My husband and I took the cruise together from 12/19-12/26/2009. Overall we had a very nice time, but in some ways we had to make the best of it as the service of a large number of the staff was not good at all.
Embarkation was rough. We could not get into our cabins immediately and had to take our carry on luggage with us to lunch. The service for lunch in the Grand Pacific was extraordinarily slow and I did not get all of the food I ordered. The food we got was very good. Our key cards worked fine as key cards, but not for the onboard account and when we went to the desk to get them fixed, both my husband and I were chastised about putting them near magnets which neither of us did. The cards didn't work from the moment we got them. The first night was rough. The seas were very rough (which I know no one can control) and many people got sea sick. It took the staff until the next day to put out vomit bags and by then everyone was fine. My husband and I didn't sleep very well that night due to the high waves.
The first sea day was nice. We did a wine tasting and a beer tasting. The wine tasting was not very good. The sommelier was knowledgeable, but the location was overflow dining for the Garden Cafe so we had a hard time hearing about the wines over the crowd. The beer tasting was a lot of fun. The bartender was excellent and we all had a good time and they were pretty generous with the beers. We also went to the art auction where we enjoyed a free glass of champagne and saw some great paintings. Most were well over our budget point. We ate in the La Cucina restaurant which was a specialty restaurant with a $10 additional cover. The food was excellent.
The second day was spent in the Orlando area. We took the shuttle to Historic Cocoa Village and did some shopping. Unfortunately on Monday a good number of the stores were closed which was unfortunate. We did buy some excellent Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from a shop called From Grapes and Olives. We ate dinner in Teppanyaki back on the ship which was another speciality restaurant and probably one of the best ones on the ship. There was $25 cover charge per person, but it was a good show and good food.
We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip. We ate this night at Le Bistro where we both had the duck which was excellent. This really was an excellent place to eat and I would go there again.
Then we did go to Nassau where we participated in the stingray adventure which was pretty neat. The island we went to for the stingray show was quiet and sunny and we had a lovely day. We would have liked to have more time in the Bahamas than in Florida. We ate in another specialty restaurant-Orchid Garden, which was okay. It isn't worth the cover charge and I don't recommend it.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we were told we could not get dinner reservations until after 9 PM. This was not entirely true. We were frustrated by this fact because we were told we could not make a reservation until the day before. My husband went as soon as the reservation desk was open and they were booked. He can be very persuasive and got us a 6:30 reservation at Teppanyaki for Christmas Eve, but we were still going to have to wait until 9:00 for Cagney's on Christmas Day.
Christmas Eve Day was a fun day at sea. We had a martini tasting at Shaker's Bar which was another great time with the head bartender. They are very generous with the alcohol and we really enjoyed ourselves. We also bought a painting at the art auction (no more champagne though) and ate at Teppanyaki again.
Christmas Day at sea was not very much fun. There were very few activities scheduled that were of interest to us (as you can tell-tastings and art). They had game shows and Bingo and a toga party-none of which suited our interests. It was too cool to sit outside and read and we were left with nothing to do. We did have brunch at Le Bistro which was again excellent. We took a long nap and prepared for our late dinner at Cagney's. We met some friends for drinks before and we spoke to the manager and got into dinner an hour earlier than our reservation. The food at Cagney's was good-not as good as Le Bistro though. Our friends ordered prime rib and it was tough. I had lamb chops which were also rather tough and a little overcooked, but overall the food was good. Dessert was delicious. Cagney's also has a $25 cover charge per person.
Throughout the cruise we also ate at Grand Pacific and the Garden Cafe and Blue Lagoon for breakfasts and lunches. We never went to the Magenta because it was always insanely crowded. They do have a sign board posted everywhere which indicates how crowded each restaurant is at all times which is helpful. The food at Grand Pacific is good but the service is terrible. It is slow and some servers are truly rude and unpleasant. The food at the Garden Cafe is okay-it is a buffet. Eating after 8 AM will mean a long wait and overcrowding. About halfway through our cruise they started serving people at the buffet which was annoying as we had to wait in long lines to eat. We also typically got up for the early breakfast at 6:30 which they stopped providing without notice. The Blue Lagoon service was good sometimes and awful sometimes and slow always. The food there is okay. Coffee on the ship was consistently good wherever we ate.
We then ended up at Great Stirrup Cay which is NCL's private Island. If you go, stay on the boat. We did enjoy parasailing, but honestly it wasn't really worth the trouble of leaving the boat. The guides did a great job and were very entertaining, but they were not shy about asking for their tips!
We had to take a tender boat from the boat and it took hours to get everyone off the boat who wanted to get off. We were in the "first come first serve" line for tickets when it opened and we still ended up on the fourth boat out. I do not know how others snatched up the better tickets. The food for the island barbecue was cold and terrible and the island was insanely crowded. Getting back on the boat was even more difficult. We were given no instructions other than to wait until the boat was docked, but since we sat down below there was no way to tell when it was docked. It was a very uncomfortable trip.
Right next to the front stairs on deck ten.
Choices of where to visit were limited to Disney and NASA and Cocoa Beach. We chose to go to Cocoa Village which was a quiet place to shop. I am glad we did not choose Cocoa Beach because the temperature was in the 60's! We had a nice time shopping, though we were disappointed that a lot of the shops were closed on a Monday. We got some great Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar from a shop called from Grapes and Olives.
The tour guide on our bus was terrible and had very little knowledge of the area. I would have preferred if she had just not talked at all.
Then we did go to Nassau where we participated in the stingray adventure which was pretty neat. The island we went to (Blackbeard's Cay) for the stingray show was quiet and sunny and we had a lovely day. We were able to snorkel with the stingrays, feed them and hold them if we chose. They were very friendly and one swam between my feet and they swarmed all over us when we got the fish to feed them with. We would have liked to have more time in the Bahamas than in Florida.