The lines, noise and crowds were terrible. For example, the organization of the immigration clearance in Miami was terrible and unforgivable. We shuffled in line for an hour and a half, for no reason, to get to the immigration desk. I calculated about 400 people in the queue in the main bay alone. Why, when they were only processing about five people per minute? Why run a line from the Tropicana aft roomt to the forward lobby, to the outside deck, and aft to the gangway before even getting off the ship? We could have stayed in our cabin or a lounge for an hour and a quarter and then had a leisurely walk to the immigration desk without compromising the process at all.
I understand that nothing could be done about getting back aboard before the Coast Guard gave permission, but at least there should have been enough seats in the waiting area. Instead many had to stand or sit on the floor. And food and beverages would have been nice since we were stuck there from mid-morning until mid-afternoon.
The noise in the atrium was often so loud that we couldn't enjoy our meal in O'Sheehans.
The first show we went to in the theater was so loud that we left after a few minutes. I never went to another, although my wife did another and stuck her fingers in her ears for the duration.
At dinner in the Tropicana room, where we had an excellent waitress, the band started and we rushed dessert to get away. From then on we went a half hour earlier. Later a friend gave us earplugs which we kept close at hand for the rest of the cruise and used frequently.
And we had to stand in line so frequently that we stopped going to many places on the ship because they weren't worth the aggravation.
Tropicana, O'Sheehans and the buffet were our favorite dining places, but we had to arrive early to be assured of getting a seat without standing in line.
The best part of the on-board experience were sea days when I could sit in the quiet of our cabin or on the balcony and read in peace, but for that I could have stayed home, turned off the phones and saved many thousands of dollars.
Our cabin steward, Mohammed, was excellent. Riu Liu at table 117, our waitress in the Tropicana, was outstanding! And the Maitre’d accommodated us by sending us straight there when we arrived at the desk.
The captain was also very good, but we were annoyed that when he gave his daily briefings we couldn't hear them in any public spaces because of the noise; even the crew failed to give him the respect he deserved. If the cruise director was running something in the atrium he kept going through the entire briefing.
Our shore excursion on Bermuda was a poor experience. Our catamaran snorkel was cancelled at the last minute, supposedly due to engine problems. A friend greased the palm of an excursion director on the pier to get us onto the Rising Sun, which was then overcrowded. And the crew played music so loud that our ears were ringing. Later we heard that the cancellation wasn’t due to an engine problem at all – there was a golf tournament on the island that was more interesting to the crew.
We went with a friend who is handicapped – two artificial knees, two artificial hips and two artificial shoulders. When we were stuck in long lines he asked for a wheelchair and was sometimes told there were none available. Then we would see staff pass us pushing someone in a wheelchair. And they were always pushed to the head of the line in comfort while the rest of us had to stand. There should be enough wheelchairs available that they can stay in their place in the queue. Then perhaps there wouldn’t be so many asking for them.
On my tour of the Normandy invasion beaches (The best and most worthwhile part of the whole experience) there was a problem; my tour bus left Colleville Sur Mer without me, although I got to the parking lot with six minutes to spare. Fortunately there was another Norwegian tour bus still there on which I hitched a ride to the next stop. There our guide apologized profusely and said that she had counted three times. She should have counted four times.
Although good efforts were made to prevent the spread of coughs and colds, they were rampant anyway. Everywhere we went there were people coughing around us. And we often saw crew members enter the buffet area bypassing the hand sanitizers.
A niggle - To connect to the internet requires entering "logon.com." To get off requires entering "logout,com." Not logon/logoff or login/logout. The first time I used it I did logon/logoff and turned off my tablet, which used the entire 240 minutes. It was graciously restored but only after standing twenty minutes in line at the Internet Cafe desk.
And another annoyance - it seemed like were solicited several times daily to spend additional money - buy a raffle ticket, play bingo, buy a schlocky piece of so-called art. It was unseemly.
Overall the experience was not the relaxing vacation I had hoped for. Instead the outstanding memory is of standing in lines and crowds with a constant dim beating my eardrums to a pulp. This was our first cruise, although we’re in our early ‘70s. After this experience it was almost certainly our last.
In my weakened state while composing that into the Norwegian cruise survey website I forgot this event, which was one of the highlights of the trip. You can’t make this up:
I always carry a knife or two – my little Buck pocket knife and my big Buck lock-back. Not wanting to be without them for an extended time I checked Norwegian’s forbidden items list, where it says that knives with a blade longer than four inches are prohibited. My lock-back has a three and a half inch blade, so they both went into our checked baggage along with my Victorinox McGyver tool. (And I did use all of them several times on the cruise.) All went well for the first few days from Copenhagen to Rotterdam.
In Rotterdam the rest of our party took a tour while I went on a quest walking around the port looking for some Limburger cheese. No joy, but I had a swell time wandering around the harbor area, talking to a nice lady walking her dog, studying some old boats tied up along the quay, and watching the re-provisioning of the ship.
Getting back aboard is like going through airport security – jackets and metal items into a basket for the x-ray, and a walk through the metal detector. I tossed my knives into the tray and walked through. On the other side a security guy grabbed the lock-back and asked “This yours?” “Yeah” I said, reaching for it. “I’ll have to keep it. It’s prohibited.” he said. I calmly told him that it wasn’t, that it had a three and a half inch blade and knives were prohibited only if the blade was longer than four inches.
After running around that fencepost for a while he explained that the ship has its rules, but we were in the Port of Rotterdam, which has its own rules, and the big Buck was prohibited. I asked that, if it was prohibited in the port, why would it be confiscated on leaving the port instead of on entry. And if he’d give it back I’d be out of the port and on the ship in a few seconds. He could even walk to the gangway with me and turn it over there. No good. He said that he’d turn it over to ship security, who would bring it to my cabin in short order. “What’s your cabin number?” I gave it to him, gave up, went on board to our cabin and read a few chapters.
No knife, so I went searching for Security. Finding that it’s on Deck Four I got on the elevator and pushed Four. The light went back out. Deck Four is crew only, so I went to Deck Five. At the stairways there are two sets of stairs going down to either side of a landing, and one set between them going from the landing to the next deck. There was a fat blue rope across the right side, but the left side was open, so I went down that way and wandered around a while. A crew member asked what I was doing there and I said “Looking for Security.” He opened a door for me and pointed the way. I knocked on the door several times but got no answer. Then I noticed a sign with a phone number. I found a phone and called, and finally learned that my knife was at the security station on the boarding deck. But then I was locked in the bowels of the ship. Finally a crew member came by and asked what I was doing there. “Trying to get out.” I said, and he unlocked a door for me.
At the security station I told the officer that I was there to get my knife. “What cabin number?” He picked up an envelope with my cabin number on it and tore it open. My razor-sharp knife was in the flimsy business envelope with the blade open! I said “That’s no way to handle and store a knife!” He said that they couldn’t get it closed. Rolleyes. I closed it for him. He told me that I couldn’t have it on board, and he had to keep it until the end of the cruise when I would get it back. “Nonsense! It’s allowed by your own rules! Knives with a blade longer than four inches are prohibited, but this has a three and a half inch blade. Should I get my copy of the rules from my cabin? Do you have a measuring instrument? We’ll get this straightened out real quick.”
Finally he said that he’d have to get his supervisor, which eventually happened. After running around the same fencepost for a while with him he told me that he had to keep it because it was “scary looking.” “Scary looking” became the catch phrase among us for the rest of the cruise. Finally I gave up and told him that he could keep it but I wanted a receipt. He said that was no problem and told his Minion to write out a receipt. Minion said that he had no receipts, and was sent off to get a book.
While waiting I mentioned that I had seen in the Daily Freestyle that very morning that bringing food or dairy products aboard was prohibited, but there were vendors in the terminal selling wheels of Gouda to the passengers. He said that he’d checked that out and decided to allow it because this was Rotterdam and, after all, Gouda is a Dutch institution, so the cheese was more like a souvenir.
“So at your discretion you allow a specifically prohibited food dairy product on board, but confiscate a specifically allowed knife because it’s Scary Looking?” “Well, yeah.” So we chatted pleasantly for a while. When Minion returned and started writing a receipt the officer said “Forget it.” and handed my knife back on the promise that I wouldn’t take it ashore any more. And for the rest of the cruise I had fun telling the story.
To leave the ship one presents a key card which is scanned, causing a “Beep,” and putting a picture of the face of the passenger on the screen. The security officer looks at the picture, the face, and hands the card back. Getting back on uses the same process. I didn’t notice it, but my wife said that every time I presented my card on boarding, the terminal said “Beep-boop,” but everyone else just got the “Beep.” She claimed that I was a marked man, and Big Brother was watching me. Maybe so.
Then, to add very expensive injury to the insult, although it was on the dresser the day before, my McGyver tool was missing from our cabin when my wife was packing to leave. The knives were in my pockets and made it into a suitcase, but they were gone when we got home. That’s over a hundred dollars of hardware I’ll never get back.
Reasonable size considering, clean, well laid out. Convertible couch not very comfortable. Could not get the minibar emptied. Better reading lights over the bed and the couch would be nice.
Spent four hours in the Churchill War Rooms Museum. Could have spent more but had to meet the rest of our cruise friends. Then we went to Buckingham Palace which was ho-hum - just a big building.View All 15 London On Your Own Reviews
Best part of the whole cruise for a history buff. Put a lump in my throat. Never before understood the enormity of the invasion, or the huge distance from the low tide line of Omaha Beach to the foot of the bluffs, or from there to the top of the bluffs. About a mile total to my eyes.View All 75 D-Day Beaches Reviews
Went to Blarney Castle. Interesting, but the best part was the free Irish Coffees in one of the souvenir shops. Bus driver gave me two tickets, and one of my group gave me his unused ticket. Three got me mellow enough to enjoy the tour somewhat. Needed a toilet desperately by the time we got back to the pier. Had to double-time to a hotel in town. Why aren't there porta-pots near the boarding line when it can take an hour to get back on board?
Original boat cancelled about an hour before we were supposed to board. A friend gave a tour director on the quay a twenty dollar bill to get us onto the Rising Sun, which was then overcrowded and a dozen or so had to stand. Crew played music so loud our ears were ringing. Snorkeling was poor - one turtle, four species of fish and lots of brown fuzzy rocks. Had better snorkels in freshwater lakes.View All 117 Snorkeling Reviews