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Bahamas Paradise Grand Celebration 1-3 September 2018 I have been on more than 30 cruises over many years, on multiple cruise lines, with varying levels of technology and age of ship. I hold elite status on Princess and Disney and know what a cruise should look like. In reading the reviews of this line I find a lot of inaccurate information some of which comes from an expectation level that is misplaced. I am trying to provide a complete review of the experience we had. We booked 9 people across 4 cabins on this cruise for a family getaway. We made our booking directly through the BPCL telephone number. We expected an economy get away on a modest cruise ship. There were high points and low points of the BPCL experience. The bottom line up front is we will probably not return to this line. The first thing to realize is this cruise line is far far behind in any kind of technology. There are many pricing structures available including Groupon and eBay. Realize unless your booking starts without a Groupon directly through BPCL, there will be additional fees like a fuel surcharge. Pre-Cruise In general I found the telephone customer service to be awful. The agents are not well trained and if you get an answer you don’t like, call back - it will change. When we booked out cruise, at full price, the agent told me they would take 50% up front and automatically bill our credit card for the balance 30 days before sailing. It was a good thing I kept track of the dates. 30 days prior I noticed they had not changed the balance to my credit card. No e-mail, no notification of any kind. I called the customer service line to find “we do not automatically take final payment any more.” When i asked if they were going to notify me the agent said “Sir if you want to keep the reservation I need a credit card right now.” Nice! This was typical of the customer service throughout the cruise. There are no tickets, no contracts, no mail, no nothing except a very poorly formatted and unprofessional looking invoice sent to e-mail. The invoice listed passengers and the cabin numbers we booked but without showing which passenger was assigned to what cabin. BPCL offers no online check in of any kind and the instructions are lacking on what the exact boarding process entails. A few days prior to the cruise we contacted customer service again to ask if Birthday celebration cakes were available. The first call we were told the only way to have a Birthday Cake was to order one 2-3 weeks prior to sailing. Since we were inside that window - sorry. We were also told it didn’t matter as the staff did not make any recognition of Birthdays onboard. The second call (3 minutes after the first) yielded an agent who said she could waive the fee for cakes and would send us a confirmation for 3 cakes (the number of people with birthdays in our group). Once onboard we needed to show that invoice to the restaurant to get the cakes. In reality, like every other line in the world, you just need to inform your waiter and they provide complimentary cakes in the restaurant. Embarkation The cruise terminal is located in a bad part of town and is not close to anything. In reality it is in Riviera Beach and not West Palm. The only parking is provided by the Port of West Palm Beach. It is valet only for $19/day. If you arrive around noon expect a 20-30 minute wait from the turn to the port to the actual valet. Once at the curb the process is very manual (like everything else at BPCL). You get in line for a porter to look up your cabin number and attach a bag tag to you luggage. DO NOT lose or remove this tag (more on that later). Each bag is weighed so take the 50 pound limit seriously. During this process I was approached by a guy who unfolded a VERY old piece of paper offering me the concierge package and telling me what in included. For only $329/per person this gem could be mine and HE would personally walk me to my cabin. No thanks!! This was the first of the up-sell experience of BPCL. A general comment here - If you arrive early before they are boarding there is really no space to wait in the terminal. The physical space is small and they are not equipped for passengers to just be waiting around. After the standard security you are directed to a table with forms. The form they have can be downloaded online. I recommend doing that and filling it out but keep reading so you don’t screw it up. The form they really want you to fill out is the credit card payment for incidentals. THIS IS CRITICAL - The person whose name is on the credit card MUST be the one at the top of the form. It doesn’t matter if you live in the same house. Doesn’t matter if you are in the same cabin. Doesn’t matter if you are married. THE PERSON ON THE CARD MUST PUT THEIR NAME AT THE TOP OF THE FORM. By the way, there are no instructions on this or anyone to help you. The best thing I can say is they had a decent space to fill out forms and enough pens. Another note. If you are in a group (like we were) you better know your cabin assignments from the initial booking call or remember it from the bag tag they slapped on the bag which is gone by this point. Not a single document ever correlates the passenger to the cabin they put you in during booking. Once the form is signed you have two options for a line. US Passport or no US Passport (unless you arrive at the end of the boarding window when they collapse the line). If you have a Passport find that line and wait. It will be quicker. There are few to no people helping during this process. There are BPCL personnel who act you you should just know their system and where to go. Once you get to the front of the line you will turn in your form and present your ID/Passport. If you are really into personal security get ready to be violated. In the check in process they will make a photo copy of your credit card and ID on a single page, then staple it to your check in form that has your address on it. After all this the agent will go away and print a cruise card, they will associate your picture with it, and you will be on your way to up-sell alley on the way to the ship. Boarding First you get the boarding shot which is standard across cruising. Second comes the shore excursion desk. At this point you are informed your destination port is 12 miles away from anything and you should really book a tour (that statement is correct). It is easier to book your excursion here because there are more people however, on the ship they haggle so you may want to go there. We eventually booked the Wyndham beach day onboard. Our group was offered a 12% discount. I went to the Shore Excursions desk several times and heard the agents offer special prices to people who were on the fence. Even during the sail away party the Cruise Director alluded to “specials and two for one deals” available from the the shore excursion desk. The agents were conveniently wandering around the pool area during sailing to solicit bookings. Third comes the dining staff. The welcoming question is “what upgraded dining package would you like?” You have to decline this to book a table reservation for one of the fixed seatings in Stellar Prime. I suggest booking a fixed seating reservation as the rush for tables in the open side of the dining room was huge and there were many bad attitudes going on over there. There are dining options included in the cruise fare but everything on the ship is driven to get you to pay for food. Unless you are at the buffet, in Stellar Prime ordering off the left side of the menu, or at the pool grill you will pay for the food you are looking at. If you have been on other lines you will find the dining up-charges high. Fourth is the bar staff. If you drink this may be a great place to stop. No all inclusive packages at BPCL - instead you buy packages which are literally ticket books in bundles of 10 for drinks. Each ticket is good for one drink up to $12 on the ship. Beware there are more expensive drinks. You prepay the tips so don’t buy more books than you will drink. In my opinion the soda package is atrociously priced and you can take a carbonation break for 2 days but if you are dying for soda they have a package. Fifth is the spa. If you want a spa service this is a good stop. They have a boarding special (20% off if I remember right) which is ONLY available at this desk. If you really want a spa service you should call customer service ahead of the cruise. We wanted a couples massage and 1.5 hours into boarding they were sold out. The agent told us you could book ahead of time with the 800 number. FINALLY - The ship…. The Grand Celebration The ship itself is a blast from the past. Originally built as the Carnival Celebration and most recently the Costa Celebration. It has been reasonably maintained and for the level of the product I would say BPCL has done well maintaining the ship. That said, realize you are walking onto an old ship that has been modified for the 2 day market. Decor is a combination of what Costa did to the ship and modest changes made by BPCL. Think less Hilton or Marriott and more Holiday Inn. In general the public spaces were nice and utilitarian. The show lounge was pretty but showed age especially at the frayed bottom of the curtain. The buffet area is OK but can get crowded. The staff does well trying to clear tables but large groups hang out here and seating can be a challenge. Be aware there are areas of the ship that are hard to find like Stellar Prime. You can only get to this dining room via the aft stairwell from above or below. Everything on the ship is adequate but shows age like the buffet dishes that are chipped. A word about elevators. This ship was designed in an age where elevators were a luxury. There are few on the ship. When you do find them they are small and slow. Realize there is not a central call button. If you want the elevator on the other side of the lobby go over to that side and push that button. If you depend on elevators for mobility this may not be your ship. There are plenty of stairs and once you learn the quirks of the design, you can find some great places onboard like the little stretches of rail on the pool deck outside the buffet. A word on smoking. BPCL has a “strict” policy of only smoking outside on the port side of the vessel. Problem is nobody explains what side that is and nobody enforces the policy. If you are outside expect smokers, ash trays, and cigarette butts. We had 4 cabins. Each was well sized and there was enough storage especially for only 2 nights. I found it funny that you could see the decal they placed over the Costa logo on the sign in the cabin to make the ship Grand Celebration. The ship map also included the old Coast names of public spaces. Another fun note was the TV in the cabin. Each cabin has an old Best Buy Insignia brand TV modified for ship use with wood screws drilled through the feet into the shelf below. There were also variances cabin to cabin. In the inside cabin there was supposed to be a curtain simulating a window. That curtain was only present in two of the three inside cabins. Climate control is old school. There is a knob on the only vent in the cabin twist one way for cold and the other for warm. In our outside cabin there was essentially no airflow out of the vent in our inside rooms (all on Deck 5) the airflow would freeze the room on full cold. We did talk to customer service. The first night they said there was a deck wide problem with the AC which wasn’t true. The second day they sent an engineer to the outside stateroom who explained the system was operating normally and the lack of airflow, while unfortunate, could not be fixed. This is an old ship with old climate systems. Take that into account when and if you book. BPCL has a history of AC problems on the Grand Celebration (feel free to Google). In general I liked being on an older, small ship. I do feel the public spaces can be overwhelmed easily and that, when full, the Grand Celebration can seem cramped. I like seeing older ships and that part of the cruise was fun. BPCL does a reasonable job of upkeep and I felt the ship was safe to sail. Dining I have seen reviews complaining there was no free food on the ship. Those claims are false. The buffet, Stellar Prime restaurant, and the pool grill (most of the time) are all included in the fare. We had varied experience with the food. One meal in Stellar Prime was great, the other was over cooked and bland. Our servers in Stellar Prime did well and we enjoyed their service. The buffet was mixed. I had a great breakfast there but the rest of the time the food was spotty. The grill at the pool was pretty good when it was serving. The pizza was universally bad. I found there to be more processed food on the menu than other ships. This is a budget product so you get what you pay for. If you choose the upgraded food options they seemed to be good but, in my opinion, expensive. In my opinion the included dining options on any ship should be good enough that you do not miss upcharge options. Freeport The ship docks in an industrial port. There is NOTHING at the port except a few vendors in a sort of straw market. It is 12 miles to any kind of tourist beach or town. The minimum you will pay is $20/ per person to and from the ship. Buying an excursion is one of the only ways to see anything. As I said previously the Shore Excursion staff haggles so there are deals. We went to the Wyndham all inclusive. It was sold as a 5 star resort. It was nice but not 5 star. The beach, bathrooms and pool were nice and clean. The food was ok and plentiful. The drinks were rail liquor but plentiful if you wanted them. One of the best parts was the narrated tour on the half hour ride to the resort. We didn’t get to use any of the water sports items due to the weather but it looked like they had a good selection of equipment. My only real complaint was my fellow passengers who went on a drunk fest and were obnoxious on the bus ride home. The tour staff handled that well andBPCL can’t control bad behavior. Entertainment Overall I think BPCL does a pretty good job in this area. There were multiple bands on the ship and a cast that did two production numbers. The Tina Turner tribute artist got high marks. We went to both production shows which were ambitious and had moments of greatness. The magician, acrobats, and comedian were high points. We also saw the comedy show on the last night which was good. Again, upsell Cruise Lines struck with a $9/ per person charge to see the comedian. Having seen any shows across many lines I would say BPCL really does a credible job booking talent and using what they have to their advantage. The production show cast worked really hard with challenging shows. If you don’t have a good time on the ship in the evening, you are in your cabin watching fuzzy cable TV on your Insignia television! Debarkation Debarkation was frustrating. The instructions for debarkation did not arrive until turn down service on night 2. In a nutshell you were supposed to be able to leave the ship at 7:30 AM if you carried your own bags off and had a US Passport. The ship was supposed to dock at 7:00 AM. There were supposed to be Cruise Staff announcements. If you didn’t carry off your bags there was a system to get off based on floor and bag tag color. That would be the bag tag nobody told you to keep attached to your bag at embarkation. We had folks with tight connects out of Fort Lauderdale and we were trying to get off early. Talking to the staff they said be on line at 6:45 AM. We did that. The line starts at the doors on the starboard side of the ship on Deck 5 by the Customer Service Desk. It extends either direction up the interior hotel hallway. If you have a room in this hallway it will be EXTREMELY noisy on the last morning as people line up outside your door. In my opinion rooms in this hallway are the least desirable on the ship for this reason. On our cruise the ship did not actually get into the dock until 8:15 AM. No announcements were made. Cruise staff were in the lobby but had no direction or explanation for the delay. The hallway became packed and passengers were not behaving well stacking up to leave. ANY information from the crew would have been helpful. I mean ANY information but nothing came. We left the ship about 8:40 AM and made it through customs quickly. The valet got our car quickly. We were told by our busboy that later in the process the customs line could get to be 2-3 hours long and the valet backed up significantly. The lack of information was frustrating but our debarkation went pretty well once we were off the ship. Overall Experience BPCL is a budget getaway. This is something you read a lot. People in reviews say you get what you pay for. I think all that is true however, BPCL gets a per day fare from each passenger that is the same or higher than main stream cruise lines like RCCL, Carnival, NCL, Holland America, or Princess. If you shop sales on the other lines you can sail for much less than the major lines. If you pay the up charges for food or cabins on BPCL, they are much more expensive per day than the major lines. BPCL is not in the same league as any of those other lines which is interesting since they are owned in part by an investor who founded NCL. The passengers on BPCL run a wide range. There are those looking for a quick getaway. There are those looking to party. There are those on their first cruise. Those looking to relive an older age of crushing. It is a varied crowd. I really hope first time cruisers do not use this as a measure of the entire industry. If you read this review and still want to go do it knowing the pitfalls and be ready. I would also recommend buying directly from BPCL. There is not enough space for me to write the bad experiences I heard from time share and Groupon customers. I will also tell you the FIRST question asked when there is any problem is “how did you book the cruise?” While I felt the cruise was safe I do have to mention the muster drill. There were announcements made for the drill but I saw no accountability. People wandered in during the drill, some appeared to never make it. That did not make me feel great and is a lower accountability level than I have seen on other lines. Everything at BPCL felt almost but not quite right. I could not help but think that ay employee of this line was not there for a career but rather as a step to the other cruise lines or because they had something in their past preventing them from being hired at other lines. We found individuals providing good service but were generally treated as a necessary evil for the employee to get paid. The entire BPCL experience was designed to get more money from us and that got tiring. On the last day we got a “typical” BPCL moment. We prepaid our gratuities which they call “housekeeping and dining fees.” We noticed on our bill a charge for the fees and a coupon representing what we prepaid. From the time we booked until we sailed they changed their “fee.” Rather than just call it even (Like Princess did for passengers when they increased their gratuities) for the people who prepaid, they made a point fo charging $2.00 extra. They also added a West Palm Port fee of $1.00 that was previously undisclosed. Is $3.00 going to kill me? No. It was a cheap move on the part of the cruise line. That is the best way to describe the entire experience. Cheap!

Up-sell Cruise Line

Grand Celebration Cruise Review by tstan65

29 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: September 2018
  • Destination: Bahamas
Bahamas Paradise Grand Celebration 1-3 September 2018

I have been on more than 30 cruises over many years, on multiple cruise lines, with varying levels of technology and age of ship. I hold elite status on Princess and Disney and know what a cruise should look like. In reading the reviews of this line I find a lot of inaccurate information some of which comes from an expectation level that is misplaced. I am trying to provide a complete review of the experience we had. We booked 9 people across 4 cabins on this cruise for a family getaway. We made our booking directly through the BPCL telephone number. We expected an economy get away on a modest cruise ship. There were high points and low points of the BPCL experience. The bottom line up front is we will probably not return to this line.

The first thing to realize is this cruise line is far far behind in any kind of technology. There are many pricing structures available including Groupon and eBay. Realize unless your booking starts without a Groupon directly through BPCL, there will be additional fees like a fuel surcharge.

Pre-Cruise

In general I found the telephone customer service to be awful. The agents are not well trained and if you get an answer you don’t like, call back - it will change. When we booked out cruise, at full price, the agent told me they would take 50% up front and automatically bill our credit card for the balance 30 days before sailing. It was a good thing I kept track of the dates. 30 days prior I noticed they had not changed the balance to my credit card. No e-mail, no notification of any kind. I called the customer service line to find “we do not automatically take final payment any more.” When i asked if they were going to notify me the agent said “Sir if you want to keep the reservation I need a credit card right now.” Nice! This was typical of the customer service throughout the cruise. There are no tickets, no contracts, no mail, no nothing except a very poorly formatted and unprofessional looking invoice sent to e-mail. The invoice listed passengers and the cabin numbers we booked but without showing which passenger was assigned to what cabin. BPCL offers no online check in of any kind and the instructions are lacking on what the exact boarding process entails.

A few days prior to the cruise we contacted customer service again to ask if Birthday celebration cakes were available. The first call we were told the only way to have a Birthday Cake was to order one 2-3 weeks prior to sailing. Since we were inside that window - sorry. We were also told it didn’t matter as the staff did not make any recognition of Birthdays onboard. The second call (3 minutes after the first) yielded an agent who said she could waive the fee for cakes and would send us a confirmation for 3 cakes (the number of people with birthdays in our group). Once onboard we needed to show that invoice to the restaurant to get the cakes. In reality, like every other line in the world, you just need to inform your waiter and they provide complimentary cakes in the restaurant.

Embarkation

The cruise terminal is located in a bad part of town and is not close to anything. In reality it is in Riviera Beach and not West Palm. The only parking is provided by the Port of West Palm Beach. It is valet only for $19/day. If you arrive around noon expect a 20-30 minute wait from the turn to the port to the actual valet. Once at the curb the process is very manual (like everything else at BPCL). You get in line for a porter to look up your cabin number and attach a bag tag to you luggage. DO NOT lose or remove this tag (more on that later). Each bag is weighed so take the 50 pound limit seriously. During this process I was approached by a guy who unfolded a VERY old piece of paper offering me the concierge package and telling me what in included. For only $329/per person this gem could be mine and HE would personally walk me to my cabin. No thanks!! This was the first of the up-sell experience of BPCL.

A general comment here - If you arrive early before they are boarding there is really no space to wait in the terminal. The physical space is small and they are not equipped for passengers to just be waiting around.

After the standard security you are directed to a table with forms. The form they have can be downloaded online. I recommend doing that and filling it out but keep reading so you don’t screw it up. The form they really want you to fill out is the credit card payment for incidentals. THIS IS CRITICAL - The person whose name is on the credit card MUST be the one at the top of the form. It doesn’t matter if you live in the same house. Doesn’t matter if you are in the same cabin. Doesn’t matter if you are married. THE PERSON ON THE CARD MUST PUT THEIR NAME AT THE TOP OF THE FORM. By the way, there are no instructions on this or anyone to help you. The best thing I can say is they had a decent space to fill out forms and enough pens. Another note. If you are in a group (like we were) you better know your cabin assignments from the initial booking call or remember it from the bag tag they slapped on the bag which is gone by this point. Not a single document ever correlates the passenger to the cabin they put you in during booking.

Once the form is signed you have two options for a line. US Passport or no US Passport (unless you arrive at the end of the boarding window when they collapse the line). If you have a Passport find that line and wait. It will be quicker. There are few to no people helping during this process. There are BPCL personnel who act you you should just know their system and where to go. Once you get to the front of the line you will turn in your form and present your ID/Passport. If you are really into personal security get ready to be violated. In the check in process they will make a photo copy of your credit card and ID on a single page, then staple it to your check in form that has your address on it. After all this the agent will go away and print a cruise card, they will associate your picture with it, and you will be on your way to up-sell

alley on the way to the ship.

Boarding

First you get the boarding shot which is standard across cruising.

Second comes the shore excursion desk. At this point you are informed your destination port is 12 miles away from anything and you should really book a tour (that statement is correct). It is easier to book your excursion here because there are more people however, on the ship they haggle so you may want to go there. We eventually booked the Wyndham beach day onboard. Our group was offered a 12% discount. I went to the Shore Excursions desk several times and heard the agents offer special prices to people who were on the fence. Even during the sail away party the Cruise Director alluded to “specials and two for one deals” available from the the shore excursion desk. The agents were conveniently wandering around the pool area during sailing to solicit bookings.

Third comes the dining staff. The welcoming question is “what upgraded dining package would you like?” You have to decline this to book a table reservation for one of the fixed seatings in Stellar Prime. I suggest booking a fixed seating reservation as the rush for tables in the open side of the dining room was huge and there were many bad attitudes going on over there. There are dining options included in the cruise fare but everything on the ship is driven to get you to pay for food. Unless you are at the buffet, in Stellar Prime ordering off the left side of the menu, or at the pool grill you will pay for the food you are looking at. If you have been on other lines you will find the dining up-charges high.

Fourth is the bar staff. If you drink this may be a great place to stop. No all inclusive packages at BPCL - instead you buy packages which are literally ticket books in bundles of 10 for drinks. Each ticket is good for one drink up to $12 on the ship. Beware there are more expensive drinks. You prepay the tips so don’t buy more books than you will drink. In my opinion the soda package is atrociously priced and you can take a carbonation break for 2 days but if you are dying for soda they have a package.

Fifth is the spa. If you want a spa service this is a good stop. They have a boarding special (20% off if I remember right) which is ONLY available at this desk. If you really want a spa service you should call customer service ahead of the cruise. We wanted a couples massage and 1.5 hours into boarding they were sold out. The agent told us you could book ahead of time with the 800 number.

FINALLY - The ship….

The Grand Celebration

The ship itself is a blast from the past. Originally built as the Carnival Celebration and most recently the Costa Celebration. It has been reasonably maintained and for the level of the product I would say BPCL has done well maintaining the ship. That said, realize you are walking onto an old ship that has been modified for the 2 day market. Decor is a combination of what Costa did to the ship and modest changes made by BPCL. Think less Hilton or Marriott and more Holiday Inn.

In general the public spaces were nice and utilitarian. The show lounge was pretty but showed age especially at the frayed bottom of the curtain. The buffet area is OK but can get crowded. The staff does well trying to clear tables but large groups hang out here and seating can be a challenge. Be aware there are areas of the ship that are hard to find like Stellar Prime. You can only get to this dining room via the aft stairwell from above or below. Everything on the ship is adequate but shows age like the buffet dishes that are chipped.

A word about elevators. This ship was designed in an age where elevators were a luxury. There are few on the ship. When you do find them they are small and slow. Realize there is not a central call button. If you want the elevator on the other side of the lobby go over to that side and push that button. If you depend on elevators for mobility this may not be your ship. There are plenty of stairs and once you learn the quirks of the design, you can find some great places onboard like the little stretches of rail on the pool deck outside the buffet.

A word on smoking. BPCL has a “strict” policy of only smoking outside on the port side of the vessel. Problem is nobody explains what side that is and nobody enforces the policy. If you are outside expect smokers, ash trays, and cigarette butts.

We had 4 cabins. Each was well sized and there was enough storage especially for only 2 nights. I found it funny that you could see the decal they placed over the Costa logo on the sign in the cabin to make the ship Grand Celebration. The ship map also included the old Coast names of public spaces. Another fun note was the TV in the cabin. Each cabin has an old Best Buy Insignia brand TV modified for ship use with wood screws drilled through the feet into the shelf below. There were also variances cabin to cabin. In the inside cabin there was supposed to be a curtain simulating a window. That curtain was only present in two of the three inside cabins. Climate control is old school. There is a knob on the only vent in the cabin twist one way for cold and the other for warm. In our outside cabin there was essentially no airflow out of the vent in our inside rooms (all on Deck 5) the airflow would freeze the room on full cold. We did talk to customer service. The first night they said there was a deck wide problem with the AC which wasn’t true. The second day they sent an engineer to the outside stateroom who explained the system was operating normally and the lack of airflow, while unfortunate, could not be fixed. This is an old ship with old climate systems. Take that into account when and if you book. BPCL has a history of AC problems on the Grand Celebration (feel free to Google).

In general I liked being on an older, small ship. I do feel the public spaces can be overwhelmed easily and that, when full, the Grand Celebration can seem cramped. I like seeing older ships and that part of the cruise was fun. BPCL does a reasonable job of upkeep and I felt the ship was safe to sail.

Dining

I have seen reviews complaining there was no free food on the ship. Those claims are false. The buffet, Stellar Prime restaurant, and the pool grill (most of the time) are all included in the fare. We had varied experience with the food. One meal in Stellar Prime was great, the other was over cooked and bland. Our servers in Stellar Prime did well and we enjoyed their service. The buffet was mixed. I had a great breakfast there but the rest of the time the food was spotty. The grill at the pool was pretty good when it was serving. The pizza was universally bad. I found there to be more processed food on the menu than other ships. This is a budget product so you get what you pay for. If you choose the upgraded food options they seemed to be good but, in my opinion, expensive. In my opinion the included dining options on any ship should be good enough that you do not miss upcharge options.

Freeport

The ship docks in an industrial port. There is NOTHING at the port except a few vendors in a sort of straw market. It is 12 miles to any kind of tourist beach or town. The minimum you will pay is $20/ per person to and from the ship. Buying an excursion is one of the only ways to see anything. As I said previously the Shore Excursion staff haggles so there are deals. We went to the Wyndham all inclusive. It was sold as a 5 star resort. It was nice but not 5 star. The beach, bathrooms and pool were nice and clean. The food was ok and plentiful. The drinks were rail liquor but plentiful if you wanted them. One of the best parts was the narrated tour on the half hour ride to the resort. We didn’t get to use any of the water sports items due to the weather but it looked like they had a good selection of equipment. My only real complaint was my fellow passengers who went on a drunk fest and were obnoxious on the bus ride home. The tour staff handled that well andBPCL can’t control bad behavior.

Entertainment

Overall I think BPCL does a pretty good job in this area. There were multiple bands on the ship and a cast that did two production numbers. The Tina Turner tribute artist got high marks. We went to both production shows which were ambitious and had moments of greatness. The magician, acrobats, and comedian were high points. We also saw the comedy show on the last night which was good. Again, upsell Cruise Lines struck with a $9/ per person charge to see the comedian. Having seen any shows across many lines I would say BPCL really does a credible job booking talent and using what they have to their advantage. The production show cast worked really hard with challenging shows. If you don’t have a good time on the ship in the evening, you are in your cabin watching fuzzy cable TV on your Insignia television!

Debarkation

Debarkation was frustrating. The instructions for debarkation did not arrive until turn down service on night 2. In a nutshell you were supposed to be able to leave the ship at 7:30 AM if you carried your own bags off and had a US Passport. The ship was supposed to dock at 7:00 AM. There were supposed to be Cruise Staff announcements. If you didn’t carry off your bags there was a system to get off based on floor and bag tag color. That would be the bag tag nobody told you to keep attached to your bag at embarkation.

We had folks with tight connects out of Fort Lauderdale and we were trying to get off early. Talking to the staff they said be on line at 6:45 AM. We did that. The line starts at the doors on the starboard side of the ship on Deck 5 by the Customer Service Desk. It extends either direction up the interior hotel hallway. If you have a room in this hallway it will be EXTREMELY noisy on the last morning as people line up outside your door. In my opinion rooms in this hallway are the least desirable on the ship for this reason. On our cruise the ship did not actually get into the dock until 8:15 AM. No announcements were made. Cruise staff were in the lobby but had no direction or explanation for the delay. The hallway became packed and passengers were not behaving well stacking up to leave. ANY information from the crew would have been helpful. I mean ANY information but nothing came.

We left the ship about 8:40 AM and made it through customs quickly. The valet got our car quickly. We were told by our busboy that later in the process the customs line could get to be 2-3 hours long and the valet backed up significantly.

The lack of information was frustrating but our debarkation went pretty well once we were off the ship.

Overall Experience

BPCL is a budget getaway. This is something you read a lot. People in reviews say you get what you pay for. I think all that is true however, BPCL gets a per day fare from each passenger that is the same or higher than main stream cruise lines like RCCL, Carnival, NCL, Holland America, or Princess. If you shop sales on the other lines you can sail for much less than the major lines. If you pay the up charges for food or cabins on BPCL, they are much more expensive per day than the major lines. BPCL is not in the same league as any of those other lines which is interesting since they are owned in part by an investor who founded NCL.

The passengers on BPCL run a wide range. There are those looking for a quick getaway. There are those looking to party. There are those on their first cruise. Those looking to relive an older age of crushing. It is a varied crowd. I really hope first time cruisers do not use this as a measure of the entire industry. If you read this review and still want to go do it knowing the pitfalls and be ready. I would also recommend buying directly from BPCL. There is not enough space for me to write the bad experiences I heard from time share and Groupon customers. I will also tell you the FIRST question asked when there is any problem is “how did you book the cruise?”

While I felt the cruise was safe I do have to mention the muster drill. There were announcements made for the drill but I saw no accountability. People wandered in during the drill, some appeared to never make it. That did not make me feel great and is a lower accountability level than I have seen on other lines.

Everything at BPCL felt almost but not quite right. I could not help but think that ay employee of this line was not there for a career but rather as a step to the other cruise lines or because they had something in their past preventing them from being hired at other lines. We found individuals providing good service but were generally treated as a necessary evil for the employee to get paid. The entire BPCL experience was designed to get more money from us and that got tiring.

On the last day we got a “typical” BPCL moment. We prepaid our gratuities which they call “housekeeping and dining fees.” We noticed on our bill a charge for the fees and a coupon representing what we prepaid. From the time we booked until we sailed they changed their “fee.” Rather than just call it even (Like Princess did for passengers when they increased their gratuities) for the people who prepaid, they made a point fo charging $2.00 extra. They also added a West Palm Port fee of $1.00 that was previously undisclosed. Is $3.00 going to kill me? No. It was a cheap move on the part of the cruise line. That is the best way to describe the entire experience. Cheap!
tstan65’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin M38
Good size and location. Storage ample. Mold around the bathroom sink and floor. Air Conditioning basic but worked well. Never met the cabin steward.