This was our 5th cruise, all on NCL. I will try to keep this report as brief as possible.
I flew down a few days early to visit with friends and relatives. MaryAnn came down the day before the cruise. No problems with the flights down.
We arrived at the port at about 10:50AM and were checked in within 12 minutes. At around 11:30 they started boarding. Our friends arrived about an hour later and had to wait in line for awhile. We walked around the ship for a bit, stopped at some of the specialty restaurants for a taste of what they had to offer, then headed over to Tsar's Palace, sat down and relaxed a bit while we waited for Fran and Phil to get all squared away. They finally arrived and we proceeded to have a very nice lunch. . By then our cabins were ready, so we headed up and were surprised to find our luggage had already arrived. We were on deck 9 in a balcony cabin. We found everything clean, plenty of ice and generally in good order. Muster drill was the normal procedure and sailaway from Miami was spectacular as usual.
I'll break down the rest of the report into categories.
We had dinners in Chin Chins, Cagney's, Le Bistro, Tango's, Mama's Italian Kitchen, and both Tsar's Palace and Azura main dining rooms. I enjoyed all but Le Bistro. I am a very fussy eater. I didn't care for the appetizer selection (mostly seafood) and I only liked 2 of the entree's offered. Nothing really hit me for dessert either. We had great service at each meal, including the main dining rooms. Service with a smile, plenty of bread refills, no problem bringing us sodas, even though we used the soda cards. We never had to wait at all to be seated. We always ate at around 8PM and there were plenty of empty tables everywhere. We heard a few complaints from people who were trying to eat at around 6PM that they had long waits, but we never experienced any of that, even on the "lobster" nights. No complaints from us.
Lunch was either at the grill by the pool or at the buffet. Poolside was the usual burgers, fries, etc. We really enjoyed the buffet this trip. Everything was hot, put out in small batches and freshly prepared. The fish and chips were great, according to my wife. There were plenty of choices and I'm sure everyone could find something to enjoy.
Because we were basically lazy and didn't want the formality of the main dining rooms, breakfast was always at the Garden Cafe, although we would sit at the Great Outdoors and head in there for refills. I don't know how some people complain about the breakfast choices. We had a different meal every day for 9 days. Everything that you could want was available at the Garden Cafe. My wife really enjoyed the Cinnabon type buns they had every day. Very decadent.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...2&d=1236571565
We developed a 5:00 o'clock crepe habit. We would stop in the Garden Cafe when we returned from shore to have a delicious, freshly made crepe with some ice cream on top. After a few days the crepes also became pizza, pasta, etc. We just needed something to hold us over for those 8 o'clock dinners.
The food was so bad I only gained 10 lbs. this cruise.
Due to the fact that we ate late every day, we didn't see too many of the shows. We caught the end of the comedian, but thought he was kind of lame. We saw the Not So Newly Wed Show. That was not too bad. Karaoke was fun but seemed to be the same people all the time. The White Hot party was fun for a while. It was mostly club type music, so after awhile it was enough for me. It was pretty well attended and everyone seemed to be having a good time.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236573502 I made my usual donation in the casino, but only walked away about $200 lighter, so that wasn't too bad. The Pool Side band was good.
On the deck
If you wanted a seat near the pool, you probably had to get out there by 8:00am. We spent sea days up at the Freestyle deck. There was a pretty good size group up there most days. No problems at all in getting a chair. We did try the waterslide a couple times. I don't think there was enough water coming down because we kept on getting stuck, but we had a lot of fun with it anyway. The pool water seemed pretty cool this year.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236573646
We had a balcony cabin on deck 9, port side. It was very nice, roomy and great to sleep with the sliding door open at night to hear the waves. Priceless. The balcony really makes the room seem bigger.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236573799
Meet & Greet
We had a very nice turnout for the M&G. We met a lot of nice people and it was great to finally meet the people who you've spent the previous 9 months talking to on-line. I think there were about 6 officers who showed up. I wrote down their names but lost the paper. There was the Captain, the hotel director, the cruise director, and a few others. We did a gift exchange, had some food and drink, and had a nice time.
Samana, Dominican Republic-I ran an excursion to Playa Rincon through Casa Dorado Tours. We had 27 people. What a beautiful beach. Round trip transportation came to $29 each, including the taxi and boat. The roads to Playa Rincon are in pretty bad shape. If the roads were paved it would probably be a 20 minute ride. As it was, it took 55 minutes to get there, counting the boat ride. Catherine from Casa Dorado was a great host, ran a very professional and efficient tour. Everyone should consider doing a tour with her.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236574624
Tortola-6 of us went to Brewers Bay. A very nice pretty beach, and not too crowded. Perfect lunch at Nicole's right on the beach. A most relaxing day.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236574750
Antigua-4 of us went to Hawksbill Resort. This was our 3rd time visiting Eden Beach at Hawksbill. There were only about 15 people on the beach. Very quiet, beautiful and peaceful.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236574893
Barbados-4 of us took a cab to Accra/Rockley Beach. Phil and I liked it a lot, but my wife didn't. There were a lot of big waves and a pretty strong undertow. MaryAnn prefers her Caribbean beaches to be calm and smooth. Says she can get plenty of waves back home in New Jersey.http://boards.cruisecritic.com/attac...1&d=1236575034
St Lucia7 of us went to Jalousie Beach with Frank Charles. He is a great tour guide and a very fun person. He also was very reasonable in his prices, considering that Jalousie is and hour and 15 minute ride from the port. We highly recommend him for any excursion in St Lucia. Jalousie Beach is probably the most beautiful beach in the Caribbean. It is situated right between the Pitons. If you never go anywhere else in St Lucia, you must go there. We rented chairs from the hotel there for $20 each, but they provide you with a beach towel, access to food and drink service and an ice cold towel to cool you down in the middle of the afternoon. Some in our party did some snorkeling there and enjoyed it very much.
Getting off the ship went very smoothly. We carried off our own luggage. We walked off about 10AM after a nice breakfast and it took us about 15 minutes to go through immigration and customs. Not bad at all.
Then the bleep hit the fan. I was told that Budget car rental had a shuttle from the port to rental office. 3 phone calls later we finally took a taxi to the office. They lied to us every time about the shuttle. Anyway we finally got the car and drove to Sunny Isles to stay with our friends. We found out a big storm was brewing back home on the East Coast for Sunday night into Monday, the day we were to fly out.. To make a long story short, our flight was the only one from Ft. Lauderdale to Newark to depart that day. But, when we arrived at the airport, a smaller plane was there than what was supposed to be. They then decided to cancel 28 passengers (For which they were overbooked), and one of them was my wife. They asked for volunteers to change their flight to another day (Wednesday or Thursday). My wife was very upset because her father was very sick at home and she just wanted to get home. As it worked out, she finally did get a seat, the last one on the plane before the gate closed. It was very nerve wracking to say the least.
All in all, we had a great trip. Luckily we haven't had a bad one yet. We bought a cruise reward for our next cruise, which we can't wait to do. NCL is a good fit for us. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Pictures are coming soon.
Great balcony makes cabin seem larger.