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Sail Date: March 2019
My wife and i felt like a mini-vacation for some R&R was needed so a cruise popped into our head as a good idea-- we wanted something short so as not to miss too much work, that was not so expensive, and that was different (through ... Read More
My wife and i felt like a mini-vacation for some R&R was needed so a cruise popped into our head as a good idea-- we wanted something short so as not to miss too much work, that was not so expensive, and that was different (through we'd been on cruises occasionally in the past). This cruise perfectly fit the bill! This cruise was supposed to include a stop at Great Stirrup Cay (GSC), NCL's private Bahama lsland, for a day of beach and local activities with a cookout, drinks, and relaxation in general. We even got there after two days of sailing, dropped anchor, and prepared to exit the ship to board the tender. But the Captain announced there were swells east of the island that would cause difficulty and safety issues (make getting back to the ship from the tenders difficult). So at literally the last minute he canceled the visit and announced we would go to Freeport 5 hours away, dock, and have much more limited time on the ground there. Too bad, and a few hours in Freeport really wasn't worth it. Still, it was understandably the right thing to do in cancelling GSC. We got to Freeport about 1:30pm but sat in the harbour for more than 90 minutes waiting to dock, leaving a little over four hours on the ground Freeport. So this was a great cruise, but really one to no where--we got off (and got hassled and hustled) and did some straw market shopping and got right back on. Enough of that--nice try NCL...not your fault. The promotions offered by NCL were superb--and smart business. For example, we got 100 minutes internet, ultimate beverage package, shore excursion credit, and a free meal in a specialty restuarant. The 100 minutes is great to have if you don't need to keep much on contact with home but need to check in--setting the phone up for "wi-fi calling" made it snap and saved a lot of money. The wi-ft signal onboard was also awesome--I was suprised (though directions for getting on were spotty and incomplete). Needing to check in a couple times a day with home, we bought the unlimited wi-fi package and it was handy to have throughout the trip--and worked very well after toying with our phone settings for a while to get it to work. The drinks package; obviously this is what most people want to take advantage of. About $85 a day give or take, but you have to pay about 20% of up front gratuities. So my wife and I normally would maybe drink one or two drinks a day, if that, but we paid abotu $75 each over four days for the gratuities--yup, the package would normally be over $400 apiece...not worth it to us. So, they made money on us clearly by giving us the drinks package and making us pay the gratituity...made more money here had they not offered it "free." At the same time, we did come up with reasons to drink 3-5 drinks per day on average. So if you are in it to party, or to drink a lot of soda and juice along with beer, wine, and booze, the value of this promo goes way up. The package covered drinks up to $15, and one is allowed to get two at a time per plan. However, it does not cover specialty coffees like expressos or fraps or bottled water. Too bad. That would get more people to buy it. It also does not cover room service drinks or anything at all in the stateroom minibars. The "Specialty Dining Package" promo is only for one night, and while I may have missed it, this wasn't clear until I called a cruise rep. That said, we also added the 3-meal package for two and dined in Le Bistro, Moderno, Cagney's and La Cucina--a specialty restaurant each night. Maybe overkill, but from a past NCL cruise, we also like quality over the ever-present high quanities food offered in other on-board restaurants (although make no mistake, the portions are huge and short one one entree, they will bring you as much of anything else as you'd want). The food in the specialty restaurants was all very well presented, and very tasty, with great table service. As for what to do onboard other than eat and drink to excesses, I'll first offer some context on my wife and I, as this is important to address entertainment from our point of view and why we chose what we did, including the suite that we did. We are both professionals, upper middle income, in our 50s, with me also being retired military; we both have traveled extensively all over the world. We live in in the Tampa, Florida area, own a pool home, and pretty much like to get out and see and do all there is. Living in Tampa is already close to paradise, so we don't need pools, parties, and beaches on vacation. Also at our age, we like to chill with the option of doing so with or without the crowds the top deck cruise ship pools, and don't really need to be in the middle of a big party or pre-planned event to have a good time. But we do like having the opportunity to be in the mix now and then, as well as take in some other onboard activities or shows--and we did. Which gets to why picked the suite we did and why it was so perfect for us (i'll get to that later). As for onboard entertainment on this trip, there were a variety of shows, with "Angels" (acrobatic performers) being the best. I really wasn't extremely impressed with the music featured but it was okay. We know that Blue Man Group left NCL a while back, and had heard that Legends performed on the Pearl. Well, to our disappointment, not on this cruise and nothing was said about it. Nonetheless, there are plenty of classes and interest groups and theme parties and things to do. Oh yeah, we typically go to bed fairly early but are up at 5 am. So after the first night, I realized I'd forgotten to bring any ear plugs about the time the band two floors away started their finale at 1 am, or when whatever was happening the theater two floors below kicked off late in the pm. But the NCL staff was great in setting us up withearplugs for next nights. Of course, we enjoyed so much of the ship's amenties between 6am and 12pm while so many passengers were still in the rack from a good time the night before. So all worked out great. Most important we learnd is to check the "Freestyle Daily" that comes out the night before and offers all the activities and important announcments of the next day. They delivered it to our suite and left it on the bed at "room turndown" and about Day 3 it was clear to study it carefully to be best prepared for meals and shows and other events, many of which can change. it would be great if this were emailed to gain familiarity in the days before the cruise, and certainly the night before we set sail. Our most recent cruise was out of Barcelona and it was no surprise to us the ship's superb crew was comprised heavily of people from Asia and Europe. That is, all of their nametags had the Country where they from also listed; but no matter the origin they worked as a team to provide a very high level of service. So it was interesting to note this crew sailing out of Tampa was simimlar in composition, with a few folks we met being from Central and South America but again mostly Asia and Europe. For the officers, I noted the ship's Captain was from Italy, though there were some Australia and USA folks mixed in there too; the bottom line is this was a very diverse crew committed to what they are doing, and they all did it very professionally each day. The Norwegian Pearl is neither the largest nor among the smallest of ships, and of course, the amenities are named identically in many cases (i.e., restuarants and bars). However, compared to a larger ship like the Epic that holds more than thousand more passengers than the Pearl, most venues aboard are smaller. The breakfast buffet at the Garden Cafe with made-to-order omelets and a very wide variety of other hot and cold foods will suit anyone's tastes. Th Great Outdoors and Sky High Bar were great places for drinks. The Garden Cafe was a good choice for lunch--though I'd suggest they offer at least four pots stickers and two egg rolls as a starter. Yes we could order more if needed, but it did seem a bit little. We didn't care for the pizza in the Garden Cafe and the "Mexican Lunch" buffet was a disappointment, but the food overall in the complimentary eating places was just fine. The Moderno salad bar was excellent, but some of the meats seemed a little "recycled" or hanging around as there were not many guests when we went at 6pm. It is certainly "the place" if you are into eating large quanties of meat. Cagney's Steakhouse for dinner was good in most cases. However, we noted our ribeye steaks had less marbeling than normal, and were not as tender and expected and that we'd normally seen in the past. Le Bistro and La Cucina were both excellent, and the service in all places was outstanding. Mary Ann. The ship was clean (except around 9560 or so there were clearly a couple of staterooms close for sewage problems...bad smell walking through there every time). The entire crew was always pleasant...they were good at what they do and seemed to take great pride in their jobs. So what was best? The suite, and I'll explain that. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
Very unmemorable cruise event. Overcrowded pool and hot tubs. We didn't;t get in pool or hot tubs as seemed at risk for germs with side by side throngs of people really-really drinking. Ship decor-tired; food in restaurants was ... Read More
Very unmemorable cruise event. Overcrowded pool and hot tubs. We didn't;t get in pool or hot tubs as seemed at risk for germs with side by side throngs of people really-really drinking. Ship decor-tired; food in restaurants was average but low quality in buffet dining room as was always cold (if supposed to be warm); desserts and breakfast rolls 100% pre-packeaged, dried-out, cardboard-like and high sugar-fat content. fresh fruits were good. Stopped at Freeport as was unsafe to ferry to original stop. Freeport was a dreadful, depressing collection of dirty shops desperate for tourists to buy any type of junk. There was nothing we wanted to buy and absolutely nothing to see in the tiny area in which we were let out in. Such a disappointment and cruise-line did nothing to make it better like a champagne toast or absolutely anything.Cruise-line very intent on selling anything and everything (art, jewels,casino...) Norwegian typically has really good entertainment but only one evening was really special-rest so-so. Do not recommend this ship at capacity; only recommend sit-down restaurants and really think not a memorable vacation experience. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
My sister in law and brother treated my husband and myself to this cruise, we were. Ot told about the trailer park boys and there groupies being in the ship. They had multiple restraints and lounges closed for private events. We were not ... Read More
My sister in law and brother treated my husband and myself to this cruise, we were. Ot told about the trailer park boys and there groupies being in the ship. They had multiple restraints and lounges closed for private events. We were not able to go to the island due to weather they said, we went to Freeport which was awful they stayed from three oclock to eight o'clock. We lost out on our excursions. I was not impressed with the buffet Nd I didnt even know who my steward was . The safe broke.. should I go on. The bed was hard no room to get into the bed . The noise was out of control could not sleep.i think they need to offer something to the passengers that were not with the trailer park boys since we lost out on alot of experiences. Oh and the pot smoking was out of control. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
I am a veteran when it comes to cruising. I have done over 20. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland. This was my first and last on Princess. This ship was supposed to be refurbished but our bathroom smelled moldy. I have to steam and ... Read More
I am a veteran when it comes to cruising. I have done over 20. Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Holland. This was my first and last on Princess. This ship was supposed to be refurbished but our bathroom smelled moldy. I have to steam and use fabreeze to try and fix the smell. I had heard that the service was ok in the beginning and tapers off towards the end of the cruise. That was exactly what happened. By day 4 the waiters in the Buffet areas were down right rude. I always pre-paid gratuities but this was the first time I had to fight myself not to have them taken off. This cruise closes down at midnight, no bars open, disco was dead and only played music from 60-80s. Bingo was over priced and the host talked non stop. It took over an hour to play 4 games. Only one live show in 5 days. The shore excursion desk took us to tender then told us to walk to dolphin encounters. They cut it so close , we never had time to shop. I was offered free play on my next cruise but I tore the paper up. I won’t ever go on princess again. Can’t give me a free cruise. Royal Caribbean or Carnival for me. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2019
We chose this cruise because it was my brother in laws 60th birthday and 9 of us booked to go. I was feeling rather worried after reading quite a few bad reviews after I had booked the trip and we even thought of cancelling. In fact we ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was my brother in laws 60th birthday and 9 of us booked to go. I was feeling rather worried after reading quite a few bad reviews after I had booked the trip and we even thought of cancelling. In fact we actually went to cancel and then changed our mind on the day. So glad we didn't cancel. The cruise was great. I had seen quite a few bad reviews, mainly about the food and the staff but also petty ones about the size of the TV in the room, the ship being run down etc etc which I just ignore anyway. Yes the ship is going in for a refit but it still looked really good. I noticed some reviewers whinged about the size of the TV but for goodness sake they need to get a life. If you really do want a big TV in your room then I suggest you pay three times the price and go 5 star on another ship as this won't work for you. I could not believe the speed in which we got on to the ship. I was anticipating a couple of hours but from start to finish it was only about 30 minutes or so. Smooth as!. Getting off was a lot slower but the Queen Mary had also docked and there were over 10,000 of us trying to get off the two ships. So the delay was due to congestion through immigration which is not the ships fault but whoever is responsible to allowing two large ships to disembark at the same time. The food was excellent. Bear in mind this was not an expensive 5-star cruise. We mainly ate in the Windjammer cafe for breakfast and the smorgasbord was really good. We always found a seat no matter what time we went and we never felt crowded or had bad service. Most of the basic dishes were the same every day but many of the main dishes changed every day. we even had Yorkshire puddings on Sunday with the roast. The food included one-off things like Lancashire hotpot, scottish tattie pancakes, grilled prawns, banoffee pie plus all the regulars like curry's, noodle dishes stir fries, roast meats, salads and veggies and cakes galore, hamburgers and fries. All in all the food was excellent. My husband is a chef and he was quite happy as was I with the food provided. Each evening we had pre-dinner drinks at one of many bars and lounges and then went to the Sapphire dining room and had a fab 3 course dinner from an extensive menu that took about 1.5 hours. Then a show afterwards and off to bed. Casino, dancing bars etc went on until the early hours in you wanted to stay up. We didn't buy the drinks package as we are not heavy drinkers. If you are, as were some of the Aussies on board who must have had pickled livers by the time they got off, then the package will be good value for you. We were offered it cheaper on the first day when we got onto the ship, than we could buy it beforehand. It worked out with the discount about AUD $1000 for two people for the 7 nights. We just bought a bottle of wine between the two of us and if there was any left after dinner they keep it for you for the next night. All of the staff that we encountered were friendly and helpful. We are easy going people so perhaps why we didn't have any issues. I imagine if everyone thinks you are a pain in the rear then you will find some problem with this ship. The problem will most likely be that you are on it. The staff were really polite and very helpful. We encountered no rude staff at all. We went to four of the shows after dinner and enjoyed them all. We also went ashore each day and took a cab and did our own thing as we have been to KL, Langkawi, Penang and Phuket before. Personally if I ever went again on this particular cruise I would stay on board for all the destinations apart from Phuket and just enjoy the relaxing holiday on the ship. KL is an hour each way from the port, worthwhile if you want to do some shopping especially shoes as it is shoe shopping heaven providing you have small feet (under size 38 or size 8) You can find good day trips available through trip advisor if you don't want to pay the inflated prices on the ship. Remember everything that you buy on the ship is in US$. All in all I will now do another cruise with Royal Caribbean and would go on this ship Voyager of the Seas again Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Embarkation could’ve been better as we waited in a queue for 1h30min to just park the car as they only allowed it from 9. Then we came into the terminal and had taken Easy Onboard but had to still stand in a queue for an hour. The ... Read More
Embarkation could’ve been better as we waited in a queue for 1h30min to just park the car as they only allowed it from 9. Then we came into the terminal and had taken Easy Onboard but had to still stand in a queue for an hour. The terminal was warm and had no air circulation coming in and the fact that there was over 2000 people inside did not help. I would suggest offering water at least. Eventually after an hour the doors opened and the Easy On Board queue was taken inside first (Would recommend this every time). So we went on board and wanted to go have a bite to eat as we where all starving after being hours in queues but to our disapointment it was’nt open. We where meant to leave the port by 16:00 but for some reason we stayed in port till 17:00(We assumed the fact that a lady got asked to leave the ship had something to do with that). Second day when we reveived our little news paper it clearly said Dress Code : Informal only to find out at the dinner table that we where under dressed for the occasion (that sucked as I had bought a new dress and beautiful shoes I wanted to wear to formal night) , must have been a typing error. The show that night was Incredible (WONDERLAND) the entertainment crew was the most amazing on the ship but your bar tenders and some waiters defnitely needs work, they are not friendly at all. The two couple’s that sat next to our table at diner received amazing service from their waiter but the only person that gave us amazing service was our assistant waiter. He defnitely needs a promotion to main waiter. Now we get to the Excursions. What a total let down, firstly I had book our Excursions before we embarked and had saved 20% which was all dandy until we where told that we are unfortunately unable to go to Pomene due to the weather , we went to the excursions desk and where told that all the money was refunded and that we had to re-book our excursions for Portuguese Island but when this was booked it was on the full price instead of our previous rate of 20% off, that is not cool MSC!!!!! We chose the Santa Maria snorkeling which was meant to be a 3hr Excursion (so this is where they catch you out) the boat from the Portuguese island to Inhaca Island takes approximately 15min , then you hop on a bakkie and the drive is a 30min drive ( very bumpy and uncomfortable) when you reach the snorkeling spot you get told that you can only snorkel for 30min before you have to go back! This is not worth the money and not worth us paying extra R500. We also booked the deal where you got Champaign, canapés and fruit in your room, we got that in our room but our family next to us had to call for theirs as they paid for it but did not recive it. Our bar fridge was also locked the whole week and on the last day our room steward came to unlock it only to write that we used water out of the fridge ( How do you use something that had been locked the whole time). We where on the Sinfonia last year and everything was excellent but service on the Musica needs work! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
Went with family who's son turned 21 on the 04-03-2019...cabin with balcony was great...ship very clean and very big...dining at the restaurants was great the standard is very high..cafeteria food was also great and available nearly ... Read More
Went with family who's son turned 21 on the 04-03-2019...cabin with balcony was great...ship very clean and very big...dining at the restaurants was great the standard is very high..cafeteria food was also great and available nearly 24/7...entertainment and activities was excellent...I think the entertainers are going to miss us because we as family and new friends where there all the time and surporting them ..service at the bars very good and enjoyed the cocktails...getting on to the ship was a bit slow because had to wait about 45 mins for customs to open and start processing but as soon as they did it went good...getting on the ship..the welcoming party very friendly ..shore excursions on and off excellent..helping you on and off the boat..can also say the custom people on board did not take any nonsense when we aboarded again with the check in and scanner...very provisionally done..felt save that no bad is coming on board with you..will diffinitly go on another cruise...enjoyed it very much.... Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Hi everyone: I have previously reviewed my cruises on Silverseas, Crystal, Oceania, Regent and Seabourne. This time, we figured “OK, so we won’t eat steak and lobster every night, let’s save some money and try Royal Caribbean.” ... Read More
Hi everyone: I have previously reviewed my cruises on Silverseas, Crystal, Oceania, Regent and Seabourne. This time, we figured “OK, so we won’t eat steak and lobster every night, let’s save some money and try Royal Caribbean.” We were pleasantly surprised. As my title suggests, despite the fact that the ship was full to capacity—well over 6500 people, you would never know it. The ship is so large that you never get the feeling that it is too crowded. Don’t get me wrong: it is crowded, but not in a negative way. And, they did serve lobster tail on one night and sushi grade tuna steaks on another. I usually concentrate on the food on my reviews, so let’s start there. Breakfast is nearly identical to the much more expensive cruise lines. The only differences I noticed were no fresh juices and no pure maple syrup. The Harmony even had fresh salmon, but it was definitely of a lower quality than in the high end ships. Other than those items, the choices for breakfast were identical to Oceania, etc. Lunches were superb as well. True, there were no large shrimp, tuna steaks and lamb chops as can be found on the high end lines, but that aside, the lunch options were not that different. Plentiful salads, pizzas, and enough entrees—chicken, pork, seafood and beef—that you were sure to find one to your liking. Desserts were definitely cheaper than on the pricier cruises but I always found at least one I liked. And the cookies were identical to those on Regent and Oceania. Dinner is where the differences begin to show: while I was always able to find a delicious option, the expensive entrees such as tuna steaks, lobster tails, lamb chops, filet mignon and fresh salmon were not available every night as they are on the more expensive lines. The side dishes were much more limited as well. We seemed to get whatever vegetable and potato the chef felt like serving. There was always a fish of the day. Desserts were good but limited. There was no “tea time”; a highlight in Oceania and Regent. At the bottom of the dinner menu every night there were steak and lobster options for about $30 extra. You could order these every night and still end up paying a fraction of what a high end cruise would cost. The Harmony is a kids friendly ship and there were tons of families with younger kids. The clientele was definitely predominantly “middle America”, FYI. All in all, a good experience. Like Norwegian and other similarly priced cruise lines, RC does charge for everything. This is in contrast to some high end cruises where everything is included. I imagine that the average cruiser had a bill well in excess of $1000 for alcohol, excursions, specialty restaurants, etc. I don’t drink, only went on one excursion and my extras were 350. (The super fast internet was about 170 of that. Yes, you can even stream videos.) My daughter only drank and went on one excursion and her bill was close to 450. You can see that we “hardly spent” and it totaled almost 800$! You can also get a slightly cheaper super fast internet without the streaming option. Our cabin was spacious. Plenty of storage space. Amazing water pressure in the shower. I guess that is what the newer ships give you. Staff was every bit as polite and courteous as on the expensive ships. Large well equipped gym. There is a charge for the sauna and steam room. Surprisingly no spin classes or bikes. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2019
Not worth the money... over crowded deck, slow restaurant service, at full capacity shows, long wait lines. Day 1: room was not stocked with towels, hand soap or animal towel. Day 2: went to deck and placed towels on chairs while I took ... Read More
Not worth the money... over crowded deck, slow restaurant service, at full capacity shows, long wait lines. Day 1: room was not stocked with towels, hand soap or animal towel. Day 2: went to deck and placed towels on chairs while I took kids to the obstacle course on the next deck up and then down to the pool. Came back 30-40min later to a ticket stating the towels sat for too long unattended and I can find my belongings in a bag at the towel bar. At this time all the chairs in the sun were taken front, sides and back of the ship filled. The only spot available was in the shade with an obstructed view of the ocean. Day 2: night we placed our kids in camp ocean ages 7 and 8. Kids were super excited to go due to prior camp ocean experiences on other ships. We picked our kids up two hours later to 2 of 3 crying saying they never want to go back. They hated it, no games and/or arts and crafts. They made kids participate in scheduled activities. They did not provide alternative options. My daughter wanted to color instead of playing in their olympics and they told her no. They have a terrible child to teacher ratio. At one time I counted 28 kids to 3 adults. Sea day brunch and dinning took over an hour to get our food. Comedy shows were sold out every night. People started to line up an hour before hand. Terrible seating options. Seats are individual chair-no booths so there is limited seating. All in all it was not an enjoyable experience, not worth the money, our family will not be rebooking this shop again. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: March 2019
This is my sixth cruise, and my third Norwegian. THE GOOD We enjoyed this ship for the most part. It was certainly clean, tastefully decorated and spacious. Layout of ship: With 4000 people it surprisingly never felt crowded to ... Read More
This is my sixth cruise, and my third Norwegian. THE GOOD We enjoyed this ship for the most part. It was certainly clean, tastefully decorated and spacious. Layout of ship: With 4000 people it surprisingly never felt crowded to me. There were always plenty of loungers; the buffet was not terribly crowded and heaven knows there was always plenty of food. Elevators came reasonable quickly and it was not difficult to get seats to the few shows we saw. There were many fun activities for kids: ropes course, minigolf, climbing wall, sports and pool slides. Our son was shy about the teen club, but it looked cool and the counselor seemed very nice. There were structured activities as well as lots of chill time with pool tables, video games, etc. The video game area was expensive, and that may have accounted for low crowds there. Since the main pools were very crowded we finally found a very pleasant area in the very back of the ship behind the teen club, arcades and sports area with a bar, two hot tubs and a water feature that was allowed you to sit with feet in water and chat with others or cool off under an attractive “rain” feature. There was plenty of seating including chairs, loungers, and more comfy furniture and plenty of people were gathering and able to enjoy conversation. With the exception of some 20 something young men chanting “chug, chug, chug,” while the bar tender poured their drinks, it was very pleasant. I would agree with others who mentioned more bar tenders are needed in pool areas. The staff were usually polite and helpful. The Entertainment: I won’t list this under “the bad” because it is really a matter of taste, but it didn’t interest us much. We went to the opening night show that gives you a little bit from all the shows. We found the cruise ship director corny and not entertaining, bits from the dance show Burn the Floor, Rock of Ages and the Tenors were all fine for a few minutes, but none piqued our desire to see more. We did attend the magic show which was not very amazing or funny. A random volunteer from the audience stole the show and made everyone laugh so much that my son thinks she was a plant. We attended dueling pianos for a while and it was a fun crowd pleaser. There was a lot of singing along to popular songs through the decades. The comedian did not seem very strong opening night, but we did attend one of his shows in Headliners bar and he was much better. I was also surprised that we were told we might not get seats without a reservation. I had just assumed the smaller bar areas did not require pre-booking. Happily we did get in, but we were charged for this, which also surprised me. The Cirque show was a fun environment to dine in and the show was entertaining and just the right length. I attended the “How to run a Floating Hotel” talk which was interesting and the Cruise Director was exceptionally professional in handling complaints veiled as questions. One woman wanted to know why we were not in Honduras today as it said on her schedule? (Our ports are Cozumel, Belize and Costa Maya) I keep thinking of my own questions now. How big is the kitchen? Where is it? How many cooks do they have? When do they clean the carpets and how do they keep them so clean? I did enjoy my own entertainment which included reading 5 novels in lounge chairs or balcony while the ocean waves passed me by. The Thermo Spa: We enjoyed it and used it most days. I am not sure that I would pay the full price for it, but it was worth the extra bid amount. We liked the waterfall that massaged the shoulders, the bubbling jacuzzi and heated loungers the most. There was also a sauna, steam room, salt room with alleged healing powers, showers, a small pool and other, non-heated loungers facing the ocean. The Food: Overall the food was ok to good, rarely excellent. The buffet was uninspired, but okay for breakfast and snacks. In the main dining rooms (Taste and Savor) I enjoyed the New York Strip. Other dishes were okay. In Le Bistro the Lamb chops were delicious, but the Coquille St. Jacque was not traditional and was overpowered by raw garlic. The Crème Brulee was fantastic- much better than any other dessert we had on the ship. The Cirque meal was surprisingly good after the luke-warm reviews I’d read. The Beef Tenderloin, cooked medium, was still very tender and juicy (I prefer medium rare.) The menu in various restaurants feature variations of peppercorn gravy on steaks, from the New York Strip in the main restaurant, to the tenderloin in the Cirque meal, to beef in the Bistro. Even the fabulous Ribeye in Cagney’s came with a small dish of gravy that tasted of peppercorn. It seems odd to repeat this seasoning so often. I did ask for it on the side and they willingly complied. The food in Taste and Savor was also inconsistent. My son ordered what was described as shimp and mushroom fettucine alfredo twice. The first night he ordered it I tasted it and found that while the sauce was not what I consider alfredo (creamy and cheesy) it had a nice seafood flavor. My son ordered it again two nights later and mentioned that it was spicy. I tasted it and again, it was not what I would consider an alfredo sauce and had a strong black pepper flavor. I also thought the pasta was a touch undercooked. The “Baked Ziti with three cheeses and a chunky tomato sauce” was almost devoid of sauce and seemed more like noodles with a very thin sauce with cheese sprinkled on top and put under the broiler. On a more positive note the lamb shank was tender and flavorful. If I were to cruise with NCL again, I’d feel like I should only dine in specialty restaurants. I feel that cruise ships have gone from having excellent food in their main dining rooms to making you pay extra for it in so called specialty restaurants. The Bad We have few real complaints. The two small pools on deck 15 were not big enough for 4000 people. I never felt comfortable trying to squeeze in among the throng as people were always crowded along the edge, and in the hot tubs. I remember really liking the pool set up on the Norwegian Jewel, there was a shallow lounge area in the pool and plenty of loungers surrounding the pool as well as the adult only pool as a quieter option. On this ship I used loungers on the quieter upper levels far from the pool. I realize that very few people use the library, but if you are going to have one it would be nice to make it an actual usable amenity. When I finished the four books I brought with me (yes, I am a fast reader and made use of my lounge time) I sought out the library which is well hidden near the Atrium on the sixth floor. About four people were in the library all using their own electronic gadgets. When I saw the empty shelves and tiny fiction section I considered donating the four I had in my room. I identified a couple books I thought would entertain me for my last sea day and tried to open the glass cabinet. It was locked. Am I crazy to think this is over -the-top-security for a few out of date novels? I looked around and saw a small table/desk with a handwritten sign “The librarian will be back in a few minutes, please sign out books yourself.” I waited a few minutes, then opened the top drawer to the desk to see if there was a key. There was. I tried to use it in the door. Suddenly an employee was at my side barking “That is not the key to that, give me the key.” I gave her the key feeling embarrassed as if I were committing a crime and asked how to get the books to borrow. “The library is not open, only during certain hours.” She scolded without telling me the hours. I was so astonished that there was a person in the library to prevent me from getting a book rather than to help me get one that I left in a huff. Honestly, it could not be more transparent that this ship has no interest in accommodating passengers unless additional revenue can be generated. FYI I checked and found that the library is open from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. so schedule your reading needs accordingly!!! THE DEAL BREAKER I would not sail on this ship again because of the cigarette smoke that freely flows from the casino into the main areas of the 6th, 7th, and 8th floor even into some of the “premium” (extra fee) restaurants and main activity areas such as Atrium, cafes, and art gallery. Would you enjoy sitting at the sushi bar, paying $15.00 ala carte to enjoy a sushi roll while inhaling cigarette fumes? We were fortunate to be seated “inside” the restaurant at Le Bistro, but many were seated in the “outdoor café” area (ie. in the ship corridor) where you could smell cigarette smoke. We opted for the truly outdoor balcony seating in Ocean Blue (which was lovely!), but would have refused to eat in the restaurant that is open to the casino fumes. We were not the only ones bothered by this. THE PORTS: Cozumel: we’ve been here a few times and usually have lunch in the town and then head to a beach club such as the Money Bar by cab to snorkel. This time, since the Belize snorkel trip was full, we decided to take a snorkel trip available at the port for $45.00 cash each for the three of us. This two hour tour, which included bottled water, sodas and beer, was fantastic. Victor was our guide. We saw tons of fish at two stops that were very similar to each other. Victor was good with the many beginning snorkelers, held up a blow fish for all to see, and the equipment was good. From there we took a cab to Paradise Beach club where there was a restaurant, nice large pool, and swimming at a sandy beach. There were lots of jumpy, floaty things for kids which for us was a negative as it obstructed the view and took up swimming space, but it was fun watching the kids play. I overheard some who were on a tour complain that they didn’t get to stay long enough. I really like to create my own itinerary when we have a full day. Belize: I’m not a big fan of being captive on a cruise ship island, but many really enjoyed it. I was on a wait list for the Barrier Reef snorkel tour but it didn’t pan out so we hung out on the NCL beach. There were several shops and opportunities to rent equipment or zip line. We lounged and swam and had Nachos and margaritas in one of the restaurants. The restaurant did not accept our ship card for charges which puzzled me, but fortunately we brought our Visa. It rained on and off and we made it back to the ship ALMOST before the major down pour struck! The crew greeted us with warm dry towels! This was my least favorite port day. I much preferred stopping at Belize City on other cruises where we could have found a snorkel tour and had more interesting lunch options. But it was nicely done for those who like a serve-yourself and pay-as-you-go resort experience. Costa Maya: This was our first time and we only had until 1:30 p.m. We quickly moved through the Disney-like port and took a cab into town where there were a ton of restaurant and hotels offering lounge chairs and food and beach access and wifi. We enjoyed shopping and eating and swimming and lounging and it was over too soon. Back to the port we would have enjoyed exploring more and using the nice swimming pool available, but had to get back onto ship. Conclusion: We had a great time and our complaints were mostly minor, but I think I would try a different ship or even a different line next time. We like the idea of Freestyle dining, but if the only good options are pre-reserved specialty restaurants and pre-reserved shows, that is really not very free-style. Read Less

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