be our ship for the next 8 days? George and I dropped our luggage off with the porters, and then went inside to the cruise terminal. As usual, embarkation was a breeze. We were on the ship no later than 12:45 P.M. As we waited on Deck 0 for the elevator, we couldn't help but notice how brightly lit the area was. We were very impressed with the way they presented the ship right from the start. However, we were not pleased with the amount of time we had to wait for an elevator. With over 4,000 passengers, you'd think there'd be enough elevators for everyone. It wasn't so in that case. When we finally were able to grab one, one of the crew members was taking us up to the 10th floor for the Lido Deck. When we stepped off the elevator, again, we were impressed with the way the ship looked. We ended up running into Michelle, one of the members of cruise critic, who we had met on our previous cruise, on board CCL's Triumph in June, 2009. She was with her friends, Jessica and Joe, with whom she worked with at West Point. Justin, Michelle's fiance, wasn't with them at that point. George was somewhat disappointed that he wasn't there. We went to find out what line was the shortest, as we scoped out the food situation. Justin had gone to see a man about a horse, and was heading back as we ran into him. George and Justin bonded on our last cruise, and it was great to see Justin once again. We finally found a place to stand in line. George got food at the Taste of Nations, while I sat and held our seat. We weren't too impressed with the lay out of the Lido dining area. It wasn't as spread out as we'd hoped. At times, it was too crowded. We could barely move. Once we both had our lunch in front of us, we discussed what our game plan was for the day. We had been assigned the late dinner seating, and wanted to go and talk to the Matre'D about changing to the early dinner seating. When we got to the Crimson Dining Room, we met with some guy who wasn't the Matre'D. The Matre'D came in as we were standing there, trying to get our request accepted. He wasn't even working. He wasn't dressed as the Matre'D, and we were not at all impressed with his persona. We were told that we'd get our response in our stateroom the next night. After we had our first disappointment, we ended up going up to our room. We got in contact with Justin and Michelle later on that day. It turned out, againb, we were seated at the same dinner table. George and I were pleased to know who we were sitting with. Jessica, Joe, and Joe's two boys were also sitting with us. It was great to know that we were eating with people we could get along with. The shops on board the ship carried the best of everything at rock bottom prices. We bought some souvenirs and ended up spending quite a lot on them. However, we didn't care because we were on vacation. They had cartons of cigarettes and bottles of liqour for sale, and they beat the prices we have in Connecticut. We had this African-American sales representative who was very friendly, and quite a gentleman. He made our shopping experience comfortable asw we purchased away. The shows were fantastic! We saw "Dancing in the Streets" which will make it big in the theaters some day. It was by far the best show we have seen on the high seas. The costumes, dancing and music really captured our attention. The lead singer had an awesome voice, as she sang her heart out. However, there were some down sides to our trip. We went in to see the Matre'D on the first Fun Day at Sea. It was formal night, and we had gone into the dining room in our regular clothes, just to see if we could change our seating. Claudio, the Matre'D, insulted George. He said that it was formal night, and he wasn't allowed to wear shorts in the dining room. George got really offended, because we weren't there to eat, just to plead our case for the early dinner seating. That set George off on a bad note. There were plenty of things he wanted to say to him, but instead, we turned the other cheek, and walked out of the dining room. However, George was fuming! He shouldn't have been treated like that. Our waitresses were Tatiyana and Romona. They were a lot of fun, and met our every request. Even though we didn't have the early dinner seating, we still enjoyed our company. Justin and Michelle are the two coolest people we've met on our past cruise. At one point, I found out that we were arriving into New York earlier than expected. Our friend Pete was going to pick us up around 8:30 AM, however, we found out we'd be arriving around 6:30 AM. I found a quiet place on the Lido Deck to call Pete, but these people, who sat down after I was talking on the phone, asked me to move. I responded with "I was here first." If they didn't want me talking on the phone, they should have found another place to sit. So of course, they were making rude comments behind my back. I turned the other cheek, and left when I couldn't make any progress with my phone call. However, we enjoyed the ship, and most of the people we met on board. We went to the Cruise Critic meet and greet, and met Justin and Michelle there. Everyone ignored us, so we just left and went elsewhere. I was disappointed. Thanksgiving dinner was great. They had the traditional turkey dinner, but we all opted for something different. There was shrimp and steak. Of course we decided on that food instead of a turkey dinner. They really made our time worthwhile, and we were glad to be with friends we enjoy spending time with. All in all, the ship was a great experience. 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Sail Date November 2009
This was mine and my 15 year old son's first cruise and my boyfriend's second. We picked this cruise because we live in Maryland and wanted to try the convenience of leaving from Baltimore, and wanted to go on vacation when ... Read More
This was mine and my 15 year old son's first cruise and my boyfriend's second. We picked this cruise because we live in Maryland and wanted to try the convenience of leaving from Baltimore, and wanted to go on vacation when schools were out. Embarkation: Parked our vehicle at my workplace and took a cab from there as it's a few minutes away rather than pay the $15.00 a day at the Port to park(that's $105 bucks). We arrived at 3:30 to get on the ship and it was easy and quick. The Pride was a clean ship and beautiful although you can tell it is an older ship by the decor. We had an inside stateroom with no windows, it wasn't too bad for the first time cruising. We had anytime dining, which I would recommend to anyone. We assumed big party families would only choose the scheduled time dining choices. The dining room food at dinner was always excellent, lunchtime- not so much. We ate in the dining room at lunch twice and were disappointed both times and just opted to eat at the buffets thereafter. I was extremely disappointed at the drinks on board. This may be a little long because I'm a little still upset: I started off with the Drink of the Day and after 2, realized it was a rip-off and did not buy them again. I am not a big drinker(limit 2)and I expected drinks to be weak...but I could not taste ANY alcohol and they filled the cup mostly with ice...so two sips and you are done. So I switched to wine as that is what I really enjoy...they watered down the wine too! So we tried to enjoy our alloted two bottle minimum while on board. I also had a Bailey's on the rocks and that tasted watered down as well. This really disppointed me all in all because the drinks were not cheap, more expensive than what you would expect to pay and smaller glasses to boot. The weather this time of year and probably the choice in Ports, was colder than what we expected. We only had two days throughout where we could wear our bathingsuits..once on the ship and once during our stay in Nassau. Port Canaveral, my son stayed on board and we got off mainly to go to Ron Jon Surf Shop. We also were able to walk a block or two from there to Cocoa Beach but it was cold and rainy and mainly looked like the Jersey Shore to us. Nassau: we did not do any excursions but planned to get off, and get the Jitney to Cable Beach where I heard was the nicest beach. Little taken back by the swarms of taxi drivers harassing you for a ride as soon as you get through the Port building there. But being originally from NY my boyfriend navigated pretty easily through that mess. We looked through the town there at the stores before getting a taxi out...jewelry stores galore that try to make you think they have some great deals but don't...I heard later that there is some nice Mall that the locals go to where all the deals are...the Port stores are set up to rip tourists off. So we went then to use the beach at the Shertaon, paid some beach patrol guy $10 each for the 3 of us and he gave us towels and left us alone. He told us the Sheraton charges $25 per person to use the beach...but I expect not because we walked right through the hotel and no one stopped us. $30 was a good deal I thought...they have to make money I guess. We used the Windham next doors pool because it had a slide...but the hotel was a mess...old and I would have been disappointed if I paid to stay there. We ate at their hut outside and food was awful...again...I would have been disappointed to stay there for a week! We headed back to the Port area to eat and/or drink before getting on the ship...and no one tells you the whole place closes down at like-I think it was 5:00pm on the DOT! I mean the place looks abandoned at 5:01 and you are standing there scared like you are in a horror movie scene because the store fronts pull down big metal grates to protect their stores, etc. This was definately not a place I would roam around without my boyfriend with me. Then we find out about a group of 10 tourists getting robbed by gun point few weeks prior on an excursion. No wonder! Something Carnival did not warn about during their excursion talk on the ship, LOL! FreePort: Got off only to check out the straw market right at the Port...10 huts in all and sold junk...I bought a straw beach bag to use whenever we go to the beach again...and then we got back on the ship...took all of 20 minutes. Wasn't even a nice day to go to the beach, so we put clothes on and froze on deck reading all day! After the Ports, I just wanted to be home honestly. The shows were okay, my boyfriend enjoyed the dancers (of course) but the performance you can tell was all written in the 80's and they haven't updated since. It just made the shows a little hokey but they really could update them and write some new material. Extra notes: We did not book any excursions through the ship, we thought they were expensive at best and if we really wanted to snorkel,etc we would have done something aside from the ship. We bought some liquor on board that was a deal and one liquor we were told you could not buy in the States, then we see it at our liquor store at home! The ship holds sales all cruise long and held a sale on watches...for $20.00...well it caused a mob that sort of reminded me of something you'd see at WalMart on Black Friday...two men almost started fighting...there were $20 watches on sale for $19.99...in very bad taste for Carnival. All the jewelry including expensive watches in the ship's store was not priced for sale as back home if not for more! Staff: the staff on the ship was what you would expect, no one besides our room steward stood out for me. Darma (our room steward) knew our names and remembered them throughout our stay, and we remebered him of course...we left him an extra tip and a bottle of rum from the Bahamas :) Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Let me begin by saying our family vacation on the Carnival Pride was memorable and wonderful. We choose the Pride mainly because of the location, much more convenient (and cheaper) to drive to the port for our family of five. I've ... Read More
Let me begin by saying our family vacation on the Carnival Pride was memorable and wonderful. We choose the Pride mainly because of the location, much more convenient (and cheaper) to drive to the port for our family of five. I've read other posts where past passengers were somewhat disappointed in various parts of the cruise, such as dining, entertainment, tipping, ports of call, activities, etc. We aren't seasoned cruisers, so we don't have much to compare the experience against, so for us, the cruise worked and we had a family vacation full of positive memories. Our fellow passengers were a true cross-section of the country... practically every age, gender, race, color, creed, nationality, religion, weight category, etc were represented... each bringing their own unique perspective to the entire experience. If you are the type of person that likes to stay in your own comfort zone cocoon (and thinks everybody else should be in that cocoon with you), then you might have some challenges enjoying your experience. However, if you enjoy talking to and getting to know different people, then your perspective and trip might be more enjoyable. Embarkation and Departure - Driving to the Port of Baltimore is so easy... it is literally right off I-95 (from either direction). The only downside to the entire cruise experience was the operations by the port authorities from the time we arrived in the lot to the time we entered the terminal. After spending several extra hours on the road due to the road conditions following the snow storm, we spent almost two more hours in the car waiting in line to offload luggage, then to pay for parking. They only had one credit card terminal to pay for parking and it was a very slow process. I don't believe these operations are tied to Carnival, but they should be improved to get the cruise started off on the right foot. The security and check-in operations inside the terminal were fine. We boarded the ship at around 4:30 and headed straight to our rooms to drop off our carry-on bags. An announcement was made at around 5:00 that the departure time would be moved to around 8:00 to accommodate those passengers delayed due to the winter storm. I wish they would have made this decision sooner, like when we were on the road heading to Baltimore and calling the emergency travel number. There was a message, however, on our home answering machine when we got home telling us the cruse departure time was delayed. Since we got there later in the afternoon, and we were all hungry and frazzled from the long trip (we drove straight to Baltimore with very few stops), we went upstairs to Mermaids for dinner... The food line set-up was a bit confusing, particularly since there were so many people up there at the same time and all of us were trying to figure our way around the operation. Our luggage was waiting for us when we got back to our rooms after dinner. After unpacking, we attended the registration and orientation for Camp Carnival (more about CC later), walked around and got orientated to the ship, visited the arcade with the kids and the casino with wife... Days One and Two - On Monday we had to turn around near the Outer Banks of NC to take a very sick / hurt passenger to Norfolk. The only impact was the casino and shops were closed for a few hours once we entered Hampton Roads. Since it was pretty cold outside there weren't too many people hanging out around the outdoor pools, but there were various other activities planned on the sea days, pretty much something for everyone. We did the art auction (didn't buy anything, but learned a lot), food demonstration in David's, gambled, consumed some adult beverages, Love & Marriage show (hilarious), beanbag toss tournament, just to name a few activities... The dinner during the first day at sea was the first of two formal nights. Sailing was smooth and we didn't seem to have the rough seas that I've read about in other posts. Day Three (Port Canaveral) - Instead of booking a shore excursion through Carnival, we arranged for a car rental and purchased Disney tickets from the military ticket office (all in all, saved us around $300). Had originally booked the rental through Enterprise, but they weren't there to pick us up when we got off the ship and the Hertz guy offered us $20 off whatever rate we had from Enterprise. Dive to Orlando / Disney couldn't be easier... just make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to the ship. Disney was PACKED!! Not much time to take in any rides, but did see the parade and people watch. It was great just to walk around and be with the family. Depending on what you do, this is a long day... You get up early and stay up late with activities once you get back on ship. If had it to do over again, would have probably still rented the car, but gone to Downtown Disney instead (wouldn't have been as crowded and less expensive). Day four (Nassau) - Christmas Eve and temperature was around 82 degrees... Didn't book any shore excursions, figured we could just find something our own once off the ship. Wife and daughters did some shopping in the market and jewelry shops... Had some snacks and adult beverages in Senor Frogs... took a water taxi to Paradise Island and walked to the public beach. If had it to do over again, would take a regular taxi vice the boat (the public beach is a pretty long walk from where the water taxi drops you off) and would have maybe looked at one of the lower cost shore excursions to one of the resorts. We didn't take in any night life in Nassau, too tired from the previous day and all the walking in Nassau (can't say it's because we are getting old, the kids were beat as well). Day five (Freeport) - Christmas Day and upper 70s and a bit windy... We were delayed in off loading, apparently a young teen on board for a "Make a Wish" trip passed away over night... very sad. The captain extended our departure time a few hours to make up for the delay. The ship docks in a pretty industrialized area (there is the obligatory basket market and trinket shops right off the boat). You either have to take a bus on a pre-arranged excursion or get a taxi to the different beaches (there were a large number of passengers waiting for cabs, best advice is to just be patient and not get caught up in the riot... there are plenty of taxis... it just takes a little bit of time). We were able to book a dolphin encounter for our kids to give them for Christmas at the last minute and they loved the experience. Wife and I went to Port Lucaya beach and did some shopping and had some snacks and a few adult beverages at Rum Runners. There was a Christmas show in the Taj Mahal after we get underway... it was very nice and featured the kids from Camp Carnival and a very touching singing of Silent Night that included members of the crew representing their various countries. After we left Freeport the seas were pretty rough... the dinner that night was the second formal night. Unfortunately, there were so many people queasy from the waives they had to get up from the dinner tables. Day six - Similar to days one and two sea days, there are so many different activities planned on board to keep everyone busy. Went to Kirk's disembarkation talk... very informative and it included a nice recognition for the ship's crew. This was actually the only day we ate lunch in Normande and it was pretty good. One of the on board shops had a watch sale, men's and woman's watches for $20 each. I thought the mob scene waiting for taxis in Freeport was bad; this was worse... reminded me of a Black Friday stampede at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving. Pushing, shoving, grabbing, hording, all for a $20 watch... Dinner was nice and is a great opportunity for you to thank your waiter and assistant with a nice additional tip... during dinner they all sang a funny farewell song. We chose to check our baggage for the debarkation so we needed to have the bags packed and outside of the room before midnight. Day seven - As mentioned above, we checked our bags so we didn't have too much to carry for the debarkation. However, if you choose this option, be prepared to leave the ship after all the self-debarkation passengers. The key for this day is to relax and just wait your turn. A lot of passengers choose the self debarkation option and I can't believe some of them were able to carry all their stuff off the ship by themselves. There are porters in the terminal to assist you in getting your luggage to your car. Few tips, notes, observations, and thoughts: - The Ship - I've seen various posts from previous passengers who were taken aback or offended with the dEcor. Again, we aren't seasoned cursers, so don't have much to compare the dEcor against, but we didn't have much of a problem with it. My nine year old son did chuckle the first time he saw the David stature up in the Steakhouse, but hey, he's nine. We didn't think it was as bad as others have made it out to be. The atrium and other indoor common areas were decorated with some nine holiday decorations. - Rooms - We were on Deck 5 and had two balcony rooms (8B category) next to each other, we didn't have an adjoining door (which was fine and worked out better for our situation). We requested through Guest Services that the divider between our two balconies be opened and it made movement between our two rooms easier. One room had two twin beds together and the other had two twin beds and sofa converted to a twin. The rooms were adequate and had plenty of storage (to include room under the beds for luggage). We found the beds surprisingly comfortable and slept great. You can't hear hardly any noise from the hallway and having the balcony is great. The in-room TV is fine and has a decent channel selection of both on-ship and cable channels (it does seem kind of odd that the CBSABCNBC affiliates were all out of Colorado). Our room steward, Cayaha, took care of everything. All you had to do was ask, and he was on it right away. - Normandie Restaurant - We had the late seating. If had it to do over again, we might select open seating (but with that, you will get a different waiter each time and don't build a relationship and connection with a particular wait staff team). Our waiters were great... Dedi and Felix were terrific and did everything to make us happy. I've read other posts where people had bad dining experiences or complained about the food or the wait staff... I tell you, they must have been on a different cruise or are just never satisfied with anything. Those guys are working their tails off to make you happy and get all the meals out correctly. Treat them with respect and dignity, and you'll be amazed at how they'll treat you. Dinner portions were more than adequate and tasted fine. If you want one or all appetizers, all you have to do is ask. If something didn't taste right, just ask for another plate or another entrEe. They'll quickly take care of it. Many times we'd ask Dedi for a recommendation on a particular entrEe and he would give an honest opinion and sometimes would recommend another choice. Between the five of us, we tried almost everything, some stand outs include the jerk pork loin (was awesome), filet mignon, lobster tail, barbeque ribs (too many to eat - half of the order would have worked just as good), chicken/mushroom pasta, all the salads, cappuccino pie (surprisingly delicious), and of course the chocolate melting cake. We ate a few breakfasts in Normandie as well... and requested seating in Dedi's section. Just like the dinner, you can ask for as much as you want (for example two orders of hash browns or corned beef hash). I wasn't totally impressed with the eggs benedict, but realized it is hard to mass produce a dish like that... so I just got eggs to order the next time. If it's not too busy during breakfast you have a good chance to talk to and get to know your waiter. - Mermaids - We ate a few breakfasts, lunches, and late-afternoon or midnight snacks here... And apparently most of our fellow passengers did too... it is a very busy place and can get pretty crowded at peak times. It is buffet style and there is a different theme each day for the main entrEe selections. You can get pretty much anything you want... for breakfast - eggs to order, omelets, hash browns, bagels, toast, pancakes, French toast, oat meal, grits, sausage gravy, bacon, sausage, cereal, fruit, danishes, etc... and for lunch and dinner - burgers, dogs, fries, deli sandwiches, themed entrEes and sides, pizza, salad bar, sushi (in the evening at the end of the salad bar - go easy on the wasabi, it will definitely clear out your sinuses), dessert, etc. Overall, food wasn't bad... just understand, it ain't the Normandie or David's. One downside, there isn't a wide sections of healthy options during non-peak times (such as late-night snack time). - David's - My wife and I ate dinner there on the Wednesday night. I had booked this online before the cruise, but when I checked on the reservation on board, it wasn't in the books (don't know what caused this, but recommend if you want to schedule a dinner there, do it once you get on board). We originally made reservations for 8:30, but were able to change to 7:30. This is a first class experience that I strongly recommend, and well worth the $30 per person cover. Everything was perfect, from the small starter from the chef, to the appetizers, main course, desert, and wine. Don't go there expecting to get in and out in short order, this is an experience that must be savored and enjoyed. I ordered the 9 oz. filet mignon and my wife got the 24 oz. porterhouse (there isn't a similar smaller cut and that's her favorite cut of steak). The meat was prepared to order and beautifully presented. I wanted to try something different for desert and got the cheese selection, which was wonderful (although it didn't do wonders for my breath). We were seated in a location where we could watch the chefs at the grill and it was a pleasure watching them work. If it's not too busy in the restaurant, ask to talk to the chef... we asked to talk to the head chef during desert and had a real nice conversation with him. We told him how much we enjoyed watching the food demonstration the day before and complemented him on the entire evening (plus it was just cool talking to him). - Cruise Directors - Kirk and Jamie were fantastic and worked great together, as were other members of their team... all of them had great personalities and full of energy. - Entertainment - Again, I've see other posts where people really knocked the shows and entertainment (I sometimes think some people just like to hear themselves complain). In our opinion, the entertainment wasn't too bad. We went to many of the shows and thought the singing and dancing was fine. My wife and teen-aged daughters went to some of the comedy shows and said they were pretty funny, but not out of the park funny (but that is the way some stand up comedy acts are and the same when we go to comedy clubs at home). The singers in the various clubs and lounges (casino, atrium, piano bar, etc) were good, and guess what, sounded about like lounge singers (this isn't a critique, but its true). I didn't go, but I heard some passengers talking that they really enjoyed the piano bar and sing along. Go to the shows understanding this is a cruise ship, not Broadway. These entertainers are performing at about the right level (hopefully that doesn't sound bad, I meant for it to be somewhat of a compliment). - Casino - Denver gave a great class on craps, blackjack, and roulette on day one. He is very personable and we really enjoyed talking to him about his home in Australia. My wife loves to play slots so she spent quite a bit of time (and money) in the casino. There are plenty of blackjack tables, two roulette tables, and one craps table. There is also a pretty neat electronic poker table. All the dealers and casino workers were professional and took the time to explain many of the games to the novices. - Camp Carnival - This is a great service that Carnival offers. They had activities planned for the kids every day and evenings (even those days we were in ports, which I thought was kind of odd, but I guess is a need). Our nine year old son loved going and making friends with the other kids. He was able to sign himself in and out during the days and then we would arrange to meet him back in the room. They had late-night activities one evening and even brought him back to the room in the wee-hours of the morning when they were done. He had an awesome time. They also have babysitting services available at a very, very reasonable price. - Tipping - The basic tips are taken care of on all your bar purchases and pre-paid on your S&S account, but you can always give more. We choose to give our room steward, waiter, and assistant waiter additional tips the evening of day six for the great service they gave us. The afternoon of day six your steward leaves you various debarkation paperwork, plus an envelope to put a tip in for the Normandie matradee; again, we aren't seasoned cruisers, so we thought this was a bit odd... considering the first time we saw him was at dinner that night standing at the door waiting for people to give him their envelopes (maybe we were wrong, but we didn't give him a tip... we preferred to tip the wait staff that actually waited on us). - Weather - I've got a little secret for you, If you book a cruise that sails out of the northeast in the December, January, February timeframe, it is going to be cold outside and you should pack appropriately. Don't expect too much deck time on the Lido Deck to work on your tan... Even Florida isn't terribly warm during that time. Buy some kind of travel insurance, just in case... - Passports are a must, but only seemed to be needed during the embarkation and debarkation in Baltimore... all other times you just needed a picture ID and your Sail & Sign card to get back on ship. - Bring a bungee cord to hold your balcony door open to enjoy the sounds of the water and catch the sea breeze... however, be careful opening you cabin door at the same time... - I wished Carnival would have scheduled some kind of service on board ship for Christmas. - Follow the message boards on both the Carnival and Cruise Critic websites. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was our first cruise on this ship. Previous cruise was on Carnival Destiny. We booked at the very last minute for a New Year's Eve cruise. This ship was completely full. Our cabin (coach)had two lower bunk style beds. This was ... Read More
This was our first cruise on this ship. Previous cruise was on Carnival Destiny. We booked at the very last minute for a New Year's Eve cruise. This ship was completely full. Our cabin (coach)had two lower bunk style beds. This was the primary negative to our experience. The mattress was hard and the bed had a metal frame around it that made it uncomfortable. Surprisingly there was no top sheet, just a quilted blanket that was too warm for our taste. Otherwise the room was adequate for a two night cruise. We had to take an interior room so we missed out on a view. Dinners were excellent! We are picky about our food and must say that paying the extra $25 each for dining in the Cove was well worth it. We had a superb and relaxing dinner befitting a true four star restaurant. It barely misses a five star rating by a tad. Make it your business to eat there. The other night we dined in the Crystal Room, and this was just a tad below the Cove so I would say it is a solid four stars. The help were friendly, and the shows were worth watching. Embarkation went fairly smooth as well as disembarkation which took a bit longer. We spent the day at Atlantis and did the dolphin encounter. Loved it! All in all I would say that if they upgraded their bedding we would be steady passengers, but would not return unless they improved on the bedding. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Let me begin by saying that the wife and I had a great time on the Fantasy for the Thanksgiving sailing. Personally, I am not a fan of the smaller ships, and I think there was room for improvement in a few aspects of the ship. Let's ... Read More
Let me begin by saying that the wife and I had a great time on the Fantasy for the Thanksgiving sailing. Personally, I am not a fan of the smaller ships, and I think there was room for improvement in a few aspects of the ship. Let's start with embarkation. First of all, Carnival did a good job with what they had to work with. I've read in some previous posts that the port staff was unfriendly/unhelpful, and that was not our experience in any way whatsoever. We found the people to be nice, professional, and courteous. What was an issue, however, was the layout of the terminal. We had to go one place to drop off luggage, then drive another place to park, and then catch a shuttle to the terminal, then get in line to check in, then go upstairs to get your picture taken, then go downstairs to get on the ramp to get in line to board the ship. I heard that there were going to be some upgrades to the port by the end of 2011, so this may not last forever, but I can tell you that by the end of 2010 the process just wasn't as streamlined as it is in other ports. Our sailing was the last sailing of the Fantasy for two weeks. She is going into dry dock to renovate the common areas. I thought the layout was fine, not as gaudy as most Carnival decor, but I guess some modernizing wouldn't hurt. Our cabin was a decent size. It was our first time sailing with a balcony, and I don't think we could sail without one again. Our room steward was great. We had early dinner seating, and loved, loved, LOVED our wait staff team of Elder, Sigit, and Janet. They were AWESOME! The food wasn't the best I've had, but far from the worst. I'm sure that in trying to please as many palates as possible they can't get too creative or inventive. Dietetically, I'm pretty adventurous, but my wife is not. She seemed to be fine as long as she stuck to steaks and fruit and potatoes. I experimented with dishes I wouldn't normally eat. I liked some a lot, and some were just so-so. Nothing was bad. Oh, and the sushi at the sushi bar was really good. I thought that the entertainment was a pretty weak, overall. Not much else to be said about that. I didn't get our cruise director "Sexy Craig E." I'm sure many people find his schtick funny, but I wasn't one of them. You're wacky and crazy because you always wear two different colored socks... and because everyone you introduce is a good friend of yours... and it is always their birthday... and they should get a big kiss when you see them... It was old by day 2. I thought the activities were thin as well, especially on days at sea. Port 1- Nassau: We only shopped in Nassau. Some decent shopping, but I think we got off of the boat too early, because many of the shops we still closed at 9:30, and by the time we were done, we just didn't backtrack. Port 2- Freeport: We had a beach day, and apart from it being a little overcast, we had a great time. Port 3- Key West: We rented an electric car and drove up and down the streets of Key West. We got the car for three hours for $85. and it was probably the best $85 we spent. We got to see so much more of the island than we would have on foot. In rereading what I have, I'm afraid it seems like we didn't have a good time, and that was far from the case, but as with most things in life, your vacation is what you make of it. The wife and I had a fabulous time. As for the ship, I think that they may need to work some things out first. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We just returned from our cruise on the Pride out of Baltimore. Our teens had the full week off school for Thanksgiving this year and we decided on this particular cruise simply because all the criteria fit...we could drive to Baltimore ... Read More
We just returned from our cruise on the Pride out of Baltimore. Our teens had the full week off school for Thanksgiving this year and we decided on this particular cruise simply because all the criteria fit...we could drive to Baltimore from our home in just about an hour, the price was right as was the length of cruise. We did not specifically look for a Carnival cruise and we did not pick this sailing for its ports of call. This was the first ever cruise for my kids and the first CCL cruise for my DH and myself (we have sailed with Princess and NCL before). Embarkation - We had hoped we could board earlier than 1:30 since we were the first cruise post dry-dock but our TA said "regular boarding time." That being said, we wanted to avoid traffic or parking issues, or any unforeseen problems so we left a little early and ended up getting to the port just before 1:00. Parking at the port was a piece of cake and from the parking lot, we could see that passengers were already starting to board! Once we got into the terminal, there was quite a long line but it moved steadily (I hesitate to say quickly). Once through the metal detectors, we were ushered into a second line where we were issued our sign & sail cards. There must have been 14-15 counter agents working this and the line moved very quickly. We were on board before 2:00pm. We went straight to the guest services desk (which only had 2 people in line ahead of us) so we could get additional key cards for our kids' cabin. While we were there, we requested the door between our 2 balconies be opened and they sent someone the following morning who secured the door open for the duration of the cruise. Cabin - we had 2 cabins on deck 7 (Verandah) mid-ship with extended balconies. The rooms were fine, clean, comfortable bed, sofa, small table, ample closet & shelf space. The bathroom was smaller than other ships BUT the water pressure in the shower was amazing and there was plenty of shelf space in the bathroom for toiletries etc. I loved having coffee on my balcony in the morning and also coming back there to read in the late afternoons. We did not end up leaving Baltimore until 7:30pm even though our scheduled departure was for 4:30. I just think they didn't get everything done in dry dock that they needed to accomplish so they were probably scrambling all day in Baltimore. Dining - We had early seating dining and were issued a booth for the 4 of us. Our waiter and assistant waiter were wonderful and remembered our names and favorite items after the first night. He had a running joke with my DS about the chocolate melting cake (and yes, it's as good as everyone raves about). The service at dinner was great and the food was quite good (better than NCL but not as good as Princess - in my opinion). Call me sappy, but I enjoyed the singing and dancing the waiters did on most nights. They did Flo Rida (Low) one night, Tally Ho, Leaving on a Jet plane the last night (with their own carnival words) and I forgot the last song. It was silly and entertaining and I just wish my kids were willing to get up and bust a move with them. We ordered coffee from room service on 2 occasions and it arrived within 20 minutes. We had buffet breakfast a few times and ate in the dining room a few times. Same food in both places. I must say the service in the MDR for breakfast was slow. In many cases they filled tables of 8 and although they took your order when you sat down, the food didn't come out until everyone at the table was seated and had ordered. I just don't think breakfast needs to be an hour long ordeal. We did not eat at the steakhouse nor did we get around to trying the sushi. If you have any specific dining questions, throw them my way...I just don't want to bore everyone with the details of what was served. Ports - We did not book any excursions ahead of time. These ports weren't the reason we were on this cruise and we weren't terribly excited about the excursions. We were in Port Canaveral the day before Thanksgiving and were warned the Disney and Universal Parks would be a zoo so we steered clear (and we had just been to the Space Center 2 years ago). I had booked a rental car before we left for about $43 (which is less than a shuttle anywhere would have cost us as a family) and the Budget shuttle ran continuously from the port to their location and we didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for it to pick us up. We ended up driving to Cocoa Beach where we did the obligatory surf shop shopping and spent several house at the beach. In Nassau, be prepared to be accosted by independent taxi drivers who want to take you on a tour of the island and to Atlantis etc...it's a hard sell but if you're firm and say no, they'll move on to the next victim, er, visitor. ? We did some shopping in town and walked to the public beach (Junkaroo). I couldn't justify the cost of a day pass at any of the hotels when we had the beach right there. There was a volleyball net, some food and drink shacks (folks were drinking wonderful concoctions out of coconuts and eating jerk chicken, burgers, dogs etc). That was about it for Nassau. It was Thanksgiving day and there were 3 other ships in port with us that day so it was fairly crowded everywhere. We were happy to get back on the boat and hit the hot tub! In Freeport I had read about snorkeling that I wanted the kids to try but I'm glad I held off booking because the water was rather rough that day. We took a cab out to our Lucaya and went to the beach there. The sand was soft, the water beautiful and the vendors came by in a steady stream but if you said "no thank you" politely but firmly, they'd move on without hassling you at all. They had a tour operator right on the beach offering various excursions (parasailing, snorkeling, dolphin watching, jet skiing and banana boat rides) so there's really no need to book ahead of time if you want to try out some of these activities. We were content to splash around in the water for a few hours before doing some souvenir shopping in the shops of Lucaya. BTW, taxi costs $5 per person each way and we were fortunate to have a driver on the way out who gave us some history and points of interests on the 15 minute drive from the ship to Lucaya. Activities/Entertainment - There was plenty to do for those who need constant organized activities but nothing was pushed too hard. What was really nice was walking by the piano bar or any one of a number of lounges and stopping to listen to the talent on the ship. They even had some performers behind the bar at the casino...so you could watch a game, play some blackjack, get a drink and listen to someone performing all at the same time. Talk about sensory overload! ? I played several of the trivia games and that was fun. Didn't do bingo so I can't comment on that. My kids were eligible for the 2 older teen clubs (Circle C and O2). They went the first night, met others who they hung out with for the rest of the cruise, but didn't necessarily do all the scheduled activities. My DS did pizza night, movie night (they showed Date Night) and played in the basketball tournament. He was bummed it was too windy for the ping pong tourney the last night. Mostly they hung out on the 9th deck. I rarely saw my 14 year old DD. She made a million friends and they were always on the go or in a hot tub somewhere. We did go to some of the shows after dinner as a family. I can really appreciate how hard those dancers work and it was amazing to think about how many costume changes they had. My favorite show was called Vrooom and it was a journey of rock and roll from the 50s to the 80s and encompassed everything from Elvis, Diana Ross, Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Culture Club, Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Elton John and about a dozen others. Very cool costumes and special effects. We also went to some of the comedy shows (the adult-only ones) and really enjoyed all of them. We hit the casino most nights...my DH won in craps but gave it back at the poker table. I was content to play slots all week. They were hot and cold but I was entertained for long chunks of time without losing too much! Debarkation - We pulled into Baltimore around 10:30 (about 30 minutes late because Friday night we had to detour towards the coast so the coast guard could air lift someone in medical distress - it was quite something to see a helicopter hovering over the ship at 1am and they did an amazing job in windy weather). We did self-assist and were off the ship, through customs and in our car by 11am. The fastest we've ever gotten off a ship. Misc - We thought the deal on Absolut in the ship's store was a good one (2 liters for $24.99) so we purchased that and it was delivered to our room the last night on the ship. They had many flavors and had deals on other booze as well. As for the dEcor - it was cool to have artwork everywhere. I didn't find it dark or gloomy and my kids didn't notice one way or the other. Certainly not the reason to pick a cruise. There were places to sit everywhere. Comfortable couches and lounge chairs placed throughout the hallways, near windows, in the lounges...and you never felt like a sardine. There was plenty of room for everyone and they worked hard to keep the ship clean. We must have had every demographic represented on the cruise...babies through folks in their 90s and everything in between. Great group of people. I never witnessed any ridiculously bad behavior and i met many folks traveling with larger groups of family for the holidays. Most of the folks we encountered were from MD, VA, PA, and DE although there were some from NY, OH, MI and IA. Just a nice mix. Would I sail Carnival again? You bet. They work very hard to dispel the "budget cruise" feeling and the crew was more than pleasant and helpful. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Embarkation Day Due to my school schedule, we were unable to fly into Miami the day before the cruise. Flying day-of is stressful, and for good reason. About 3 PM on the day before the cruise, we were contacted by Delta to tell us ... Read More
Embarkation Day Due to my school schedule, we were unable to fly into Miami the day before the cruise. Flying day-of is stressful, and for good reason. About 3 PM on the day before the cruise, we were contacted by Delta to tell us one of our flights had been cancelled (ATL to MIA leg). Instead of routing through Atlanta and arriving at 10:27 AM, we were rebooked to route through Detroit and arrive at 11:27 AM. No big deal there, except we were "confirmed" on the new flights without seat assignments. With an early morning coming anyway (2:30 AM wake up call), this did not help sleep come easily. However, props to Delta ... we had seats assigned at the gate on both of our (completely full) flights and everything ran on time. We flew with checked luggage (free with Delta credit card), and once that was collected, we grabbed a cab from the taxi queue outside of the MIA baggage claim and headed to the ship for a $24 flat rate charge. Upon arrival at a little after noon, we found a porter to tag my parents' bags they had taken advantage of a price drop to upgrade the week before the cruise. After that, we proceeded through security (you need to show your passport/ID and SetSail Pass to get in the building, then go through a metal detector once up the escalator). In the past, I have found this security to be a bit lax, but they actually made me take my belt off on this trip ... interesting. Anyway, we were quickly through, to the C&A priority line, and immediately shown to an agent. I had had my fingers crossed for an upgrade as the sailing seemed to be having trouble filling up, but alas, I was kept in my 3rd deck interior cabin while my parents had their 9th deck superior ocean view. By 12:20 we were checked-in, onboard, and heading to the Windjammer for a much needed embarkation day lunch. The Ship As with many mass-market lines, the short Bahamas cruises are relegated to the oldest ships in the fleet, and the Majesty is no different. I had first sailed the Majesty after her major refurbishment a few years ago, and no startling changes have been made since then. She offers quite a bit for an older ship, with many large lounges, bars, and showrooms. The Schooner Bar, for example, is much larger than on newer ships. This offers more space, of coure, but also cuts into the coziness of the surroundings ... a trade off. The dining rooms, on the other hand, cover two decks and are wholly contained on each deck. Unlike other ships where the dining area shares a large open space between decks, the dining rooms on the Majesty feel a bit cramped with lower ceilings ... it's not hugely detrimental to the dining experience, but it was something I felt/noticed on the first few days. In contrast to the main dining rooms, the Windjammer has a great, open feel. Like newer ships, the WJ has been organized into food sections instead of one long buffet line. This works when the WJ is not overly busy, but when it is overflowing, people start approaching from all angles and get clustered up. This happened duing the one night we ate in the WJ and it was a mess. Seating can also be an issue, especially if the managers are reluctant to open the back area of the dining room. The top floor of the WJ is reserved for Sorrento's pizzaria, the Compass Deli, and Johnny Rockets. Sorrento's was typically open from noon-5AM (I believe), the Deli from 11:30-6:30, and Johnny Rockets with varying hours in the afternoon and evening. There are some sports offerings on the Majesty, incluing a half-basketball court and a rock wall. The deck 7 promenade goes around the entire ship for walking/jogging, though passengers are asked not to jog on that deck between 10PM and 10 AM as it is directly over passenger cabins. There is also a fitness center on deck 9, though it is fairly tiny and, due to the low ceilings, does not offer eliptical machines. There are two pools on deck 11. While the Majesty shows her age, the number of venues and the constant upkeep by the crew make her feel like a younger ship. The biggest sources of passenger consternation I noticed seemed to be the elevators and deck 6. As for the elevators, there is only one main set in the middle of the ship, with three elevators on each side of a large lobby that have seperate call buttons. These elevators fill quickly, especially when people are going to/returning from port as they exit in the embarkation/debarkation area. The centrum elevators are less seldom used, but they only run from between decks 3 and 7. The aft elevators are my personal favorite and pretty much what I exclusively used, even when I was at the bow of the ship. They run from deck 5 up to deck 14 (Viking Crown) and are mostly forgotten besides showtime as they are across the ship from the WJ. As for deck 6, it is a tween deck that only occurs on the front of the ship. In the back of the ship, the decks skip from 5 to 7, leading to confusion for some. Ports Nassau I'll be frank here ... Nassau is not one of my favorite ports. The two big attractions are Atlantis and the straw market. Other than those things, at least in my experience, there is not a lot to distinguish this port. On our first stop (3-day, Sunday), we did not really do much besides get off the ship to look at the Oasis of the Seas and visit the shops at the pier. The shops are definitely lacking, stores have limited hours on Sunday, and with 4 ships (inlcuding Oasis) docked, lines to re-enter the pier area were long as there were a lot of people digging for their ship cards and photo IDs. This stop was a day stop with Majesty pulling out around 5 PM. On our second stop in Nassau (Wednesday), we took the trip to Atlantis. This can be reached by water taxi ($3/pp) or regular taxi ($4/pp in a shared-ride van), though there is evidently quite a walk from the water taxi to the hotel itself. As Majesty had a late night departure (midnight), we visited after 5 PM because we heard there were more things available to see for free in the hotel after that time. We ended up looking at the aquarium, wandering around a bit, and making a small donation in the casino. There were plenty of vans waiting to return us to the ship, but outside of Atlantis, the area seemed pretty shut down in the evening, even with two ships remaining in port. Even Senor Frogs near the pier seemed to close early. Key West (4-day only, Tuesday) The Majesty docks at the Westin pier, which is right near Mallory Square and Duval Street in Key West. This is much better than the Navy pier that Carnival uses which requires a tram to take passengers through the base. Many of the attractions in Key West are very walkable, so I would not recommend ship-sponsored excursions unless you want to do something out of the ordinary. Popular attractions such as the Conch Train, Sloppy Joe's Bar, etc, are within a few blocks of the ship. There is also a CVS pharmacy a few blocks away in case you forgot any supplies or want to buy a few cheaper Cokes ... things like sunblock are definitely cheaper here than in the Majesty's general store. Coco Cay Coco Cay is the cruiseline's "private island" and requires tendering, which is a process by which passengers are shuttled over to the island on small boats or ferries. The water was a bit rought on our first stop (Saturday), but much smoother on our second (Thursday). Once ashore, it is essentially a beach day, though there is a small straw market (cash only). There are also bars on various parts of the island, as well as sports areas, buffet facilities, and a nature trail. There is ongoing construction on the island, and it seems clear that RCCL is definitely trying to improve the area with quite a few changes since my last visit. The general rule for Coco Cay is that the further away you get from the pier, the less crowded the beachers and hammocks are. Traveling to the far tip of the island offers much fewer people (and sometimes seclusion) though of course you are also away from food and beverage servers (if that's a worry). We took the nature trail which is a nice, cleared area that goes to the tip of the island. It takes about an hour to travel the trail (as is warned on the sign), and while the trail has been cleared, there is some stepping and uneven ground. There are also numerous exits from the trail towards the beach. Once you've reached the end, you can return back through the trail, along the beach (if the tide is out), or via a road which is much faster and smoother than the trail. They seem to be creating a shuttle system, but I never saw it running. The tender process is definitely less convenient than walking off of the ship, but isn't horrible. Tendering starts at about 8:30 (I think) and seems to get really crowded at around 10-12 which is when the majority of people seem to have gotten up, gotten breakfast, and gotten ready to head to ashore. There can be waits, especially in between tenders and while the tender is loading. The voyage itself isn't long at all (maybe 5-10 minutes) but is definitely rougher than on the Majesty, so if you are at all prone to seasickness, you are much more likely to feel it on a tender. Food I would rate the food on Majesty to be a bit above average. Admittedly, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to cruise food, but I felt that there wasn't too much that was absolutely outstanding, but neither was there too much I ate that was completely awful. We ate breakfast every morning in the dining room (in the Diamond section) which was OK ... probably the weakest meal of the day in the MDR. I found the pancakes uninspiring and opted for french toast on most mornings. One morning there was also Chocolate breakfast, complete with chocolate waffles, pancakes, parfaits, and even a chocolate milkshake. The pancakes and waffles were not that great, though the milkshake was pretty tasty and definitely indulgent. Cooked-to-order eggs seemed to come consistently well after the rest of the food, even if the items were asked to be delivered together. At new addition, at least for me, was a self-serve cereal bar with various varieties. Cappucinos and other specialty coffees tended to either take most of the meal to arrive or never arrived at all (saying the machine was broken). I did not find service in the diamond portion of breakfast to be up to par with other ships, but part of this may have been that there were different waiters in charge of the section every day as opposed to other experiences I've had where the same team worked those tables every day and learned preferences pretty quickly. Lunch was offered in a variety of venues. One lunch per cruise was in the main dining room. On the 3-day, the MDR is when the ship is at Coco Cay. On the 4-day, it is the day of an early-afternoon arrival to Nassau. Lunch in the MDR is open seating in that unless you request a private table for your party, you will be seated with others at a large table. There is a set menu as well as a great salad bar where you can go up have a salad made, tossed, and chopped to order (with toppings like proscuitto, fresh mozzerella, etc). Besides the MDR for lunch, other options include the WJ buffet (except for Coco Cay day on 3-day) which I found just OK. We actually ate most of our lunches at the Compass Deli on deck 12 which offers a ceasar salad bar, sandwiches, pressed-to-order paninis, and made-to-order crepes. I generaly stuck with a cuban or cheese panini with a sweet crepe (five minute wait) for dessert. My mom enjoyed the savory mushroom crepe. Many people never seemed to discover the Compass Deli, though at a few points between 11-noon, it is the only food venue open, so it seemed very crowded at those times. Other options for lunch were Sorrento's pizzaria (not the greatest pizza, but kind of OK), the BBQ buffet on Coco Cay (never tried it), and Johnny Rocket's ($4.95 cover charge + upcharges for sodas and milkshakes). We mostly ate dinner in the main dining room and had a few repeated menus on the B2B. I thought that appetizers were generally very good, though of course the shimp in the cocktail were tiny. Entrees were decent, though some of the beef dishes were just not make with good cuts. I ordered a NY strip that was served thin and gray. After that, I tended to stick with pasta or poultry and was generally happier. Desserts, I thought, were much improved over past cruises with almost no "gel" desserts where creams are replaced with a wobbly, weirdly textured gelatin (though these were still in abundance in the buffet area). Dinner in the MDR was fairly quick in on the first leg with our wonderful waiter Godfrey, taking about 1.5 hours. The second leg was a different story, however, with dinners extending up to 2 hours and actually cutting into showtimes. The one dinner we ate in the WJ was during the late night in Nassau on the 4-night cruise. We arrived at about 7 PM and the WJ was overwhelmed. Only the front portion was open, there were people swarming every station from every direction, and not nearly enough free tables. The WJ manager would keep moving the ropes blocking the back portion of the dining room back one table at a time to accomodate more people, but it seemed obvious they were not prepared for dinner that night. FYI ... Dress in the main dining room was unsurpisingly casual, though there seemed to be more of an effort to dress up on formal nights. About the only dress code enforcement I saw (and experienced on debarkation breakfast of all times) was the denial of hats. Cabins This is the one area where you really know ... well ... that you are on a Sovereign class ship. I had a standard interior cabin for both cruises, and make no mistake about it, those puppies are tiny. The cabin itself consisted of a queen bed (two twins pushed together) in the back corner under a TV suspended from the wall. With the beds together, there was perhaps a two foot gap between the edge of the bed and the wall. There is a chair with a desk/vanity (mostly taken up by snack bar items ... which can be moved ... and the ice bucket. The closet has a few sections and a safe. The bathroom is tiny with a stool, sink, and shower with curtain. One of my cabins had a long shower curtain and the other had a short one that did not effectively block the water which was annoying. Though tiny, it was perfectly comfortable for just me. Shared with another, it could be a bit cramped. With 3-4 people ... I have no idea how that works. On the first leg of the B2B, my parents had a superior oceanview on deck 9 and the difference in rooms was astounding. Besides the large window, there was much more room around the bed as well as a half-sofa with a coffee table. The drawer space in this room was doubled from the interior, and the bathroom was also larger and much less cramped. I'm not saying these cabins are huge by any means, but compared to the interiors, they are expansive. Crew Every crew member I interacted with seemed friendly and helpful. There definitely seems to be a satisfied quality to the crew on this ship, and they seem to have a good bit of comraderie. Both of my cabin stewards were fine. As noted above with food, Godfrey was an outstanding waiter. Zelpha and Suzzianne (sp?) in the Viking Crown Lounge were always outgoing during the nightly Diamond event. The biggest area of complaint I have is about the guest relations desk. I don't know if it was just staffed with slow workers or there were mostly new cruisers with lots of questions, but there always seemed to be a long line at the desk on both cruises. At one point in the evening after early dinner, all of the switchbacks were completely filled and there was only one person working the desk. On debarkation day, there would be lines of 30-40 people waiting to settle bills or address problems and there would only be 2 people behind the counter, and some people were quite upset, mentioning they had been in line for over an hour. Again, I don't know if this is par for the course nor not, but I had a complaint with guest relations the last time I was on Majesty and things seem not to improved over the years (though I will say the crew members were exceedingly nice once you finally reached them). Entertainment We only attended the Welcome Aboard show the first night of the first cruise and it was OK. As the other shows seemed to be clones of ones we had seen on other ships (Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, etc), we did not see any production shows. I personnally didn't care for any of the comedians. I spent a little time listening to music in the Schooner Bar in the evening which was decent, though some of the songs really needed an electric acoustic guitar instead of a straight electric. The lounge singer, generally placed in the Centrum, was almost laughably bad as she seemed to only have a phonetic understanding of the songs she was singing (my dad swears it is the same woman on every cruise we've been on). As for daily activities, these seemed more sparse than I remember in the past. There were a few trivias, but other activities such as scapbooking have switched into pay events. There was actually a progressive trivia, but it was held during the Diamond event each night. rown and Anchor I'm always interested to look at the current state of the loyalty program. I haven't cruised since March, and the coupon books are definitely a step up from what they were then. Majesty had a Diamond event each night in the Viking Crown was was only lightly attended on the 3-night and decently attended on the 4-night. I don't necesarrily think that room is quite make for socialization and most seemed to keep to their own groups. We recived chocolate-covered strawberries in our cabin for both cruises as well as robes. On the 3-day, the welcome back party was held in between dinner seatings. On the 4-day, it was held in the morning before arrival in Nassau. The LA seemed pleasant and of course spent the time talking up the RCCL credit card and the Allure. B2B The B2B process was fairly simple (at least in theory). On our last evening of the 3-night cruise, we received evelopes in our stateroom with our new keys (unfortunately they messed this up and gave us the wrong keys) along with directions for the next morning. Since we were moving cabins, we packed, then put the luggage tags for the next cruise on our bags. These were left in the cabin on debarkation morning and then moved to the new cabin by the room steward. We ate breakfast in the main dining room, then since we had no plans for getting off the ship, were directed to the library on deck 4 by 9:30 AM. We waiter there with the other B2Bers until a little after 10 when the ship was finally cleared. A crew member came by and checked us off of his list. We were then lined up, taken off the ship to a customs agent waiting to take our declaration forms. We were then led back on the ship (with officers welcoming us back), had security photos take with our new cards, and then were let go to do as we wished. We headed to the pool deck and read/talked until passengers started boarding at 11:30. When we made it to our cabins at 1 PM, we were given a nice letter thanking us for staying along with a fruit basket and a bottle of champagne. Conclusions While the Majesty shows her age, she is more than adequate for a week's worth of relaxation and entertainment. Besides the tiny cabins, you would be hard pressed to be bored on the ship unless you can only be satisfied with Voyager or Oasis-class offerings. The best part of the smaller ship is the crew who all seem to know each other, and their seeming happiness makes it a happier ship. There's definitely more new cruisers and hard-drinkers on these short cruises, espeically the 3-nighter, but I didn't notice an above-average level of obnoxious behavior. People seemed to be having fun (at least until it came time to settle the bill). For a reasonable price (and sometimes dirt cheap), you get quite a lot, meet new people, and can spend a few days doing only what you want to. Sounds good to me.  Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
My wife, 4 year old son, and I took a Thanksgiving cruise in November, 2008 on the Sky and had a wonderful experience. So we decided to repeat the experience in November 2010. It was good, but not as good. Allow me to itemize. Checkin: ... Read More
My wife, 4 year old son, and I took a Thanksgiving cruise in November, 2008 on the Sky and had a wonderful experience. So we decided to repeat the experience in November 2010. It was good, but not as good. Allow me to itemize. Checkin: Very smooth. Attendant was very helpful funneling us into the quickest line. No longer than 30 minutes from parking garage to onboard. Food: No complaints. Service: Dining Room: The first night, Lobster night, we had Thomas. He was excellent, so much so that we bragged about him to the asst. maitre'd. Big mistake. After that, his service went from 10 to 1. The assistant waiter brought a bowl of lobster tails to the table next to us for seconds, and did not even acknowledge us. After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally able to get her attention to request another lobster, and she acted like how dare you disrupt my system. Poor service. They brought me a dry lobster tail with no butter. The next night we dined in the forward dining room and had Pasek. Totally different experience. If we had had Pasek the first night, I would have no complaints regarding restaurant service. Other dining venues: Overall, very good. However, I found that if you asked a bar runner for a soft drink and showed him my drink card, he became very uninterested in serving. As a matter of fact, I ordered one Pepsi from a bar runner in Il Adagio at lunch and still have not received it. I guess they figure no tip, so why bother, but they got their tip when I bought the drink card. Bartenders were sure to explain that they made the drinks "extra strong, just for you". Not really. Cabin Steward: very good. After the first night, he did not make up the sofa bed for my son. We got him to do it again on the fourth night. Also, had a hard time getting him to return to the cabin to bring a change of sheets (toddler accident). But overall, he was very good. Kids program: OK, two years ago, when my son was 4, he could not wait to get to the boys and girls programs. I mean like he would sprint down the hall and be the first in line when they opened. I mean like 10 minutes early so he wouldn't miss any of it. This is the main reason we chose to take this cruise again. But now he is 6, and in the older group. I watched as an older kid prodded him as they were sitting around in a circle, and the leader said nothing, even did not appear to notice. There were more than 30 kids in that 6-9 yr old kids' area room and only one leader was apparent. Poor supervision. They simply did not have enough staff to accommodate 700 kids on this cruise. And I think they should have had some idea of how many kids were to be on this cruise. On a positive note, with the staff being composed of primarily Canadian workers, there were no accent issues to deal with, like we had on the Carnival Inspiration (heavily European). Entertainment: Trivia, game shows, entertainment, and quest were excellent and well run. Matt and Felix did an excellent job. Pools: COLD Casino: Only had 1 $5 blackjack table open the night I was there. $25 tables sat unused with attendants smiling at guests. Specialty restaurants: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants, but we did sign up for the murder mystery dinner ($20 each) at Il Adagio. However, the meal was held in the rear dining room at 5:30 to 7:00. This was Ok, except when the dining room opened up to everyone, the noise made it difficult to hear at our table. This could have been held at the specialty restaurant. However, that is really my only complaint. The food was good and the murder mystery was fun (I didit). Shore excursions: Nassau: we took a buggy ride tour. Interesting. Ate at a Bahamian restaurant. Not bad. I bought a "Cuban" cigar. Horrible. I would not recommend anyone buy a "Cuban" cigar from the Bahamas. The one I bought last year in Grand Caymans was great. This one, and the one I bought two years ago in Nassau, were HORRIBLE. Did Atlantis two years ago, not worth it again. However, Avoid Johnny Rockets on Paradise Island. Very expensive. Freeport: Pat and Dianne's snorkeling cruise. Boat was the Fantasia. Two snorkel ladders on the back, waterslide into the ocean on the front. Great, with very attentive and friendly crew. Would love to do them again. Great Stirrup Cay: A lot of fun. Snorkeling was awesome, food was great. Note to NCL, do your pizza that way ON the ship too. Overview: Enjoyable but not superior. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and ... Read More
12/25/10 - 1/1/11 Norwegian Gem Embarkation. Arrived 11:10 AM. Dropped luggage off, took escalator upstairs, through security, and lines to desk. Photos taken, credit card swiped and to waiting area in 15 minutes. Very organized and pleasant. Waited until noon when promptly they started calling groups to board. They boarded on two gangways so it went quickly. We were aboard by 12:15PM. Headed for Grand Pacific dining room for quiet civilized luncheon. Met Christopher who would be my liaison for my Gluten-Free ding needs. He recommended I eat there with him in the Grand Pacific Dining Room and just let him know where else I wanted to eat during the cruise. Every night I picked my dinner selections for the next night. Christopher was a Gem himself!! They announced staterooms were ready about 2PM. Had a lovely balcony room deck 9 aft port side. Mark took good care of us all week. He and his partner were very visible in the hallway, whistling a happy tune most days. Ship. Big, glitzy and brightly colored. Thought the Grand Pacific Dining Room the loveliest area aboard. Stardust Showroom was also especially nice. Buffet area was cramped due to a terrible selection of chairs -- too heavy and the chair arms made it impossible to get between tables. NCL, if you are paying attention to this -- DITCH THE CHAIRS!!! Replace them with armless slightly smaller chairs. I heard complaints about the ships layout, but we found it rather straight forward once you got the hang of the three stairwells and which one you needed to be able to get up or down to the location you wanted. Crystal Atrium --interesting concept as a gathering place. Horrible furniture. Someone was on drugs when they selected it, or had a brother-in-law in the business that got the Line a deal on the ugly non-functioning over sized plush ugly stuff (IMHO). Likewise the furniture up in the Spinnaker Lounge. Horrible. Kept us out of these two venues. We didn't have a lot of pool / sun weather but spent a couple days around the hot tubs. Enjoyed the hot tubs, the music, the lunches on deck. Food. I know it's terribly subjective subject. We have travelled and cruised a great deal and thought the food overall very good. Nice presentation, enough variation to always have something that was good. Kudos to Chef Vaughan Sanft (sailed with him on the Norwegian Crown in 2005). Breakfasts we took in buffet, and lunches we tried Grand Pacific, buffet and Topsiders at the pool. The usual fare, nothing too outstanding. I did enjoy the Indian offerings as something different. I wasn't shopping for it, preparing it, or cleaning it up, so perhaps I am easy to please. But overall the food was better than I was expecting. Bars. Lots of opportunity for a cool one at any time of day or night. I thought prices were a bit high for the portions given, but oh well. I did enjoy my BBC and my Bahama mama at the pool, and wine before dinner. I never felt pestered to consume anything if I just wanted to sit somewhere and listen to the music. And the wine steward always arrived at our table when seated for dinner, but if we didn't want wine for dinner, we never felt pressured. We spent the most time at Magnums Champagne and Wine Bar and at the Star Bar which we thought was a lovely and small venue. Pre Ordered Champagne for New Year's Eve which came to our stateroom about 7:30PM. Drank it there while watching football. Then headed to Star Bar to ring in the New Year. Michael the Piano Man was there, with a quiet crowd and superb atmosphere tor the Captain's countdown at midnight. Good times! Staff. Super staff. Never saw a frown, never was treated with anything but the utmost professionalism and courtesy. Had good service in all the food venues. Officers were very visible and approachable. Very eager to interact with the passengers. Much more so than on other lines I have cruised. We enjoyed that. That being said, we turned Freestyle into our style which is NOT Freestyle. We ate early 5:45 - 6:30 every night. Zena Petrova, hostess at Grand Pacific did a great job juggling every-one's reservations and walk-in times. We never had more than a minute or two wait before being seated. We always wanted a table for two and there were plenty of them. We did see some unhappy people that would show up at 7:00 and want a table for 12 or more without a reservation. We learned very quickly to make a reservation at breakfast time for the next night. Because of my gluten-free eating needs, we did not eat at the other restaurants aboard for dinner. Cruise Critic Meet & Greet. Thanks to Dan for setting up the Meet & Greet. It was at 10AM on the Monday we were due into Port Canaveral at noon after 24 hours of very rough seas so some of those signed up didn't make it. It was so nice of the officers to show up to mingle with us and listen to us all. Especially Hotel Director Steven Jacobsen. It was good to meet the other Cruise Critics that are merely a moniker on the Boards. Now I have faces to put with many of those monikers. Shows. We enjoyed the Singer/Dancer shows the best. They really did a lot with a small stage and limited time. Not Broadway, mind you, but entertaining. The juggler was okay. The comedian wasn't. Skipped the Improv show. Ports. As far as we were concerned Port Canaveral was a waste, Didn't get off the ship and it was only 50 degrees so we didn't even use it as a pool day. Took a nap! Great Stirrup Cay: would have been better on a warmer day with lots of sun, but I went over, looked around, and went in the water so I could say I did. Nassau: I have been to Nassau numerous times, but DH had not. I had printed out a walking tour of Nassau on the internet which we did in the morning. Then I had arranged for a local birder to meet us and take us around to the local spots to look at birds. Had a great time birding and seeing parts of the island no ever gets to see. Disembarkation. I had read so much about this procedure, I was dreading it. But it seemed to work well. We were self disembarking, so we had breakfast in the buffet about 7:30AM. We were at the dock early so the ship was cleared right on time. We went to Crystal lobby about 8:45 to see what was happening. Sat for a while and when the passenger line started moving off the ship (9:00AM), we joined the line. Line was quite long. but moved quickly. Once in line we were off the ship, through Immigration and Customs and at the taxi stand (no line!) by 9:20AM. I was impressed with their organization with this. We chose this cruise because it left from NYC -- DH said no way he was getting on a plane Christmas weekend due to crowds and weather uncertainties (and he was right about that!!) so for us that meant the Gem or Jewel. I love cruising out of NYC anyway so I was okay with using a northern "winter" port,. We normally sail Cunard or HAL as we like a dressier, older, more traditional line and crowd. We cruised NCL once before and didn't mind Freestyle too much, so we were determined to enjoy ourselves this week. We packed light, but were dressed appropriately for evenings. We were a bit concerned there would be rampaging hoards of kids and teens, but there were not. It seemed for the most part the children were very well behaved and just really "into" the cruise and what was going on. So, yes, I'd sail on the Gem and with NCL again, and I would look forward to it. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program ... Read More
To begin, I'll offer a disclaimer. I'm generally not a great fan of Freestyle Cruising. I really prefer a more traditional style of cruising, but I live in New York City and was willing to go along with the Freestyle program because of the opportunity to leave from Manhattan and avoid flying during the busy holiday season. This was a very full cruise; the capacity of Norwegian Gem at two passengers per cabin is about 2,400. There were about 3,000 passengers on board, but the Gem's staff did a very good job keeping people moving around the ship. There were only a few isolated situations where the ship felt crowded. We had a party of three: my wife, my 16 year old son, and myself. We have cruised a fair amount, with 20, 18, and 19 cruises, respectively, on six lines. This was our third cruise on NCL. Embarkation Embarkation was relatively easy; since the cruise departed on Christmas day, we weren't anxious to get to the pier and on the ship at the earliest possible minute. We had intended to leave the house about noon, but ended up leaving 30 minutes later and arrived at the terminal a little after 2:00 pm. As is usually the case at this terminal, the check in process was relatively efficient and without any major incident. We received our cruise cards and proceeded to the gangway with bags in tow, ducking around the embarkation photo as we usually do. We travel light, so we did not check bags and had everything with us in carry-on bags and backpacks. After having our cruise cards scanned at the ship, we were greeted by bar waiters with embarkation drinks for sale. Now, on some lines, one may receive a complimentary flute of sparkling wine (definitely not Champagne), but on NCL the embarkation drinks are for sale. Some reviewers of NCL cruises have a problem with this and at this point bitterly complain that they are being "nickled and dimed." The reality is that on all but a few lines, drinks are available only at additional cost. If you don't want to buy a drink, use the three magic words, "no, thank you," and the waiters will move on to the next guest. In fact, while I'm on the subject, a little more use of "please" and "thank you" on the part of some passengers would go a long way. Cabin We had a category G obstructed oceanview aft cabin on Deck 8. The room was accessible for persons with disabilities, and the bathroom was somewhat less claustrophobic than the standard cruise ship bathroom. The cabins on board seem to be fairly standard ones - colorful, with lots of fake woodgrain. We had a queen bed with a single bunk that folded down for our son, with a small desk, flatscreen tv, and minibar/fridge. The view out of the cabin's picture window was over a lifeboat tucked into the side of the ship, but it still provided a good view of the scenery in port and while underway. One plus with this cabin was that it was extremely conveniently located to restaurants, public areas, and bars. We've cruised in inside, oceanview, and balcony cabins, depending on cost and itinerary; on this trip this cabin worked for us. Dining One feature of NCL is a large number of specialty restaurants that require payment of a cover charge, as well as several options that do not have an additional charge. We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants, and I won't comment on them, but we ate in the outdoor casual restaurants (Great Outdoors and Grill), the Blue Lagoon indoor casual dining restaurant, the Garden Cafe, and the main dining restaurants (Grand Pacific and Magenta). The food was not life changing, but it was good, on about the level of the restaurants in a business hotel like Radisson, Hilton, or Marriott. Appetizers and entrees were generally better than deserts, and there was no real "signature" desert as is true with some lines. I have seen some reviews of the Gem that describe the food as "inedible" and "disgusting," and that certainly wasn't our experience. Other reviewers have said that the food is the same at every meal and there was nothing available that was worth eating (except at the sainted specialty restaurants that come at an additional cost); we did not find this to be true. I am not sure where the authors of these negative reviews are eating, but I'd be surprised if they have better food at home. It is true that NCL has a core of dishes that are available every day, but there are other options in the non-specialty restaurants that change from day to day. The exception is the Blue Lagoon, which is open 24 hours and serves breakfast and non-breakfast menus that do not change from day to day Freestyle cruising is not the same as traditional cruising where one eats at the same time at in the same room at the same table with the same waiters. I personally like having our waiters get to know our preferences and getting a chance to talk with them and learn something about them as well. We generally give our waiters a gratuity in addition to the recommended amount, but that really doesn't work with the freestyle concept and different waiters every day. Also, the maitre 'd's didn't seem to be as involved in dealing with the passengers as on other lines, but this may be by design. We did notice that NCL did seem to be making some efforts to make the specialty restaurants a more special experience. There was not, for example, a traditional "lobster night", and the staffing in the main dining (i.e.: free) restaurants appeared to be somewhat tight, although the high occupancy on the cruise may have had something to do with this. There was sushi at the Garden Cafe as well as the specialty restaurant, but the Garden Cafe sushi was vegetarian, without seafood. While some dishes were available only at the specialty restaurants, many items on the specialty restaurant menus were available at the main dining restaurants or the Garden Cafe. Many of these dishes were a real treat; the Indian items that I sampled from the Garden Cafe were uniformly excellent. Entertainment The parts of the production shows that I saw were fairly standard and just so-so. My DW attended a cabaret style show with the production singers and thought that they were in some cases very talented and comparing favorably with Broadway and Off-Broadway performers. The featured performers (juggler Barry John, singer Lumiri Tubo, and comedian Rod Long) were all good. The ship has a resident Second City troupe, but I'll just say that I've seen better and leave it at that. The ship's orchestra was, as is usual on ships, excellent. The musicians who performed at smaller venues around the ship were generally very good; we particularly enjoyed a guitarist named Leo Jostol. We found the most enjoyable entertainment was generally the events and shows organized by the Cruise Director's staff. The crew show was the best of its kind that I've seen and was very funny. Ports Okay, it was cold. When we got to Port Canaveral on Monday (third day out) the temperature was in the 50's, and that was once it warmed up. As every cruise line, NCL wants to sell you their shore excursions, but they were at least honest about what is available through their excursion desk and otherwise. We attended the shore excursion presentation where we were told that the Disney Magic Kingdom might reach capacity and be closed to additional guests before NCL could get you there and that passengers might consider another option. While the ship's excursions weren't the lowest cost option, they appeared to be fairly priced. The ship also set up an easel with port information for Port Canaveral, including taxis and non-NCL shuttles, which is different from some ships where the prevailing attitude is that the only way to get off the ship is through the official excursions. By the way, there were a number of shuttles to Cocoa Beach at Port Canaveral, including a free one sponsored by a local bar and surf shop. We used it to and from the beach area, and went from there to Cocoa Village for some shopping; this worked out well as we weren't up for the Orlando attractions and heard that the Kennedy Space Center was a zoo. NCL's private island, Grand Stirrup Cay would have provided a nice beach day if the temperature had made it over 70 degrees. There was a barbecue and activities like volleyball, and we had a good time hiking down to the end of the island, but the weather wasn't ideal for the beach, to put it mildly. The range of activities in Nassau, likewise, was impacted by weather. The afternoon temperature wasn't much over 70, and we stayed away from the beaches. We did a little sightseeing and shopping in town, but not much else. Again, there are abundant options either through the ship's shore excursion desk or off the dock. Services and Shopping The on-board shopping was serviceable but not great, with the standard duty-free liquor, jewelry, t shirts, clothing, and souvenirs. There weren't as many rotating sales and specials as we've noticed on other lines. Other reviews have mentioned feeling pressured to spend money, but we didn't find this to be the case. I didn't feel that there were more announcements promoting on-board sales than is the case on other cruise lines, as some reviewers have claimed. I did attend the art auctions twice and thought they were rather slow paced and left to do something else. Management I don't think that you can say that these guys don't care about the quality of the experience on the ship. I've never been on a ship where the department heads were as much in evidence. Steven Jacobson, the hotel director seemed to be everywhere and we spoke with him on several occasions. At one point I saw Vaughn, the Executive Chef, working with a group setting up a deck barbecue. Rob Sugar, the Cruise Director, put something of a different spin on the CD role, but was visible around the ship and very approachable. Rob Sugar and Steven Jacobson were out in the cold on our arrival back in New York on New Year's Day sending the passengers off. Overall I'd give the cruise a four out of five. It wasn't perfect but in general the staff appeared to be making a legitimate effort to make the passengers' experience a good one. NCL doesn't control the weather and there were some elements of the cruise that don't fit into my vision of an ideal cruise. For what NCL is seeking to do, the Gem seems to do fairly successfully. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
First time NLC Cruise, New Years from New York My wife and I have cruised a number of times both on smaller ships ( Windward and Nautica and larger ships Princess and Costa Atlantica). On an impulse we booked on NLC on their ... Read More
First time NLC Cruise, New Years from New York My wife and I have cruised a number of times both on smaller ships ( Windward and Nautica and larger ships Princess and Costa Atlantica). On an impulse we booked on NLC on their New Year's cruise out of New York on the NLC Jewel. The sheer luxury of going from home to a ship without first flying somewhere is a major pro. The boarding process was flawless. Bravo NLC. They surely show other lines how to do it! All around there is a sense of great thought in the decor of the rooms and restaurants. IMHO without much inspiration. A few touches would have made a big difference. The Staff is extremely pleasant, helpful, and truly sweet. We had the pleasure of the service of a butler whose services we appreciated more and more as the week went on. Once I got past feeling I was being a jack-ass ( butler? Ha!) and asked politely for what I needed he was always helpful and delighted to make our stay as luxurious as we could imagine. The specialty restaurants were generally vey good. Cagney's a "prohibition" style steak house , was quite adequate . Chin- Chin, Asian fusion, in my wife and my opinion the best of the lot, food wise. Tappanyaki , a Asian fare we cooks that perform for the kids, quite good. The buffet seemed ample, though crowded and had a sense of a cafeteria at high school. Too much going on, so we avoided it, the food though, looked adequate. We saw only one "big" show with a comedian and a Magician/comic. The comedian was not very funny. The Magician was very good. The rooms very tiny. We had a penthouse suite, which was OK but not a suite, just a large room. I peeked into our neighbors rooms and they were really bearly adequate. If you put more than 3 people in a room , it is really tight. As this cruise was during vacation time for the kids there were many on the ship. Much of the time it was no problem at all , and rather charming. To hear a child have a temper tantrum at the next table through dinner is no geat pleasure , and some of the charm of their presence surely is lost. If you are contemplating bringing the kids, they seem to be having a ball! by and large and there were activities for them, throughout the day. We were very grateful to have a place to retreat too. It certainly would have been more difficult for us , if we had not had the privilege of having breakfast and lunch at Cagney's which , from our perspective was worth the added expense. Leaving the ship was not quite as flawless , not NLC's fault security and immigration has to cooperate and they do, but only a little. One has the sense on boarding that one is there to be pitched. beer, drinks, raffles, art, diamonds, precious jewels , specialty restaurants, expensive shore excursions, future cruises , massages, spa packages , they are all paraded before you. Though the passenger is never pressured to buy , I found the constant pitching off putting. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 ... Read More
Arriving at the Pier in NYC: Embarkation processing was seamless, and we have already learned that arriving early (10 AM), before the posted time on the NCL Itinerary (Noon), is better than facing the crowds. The parking fee of $30 per day is more than the airport, but we wanted the security of having our car visible and waiting for us upon our return. We were impressed with the sign-up tables for the spa and restaurant reservations, and we purchased the Spa Thermal Room package for $99 that lasted the whole cruise. We were also impressed that we were allowed to board the Gem shortly after noon, which guaranteed a table in the Garden Cafe buffet for lunch, while we waited for our stateroom to become available. The spa package turned out to be problematic. Cruising in cold temperatures meant that lots of people also signed up in anticipation of not using the outdoor pools. It became obvious during the cruise that the advertised limit of 84 passengers had been overbooked. During the seven day cruise, we were only able to use the thermal room twice, and each time it was extremely crowded. At the pier, we were assured by the NCL staff that the spa experience would be quiet and restful; the reality was the opposite - the spa was very crowded and some passengers became rude and abusive to others. Stormy Start: We already knew that a snow storm was going to hit New York City the day after Christmas when we boarded the NCL Gem on December 25. But, the realization that we were going through the Nor'easter hit us almost immediately the first night. The rocking began on Sunday and became so intense that many passengers vomited in elevators and corridors. We later learned that the previous week's cruise on the Gem was much worse, but this was no consolation. I give the crew a lot of credit for donning haz-mat suits and cleaning up the mess immediately. Also, we already learned the benefits of using hand sanitizer on previous cruises. This simple washing protects everyone on the ship. Unfortunately, the seas were rough until we docked in Port Canaveral. The bed kept jumping around and we found it almost impossible to walk to the bathroom at times. The public restrooms were often dirty with vomit and we ended up using our private bathroom at all times to avoid the possibility of contamination and sickness. I witnessed one worker in the Garden Cafe leaning against a wall with the look of sickness on their face. They recovered enough to continue serving food, but we were now concerned of more sickness among the staff behind the scenes in the galleys and the safety of the food being prepared. We became very careful about the food we put in our mouth. Port Canaveral: We chose the trip to Historic Cocoa Village for our Monday shore excursion. It was a choice between Cocoa Beach/Ron Jon Surf Shop and shopping and sightseeing in the "historic" town. The guide for the shuttle bus trip used the 15 minute ride to have us looking for dolphins and manatees in the bay, and gave us little in the way of "historical" information on the location. She also made a big deal of pointing out Osprey nests along the road. We were dropped off at the perimeter of Cocoa Village and given a rudimentary map that a fifth grader could have improved on. Upon entering the first shop, we found a much better map produced by the Village, which gave us far more information that the guide did. However, it didn't take much time to visit the few shops that were open. A few restaurants were also closed (possibly due to it being a Monday) and we took the one suggestion of merit made by the guide to eat at Norman's Raw Bar & Grill. Norman's Chili was superb, and we learned from the waitress that it had won an award at the Annual Chili Cook-off. I also ordered the Fish Taco, which was great, and far superior to those I had on the California coast in Pismo Beach. There was nothing more to do in Cocoa Village, so we took the next shuttle back to the ship. We felt that the $20 per person charge for the shuttle was too high, considering Cocoa Village has little to see. Great Stirrup Cay: NCL's private island is usually a nice stop. But, because of the cold temperatures, we were not able to go into the water. We did have a nice BBQ lunch on the beach; however, we returned to the ship within an hour afterwards rather than be uncomfortably cold. We spent the rest of the afternoon attending lectures onboard. We were impressed with the lectures on "Boosting Metabolism" and "Detox" held in the fitness center. We both had our Body Composition tested in the spa for a couples price of $52. We refused to accept the recommendation of a staff member to purchase an expensive detox product package until we consulted with our doctor, which we felt was prudent; but, the staff member told us that our doctor doesn't know as much about detox as she does. This sent up red flags and we stopped going to the free lectures because we now felt pressured to purchase questionable treatments and products. Nassau, the Bahamas: We finally found some heat in the Bahamas! We were able to shed the windbreakers and jackets and wear shorts. We only had one day in port, so we had to make the most of it. We booked the Harbor Cruise and Atlantis Tour for our Wednesday excursion. The tour departed late due to an inexperienced guide who led us the wrong way to the ferry boat to Paradise Island. When we got to Atlantis, we found that security was very tight and we were treated like third-class tourists and not allowed to deviate from the tour. The guide is only given a limited time to complete the tour and we were not allowed to linger or fall behind the group. To our guide's credit, she spoke well and was able to be heard by the large group. But, her schedule didn't allow many questions, and she departed as soon as she made sure each one of us exited the private sections of the Atlantis resort. The aquariums at Atlantis are beautiful, however, and we took many photos of the undersea world of the Bahamas. The cost of food and beverage is extremely high in Atlantis and Paradise Island, as well as the high-end stores in the public shopping village. We returned to Nassau for a fun-filled day of inexpensive food and drink on Bay Street. The Straw Market was also excellent, and we ended up buying all of our souvenirs for the cruise in Nassau. It was Junkanoo Festival time in the Bahamas, which included the music and lavish costumes used in this local custom. It was a wonderful time of year to be in Nassau, and this port made up for all of the discomfort experienced during the rest of the cruise. We would have loved to spend another day in Nassau, but instead faced two sea days until our return to NYC. One highlight of the cruise was the Second City ComedyTroupe that performed onboard. They also held workshops that taught improvisation and comedy history and techniques. The other entertainment was spotty, with the exception of the two major shows, "World Beat" and "Get Down Tonight," which were very well done. New Year's Eve was festive, but the music was sporadic and confined to only a few venues. We chose to greet the new year in the Crystal Atrium with the Caribbean band, which we believed was better than the piano players in other lounges. We all received a champagne toast provided by NCL at midnight. Overall: The cruise was very enjoyable, which is why we continue to book with NCL; but, the weather was very cold. In the future, we will either choose warmer seasons or cruise out of Florida, to avoid the rough winter seas and temperatures. The quality and diversity of the food on NCL is not as good as Royal Caribbean and other lines, but the salads and weight management selections are better on NCL, as is the service of the staff. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
There was a group of 6 of us (ages 67-15) to celebrate my 40th on New Years Day. The day before the cruise we arrived in Cape Canaveral and stayed at the Best Western Oceanside (great deal) and Thursday morning took the shuttle to ... Read More
There was a group of 6 of us (ages 67-15) to celebrate my 40th on New Years Day. The day before the cruise we arrived in Cape Canaveral and stayed at the Best Western Oceanside (great deal) and Thursday morning took the shuttle to the pier. Customs/registration was a breeze and we were on board within 30 minutes of arrival. A quick lunch and our rooms were ready at 1:30. We splurged and had a balcony, which was great. The room was nice & clean-smaller than our balcony room on the Legend, but still roomy. The ship is very 80's and even though its clean,clean,clean, she is a little worn in some places.But that didn't bother me any! What did bother me was how crowded the Lido deck got when everyone was waiting to dock in Nassau-yikes! But once we docked, it was great. We went on shore and did a little shopping and headed over to Fish Fry area to try some Conch Salad at Goldy's. Yum! We actually were in Nassau for New Years so we grabbed a spot on deck for the Countdown. It was awesome! At midnight there were fireworks from a couple places on island and they could all be seen from deck. Alter, part of our group went ashore to see the Junkanoo parade-a kind of Mardi Gras/Carnivale celebration. It was awesome. The food was good, with some really yummy dishes here and there. I do wish there was a 'snack' time at like 4:30-5:30 when chips (and veggies/pretzels), dips & cheese/crackers were out for snacking....i ate far too much cheese pizza to fill that role! Overall it was a really fun couple of days...plotting our next cruise in 2012! Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older ... Read More
We opted for a NYE cruise over a NYE activity close to home this year, also a way to get 1 closer to platinum. :) We drove to Jacksonville from Atlanta on the 29th, about 6 hours. We stayed at the Best Western on Airport Rd. It is an older hotel, yet has been very nicely remodeled and updated. They offered a good deal on a stay and cruise package with breakfast and transportation to and from the port. This hotel is on a street with a whole row of hotels as well as restaurants, good location even without a car. We got up on the 30th, had breakfast, and took the 10:00 shuttle to the port. We had our bags dropped off, through security, and checked in in under 20 minutes. We were in group 2 and when boarding started we were on in 10 minutes. At 11:25 we were on the Lido deck with champagne in hand headed for lunch, they were passing out free champagne upon boarding for New Year's, nice touch. We got to our cabin around 1:30 and both bags were there by 2:30, fastest ever. Our cabin steward was Gabby and he did a great job and was always so polite and cheerful in the hallways. We unpacked and checked out the ship until muster which was at 3:30. Right before and during muster we watched as a bus of people pulled up and ran frantically to the ship that was due to leave at 4. We had late seating in the Sensation dining room with Glenn as our headwaiter. He did a great job and we had great tablemates. Lobster night was not formal night as they had a special NYE menu and gave out party favors. We seemed to stop in the ocean for New Years as I think everyone was on deck after the 11:30 balloon drop. There was music, free champagne, and Time Square for the big count down. The ship's horn blared in the new year so anyone trying to skip the party was out of luck! Freeport is miserable, but we knew that. Had to pay to go anywhere or do anything as it is in an industrial area. They herd everyone to Port Lucaya for $5 a person each way where they advertise shopping, beaches, and fun. We tried to get to Taino Beach as planned but the taxi drivers wanted too much for the 2 of us, $80 round trip which was what they were getting for Port Lucaya. So we went with the herd and walked around for a while. Got some $1 Eclipse beer and then hit up happy hour for $4 margaritas and mojitos. :) Nassua was ok, been there before. We were there during the Junkanoo Parade, definitely something to see with all the costumes, dancers, and music! Afterwards we went to Junkanoo Beach and just lounged. The ship was very clean and it seems the dry-dock removed some of the tackier decorations that went with the theme. The dining room was also the most neutral of the ships we've been on. Casino was a little small, but it is a smaller ship. There is only 1 pool, but it was too chilly for that to be an issue. The kids packed out the hot tubs on the lido deck but we spent a lot of time on the Serenity deck with no kids and really enjoyed the less crowded hot tubs and padded lounge chairs. Overall it was a little different crowd than we're used to doing 7 days (def not as "loud" as I was afraid of) but it was a great vacation. Jacksonville is a VERY efficient port and the ship looked as good as new with a great crew! We were pleased for a short winter getaway over NYE. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Carnival Pride Dec 19- 26, 2010. Short review since others taking this same ship in the fall of 2010 present some good advice. First problem: ALWAYS ask your agent (or call Carnival) to tell you what is directly or almost directly ... Read More
Carnival Pride Dec 19- 26, 2010. Short review since others taking this same ship in the fall of 2010 present some good advice. First problem: ALWAYS ask your agent (or call Carnival) to tell you what is directly or almost directly above your cabin. Don't trust that the floor plans will reveal problems. We selected 8210 based on other reviews, but the first night, we were up and down and up and down with rumbles and thump-thump from above. Monday morning I paced off distances and discovered that 8210 is directly under the kitchen entrance for the Mermaid Grill on the 9th (Lido Deck) level. The Mermaid Grill is the major food service facility other than the sit-down dining room (The Normandie Room). It serves food from early (6 or 7 am) to late (10 pm) and then offers pizza all night! The thumping and rumbling above was the food service carts, dish carts, etc., crossing the threshold from the kitchen to the walking area. The walking area is tiled, with stone tiles, while the tables areas have carpeting. But keeping the walking areas clean would be impossible with carpeted floor. We asked for a change of rooms, but Carnival said, "have none." Tuesday, our second full day, they found us a room (5214) that was identical to 8210 but on Deck 5 rather than Deck 8. We moved ourselves in 15 minutes, and that solved the problem. One trial learning: Never, ever, book a room without knowing specifically what is above you! Second problem: we're Baltimore Ravens professional football fans. The BIG game that week was on Thursday, and Carnival noted on their daily Fun list (distributed to every cabin the day before) that the Ravens game would be on the TVs in the Casino and adjacent Sports Bar. We asked about room television but were told that it was only on the Casinos and Sports Bar televisions. But the only inside smoking areas are the Casino and Sports bar! To watch the game, we were trapped in the smoky Casino and Sports bar. We estimate that at least ¾ of the passengers on the ship didn't smoke. That is a common ratio for the USA today. Carnival forced anyone who wanted to watch the game to breathe the stinky air in the Casino or Sports bar. Be aware of this smoking area—it's really unpleasant and we stayed away from the Casino as much as possible, but if we wanted to watch the Ravens football game, we had to stay there. Not very thoughtful of Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Overall, this was good value for the money we paid. Embarkation was terrible - with very long queues. After nearly 1 hour 45 minutes, we finally boarded the ship to find a 'so called' balcony cabin. The spare bed for my ... Read More
Overall, this was good value for the money we paid. Embarkation was terrible - with very long queues. After nearly 1 hour 45 minutes, we finally boarded the ship to find a 'so called' balcony cabin. The spare bed for my teenage son was so small that his legs from the knees down would have been out of bed. Our balcony was surrounded by a wind shield, which reduced the view dramatically. After complaining (as I had checked that we had a proper balcony before we left!) they eventually moved us to an alternative cabin which was much better and was very nice. Generally the staff were very friendly and the food in the Garden Cafe was good, but sadly in the Tsars Palace and Azure restaurants, the menu was the same every night, with just a change to the Chefs Recommended dish. The dishes sometimes had different names, but were exactly the same as on previous nights. The entertainment in the theatre and the dj was poor, with the exception of Crazee Horse, but in the bars the entertainment was much better, with particular praise to Fire and Ice who were excellent, as was Nathaniel and the on board band, ie the Caibbean band and Mondial Magic. They were constantly trying to make money, apparent by the many speciality restaurants (all with a cover charge) We felt it would have been better to have had less specialist restaurants and therefore have more staff in the standard restaurants to improve on the service. Also, the ship overall was clean, with the exception of the toilets, which were always wet and untidy. Have cruised with other companies previously and have to say that the competition is better on the whole. However, for a cheap holiday if you are in the States, its worth a try. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We booked adjoining cabins for this cruise... my wife and I, and my daughter and her two children, ages 4 and 10. Being wheelchair bound, we were leery about the children. It was unfounded! In fact, the 10 year old boy did most of the ... Read More
We booked adjoining cabins for this cruise... my wife and I, and my daughter and her two children, ages 4 and 10. Being wheelchair bound, we were leery about the children. It was unfounded! In fact, the 10 year old boy did most of the pushing, giving my wife a respite. The food was HORRIBLE on the first night! The escargot tasted weird and, as anyone would tell you, ALL food was good... some was better than others, but ALL food was good to me. We wondered just what we were getting into. Carnival always had great food... no worry, as the next night and for the rest of the cruise, the food was excellent! Also, Ronaldo, our waiter, was very friendly, and he really helped us with the handicapped stuff. Carnival did a GREAT job entertaining the kids, and we didn't worry about them (well, not much) The weather was bad... it rained most of the time, but that's Mother Nature's fault, not Carnival. The only problem we had was the rocking of the boat. My wife became sick and I nearly needed a seasick pill. Is that because of the size of the ship? Carnival Glory and other ships that size that we were on were stable... All in all, the cruise was enjoyable, and we wouldn't hesitate to invite the kids again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
Last year, our family took a Thanksgiving cruise because our children and I are off for the week of Thanksgiving. My husband learned of an outstanding one day sale for this several weeks before the cruise and we couldn't help but book ... Read More
Last year, our family took a Thanksgiving cruise because our children and I are off for the week of Thanksgiving. My husband learned of an outstanding one day sale for this several weeks before the cruise and we couldn't help but book it. We actually went on this ship back in 2003. It has since been refurbished. We live in Florida and so we did not need to use a hotel in Miami. The ship Majesty of the Seas is a lovely ship. It is smaller than many of the RCI ships and it typically is used for their 3 and 4 night cruises. It was refurbished a few years ago and is what I'd call understated classiness. I believe it holds about 3300 passengers. It never seemed crowded to me, which was a pleasant surprise. I was impressed with the list of activities that they offered on this cruise. We didn't do much on the ship because it was only 4 nights long and there were three ports of call. All of our party found the service to be excellent on the ship. The staff and crew members were very gracious. It was some of the best service I recall on a cruise ship. We did not use any of the ship's offered shore excursions because they are typically overpriced. The first stop was in Nassau, Bahamas. The second, was Coco Cay, RCI's "private island." The third was Key West, FL. All cruisers had to go through immigration before going to the island. They started it at ten and there were people who stood in the line for TWO HOURS. The line went ALL the way ACROSS the ship on the fifth floor. It was ridiculous. We didn't even bother getting in line. We hung out at the pool for a while, then got lunch. At 12:30, we went to immigration and walked right through. I know that the line was very frustrating for many people. Coco Cay is their private island. This was a very fun stop. We went directly to the closest beach when we got off of the tender. It was also the busiest section of beach. However, as you went further down the beach, certain areas were almost like quicksand because of low tide time. The snorkeling was very good here. We had our own masks and flippers, but they make you rent a vest, which is $6 per person. Those sneaky little RCI planners! There are a lot of activities you can pay to do, or you can just enjoy the beach. There is a "nature trail" but it's very short. There is a shopping area, of course and the people working there are actually all people from the outlying islands. They have plenty of restrooms and a few freshwater showers. A lunch was provided on the island and there was a decent selection for the lunch. There were things like burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken pieces, ribs and various salads, along with a few desserts and lots of drinks. All in all, that was a very fun day. We live in central FL, and were actually staying in Naples the previous night with some family. We drove to the Miami port and parked in an off the port lot. The particular company we used was NOT good, but it looks as though Premier is a good parking choice and it's much cheaper than parking at the port. The stateroom was a very small interior stateroom. Because the ship is a bit older than many of the big ones, there were fewer balconies and the rooms, in general, were a bit smaller than other ships. The room was very very clean, thanks to an excellent room steward. It was well maintained and the carpet and furniture were in good condition. It had two twin beds and two bunks that pulled down. There was a little pop up table between the beds, a small desk with drawers and one side on the top with little shelves. There was also a little closet with a good bit of hanging space. The bathroom was little with a shower, but it sufficed. The food was excellent. We had dinner in the Starlight Dining Room every night and our servers were great. My children especially liked the assistant waiter who did a new magic trick every night for them. My son appreciated this waiter because he helped him out when he saw my son in the buffet restaurant one morning at breakfast. There was a nice menu every night. The chicken marsala night was outstanding. I wasn't crazy about the duck when I got that one night. We had lunch and breakfast in the Windjammer, which is where the buffet is served. The breakfast selection was exactly what was available in the main dining room and it was always very good. The lunch selection was varied and everything was delicious. We also really enjoyed the Compass deli where they had a variety of premade specialty sandwiches, a small salad bar, and three soups with bread, along with a couple of desserts. The crepes there were a very tasty treat, as well. Our kids especially liked Sorrento's pizza. There was a constant supply of fresh baked pizza selections available when they were open. The yogurt and soft serve ice cream machine were open for limited hours. I never tried it, but heard the stuff was very good. The children's facility was very nice, but we did not use it this time around. Since we were in port every day, our children stayed with us and were actually pretty tired by evening. I met a few of the workers and they seemed very nice and the kids appeared to have a lot of fun. The entertainment was average to excellent. On opening night, the comedian shared for a while and was hilarious. My kids even loved him. I didn't see his regular show that was the following night. I think it might have been more suited for adults, from what I heard. There were two shows presented by the cruise singers and dancers. I'm a musician so I am fairly picky. Only one of the four main singers was very good, and even he had only a limited range. The other guy was fairly quiet and one of the girls sang WAY too loud and was off pitch. The other lady had a tough time singing out on her part. The dancers were very good but the choreography was pretty flashy and their costumes drew your attention away from the dancing, really. The themes were 1960's music and soul music each time. The afro wigs were just cheesy! During the soul show, I found it unusual that they were singing songs that were all done by African American performers, and they were showing slides of African American performers, yet only three of the cruise singers/dancers were African American. The band was actually one of the best I recall hearing perform on a cruise. They were the best part of the show. There was a juggler who had won some international competition. He was AMAZING! He had written and recorded all of his own music and his performance just blew my mind. The whole audience gave the guy a long standing ovation at the end of his performance, it was so good. It reminded me of the type of thing you'd see at Cirque de Soleil. We were supposed to disembark at 9:00 a.m. We did not get called to leave the ship until about 10:00 a.m. Then we stood in line for 15 minutes. Then we were sent to get our bags and customs, where we stood in line for 30 minutes. The backup was an annoyance to us, but would have been disastrous for someone who was needing to get to the airport. We were told that this had something to do with Thanksgiving, but when you are dealing with so many people, a business needs to be better prepared to handle something like this. The only real negatives were the lines in Key West and on disembarkation day. Overall, it was a wonderful cruise. The ship was enjoyable to be on, the service was excellent, and the ports of call were a lot of fun. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We went on a three day Christmas cruise filled with families and first time cruisers. This was our first cruise in nine years. We booked a porthole room which was adequate and the same size as the ocean view rooms. There is always a lot to ... Read More
We went on a three day Christmas cruise filled with families and first time cruisers. This was our first cruise in nine years. We booked a porthole room which was adequate and the same size as the ocean view rooms. There is always a lot to do and the "people watching' on the pool deck is always interesting.Shore excursion to Atlantis was OK.. too much money for what it was,, take a taxi and go yourself. The food was good, but my memory was that the food used to be a little more gourmet, but it was tasty and well presented. I felt the 6:00 seating was a little rushed for dinner. The late seating which we previously had was better paced between courses. One dining room had assigned seating which we had, and it appeared to have better organization. The other dining room was open seating and at times there were lines. Also the open seating dining room served breakfast and lunch. They appeared short staffed for the pampering I expected, with coffee cups not being refilled without asking. Some of the entrees for breakfast were like McDonald's food.. like the hash brown potatoes... but we learned what to order. At lunch we complained that our server had not approached us in over 15 minutes and the host took our order directly. buffet was good with long lines. The music was loud and we prefer quiet soft background lounge music, and we found a bar that met our needs. The shows were spectacular with the best dancing I have seen on a cruise.. Broadway caliber.The acoustics were too loud and need to be altered for the size of the room. The debarkation had some glitches in that we were not at the usual terminal.there was along wait to get our bags and we stood in line for a while, although we were traveling with VIP guests that were supposed to be the first to leave the ship. I assume they have ironed out the issues in operations. All in all, we had a great time, and I recommend the cruise, but don't expect perfection.. This is a nice, short cruise at moderate prices and good value, and you will like it with that attitude and approach. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
I've read many reviews of this ship, some ok, some good, some not so good. Here is my pinion of this ship and the ports of call. First, the ship is actually quite nice. I liked the decor and the renaissance themed art. It was ... Read More
I've read many reviews of this ship, some ok, some good, some not so good. Here is my pinion of this ship and the ports of call. First, the ship is actually quite nice. I liked the decor and the renaissance themed art. It was easy to get around and had everything I would want on a cruise ship. The fitness room and spa was nice, never had trouble getting to the cardio or weight machines. While we never went into any of the pools or hot tubs, there were plenty of them, though the pools were a bit small and frequently crowded with yelling kids, but that's to be expected I suppose. Fortunately this ship features the Serenity Lounge on the stern, that is for adults only and has its own bar, hot tub, and lots of hammocks and lounge chairs - but it was full most of the time. We were able to spend some time there and it was most relaxing! Being gamblers, we spent a LOT of time in the casino. The slots are no more or less loose than any land-based casino I've been to, and there are plenty of table games to play. I would have liked to see some newer slot games, as the machines are rather old, but they are still fun. We were able to rack up our 1500 points on day 2 of the cruise so we drank free while in the casino 9and playing) the rest of the cruise. the trick to this is, once you hit your free drinks, just play the penny machines at the lowest bet when you want to drink, and you'll be spending as little as 9 cents, yes 9 cents, gambling while getting $8 to $10 drinks free! The food at the mermaid grill was typical buffet fare - ok, nothing special. The Normandie Dining Room food was a little better, usually well prepared, good variety, and promptly delivered. We elected the anytime dining and never waited longer than 5 minutes or so to be seated. The final night of the cruise we got lobster and prime rib and had all we wanted! David's steak house, however, is a MUST EXPERIENCE! The food, the service, the decor, absolutely rivals any of the finest eateries we have here in Boston! And THAT'S saying something! Our cabin was nice, nothing special, but again, suited our needs nicely. The cabin steward was very nice and always took care of us. We never met a rude or inattentive member of the crew, everyone was great. Now, here's the one BAD aspect of the cruise. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT TAKE THE BLUE LAGOON SHORE EXCURSION in Nassau! If I could, I would have sued for false advertising! The description is a "luxurious, private white sand beach with great luncheon and drink availability". Ok, not even CLOSE! There is chain link fence running along the dock into the water and oil spill looking booms roping off the swim area, which is tiny! The food is advertised as 100% Angus beef burgers, but I can assure you unless the server's name was "Angus", there was no Angus to be seen, only dried chicken, cold rice, and hockey-puck like hamburgers. I was completely disappointed with this excursion and, to top it off, Carnival charges $90 per person for this, while you can get it on line for a mere $50 if you're NOT a cruise ship passenger. HUH??? Yes, you must book this through the ship so Carnival can apparently get their commission. When I brought my concerns up with the shore excursion desk, I was told "we have to get in touch with the trip provider". Now, if I book this trip through Carnival on the ship, why do they have to contact ANYONE else in order to make it right? We were told it was a 4.5 hour excursion, and it ended up being 2.5 at best, but only an hour for us as we left early it was so bad. All I asked for, was a refund of ONE of the tickets . . .I figured whereas we did go on the excursion I should at least pay for what I did "use" of it. I figured it would have been a nice gesture for Carnival to refund basically just half of the price, as we only got about half of what was promised. In stead, I got a letter from the assistant shore excursion manager telling me he was passing along my concerns to the tour operators and was sorry my excursion sucked, but please continue to sail with carnival. Having dropped over $3000 in the casino, I would think a lousy $90 refund would have been not too much to ask for - after-all, they would have gotten in back in a slot machine anyway! All in all, it was a good trip, a good time and pleasant experience. But, again, a reminder, DON'T BOOK EXCURSIONS TO THE BLUE LAGOON!!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
We have cruised disney before and loved it. That is why we booked again but I have to say we were dissappointed. We were on a waiting list for a suite but were never called. We ended up in a cat 4A. we were required to pick a check in ... Read More
We have cruised disney before and loved it. That is why we booked again but I have to say we were dissappointed. We were on a waiting list for a suite but were never called. We ended up in a cat 4A. we were required to pick a check in time and it only allowed a 230p and a 300p. When we arrived at 230 the photographers were gone and we missed our picture(thats a big deal to us) we keep all of our welcome pics for our children. The food on the previous cruises wonder magic was unbeleivable. Fresh warm every meal. Plenty of fruit and salads.This cruise we had 5 in our party. every night we had to ask for the bread that was served with dinner. They brought enough for 3 people. They gave us bagels one evening? not sure why. With the exception of the final night in the royal palace The food was cold hard and flavorless, It was a shocker because in the past it was so terrific. The dream is very chopped up. Hard to find remy palo and meridian bar. The rooms were same as in past.dont look different.The photographer was sparce couldnt get too many pics. the pics that were taken were unflattering as is if they were snapped by a person off the street. The crew in the past esp at dinner ect did tricks with the kids and they became used to that, The servers were good but impersonal.I imagine they work very hard and maybe dont have the time. Not sure. The pool areas are swamped with children and the pool for adults was tiny. we enjoyed castaway great as always, The magic is my favorite ship. spacious flows nicely warm crew. Many many pics alot of excursions. All in all just dissapointed in the dream expected a special experience for new years. Wont travel it again. we may do the fantasy and see how that ship turned out. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Review of 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride Cruise out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas': I would like to set the tone from the outset of this review that I was very happy with my cruise on the 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 ... Read More
Review of 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride Cruise out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas': I would like to set the tone from the outset of this review that I was very happy with my cruise on the 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas'. It was the most relaxing and fun vacation I have had in years. Carnival spoiled me, and I would cruise with them again. However, just so you know, this was my very first cruise and I have nothing to compare it with. I cruised solo, so my perspective may be quite different from most who have cruised before. This review may help those who have never been on the Carnival Pride, or those who have never cruised, or for someone thinking about cruising solo for the first time. And another FYI: my review is a long read, with in a ship log style, so if you do not have time to read all of it, that would be completely understandable. Caveats out of the way, here we go.................. It was one of my all-time favorite vacations. Easy drive there, easy embankment, nice state-room, balcony, great service by most of the staff, wonderful entertainment, relaxing serenity deck, plenty of food, and most of all a grand comfortable ship. It is a great product in a great location for me. I have shared my photos and videos with friends, coworkers and family, and have recommended the Carnival Pride for their next vacation. I cannot wait until I am aboard again! Here are just three questions from the online 'Carnival Exit Survey' I was emailed to take after I got home, along with my answers to them: Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a negative way? I did not like the poorly organized Nassau Excursions on the pier. I did not like the David's Steak House service on New Year's Eve - the waitress could not speak English very well, and it was very difficult to communicate with her. I Did not like the Pizza Cafe, as there was no one there to take my order, and when he finally showed up, there were too many kids butting in line. The TV in room was old and hard to see. My bed was too hard and made my back stiff in the mornings. The 'Singles Meet and Greets' were poorly organized and poorly attended. Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a positive way? Housekeeping staff was excellent, especially Angel on Deck 8. I really liked the Adult Only Serenity Deck, just need to try preventing 'all' kids off of it at 'all' times. I really enjoyed my balcony, but did not like the one side that had spaces big enough for those on the balcony next to mine to see into my room. The Taj Mahal Shows were very entertaining, as well as most of the comedians. The Normandie Restaurant staff was excellent, especially Edwardo(sp?) who told me he had been with Carnival for nearly 15 years, and was very professional and friendly. Would you like to recognize members of the Carnival team who went out of their way to make your experience special? Angel -- My Room Steward on 8th deck -- he was always around and ready to please. Eduardo(sp?) my usual server in Normandie - he was a true professional who was very friendly and always made me feel comfortable dinning alone. Eric - Assistant Entertainment Director - funny and organized. The Waitress in Ivory Lounge - competent and very friendly. Jennifer the Karaoke Lady - who was very friendly and organized. Casino Helper guy who assisted me with cashing out my winnings. All of the Library Internet Helpers. With all of that said, below is my personal daily ship log (with likes and dislikes) in chronological order. 1ST Day Sunday Christmas 12-25-11: I left my house around 10:45 am and drove down I-95 from Wilmington, DE, arriving at the Baltimore, MD Port around Noon (about 1 hour-15 minutes). There was some holiday traffic, but it moved well, as many just passed me while I drove most of the way in the far right slow lane. The exit (#55) to the port off I-95 was the first right after the Baltimore Tunnel. I took the first left at the first light, but I must warn you that there is no sign at the light for the Port. Once in the Port Parking Lot I moved swiftly to the double car lanes to drop off checked luggage, but had to wait about twenty minutes behind 10-15 cars in front of me. Once past luggage drop off, I chose the cash parking line as there was no one in front me there. However, the credit card choice to park had about 15 cars and a long wait from what I could tell. I found a good parking spot near the middle and made my way into the terminal, through the security line(snuck in booze with no problem), and then waited in a long line that moved quickly for check in. Once I was parked, it took about 30 minutes to make it onto the ship. It was quite fast considering all the people in front of me. Once on the ship (after a long up hill gangway) about 1:00pm, I followed the line of people in front of me into the Normandie Dinning room on the same level (Deck 3). It was almost like they shoed us into it. I ate a nice lunch (Pasta) with several others at a long table near a big window. I went to the Library after lunch to purchase my Internet Time (4 hours -- of which I only used about 2.5 hours the entire cruise). About 3:00pm I went to my state room (8168) to see if it was ready. They were in the room finishing it up. My big luggage bag was outside my room, and was carried in by my Steward (Angel). He spoke great English and was very friendly and helpful throughout the entire cruise. I saw him almost everyday, sometimes two or three times a day on my floor. My safe did not work, so he called for help and a maintenance guy had it fixed in about an hour. That was the only problem I had with the room the entire time. The shower was plenty big and the water plenty hot. Everything worked well, but the TV was old and hard to see with my middle aged eyes. The extended balcony was everything I thought it would be and I got plenty of use out of it, just relaxing on it and taking great pictures coming into and out of port of calls. The room was plenty big for just one person, and should also be for two people. I would not want to be in it with any kids though. The bed was a bit hard for me, but the pillows were big and puffy. I took a short nap, unpacked and went to a nice dinner in the main dinning Normandie Restaurant, seated by alone at one of those small tables for two along the upper level center rail. After Dinner I went to the 6:00pm show in the Taj Mahal Theatre. Cannot remember which one it was, but they were all good. Afterward, I went to the Ivory Piano Bar and sang along with Roger the Piano Man, who was very good, but had to laugh a few times at his Asian accent singing Elton John songs, and other such soft rock artists' pop tunes. Most people sitting at the bar and in the lounge sang along with him as well. So, it was fun. After that I attended the late Adult comedy show, and sat and drank with two single ladies. We laughed a lot at Eric the Assistant Cruise Director, but I must warn you, he is by far the raunchiest of all the comedians (5 in total I believe). I finished up in the casino with a nightcap and won some money on the slots (came out ahead for the entire cruise on both slots and poker). I met some young fellows at the casino from Canada, and another one in the U.S. Army on leave. I bedded down around 2:30am exhausted from a long, but unique, Christmas Day. 2nd Day Monday 12-26-11: Woke up around 10:30am, ate a continental breakfast (I ordered it from a menu card that I hang on my door knob each night) received from room service earlier in the morning (bagels are small and danish is dry, but the rest is great, especially the fresh fruit). I showered, and then checked my sign and sail account on the TV. Put away the rest of my packed items. Sat on my extended balcony for awhile, then went to lunch (Spaghetti with meatballs -- very good) around 12:30pm in the Normandie restaurant, and sat with 3 couples (we all talked about our first night on board, none of which did what I did). I then explored every level of the ship and took photos of each deck. I laid out on the Lido Deck Serenity Pool area (about 68 degrees outside and a little windy). About 4:00pm I went down to my room and took a one hour power nap. I woke up and showered again before dressing up in my suit for the first 'Formal' night in the Normandie restaurant. I was seated alone again around 6:45pm, and eat a wonderful meal of crab-cake and prime rib (asked for a second crab cake and received it). Ordered the famous Chocolate Melting Cake for desert and it is everything it is billed to be, and then some. I went back to my room after dinner and changed out of my suit and tie and into a collared pull-over, and slacks. I attended the late Vroom Show in the Taj Mahal, and it was the best of all the shows, imho. I went to the Singles Meet and Greet at the Atrium Bar -- what a waste of time. There were about eight people there, and it broke up about a half hour later. I was asked by one woman to go dancing in the Beauties Dance Club, but responded to her that I do not dance much, and off she went without a chance for me to offer an alternative option. Maybe I should have followed her -- oh well, there were other opportunities to come that were much better ;-) I then went to the Starry Nights Lounge for Karaoke, and was pleasantly surprised by all the talented guest on the ship who could actually hold a tune. Finished up the night in the casino where I lost at Poker, but won at the slots to finish ahead for the night. I was in bed by 1:30am or so. My state-room (8168) was right under the Lido Deck Stage, so I had to use ear plugs some nights due to the loud thumping and chair dragging right above my bed. Not a big problem though, as long as you have ear plugs. 3rd Day Tuesday 12-27-11: I got out of bed around 9:30am. I checked my sail and sign card account, then sat on the balcony and ate the continental breakfast I received earlier that morning via room service. The outside temperature was already 72 degrees. I starting writing this log on the balcony, but did not finish it until a few days after the cruise ended. I went down to Guest Services to clear up a discrepancy I found on my S&S card account(they fixed it quickly), and then went to the library to check email. I ate lunch on the Lido deck Deli around 12:30pm (Had the Grilled Ham & Cheese -- it had not been not heated up long enough, but was edible). I laid out on the Serenity Deck by the pool until around 2pm, then went over to the Apollo Pool to watch the hairy chest contest( It was kind of funny, but tacky as expected, and of course the wrong guy won, imho). I went down to the Taj Mahal around 4:00pm and watched the Wedding Game (very entertaining and funny). I went to the Photo Gallery and purchased three of the photos taken of me by Carnival; the main portrait they take during embankment, and from the first two dinners, including the formal ($11.50 each). I took a quick nap on my balcony, then down to the 7:00pm Juggler show in the Taj Mahal. It was one of the America's Got Talent Contestants last season, and he was very good, not to mention hilarious). I went to the Internet Cafe for a short check on email (was expecting something important in my inbox). Had a quick dinner in Normandie around 8:45pm (Fried Chicken and Mash Potatoes -- not very good). I went to the Butterfly Lounge to see the 9:45pm Adult Comedian Show (a middle aged comedian who looked, and sounded, like Dice Clay (he was very funny). Ended the night at the Perfect Game Sports Bar watching an NBA game, and won $40 on the bar top virtual poker game. I was in bed and asleep by midnight. 4th Day Wednesday 12-28-12: I woke up at 6:00am to the 'room service guy' knocking at my door, and eat the continental breakfast before going down to the deck 3 gangway for the 8:30am Port Canaveral Excursion to the Kennedy Space Center (very organized and interesting tour, but a lot of walking). I especially liked seeing the Hubble 3D IMAX movie). Had lunch at one of the park's cafeterias and was back on ship around 4:00pm). I went to my room and sat on my balcony as it was such a nice day out, and took photos of the port and was able to zoom in on the Kennedy Space Center with my camera. My balcony was a nice way to rest my weary feet after a lot of walking that day. I took another shower and went to my 6:00pm reservation at David's Steak House. I ordered the spinach salad, which was really good, and then had the surf and turf (4oz of tender filet, and two succulent lobster tails). I had two glasses of fine Cabernet Sauvignon to wash it all down with. The only alcohol I had that night. And I finished with the biggest slice of cheese cake I have ever been served that I could only eat about half of. David's Steak House is a must on the Pride. It is at the top of the ship with large windows overlooking the ocean. The service that night was impeccable, but no so on the last night, as I will explain later. I went to the Taj Mahal for the 7:30pm Trivia Competition Show (guessing songs on a few notes). It was very entertaining. I met a nice woman there and we teamed up to come in nearly last place, but it was a blast. We stuck around for the Liars Club Show (really just a knock off of the old truth or consequences TV game show). That was not as entertaining, but we stuck it out through the end. I went back to my room early, watched a pay per view movie and was asleep by 11:30pm, only to be awakened just after midnight to loud thumping coming from above me. Apparently there was a midnight rock it out party on the lido deck stage that lasted until 3am. I put in a pair of ear plugs that allowed me to drown out the late night revelers. In addition to the thumping there was some chair dragging above my room on the lido deck at all hours during the entire cruise, but it didn't bother me too much. If you are on the 8th deck (Panoramic), make sure you bring ear plugs to sleep. 5th Day Thursday 12-29-12: I got up around 7:30am to the knock on the door by room service bringing my daily continental breakfast. I showered and packed a small backpack for the quickly back to the ship in beachwear and flip flops, making it ba'Nassau Bus Tour and Beach' Excursion. I left the ship earlier than I needed to, as I set my clock to Atlantic Time thinking Nassau was on it, but I was informed later they were still on Eastern Time. So, I was the first one off the ship, as I walked up the long dock, then up the long pier to the terminal. Once I realized my ship excursion tour guide was no where to be found, I walked all the way back to the ship to find several tour guides now just outside of the gangway with signs directing a thousand or so shipmates to each respective excursion. It was chaos, but eventually they put it all together and walked us in different lines to the terminal and to our respective buses. After that bad experience, my tour and beach day were great. My Nassau Tour was informative, and the beach was nice. However, be warned that the guide will ask for tips when you depart the bus at the beach, and then again later at the terminal at final drop off. The Poop Deck Restaurant next to the beach had good 'Conch Chowder' and sandwiches for lunch. They dropped us off at the terminal around 3:30pm, and I walked over to the Green Turtle Sports Bar about a block away to watch the Notre Dame Bowl Game. I drank there with some Locals until about 9pm when they reminded me I had to be back to the ship before 9:30pm. I walked very ck just in time before the ship set sail again. I changed out of my beachwear and into my nightly garb and went to the Ivory Bar for another sing-along with Roger the Asian Piano Man. I left there after another great sing-along with a packed lounge, and went to the Butterfly Lounge for the team competition. I teamed up with a woman a little older than me, and a married couple in the 30s sitting near me. At one point the women had to take their bras off under their shirts and the men had to take off our shirts and wear their bras onto the stage. There were several bare chested men with bras all lined up on the stage competing for the grand prize. Some middle aged Asian fellow won the competition (a bottle of Champagne) by doing some pretty crazy acts on stage. It was a lot of wild drunken fun that night. Stayed at Butterflies for the Karaoke All-Stars singing with the Ship Band at Midnight, but only stayed a little while due to the sudden realization I had not had any dinner yet, so I stumbled back to my state-room for a very late supper via room service. I fell asleep around 1:30am after a very long day and night. 6th Day Friday 12/30/12: I woke up early again for some reason. The bright sunrise blasted into my room around 7:00am and my balcony was calling me to watch it with a cup of tea. Room service arrived about an hour later, which I ate on the balcony while we pulled into Freeport. I showered and was off the ship around 10:00am. I did not have an excursion purchased for Freeport, so I just walked around the dockside straw market and took some photos. I went back to the Library to check email around noon. The Mermaid Grille Buffet lines were too long again, so I ate a late lunch on the lido deck Deli again (Reuben and slaw), then a quick swim in the Poseidon Pool. I laid out on the Serenity Adult Deck until about 2pm., before heading back to my balcony, as we left port around 3pm. It was so sunny and warm that day that the photos and videos of leaving port came out phenomenal. It was the most relaxing afternoon of the cruise; while sitting on my balcony watching us leave port and making our way back out to sea again for the long trip back to Baltimore. I went to an early dinner at Normandie(Tilapia -- overcooked), and that deliciously famous chocolate melting cake with two ice creams this time, and a cappuccino as I was not drinking after last night's Nassau Drunkfest! Went to the Taj Mahal Theater at 8:30pm to see the Jazzin Show, and although not as good as the Vroom Show, it was very entertaining, with some very good dancing. I went to the 9:45pm Adult Comedy show and met a couple of single ladies, as we watched what I thought were two only moderately funny comedians, with an hour break in between them. The last comedian was announced as being on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was back in my room late and fell asleep around 3am. 7th Day Saturday 12/31/11: I was out of bed around 9:30am. I ate some leftovers in my fridge from a previous room service(s) for breakfast, as I forgot to fill out the breakfast card last night. I reviewed the debarkation handout and watched the TV version as well, then showered and went down to the Library to check email again. I went up to the Lido Deck Apollo Pool as there were very few kids up there for some reason, and laid out there until about 1:30pm. I tried getting a late lunch in Mermaids Grille, but only the Pizza Cafe was open. I stood in line for a few minutes before a bunch of kids came running up to the counter and butted in line again, so I went back to my room and ordered room service (Cornbeef on Rye and Chips, with some assorted chocolate chip cookies -- yummy). I sat on my balcony for an hour or so. I went down to the casino to cash out my winnings around 3:30pm, and then I purchased the Voyage DVD at the Photo Shop. I went to the FAIRWELL Party (free drinks -- and they were 'not' watered down) in the Taj Mahal and sat with the two single ladies I met the night before. The three of us then went to the Starry Night lounge for Karaoke until about 8:00pm. I went back to my room to pack and leave my checked luggage outside my room, and to change into more formal wear to rejoin the two ladies at David's Steak House for dinner for a 9:15pm reservation (the service was very bad this time there as the waitress could not speak English well -- but the food was superb -- had the excellent spinach salad again, and a 14oz New York Strip I could not finish, even with no desert). After Dinner I went up to the Lido Deck Stage for the New Years Celebration, and back to my room not too long after to get a good night's rest before debarkation the next morning. 8th Day Sunday New Years Day 01/01/12: The alarm went off early at 6:30am. I got up with another well deserved hangover, took a long hot shower, got into whatever clothes I had left over, and went down to the Normandie Restaurant for my first hot breakfast of the cruise. I came back up to the room and packed my carry-on bag, and was out of the room by 8:45am and down to one of the debarkation waiting areas(I chose the Taj Mahal as it had a big movie screen with ESPN providing highlights of the bowl games). My Zone 7 was called earlier than scheduled (around 11am), and I walked to the gangway, down it in a long but quick line, through customs very quickly, and found my checked bag quickly, and rolled it out to my vehicle in the parking lot; all in less than an hour. I was on the road before noon, but I would be remiss if I did not warn you about the poor signage for I-95 northbound drivers. The left hand turn you need to make does not have a sign posted to instruct you to do so at the traffic light. Just know when you come upon the first traffic light to turn left to make your way to the I-95 North entrance ramp. It's almost like a u-turn headed back the terminal. The drive home was as easy as the drive down, making it from Terminal to Home in about and hour and fifteen minutes. If you live within driving distance of the Baltimore Port, it is a no-brainer to book a cruise out of it on the Carnival Pride. I may try Royal Caribbean (RCL) out of Baltimore next, to compare the two. I don't know though, as it will be hard to beat the PRIDE for me! Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
The embarkation and disembarkation was done perfectly without any wait time. Well done. The ship was probably sold out but we did not check with the captain on the number of passengers. The ship was always crowded no matter where we went. ... Read More
The embarkation and disembarkation was done perfectly without any wait time. Well done. The ship was probably sold out but we did not check with the captain on the number of passengers. The ship was always crowded no matter where we went. Dining room, promenade, buffet, any public area, it did feel like a holiday cruise, but somehow I wished it could be a little bit less crowded. The Promenade is beautifully decorated. Dining room food was good, although not exceptional. However, service was extremely good with a Caribbean team (our waiter is from Trinidad and our assistant waitress is from Dominican). Considering we had a group of ten and a large table is usually hard to serve, they really did a great job and we had very good dining experience. RCCL's ice show was always a sold out show so we were asked to obtain ticket on the first night. One member of our group went and waited in line for more than 30 minutes to get our tickets, why could they not let us do the booking on the interactive TV? Or let us reserve our seat online like the other RCCL ships (Allure and Oasis)? Due to the ice show time at 7 pm and our dinner time at 6 pm, we made a special request a day before for an expedited dinner service. We were extremely pleased with the service we got and we did not even miss the dessert and still on time to watch the ice show, well done. There were very good musicians onboard, we like the Latin band Mambo Cliente and the Filipino quartet called New Version the most. Unfortunately they were assigned to two very tiny lounges to play most of the time. Mambo Cliente played at the Aquarium Lounge the most while The New Version Quartet played at the Dizzy Lounge the most. Both lounges were too small to accommodate the number of passengers who wanted to dance. NYE celebration: well done with all the novelty and free champagne, the Promenade was flooded with people, luckily no stampede.... The less than perfects: dining room food quality was less than perfect, it was good, but we felt the cut back. Fish served were not top quality fish, meat dishes were good, but again, did not feel like AAA grade. The buffet food was even less appealing and always crowded. Not enough server to clean the table (since we just got off the Emerald Princess's xmas cruise, that was such a cultural shock to have such a huge difference in the food and service quality). They freq made public announcement asking passengers to leave their table when they were done so other passengers can have a seat. That was so annoying and prob a major design fraud. Activities: outdoor activities were plentiful, but limited to weather as the ship sails out from Bayonne. Indoor activities were limited, we were surprised there were no line dance nor dance lessons on the last sea days, making the last day so boring as we were not shoppers. It seems RCCL is always pushing people to buy buy buy. I did buy some stuff from the stores, including two pairs of costume earrings. When I noticed one pair was defected, I took it back and wanted a refund (right away on the same day), I was told they cannot do a refund, and I had to buy something else more expensive. I did, but the clerk was doing a refund first for the defected item (then why was I told no refund) and then another sales slip for the new item. Internet : A major disappointment, first of all, we cannot have wifi in the cabin, we have to be in the public rooms where it was a hot spot to do our emails and internet surfing. Secondly, its slow (OK, its slow probably on other ships too) and to log on you need at least 2-3 minutes, if you realized you were not getting the internet, you wasted 2-3 minutes time (at 65 cents a minute). I bought a package (at 55 cents a minute), and two occasions, before my package ran out, I was charged additional money for internet access. I had to go to Guest Service, line up, and talked to an agent so he can revert the charge. That was such a waste of time. Lastly, on the last day, from mid afternoon, internet service was off and on often. From 10 pm, virtually no internet service. I still had over $12 worth of internet time left, which I intended to use on the last day to check weather and possible flight delays. Guess what, no internet service on the disembarkation day neither, what a scam. I wrote a complain letter, brought it to the Guest Service, and was only told that it will be handed to the appropriate department. Earlier in the cruise, we wrote a suggestion to have the Maharajas lounge to house the two music groups (Mamba Cliente, and New Version Quartet) for listening and dancing pleasure as the other lounges (Aquarium, Dizzy) were too small to accommodate people who wanted to enjoy the music and did a little bit of dancing. Someone called us the last day from Guest Relation, and asked if I were the one who wrote the suggestion, I said yes, and that was it. No action was taken, no additional words were said, so what was the point of having us writing comments? Port: Bayonne really has nothing to offer, its difficult to get to, and nothing to do if you want to go out after registration. Port: Port Canaveral has nothing to offer at the terminal, you either have to take a taxi to a beach or join an excursion   Read Less
Sail Date December 2011

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