We found a decent deal on this voyage, most likely because of the closure of the Cuba itinerary. At the last minute NCL was forced to change its Cuba run to a sad Nassau run. We figured the destination wasn’t as important to us as a ... Read More
We found a decent deal on this voyage, most likely because of the closure of the Cuba itinerary. At the last minute NCL was forced to change its Cuba run to a sad Nassau run. We figured the destination wasn’t as important to us as a getaway in the sun and some time to unplug and relax. Sadly, NCL is all about keeping the 20-somethings happy, drunk and “energized.” And NCL nickles and dimes you to death. What started as a $1200 package (with balcony upgrade and insurance due to an ailing family member) turned into a MUCH more expensive weekend. But worse, there was NOTHING relaxing about this ship.
First, I considered the open bar to be a nice idea. We could sip a few pink drinks with paper umbrellas as we enjoyed the sun by the pool, in the Caribbean sun and vibe, right? Great idea. Not even close. The evening we began the journey, the college-aged boys began doing the contest drinking by the pool, standing at the edge, flexing and trying to spontaneously elicit cheers from the crowd as they chugged enormous amounts of drinks from long beer-bong type things. Vomit ensued in various parts of the ship (of course). Later, they crawled off to various cabins which improved things.
Additionally, you are given way-overpriced options to upgrade your beverages the first day. $30 per person per cabin per day to include top shelf booze, unlimited energy drinks (think-really drunk, hyper caffeinated frat boys) and unlimited bottles of water. Also half way decent wine with dinner instead of super cheap wine. Ok, I thought it might be worth it for the wine, and for me since I planned on having a few drinks. Unfortunately we both were required. So $60 per day. It was Friday evening with a Monday early am disembarkation. That meant either $180 since Monday isn’t at sea, right? Check your bill. $240 was added to ours. Leaving at 7:30 am means you don’t even get a mimosa with breakfast, and if you did, it would be a $30 mimosa.
The facilities were quite nice. The pool was salt water which was really lovely once the large children calmed down a bit. The sensation of buoyancy in the water on the gently rocking boat was very soothing and enjoyable. Also, the ship was overhauled last year in preparation for being used for travel to Cuba. Sadly the current administration cut that off, so now they have a really nice ship being used for booze cruises, typically reserved for older ships. The dining haul is spotless, the rooms were nice and clean and service was decent including turn down service. Lock your valuables in the safe though. I “lost” a diamond ring I left on the small tray by the coffee pot. I should have remembered to put it in the safe...my bad. But the ship resisted having someone come to investigate. The ring was not a favorite and not terribly expensive. I didn’t want anyone to lose their job, so I just took the loss. I should have put it in the safe.
Dinner in the main dining room was nice. Being early diners, we were able to receive window tables two of three nights. The food was good but not stellar. We sent back cold appetizers and received luke warm appetizers, and had issues with the temp of our steaks. But the steaks themselves were very tender when they were cooked properly. No lobster or higher end seafood which is a bummer on a Caribbean cruise. There are a couple fish dishes but they looked unappealing. Deserts were better than Royal Caribbean or Carnival offerings. The wines with the upgraded beverage plan were decent-to-good $40-$50 bottles at normal retail, though the prices they listed them at on the menu were nonsense. Service was very nice and wait staff was quite attentive.
You will need to future out how to find out about ship activities each days. The announcements were barely audible, so no help there. The brochures were hit or miss. We found out late that picture night was night two. That’s ok, they cost too much anyway.
The private island had the chance to be great. As it was it was just good. The water was nice and the snorkeling was good, as long as the sun stayed out. When the sun goes behind clouds it is hard to see the beauty of the coral and fish. When the sun is out and you get right up to the rocks, the colors are lovely. Not Great Barrier Reef lovely, but definitely worth the effort, if not the $30 leaky mask. I would recommend this one, but if you can, bring your own mask and snorkel, save the money and enjoy the experience a bit more. You snorkel immediately where the ship lets you off so it would be easy to bring your own gear. Sadly, there were Norwegian Cruise Lines plastic cups scattered throughout the reef.
Nassau is a terrible destination. The smell is of baking urine and regret. You are hassled mercilessly for money from the moment you step off the ship. Taxis, scooters, tours, horse and buggy rides (we took one, supposed to be 25 minutes, barely 10) and everything else you can imagine. You will feel abused after an hour on the island. The straw market is another place where you will be accosted and robbed for every penny you can be convinced to depart with. Skip it all and head to a beach. You will over pay for the taxi but overpaying once is better than being panhandled continually.
By noon we were ready to get back on the ship. But this was the absolute worst part of the cruise for me, and it negatively colored every bit of the rest of the experience. And it was fully within this ship’s ability to correct, which made it even more infuriating. We decided to go hang out and relax by the pool and enjoy the sun, a drink or two, and some much-needed down time. Most of the 20-somethings were still sleeping off bad hangovers or on the island. The crowd was older. But the buffoon playing “music” by the pool was quite full if himself and his talent. The loud, thrumming techno-dance vibe garbage he was “playing” at 100% full volume was suitable for a night club I suppose, but certainly not for the atmosphere of an afternoon by the pool in the bahamas. He did something to older and newer songs to make them all exactly this very high intensity, mind-numbing beat, and every two or three songs, escalated them into a ramp up of a high wail. It was absolutely the equivalent of Dante’s 7th level of hell. In fact, if I do end up in hell, this will be the soundtrack. There was no escaping it. The only way you would see people letting go of the deck chairs they reserve all day is by playing this garbage. People would come, lay down, put things over their heads, put on headphones, move further away, and finally leave. It was outright maddening. Keep in mind that on a Friday - Monday cruise you really only have two full days to relax in the sun. NCL snuffed out one of those days completely by letting the soundtrack of the tilt-a-whirl at the Mall parking lot carnival rule the atmosphere. The “cruise director” should be keel hauled for allowing it. It really ruined the entire day, and thereby ruined fully half the cruise. Frankly, all the other things that were annoying paled in comparison of rendering the pool unusable by the audio assault. It was that bad. It was definitely not “high-energy” as was obviously being attempted. It was “near-death.”
After two hours of trying to extract enough vitamin D to overcome my plummeting mood, we gave up and went inside. With little else to do, we retreated to our cabin and read a book. Yay. What an incredible waste of a day and money.
RCL, you have the opportunity to turn a sad issue of a reconfigured itinerary into a decent experience. Nassau is awful but that can’t be fixed. Lose the “all you can possibly consume and then vomit back up” booze fest. Improve the dining room menu slightly, improve overall communications, and for God’s sake lose the souped-up Mazda beater car on steroids sounds going on by the pool. A little bit of effort to upscale the event itself would turn the frat party booze cruise/vomit fest into an experience that could be enjoyed by all, including those who don’t slug a round, belch loudly, high five and chest bump.
Next cruise for me is back to another line. Read Less