It's been awhile since I blogged, so I thought this trip we just finished might be a good place to start back up again.
Cruise. Yep, I went on a cruise. Those who know me may be thinking 'what? He went on a cruise? Old folks, dress codes, assigned seating?? He's senile'.
Well, partly right, crazy, not stupid. My girlfriend wanted to do something different for her daughter's school spring break. We decided on a Norwegian Cruise Line trip to the Western Caribbean and see if we liked it. Heh... WE DID NOT WANT TO GET OFF THE SHIP!!!!
This has been an amazing experience. Yes, amazing. From the food in some of the restaurants to the buffet (awesome buffet), the really nice balcony stateroom we had, to the incredible amount of stuff to do, we had a great time. My son, who was watching our house for us, said our guinea pigs were ready to pop at home, they were so fat. We are too. My motto on the ship was Eat, sleep, repeat. Many times.
Our trip, from March 27th to April 4th, was a seven day cruise to Roatan, Honduras; Belize, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. Our ship was called the Jewel. Our stateroom, a balcony mini-suite, was on deck 11, mid-ship, number 11580. Let's start with Roatan.
A small Island off the mainland, Roatan is a cool jungle type Island with dirt roads, many really nice people and awesome scuba diving sites (oh yeah, Maria and India are now both Open Water Certified Scuba Divers).
The port is a new one designed for NCL and Royal Caribbean ships to dock at for their passengers. It is actually being expanded some more to accommodate the new super ship from NCL, the Epic. As with the other ports, there is a terminal area that is just for the passengers. Really, you don't even leave the dock if you don't want to. Maria and India went Scuba diving, a 2 tank dive (means going down 2 times, each time a full tank of air) and I was left to my own devices. After walking around the shops and dock, I decided to go see the Island.
I met a cabbie who was really nice, spoke English really well and he took me on a private cab ride around the Island, telling me the history, taking me to the, as he put it, the good areas and the bad areas which the tours from the ship will not do. I was sold. Off we went to take pictures. We saw all kinds of jungle, people, nice homes, dilapidated homes, even his own house and his relatives houses.
After that, about 3 hours for 40.00US plus a tip, I went back on board, to guess what? Eat. Then waited for Maria and India to return so I can go shopping with Maria in the port shops, and get some food. Ooops, eat again. Did I mention the food was awesome? Oh yes... We had our credit card number stolen in Roatan. It was one of the only 2 shops we purchased items in. DO NOT USE A CREDIT CARD IN THOSE SHOPS.
On board again, we set sail for Belize. Not impressed with Belize at all. We went on a Cave tubing/jungle trek/Zipline tour. The jungle tour was nice. Ate some blind termites that are rather tasty and a good source of protein. When we get to the water, it is barely flowing. I had nothing but trouble staying with our group and got stuck on the bank or against rocks constantly. I was so tired from paddling and walking that I finally gave up and carried my tube the rest of the way along shore. Nothing relaxing about it. The zipline was really fun though. We did about 9 I think and the longest one had us really flying about 500 feet up. Very safe, never felt in danger at all and had a great time doing it.
We went back to port and waited in line forever for the boarding of the tenders so we could get back on ship. Boy, I was hungry. Had to eat some more. Tomorrow, Costa Maya, Mexico.
Arrived in Costa Maya to a new looking dock. No tenders here, just walk off. The port and the entire area around it had been destroyed by a hurricane several years ago and the land around the port was a wasteland. They are slowly recovering, but it just looked like crap. This was my day off. Maria and India were going on a 2 hour ride to the Kohunlich Mayan ruins for a tour of that site. They got back around 3:30 and then I met them in the Port shops area and did some shopping.
We left Costa Maya around 5:30 and headed for Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. It is NCL's private Island and there was a barbecue and two beaches for swimming and snorkeling. We stayed there until about 3:30 or so and headed to the line for the tender ride back to the ship. On board, we crashed because of the heat and sunburns India and I got. Our trip to Miami took place overnight and i awoke about 4:05 to the sound of metal banging outside. We had docked overnight and they were setting up for disembarkation. Trip over. Bummed.
On board we had a good time. Maria and I took walks everyday around decks 7 and 13. The weather was great and the wind was cooling, but strong some days. Inside, we visited the Duty free shop, the Art Gallery and the library. We had access to the Internet from my Mac and also there were workstations in the Internet Cafe across from the art being sold. We saw shows in the Stardust lounge, a Comedian, Tim Kaminsky did a great spoof of Wizard of Oz. Very funny stuff. We also saw the main show, Cirque Bijou, which was fascinating to see as they flew overhead of the lower rows of the theater. Keep in mind, this was while we were sailing. Incredible balance and strength. The last show we saw was a kind of Talent show of crew members. Some were very talented, one just plain dorky. It ended with a tribute to the staff of the ship and introductions to the Captain, Hotel Manager and Staff Captain.
Our daughter had a great time as well. She made friends first day out and we almost never saw her again. For kids there are tons of things organized, but for India and her friends, hot tubs and staying up late talking and having fun. We never once worried about her safety as there is simply too much security and literally no where to go but stay on the ship. Speaking of security... there are over 1000 cameras being recorded 24/7. Relax, let them wander on their own. They are safe.
The restaurants we ate at were the free ones like the Garden Cafe (buffet), Azura (a fancier sit down), Tsars, a real fancy looking joint, and the surcharge ones like Tepanyaki in Chin Chin (classic Japanese steakhouse with a chef show at your table), Cagney's (steakhouse, we were not impressed), Blue Lagoon and Tango's (both sit downs, Tango's food was amazing Mexican fare), and of course barbecues on the pool deck after we leave each port.
All in all, for a first time cruise, we loved it. Seeing Miami the last day (7 days total) was a little depressing and we kept saying we wished we could stay on board. If you have never cruised before, consider NCL before the others. If you choose the Jewel, you will be very pleased by the efficiency and friendliness of the staff, the great food, even in a buffet restaurant and the variety of things to do on sea days. Next up for us? Well, we like the look of the Epic, so we have already booked our next Spring Break trip on that monster. Can't wait!!!
11580 was a very nice room. Clean, well kept and stocked. Bathroom was nice as it had a tub and an enclosed toilet area. Water flowed well and was hot all the time when needed. Balcony could have used a table and 2 loungers, but one was sufficient. The bed was comfortable, but the fold out bed our girl slept on was very hard and she said it was uncomfortable. Good storage, we actually had an entire closet near the balcony that we never used.
However... It is right below the kids area on deck 12. We heard them pounding away up there and running in the hallway in that area, so be warned, there is thumping most of the day while they play. We were not in the room enough for it to bother us, but others may think it was too much. Nights were very quiet though.