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7 Boston to Caribbean - Western Cruise Reviews

My husband and I have traveled on Carnival since 1983 our first of 12 cruise on Carnival. When we saw that Serenade of the Seas went out of Boston ( we live about 20 Minutes from the Dock) we thought we would give it a try. I was excited ... Read More
My husband and I have traveled on Carnival since 1983 our first of 12 cruise on Carnival. When we saw that Serenade of the Seas went out of Boston ( we live about 20 Minutes from the Dock) we thought we would give it a try. I was excited to see a different cruise line and also a little scared that I wouldn't like it. While there were many differences between Royal Caribbean and Carnival they seemed to equal each other out. Our balcony state room RC was smaller than our state room on Carnival the bathroom was also smaller but the balcony was bigger so it made up for it. My husband and I are not big gamblers but we do like the Casino, the Casino on RC was very small and limited hard to get around if there were to many people. The entertainment was ok the first few nights but got better as the trip continued. I can not say enough about the service every one of the staff that I had the pleasure of dealing with was excellent in what they do. We did the 3 night package for dinner the specialty dinning rooms were amazing. We only did the main dinning room once in the 12 days the service was great the food was ok. We preferred to do the buffet and eat breakfast lunch and dinner outside on the back of the ship they view was wonderful. The buffet never disappointed always so much to choice from and I must say it is better than Carnivals buffet. Carnival has Guys burgers and other side restaurants like 24 hour pizza to make up for it. Would I take RC again YES but I will also stay true to Carnival as we have had so many great memories I guess it up to the ports of call! Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
First, a shout out to the excellent staff of NCL Dawn: Rowena, Edgar, Rocky, Romel, Loey, Maria, Sarath, Darpan, Ros h ith, Win, Ray and all the other staff who remain unnamed because I didn’t get all their names. They work so hard for ... Read More
First, a shout out to the excellent staff of NCL Dawn: Rowena, Edgar, Rocky, Romel, Loey, Maria, Sarath, Darpan, Ros h ith, Win, Ray and all the other staff who remain unnamed because I didn’t get all their names. They work so hard for months before getting any time off. One crew member’s baby was born the last day at sea and was leaving to return home when we got to port. Yay! He gets to go home. Boo he missed the birth. That made me so sad. We are five sisters. This was our fourth cruise on NCL. We usually do a trip every two years but at the time we booked last year’s cruise this one came available at a great price so we broke our two year plan to do a back to back. So glad we did! We are all Platinum level cruisers and we got the ultimate dining package, on board service charges paid for two (which we shared equally) and on board credits when we booked the cruise. One platinum perk is a box of Godiva chocolates. One box per cabin. Try splitting four chocolates between five women. I’m still sporting a bruise (joke). Embarkation in Boston was easy. I had to return the rental car so dropped off two sisters and all our luggage at the terminal. Coordinated with another sister to pick me up at the car rental building. Another sister was taking the train into town and meeting us on the ship. Please note. The car rental center is huge. I mean REALLY HUGE. Designate a pickup spot in advance. It was freezing cold and we had a hard time finding each other. Check in was EASY. When we got to the counter we breezed through the line because of our suite status. We rushed the process so we could get to Cagney’s for lunch. Excellent choice and the best way to start our vacation. Disembarkation at NOLA was a mob scene. Lines upon lines and then you find out you’ve been standing in the wrong line for a taxi. The only way to bypass the taxi line is to hire a porter. Taxis are a flat rate $8 per person to downtown hotels. $40 for us to go less than 2 miles. Absolutely ridiculous. Our room was an SJ Suite. One room, one bathroom, a wall of windows (dirty on the outside) and no balcony (boo). Five women. One bathroom. Painful at times, but we made it work. Evenings were cramped with the sofa bed out, the Murphy bed down (mine - and very comfortable and I woke up every day to a bedside view of the sunrise) and a roll-away bed, along with the king sized bed. The ONLY way it worked for us to be incredibly diligent about putting our things away. Lots of drawer space but, be warned, the drawers are only half the size of a normal drawer. My only negative feedback about the room would be the windows - dirty, but hard to wash between cruises I guess - and the excessive creaking during high seas, which we got a lot of during this trip but there is not much they can do about that. There were only noises from above us randomly through out the day. We were below the Bimini Bar. We had the ultimate dining package of 14 days of specialty dining. WAY TOO MUCH DINING! Even on a fourteen day cruise we would have been happy with just three. We felt obligated to pick a different restaurant almost every night - and it was way too much food. It was overkill. On the bright side, we got to see familiar staff and got to order our favorites multiple times. Los Lobos and Cagney’s were, by far, our favorites. Los Lobos is hidden in back of the Garden Cafe and is seemingly unknown by most (except the staff - many of whom were there when their shifts ended). If you’re thinking “oh, Mexican. Done that” you are wrong. It was incredible. Fresh table side made guacamole and everything we ordered was over the top with flavor. Try the cactus salad and clear out your sinuses. The staff were all highly attentive and knew the menu inside and out. Cagney’s is Cagney’s - what more can I say? Excellent steak, attentive staff. If we hadn’t had the ultimate dining package I would have eaten at Bamboo all the time. Very clean, light fare. The Venetian is acoustically jarring. Very loud. The food was okay. My order was wrong from the appetizer to the dessert. The art. Oh. My. God. How much did they pay someone to violate the art… I won’t spoil it. You will have to see for your self. Nickel and diming: We were upset about the recent change to bringing beverages on board. You can’t. You can’t bring on bottled water. If you want bottled water then you must pay through the nose. $50 for 18 one-liter bottles of water is beyond highway robbery. *I just checked my credit card and we were also charged an 18% service charge on top of the $49.99 charge for $10 worth of bottled water. This makes me really unhappy. This is beyond captive audience gouging. Also, because of the dining package perks, lobster is no longer on the specialty restaurant menus. It is now only available in Aqua and Venetian at an up charge. Cagney’s had the best baked stuffed lobster that I ordered last year and was looking forward to ordering again. That was a disappointment. We had a Cruise Critic gathering in Aqua - lovely and highly attended. Alain and his staff gave small presentations and then it was over - the folks who organized it went to so much effort to make a nice gathering and people dispersed almost as soon as the hotel staff were done. I managed to chat with a few Cruise Critic people (Arzeena, RJ, BedfordMom, GrampaPaul) but there were many I missed. The home town gift exchange was rescheduled to the next day and that was more intimate - and really fun. I walked away with a jug of New Hampshire maple syrup (very happy!) that almost got confiscated at airport security due to a check in snafu. I checked the bag that DIDN’T have all the liquids which made the bag going through TSA screening get stopped and searched. I then had to get out of the TSA line, go back to the check in desk, get my bag recalled, pick it up in baggage, swap it at the check in desk and go through security AGAIN. I was sweating bullets. I refused to give up my maple syrup! The suite perk of having Cagney’s for breakfast and lunch was much appreciated. It’s such a civilized way to start the day - IF you have time. Within days, staff knew I needed lactose free milk with my coffee (I called NCL before the cruise to make the request). Darpan, the manager, was very attentive and I especially appreciated him every morning personally walking a distinguished elderly woman to her table. That was a heartwarming thing to see - they would walk arm in arm. That, to me, exemplified first class service and compassion. Another suite perk is free movies that you can order directly from your tv. We discovered this a couple of days in to the cruise and then watched a new movie almost every night for the rest of the cruise. It became a running joke of who would get to pick out that night’s movie - and teasing the sister who picked out Swiss Army Man. Then again, Keanu (which I loved) went over like a lead balloon with the rest of them so I’m not judging anyone’s movie choices. Another platinum perk is a free laundry bag.... and yay! They changed the paper laundry bags for nylon. No more ripping bags as you try to maximize your laundry order. At least that perk wasn’t one per cabin. We shared the laundry and managed to do four loads (bags) of anything that was okay to be super hot washed (i.e. underwear), which was really nice because somehow I miscounted and did not pack enough underwear. Regarding the restaurants - most of the sauces have alcohol in them. If you are Muslim, Mormon or a recovering alcoholic then you will need to ask specific questions each time you go for dinner. Also, EVERY SINGLE SAUCE at Le Bistro uses alcohol. With 24 hour advance notice they will prepare a dish for you without alcohol, but (in my humble opinion) that is a pain in the butt and it reflects poorly on NCL that there aren’t more alcohol free options. Also, for those who are keeping Kosher or Halal, Moderno wait staff (Gauchos?) would offer chicken covered in bacon touching the non-bacon wrapped chicken. A special request for chicken NOT touched by bacon had to be made. Again, NCL needs to be more sensitive to a multicultural client base. We dressed up for Halloween again. People remembered us from last year and then, for the rest of the cruise and even in New Orleans walking around, people recognized us as The Jellyfish. That was really, really fun and the Halloween party was better organized this year. We won Most Creative and a bottle of wine. If you got pictures of us, please drop me a note. I’d love to see them. Post cruise we stayed in NOLA overnight at The Drury on Poydras Street. It was clean and comfortable and our suite comfortably fit all of us at a reasonable price… plus they offered free drinks and snacks at 5:30pm (that turned into our dinner) and complimentary breakfast. It wasn’t Cagney’s, but it was hearty and there was coffee. No complaints. We walked for miles in NOLA - to the point of exhaustion, but managed to find a really cool artist and his wife at the French Market - Forks & Spoons Jewelry and we all got amazing bracelets made of antique flatware. Also, a local resident recommended The Blind Pelican for lunch - which had the best fried green tomatoes I’ve ever had. Reasonably priced and huge portions. It was off the beaten path on Charles Street but well worth the cab ride. We then took the trolly back to our hotel. I heart those trollies! I could spend all day taking pictures of them and of all the amazing architecture. Ports: Puerto Rico we got day passes at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. Day pass included a $20 food voucher (had to be used all at one time). The voucher almost covered a nice lunch - just a couple of dollars short because of taxes. I was expecting exorbitant prices but was pleasantly surprised. The surf was incredibly high - and it was difficult to the point of scary trying to get past the breakers. Got knocked on my butt and, at one point, was holding my bathing suit bottoms with one hand and my top with the other while trying to get my head above water because the breakers were trying to strip me naked from all directions. Bonaire: day passes at the Plaza Beach Resort. Lovely but it was really, really hot and the water was almost the same temperature! The surf was again very high. Last year the snorkeling was superior, this year almost non-existent because visibility was so low. There was a lunch buffet included with our day passes. I believe that a rogue mussel that tasted "funky" going down is what caused projectile vomiting later in the evening after a dinner at Cagney's. I highly doubt it was Cagney's because my sister and I ordered the same items off the menu and she had no problems. Curaçao: Day passes at the Avila Hotel (old Governor's Mansion). This is the place for sea glass. Seriously. I collected 2 pounds of it and barely dented the supply. Plus, as an added bonus, this is where I burned my butt because I was hunting in the water for hours. Loved every minute of it. The surf was up, but the resort has two large protected lagoons so swimming was very pleasant and the lagoon to the left had the sea glass and lots of good snorkeling. Aruba: TDH (too damn hot). Got off the ship. Looked around. Sweated too much. Returned to the ship. No regrets. I did get a Coke and downed it in seconds before getting back on board. Best. Coke. Ever. Jamaica: Didn't get off the ship. I personally had a bad experience last year and had made the decision long ago not to get off there. The rest of the sisters made the same decision. No regrets. Grand Cayman: Highlight of the trip. We went with @stingraysailing with Captain Chip. Eco conscious outfitter. Very environmentally caring. The surf was crazy high so it was not as spectacular as last year yet still incredible. We were the first boat of the day to get to the sandbar so the stingrays were super happy (i.e. aggressive) to see us. The current tried to sweep me away as I was taking pictures and crew mate Chris had to haul me back. That was intense. Also, I was underwater without a snorkel when a stingray decided to land on my head. THAT was a panic - but how incredibly awesome would my obituary have been if it said "killed by a stingray?" I mean, I'm no Steve Irwin, but.... Cozumel: Cheaper than getting day passes we booked 2 rooms just for the day that included unlimited food and drinks. Lovely resort with a nice pool set up and waterslide. Surf was, yet again, way up. Visibility was super low. We shopped in town first and then headed to the resort. Had a decent lunch and lots of drinks. The cerviche was really, really yummy. One sister and I did a little more shopping before returning to the ship and then I found out that an older passenger was robbed on one of the side streets. That was disturbing and could have easily been any one of us. Take care. Regarding entertainment - I didn't go to any of the shows (I'm not a show person and had seen Elements last year) except the staff talent show - which was WOW. Who knew our assistant cruise director could sing opera? And, last but not least, a couple of things to remember for next time, besides bringing more underwear and remembering to check the correct bag at the airport: * Activity cards. I read about these on the daily activity sheets but didn’t pay any attention until the last day, when I attending the knitting group in the wine bar and another knitter mentioned it. Every activity attended would be a check off by staff on your activity card which then could be redeemed for prizes. Bummer. I hope they have it on my next cruise. * Don’t bring a lot of shoes. I wore my sneakers ONCE and my high heel sandals NEVER. I lived in my Teva sandals (even wore them as water shoes at the beaches) and ballet flats. * Bring more sunblock (I went through an entire huge tube) and next time remember sunburn cream. I got a sunburn on my butt (!) because my bathing suit bottom rode up above the applied sunblock. Not fun. Seriously. * Cozumel has the best prices for souvenirs but be careful. A fellow passenger was robbed when she wandered down a side street. * Bring more than one bathing suit. Especially when we had three ports in a row, my one bathing suit was never dry and I had forgotten how much I dislike putting on a damp bathing suit. * Have a trip mascot and have a blast. I brought a Lego penguin and had so much fun taking pictures. You can find his adventure on instagram by searching for pound tripmascot. Pictures of The Jellyfish etc can be found by searching for pound sistertrip16. Read Less
Sail Date October 2016
Top 10 things to complain about while staying in The Garden Villa 10. The boat sways too much. Fix it. 9. The shower takes too long to heat up. 30 seconds is unacceptable. 8. It’s raining. We must speak to your supervisor. 7. ... Read More
Top 10 things to complain about while staying in The Garden Villa 10. The boat sways too much. Fix it. 9. The shower takes too long to heat up. 30 seconds is unacceptable. 8. It’s raining. We must speak to your supervisor. 7. It's too long a walk from our top deck to our living room. We demand to be carried. 6. There’s not enough food. We could starve. 5. The luggage closet could easily be converted to a half bath. Today. 4. There is a baby grand in our living room. You forgot to supply the pianist. 3. We must have GPS locators to find one another more easily in the suite. 2. There are four elevators. Why isn’t at least one dedicated to serve only the 14th floor? 1. I must be called “Princess” at all times by all staff. Actually, it was my sister Susan who asked to be called “Princess” and our marvelous Steward, Win, obliged. We are five sisters and this was our third cruise together - a mini family reunion. We were all set to stay in a Family Suite (SD) on the 12th floor and that is what we packed for, knowing that closet and storage space would be limited. I arrived in Boston on Wednesday for the Friday sailing. Our Fearless Leader Diane had it all arranged - including port itineraries and treats. She is an uber professional about getting the absolute best price and perks for anything. When I finally got to Hertz and was sitting in the rental car I checked my phone and Diane had been calling repeatedly all morning and leaving texts while I was in flight. Called her back and… SHE UPGRADED US TO THE GARDEN VILLA! Yes, I’m screaming that. I was screaming in my rental car. I screamed all the way to the Hampton Inn in Norwood. I screamed for the next 3 days. It was a surprise for the other 3 sisters so they had no idea why I would randomly scream for seemingly no reason. Diane and I kept the secret by switching out the luggage tags at Falcon Terminal without other sisters noticing. Diane tipped the porter very well to keep the secret from Dawn and Susan (Gail joined us later). We were whisked away by ship staff cutting everyone in line through Security. I still feel bad about cutting in front of ladies who were waiting to have their luggage scanned…. but I could say why! My experience in the Garden Villa: First, the Garden Villa is bigger than my house. The master suite bathroom is bigger than an Inside Cabin. There is a suitcase closet bigger than the bathroom of my childhood home. We never wanted to leave. Ever. The three mini suite bedrooms were perfect. Dawn and Susan had the back suite with a sliding door to the lower deck. Gail, who brought a lot of studying with her, stayed in the smaller, middle suite, and Diane and I had the master suite with an amazing bank of windows. I am not a morning person, but every night before going to bed I’d open the curtains and then wake up with the sunrise. No alarm needed. It was absolutely amazing. On our previous two cruises we stayed in suites and had a concierge but we either never utilized the concierge enough or didn’t know what we could request, but we never really figured out what they truly did - not to say that they didn’t work hard, but we just never figured it out and never saw them much. Patrick, our concierge on the Dawn, was nothing short of fabulous. He was responsible for something like 64 suites. He was ALWAYS in Cagney’s at breakfast or lunch checking in with every single suite guest. He made us feel as if we were the only guests that mattered. Anything we wanted - last minute reservations or whatever - if we asked, he was immediately on it. Ray, our Butler, and Win, our Steward, were exceptional, personable and extremely hard working. Patrick, Ray and Win worked together as a really good team to accommodate every request. I miss them. A lot! If you have a chance to upgrade to the Garden Villa, do it. It is worth it to feel like royalty for your entire cruise. However, you will be forever spoiled and no cruise will ever compare again. My experience with Cruise Critic: Our cruise message board was very active with a lot of regular posters. There was an informal meeting during embarkation up at the Bimini bar as we sailed away. Unfortunately I did not pack anything warm so was freezing cold and didn’t stay long. We attended the cruise critic reception on Saturday (Halloween) and met up with everyone and it was really nice to put names to faces. We participated in a hometown gift exchange and (later) a slot pull. On the slot pull we actually got our money back plus a couple of dollars - but it was a good demonstration of how incredibly tight the ship’s slots are. House always wins. Friends made through Cruise Critic (CC) made our cruise even more special - it’s hard to describe but it was always a joy to run into a CC friend - and it spilled over to people being really friendly in the elevators and while waiting in lines. When we were at a resort in Curaçao that mostly catered to Danish tourists we felt the difference - people wouldn’t make eye contact, wouldn’t say “hello,” weren’t interested in engaging. I take it as a cultural difference… but it really made me appreciate the friendliness of my CC friends and the Dawn atmosphere in general. Our experience with the cruise itself: My experience is totally clouded by the unique experience of staying in the Garden Villa. I had an incredible time and truly felt spoiled for two weeks. I have to say that it was the best vacation I have ever had. Worth every single penny and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had a wonderful time just staying in the living room of our suite - reading and listening to the live music playing by the pool - or sitting at the table on our lower deck, sitting in the private hot tub or watching the sun rise or set from our top deck. Because we would be on the cruise on Halloween I started our costumes back in June and convinced my sisters that they could be jellyfish. I covered umbrella hats with iridescent fabric and then stuffed them with iridescent cellophane. The tops had iridescent mesh tubing, ribbon and battery powered fair lights hanging down. We dressed all in black and tried to move/drift like jellyfish. We won 2 costume contests. We received incredible amounts of applause. We were AWESOME! People knew us at the jellyfish for the rest of the cruise. After Halloween I taped them all of them up so they hung in the living room window and we’d turn them on at night. We renamed the living room “Jellyfish Lounge.” I am not a big "Shows" kind of person so can not report on any of the entertainment except I did go to see Elements. It was fun and entertaining - and it's trying really hard to be a "Cirque du Soleil" but it was a GREAT show when one considers how much the tickets cost (free) for a very professional, high quality show. Regarding access to the internet, I believe the unlimited access is a new plan that NCL is trying out. It is very expensive (like $350 or so). The Villa was right next to the satellite so access was decent yet still sometimes very slow or non existent. To buy internet access on a limited plan of a few hours is almost not worth the money when sometimes it would take MANY minutes to access while watching the timer go tick, tick, tick, tick. Also, two of us purchased the 5 prepaid dinners plan and three of us purchased the 3 dinner plan. Even tho this was a 14 day cruise, the 5 prepaid dinners was excessive. 3 prepaid dinners would have been perfect. The Venetian was a very good, and free, venue. The Venetian and the upsell restaurants were all a time sink - it wasn’t really possible to dine and dash. It was a time commitment. We went to all the restaurants except for Teppenaki. That restaurant is all about the show - on our last cruise it was too salty, the lobster over done and it felt like we were on an assembly line they way they hustle people thru to get the next group in so we didn’t go there on this trip. Do you like to drink wine? 3 of my sisters and I decided to order wine in Le Bistro. I overlooked the prices before I ordered. Surprise, surprise. $49 a bottle! Holy Carp! (sic) What hurt even more was looking up on the net (when we finally got access) and finding the same bottles for $11.99 at Safeway. Bring your own. Pay the corkage fee. House always wins, but it will be less painful. The only bad experience I had with any meal was at Blue Lagoon. My dinner was almost flung onto the table and was cold when it finally did arrive. My thought was “how can you screw up fish & chips?” However, a Patty and Jose show was starting and I think there was a shift change so the original server was not the one who flung my order. I really think that it was all about the drinks and accompanying tips - and I, as a single diner, was not generating a bar tab. Ports of call: Every port of call was wonderful except Jamaica. We planned to take a taxi to Dunn’s Falls. 3 of us slipped off the ship when we first arrived in port just to do a little shopping before the excursion (the other 2 sisters were still asleep). It was a bargaining nightmare to get a taxi (one of us had a bad foot). Shopping turned out to be only a half mile away, at the most, and the driver charged way too much and dropped us off at what we suspected was his cousin’s or a kickback shop. I offhandedly asked how much a taxi would be to Dunn’s Falls. He quoted $20 per person. “ What! $100 (5 people) to go 3 miles?” I exclaimed. He instantly backtracked and said “oh. I thought you said “to the beach. $10 a person.” Still a rip off. We walked back to the ship and I refused to go to Dunn’s Falls. The 3 sisters who ended up going to Dunn’s Falls had horrible experiences with the taxis. First, they want you to pay for a round trip ride saying how difficult it would be to get a return taxi (lie). They want to “help you” by buying your park ticket for you (lie). They take your $20 and then get a resident rate of $5 a ticket and pocket the other $15. More fiascos and stories of other people having a hard time with getting preyed upon really turned me off to Ochos Rios and made me very relieved that I stayed on the ship for the rest of the day. I felt like shark bait and it’s a very uncomfortable feeling. On my flight back to Seattle I was talking with a man who had lived in Ochos Rios and he said that they look at anyone on a cruise as rich, with unlimited disposable income for shopping and they want all of it or as much as they can scam out of you. They will scam you and laugh at you at the same time. “What’s the problem, Man. You on vacation.” My problem is that it is 4pm and the ship LEAVES in 30 minutes and it takes 40 minutes to get there from here! At most other ports of call Diane had pre-arranged stays at resorts with day passes to their amenities. I highly suggest this civilized way to travel. It was so nice to have private room to change, shower or get out of the sun. In Oranjestad, Aruba we had a reservation (unpaid) at the Ritz for $50 a person, but the taxi driver convinced us to go to the Aruba Beach Club and Resort for free (and then, knowing we just saved $250 offered us a tour for $100). The palupas (straw huts) are available to anyone but the chairs belong to the resort. Technically (where are the italics when I need them), we were squatting... but we tipped the servers well for our drinks and were not asked to leave. Other ports of call included: San Juan, Puerto Rico - we used the free trolly car up to the forts. For $10 you have access to both the forts which are part of the US National Park Service and your entrance fee goes to their upkeep. Beautiful, stunning views dripping in history. Hot and MUGGY. 80% Humidity. Ack! Kralendijk, Bonaire - Plaza Beach Resort - All inclusive. Booked a room. Drinks were great. Snorkeling was wonderful. Lots of sea life. Fire coral got one sister. VERY painful. Snorkel fins tore up my feet. Water shoes would have worked better. Note to self: do not trust a phone case that says it's waterproof. Test it out BEFORE the trip. Dinner was included. Buffet. Kind of disappointing and included weird things from the Netherlands that I tried but wouldn't try again - but I was jaded by the excellent fare on the ship. Willemstad, Curacao - Hotel Avila all inclusive. Booked a room. Our room was lovely and overlooked one of the 3 lagoons. The lagoons had a sandy clay that was disconcerting if you have sensory issues (almost slimy) and also clouded the water. The ocean water was wonderful and refreshing. Not much snorkeling opportunity. However, if you're a sea glass collector, this was the place to go. Lots and lots. My haul barely dented the supply. Service in the restaurant was abysmal. Lots of wait staff just standing around with no desire to actually wait on a table. Then again, we tried to get lunch after the normal lunch hour. George Town, Grand Cayman - This and Bonaire were my favorites. We booked an excursion with Stingray City Tours. Small tour of 11 people on a tour boat that could have easily booked 16 or more. It was small and intimate and we felt very well taken care of by a company that cares about the animals and the environment - other tour operators were harassing the sea life and that really bothered me. The operator brought frozen fish for the stingrays. The stringrays hear the boats drop anchor and come from near and far for a free snack. I just stood in one place and let them be and they would come right up to my body. It was a wild, wild experience. We also stopped at the nearby reef for some snorkeling (good, but not as great as Bonaire) and starfish beach where other operators where pulling starfish out of the water and placing them on people's heads for photo ops. That was disturbing. Cozumel, Mexico - El Cozmelino Resort. All inclusive. Booked a room. We had a first floor room with direct access to the pool and beach. The wait staff were not intrusive yet very attentive. The food in the restaurant was decent and generous. The drinks were refreshing. We rested in hammocks by the water. Snorkeling was okay. The reef was mostly blanched out (dead)... but some of the hotel guests knew a trick of bringing breakfast cereal and feeding it to the fish. I never knew how much parrot fish would like Cocoa Puffs. Apparently, they like it so much (or I was going too slow) that they tried to nibble my hand. That hurt. They have teeth! Disembarkation: Leaving was so incredibly difficult. We were treated so well. When we finally decided we had to leave we let Patrick know and he whisked us through the disembarkation process. Because we were in the Garden Villa we had a limo scheduled to take us to our hotel. Communications for the limo and for the escort to take us through immigrations were not as clear as they should be and we waited and waited and waited. We watched all the other guests leaving. However, on the bright side, we got to say an extended goodbye to the wonderful staff and to our Cruise Critic friends. I enjoyed that. In New Orleans we stayed at the Homewood Suites. We had a 2 bedroom suite with a living room in between two bedrooms. The floor in the living room was wet and sticky. A tech came up and checked the air conditioner and found no problem but never checked the floor. I never went barefoot after that. The mattress cover and sheets on my bed were too small for the mattress and wouldn’t stay on. Sunday morning could not help but notice the human bodily fluids on the side of the mattress. I brought it to the staff’s attention and all they could do was smile and say “sorry.” That did not leave me with a good impression. We had a wonderful time walking, walking, walking around the French Quarter. I highly recommend Tee Eva’s Famous Pies & Pralines for their sweet potato pie, Red Fish Grill for their chocolate bomb dessert and Ms Linda Green “Yakamein Lady”, winner of Chopped, for her seafood gumbo. There was an LSU game on Saturday (sorry, they lost) and it seemed like all the flights out on Sunday were over booked. I gave up my seat for a very nice compensation and a free hotel for the night. However, I do NOT recommend the Radisson by the airport in Kenner. My first room had a broken tv (after the front desk made me feel like an idiot for not figuring out the remote) and the second room (#117) had a waterfall flowing from the ceiling when the guest in the room above took a shower. In conclusion, it was a wonderful trip. Do I think it would have been as incredibly if we had stayed in our originally booked suite? Yes, I do, because we would not have known what we were missing. We make our fun no matter where we stay. HOWEVER, I strongly think at least one of us would not have made it to disembarkation because we would have been thrown overboard. Alas, just one last word of advice. Plan for your return trip home. I did not. I flew home to Seattle wearing capris, a tank top and a VERY light hoody. It was 30 degrees and raining when I had to walk from the light rail station to the ferry. I seriously think I froze my tan off. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
This is the third year that I have made this trip from Boston on Jewel. Jewel is one of RCI's Radiance class ships which are my favorite as they "look out" to the ocean thru glass walls etc., as opposed to their larger ships ... Read More
This is the third year that I have made this trip from Boston on Jewel. Jewel is one of RCI's Radiance class ships which are my favorite as they "look out" to the ocean thru glass walls etc., as opposed to their larger ships which all seem to be oriented "inside" towards their "mall" areas. We left Boston as a howling northeaster was approaching, and thru the night had winds sustained over over 110 mph while crossing around the tip of Cape Cod. Seas of 40' plus continued thru the next day. There Was a picture of a 5' wave rolling down the promenade deck, some 40'+ above the water line which was widely circulated. This was the same Halloween storm which dumped over 30" of snow on much of mid New England. There was little violent motion on the ship as the seas were on the starboard quarter and thus little damage or injury during this violent very early winter storm. After the first at sea day weather improved and was excellent for most of the remainder of the trip. Embarkation in Boston was a breeze, on board at 11:30, to balcony room about 1:00 pm, ship completely full with 2174 pax. This is a very popular trip each year and many pax return, as do I, year after year. Next fall's trip is already almost "sold out". I have made approx. 50+ RCI cruises and always enjoy being with them especially as the amenities for frequent cruisers are very good. On this trip there were 225+ Diamond Plus members (their highest category), and 450+ Diamond members (their second highest category). Thus the Concierge Lounge was over crowded and an additional lounge had to be set up; along with a separate Diamond Lounge. Perhaps I have been lucky enough to be on Royal "too many" times; but their "nickel and diming" practices are really getting on my nerves. They are charging for "everything" - even a $20 fee to say Happy Birthday to a loved one on the daily program. The other problem is the food. Although there is nothing wrong with their food preparation, and service continues to be excellent - the quality of the foods they are buying seems to be the cheapest possible, whether it be in the main Dining Room, Buffet area, or even their "gourmet restaurant" Chops. As a result vegetables are the cheapest "root" vegetables, meat is universally fatty, full of gristle, dry, lacking flavor will all the hallmarks of "CHEAP". Another problem is the proliferation of Indian and Vegetarian entrees. Frequently 3 of the 5 dinner entrees were vegetarian or Indian - again meat is more expensive. Although RCI's Galley personnel are heavily from India, I did not see a single passenger on the entire ship who looked like, or dressed like, they may have been from India. And yet at each lunch/dinner and entire section of the buffet area was given over to Indian food, and there was at least one or two "Indian" entrees on the Dining Room menus. Again Indian food is mostly vegetarian and thus cheaper to purchase and serve. Entertainment - the same old, tired three Production Shows that I have been watching for about 5 years it seems. When will RCI spend $ on new shows for the benefit of their repeat guests? Other "Headliners" were mediocre at best. Had visits to six ports, all of which have been "destroyed" by "mass cruising" of ships such as the one I was on. At St. Lucia the combined total of pax from the ships in port may well have exceeded the population of the island itself. Disembarkation in Tampa on Day #14 was easy, although no "carry off" was allowed but first groups were off the ship at 8:15 am and off to TPA for most people returning to NE. In conclusion - a good trip, I am signed up for next year again; but will I go - I don't know. I'm tired of RCI's "nickel and diming", food quality is worst of any mainstream line, ports will be the same again next year - so we will see. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
BACKGROUND: This was our eleventh cruise in 3 years with NCL, our third reposition, and first time on Norwegian Spirit. We are young at heart although both retired. We love to cruise and we don't care where the ship goes, just as ... Read More
BACKGROUND: This was our eleventh cruise in 3 years with NCL, our third reposition, and first time on Norwegian Spirit. We are young at heart although both retired. We love to cruise and we don't care where the ship goes, just as long as we get some sea days. EMBARKATION: We flew straight to Boston on Alaska Airlines and stayed at the Parker House Hotel which was really lovely. After meeting our other 3 travel mates it was off to see the city (follow the Freedom Trail), the city tour which included a stop at Old Ironsides (which we toured and it was wonderful), followed by a delicious dinner. The weather held until we left port, which was kind of Boston to do for us, having never been there. Although we were booked in a suite there was no special line for us to enter to do our paperwork, but there also were no lines to wait in. All the 'suite' people were brought together and after about a 15 minute wait we were free to board. Champagne awaited everyone and we assured the crew we knew how to get to our cabin and headed straight there. As our cabin was not quite ready, we went up to Cagney's for lunch and then returned to meet our cabin steward who just happened to be the same one we had last year on our Panama Canal trip on Norwegian Pearl. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, Victor's or mine, when we recognized each other! Shortly after, our butler, Jose, came by to introduce himself. We unpacked our roll aboard bags and then went to Raffles to pick up some items for folks to munch on that were coming to our cabin for sail away. Muster went quickly, our guests began to arrive and suddenly we were sailing, laughing, and just having fun meeting after emailing for so long. MEET & GREET: We had a wonderful M&G attended by many (I didn't have many name tags left unclaimed) and was attended by Michelle Taladhay, Guest Services Manager, Manny Hernandez, Bar Manager, Frank Hasenwinkel, Hotel Director, Stephane Coutouly, Food and Beverage Dir, Adine Barrett, Restaurant Manager, Paul Scally, Cruise Director, Erika Heim, Concierge, Peter Heine, Executive Chef, Bruce Van Der Boon, Group Services Coordinator (thanks for setting everything up for us!), and last, but certainly not least, Captain Kenneth Harstrom (a last minute request/no fog). We had a wonderful M&G although we had to be out in one hours time, which for this size of group was not enough time, because it was about to be used for those who had missed muster the day before (the 'naughty room'). Special thanks to Zim Paguntalah for setting up the food and beverages for us; he did a great job and stood by in case we needed anything else. Thank you to the officers, crew and NCL for hosting us, not once, but twice! We had a second M&G half way through the cruise and were greeted again by officers and mimosas—Thank You! FUNCTIONS: As part of the 'suite' life we attended the Captain's cocktail party which was lovely and a great time to reconnect with everyone. We were lucky enough to be selected to attend the Officer's Dinner and, after a cocktail reception, headed to Windows for a lovely dinner. We dined with Staff Captain Niklas Persson, who was charming and a wonderful dinner companion. Our table got a little rowdy, so Captain had to scold us a bit, but nonetheless we had a fabulous time. Niklas also arranged for us to view the bridge on the last day at sea and I always enjoy these as each bridge of the various ships is just a bit different; this one in particular is different in the placement of the auto pilot and some gauges were in different spots. I was also pleased to meet the first lady (Second Officer) Yasendy Santanmaria on the NCL line. Couldn't leave without giving her a 'high five'! Thanks to Niklas, Yasendy, First Officer Piotr Porosinski, and Captain Kenneth for allowing this visit. ENTERTAINMENT: Most of the time a friend in our group and I would dance the night away to Modal Magic in Galaxy of the Stars. Not many of the crew dancers are all that good at real dancing and there aren't many of them, so the girlfriends just got up and danced. So I want to thank Frank Hasenwinkel and Paul Scally for the wonderful dances (Frank, you really surprised me!). Paul Scally and his crew did a great job of setting up a haunted house theme for the theatre entrance and in Galaxy for Halloween. The Halloween party in Galaxy was a lot of fun and even crew were allowed to attend as the GI had reduced numbers greatly. As I get seasick in the theatre (the only place I do), I cannot comment on the shows but did hear some wonderful reviews from other people in our group. SPA/GYM: Had a wonderful Swedish deep tissue massage at the spa and loved it. Wish I could have found more time to have one more before disembarkation. I used the gym once, but the temperature was like a sauna and the equipment cramped, some not operable and just generally not a good gym (too small of a ship for a good gym). I took to walking the Promenade on sea days, walking at the ports and dancing the night away (I only gained 2 lbs this cruise). SHOPPING ON BOARD: As this is a smaller ship, there is not a lot of shopping to be had, but I did find a couple of things I liked. Having designed the tee shirts for our M&G group, I understand the shops were inundated with requests for them. They finally came up with something, but I never did see them. (Yes, NCL approved the shirts I designed.) I should also add that this was our seventh sail of the year, so most of the products were familiar to me. PHOTOGRAPHERS: These were some of the best photos I've gotten in a long time and I hit the $150 mark so that anything after that was free. Thanks to Mark for trying to find my photo with Frank at the gangway—little did we know that Frank had pulled it and gifted it to me (thank you, Frank, for your kindness). Restaurants: We ate at Raffles once as we were craving a huge salad and it didn't disappoint. I get really antsy around so many people, so we just ate and left (this was before the GI set in). Le Bistro and Cagney's never disappoint and we ate there 3 nights each, including our 'last supper' (as we call it) for our group of 10 (Ruth, thanks for putting up with the rowdy group again!). Twice we ordered from Blue Lagoon for a 'picnic' in our suite with our 3 other friends and had a great time just being alone and eating 'wangs' to our hearts content. Our butler did a wonderful job of setting everything up for us including the necessary items to make martinis. We also dined at Shogun two nights, plus Stephane Coutouly arranged for 10 of us to have a private dinner of authentic Indian food (our waiter is from India, so he was able to describe everything beautifully), in Shogun's private dining area. I believe we had about 11 courses in all and everyone described leaving the table that night and waddling back to their cabins! Spectacular meal! Thank you, again, Stephane! And then there is La Trattoria where we ate 3 times (sometimes just the 5 of us, sometimes more). George was a wonderful waiter, but Ricky really stole our hearts and we requested him for our next to last night meal. What fun we had (we're always the rowdy table) and we celebrated one of our member's birthday (twice!). And how lovely to find the beautiful Ruth in Cagney's again; we hadn't seen her in nearly two years and yet she remembered us (she is one you will never forget). The food never disappointed except at Windows (we never dine there) and one night we ordered from Shogun for our cabin and it was the worst meal we've ever had. I called Stephane the next morning to let him know and he made a point to talk with whomever was in charge of the meal and removed the charges from our bill. Normally I do not report such things, but this was really bad and I didn't want it to happen to anyone else. CABIN: We were in the Thai suite (10001), right under the bridge. Instead of a sliding glass door you got to feel like a real sailor, hoisting the round water tight doors to get the door open/closed and it could only be open in port or on really calm days. Although the ship underwent dry dock just a year ago, this ship is really showing the signs of age. There is a crack running from the front of the living area to the rear of the cabin in the ceiling, the closet doors no longer work properly and our cabin steward reported problems with the television armoire (which was worse after the repairman got done—note to NCL: get rid of the armoire and just put in a flat screen). One night we had to use the hide-a-bed and my sweet cabin steward did his best with feather beds to make it comfortable for me, but it was still a miserable night. Not to mention that in the morning when I folded it up, the covering on the foam core was covered in a disgustingly dirty cover that was starting to tear from age. GI: DH was not feeling well in Antigua, but he thought it was just the mixtures of alcohol and/or foods we were eating. During the night the dinner and drinks started erupting from both ends and I immediately called the front desk that then transferred me to the nurse. As night to day duty was just changing we waited about 15 minutes for a phone call of questions and answers and then she came right up to the cabin, gave DH a shot and some Imodium and he was out for the day and night (that's how I came to sleep on the hide-a-bed). It took him about 3 days to really feel better and he only missed one port that we had previously visited last year. SERVICE: Between Jose, our butler, and Victor, our cabin steward, we were spoiled to death! Jose realized that I love iced tea and, unrequested, brought me a pitcher of it every afternoon. Victor had to really go the extra mile as DH came down with the GI and he had to deal with all the disinfection of the room, cleaning up the mess, etc. And still the two of them checked on me regularly to see what they could do for us. Their kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten. Everywhere we went the crew was kind, helpful, smiling and always happy to do something for us (even if we didn't need it). PORTS: We had already been to many of the ports last year on our Panama Canal reposition on Norwegian Pearl. Two ports were memorable for us: Guatemala—we only shopped at the 'mall' right off the ship. We had been warned not to venture out on our own and there were no excursions that interested us. Later we learned that one of our passengers had tragically been shot and killed in town, right outside of a church. Our hearts and prayers go out to this person's family. The other port was Costa Maya where we had a delightful morning shopping and then the outer bands of Hurricane Ida came. We were having lunch on the second floor of a restaurant, but with no windows we were soaked in seconds. The more it rained and blew the harder we laughed as we watched water bottles and pop cans float by us. The owner enjoyed our joy so much that he brought us each a shot of tequila, lime and salt and the slam began (I won, I might add)! So we walked back to the ship, hand in hand, singing and laughing, shoes squishing away...and a couple that was on HAL asked if they could come aboard with us and have fun too. Sorry...you missed the boat! I will also mention that in Antigua, just mere steps from the ship is a wonderful dress maker who made an evening dress for me and had it delivered to the ship before we left for under $200. In St. Thomas I found Italian made dance shoes for a reasonable price and they are like bedroom slippers, they are that comfortable. We did purchase two excursions, but one changed to an afternoon (ruins in Costa Maya) so we canceled that. In Barbados we went to the old plantation for high tea; the house was interesting although filthy, food ran out, and the bus ride was long with a preacher for a driver. I would not do this one again nor recommend it. INTERNET cafe: Usually very crowded and I got used to using the facilities late at night. During the hurricane bands around us, it was nearly impossible to connect and that was frustrating; but I'm still glad the service is available. DISEMBARKATION: Like everything else, all good things must come to an end. The good-byes are always hard, but once you've traveled as much as we have, you can honestly tell crew you will see them again and you do. It makes it a little bit easier...some laughs, some tears, but always great memories. The wait to get off the ship was long and arduous. Those that hired porters somehow got through the lines faster than the rest of us. It didn't matter as it worked out that timing put us outside just in time to see our beloved Simon Murray arriving (he was asked to work the charter that was starting) and were able to hug and chat for a bit. POST STAY: We stayed in NOLA for 2 days while awaiting Hurricane Ida which never produced herself in the area. Our first day we walked 5 blocks to Grand Isle for the most wonderful Po Boys we've ever had and the onion rings second best (only to Chicago Rib Shack in London). The streets were quiet on Monday night and most restaurants closed. Even during the day it was easy to shop and deals abounded while shopkeepers kept their ears to the radio weather reports. We stayed at the Marriott at the Convention Center on the 14th floor with a view of the river and cruise ships (Carnival Fantasy took Norwegian Spirit's place) as the Port Authority closed all traffic. It was a spectacular view and a very comfortable, affordable, conveniently located hotel. On Tuesday morning we flew to Houston (Continental), Seattle (Alaska Air) and then on to Portland (Horizon Air), arriving home by 9:00 p.m. (a long day). Thank you to the officers and crew of Norwegian Spirit. When the GI hit, even the officers pitched in to help serve meals and check on passengers—don't let anyone ever tell you that YOU don't have SPIRIT! God Speed, dear friends. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We recently cruised on the Jewel of the Seas from Boston to Western Caribbean. Our first night we were disappointed to the size of our stateroom. I had requested a table for two for dinner and on the first night we were upset to find out ... Read More
We recently cruised on the Jewel of the Seas from Boston to Western Caribbean. Our first night we were disappointed to the size of our stateroom. I had requested a table for two for dinner and on the first night we were upset to find out that not only we were seated at a table for 10 but we were the only ones sitting there. We looked like to lost souls, to top it off we were sitting next to the kitchen. We were told to speak to the head waiter who really couldn't help up but put our names on a waiting list. After 3 days we got a call in our stateroom that we had a table for two but by then it was too late we had made other reservations to Portofino and Chops which by the way were the highlight of our trip. They were very eager to please and the food was out of this world..........5 stars to these two restaurants..........we ended up spending a few bucks for the reservations but it was well worth it. The other disappointment was the ride, we hit choppy waters and my husband ended up getting sea sick for two days which ruined my vacation because he ended up in bed.................it seemed that the stabilizers were not being used ............we were on the 9th floor and the front of the ship so you can imagine we felt everything.................... The islands we visited were nice with the exception of St. Juan this stop was not necessary because not only did we waste our time going through customs but if you don't have an excursion planned the port is dirty and nothing to see. Read Less
Sail Date October 2005

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