4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2019
The Good • Room Steward service was actually very good. He asked us up front if wanted our rooms serviced once or twice per day. That was the first time I had ever been asked that question. With three people in our smallish balcony ... Read More
The Good • Room Steward service was actually very good. He asked us up front if wanted our rooms serviced once or twice per day. That was the first time I had ever been asked that question. With three people in our smallish balcony room we requested twice a day. Both ice and towels were replenished every day. • Bar service was also very good. We got the Cheers package, and certainly didn’t break even this time. Carnival has a decent cocktail menu that is worth exploring. The crowds on the ship sometimes made getting up to the bartenders a challenge. You just have to horn in and raise your voice a little. The Lobby Bar and Casino Bar stood out for us. • Main Dining Room service and food quality were certainly decent to very good. I was a little disappointed that the traditional surf and turf on the more formal night has been completely replaced by the upcharge menu. This is a noticeable cut to us veteran cruisers. You can get a hanger steak and some sort of seafood any night on the menu, but it is not quite the same thing. Expected more from formal night menu. • Both Embarkation and Debarkation were painless. Since we didn’t have a car, and we checked our bags with the stevedore downstairs, it almost seemed like a walk on and walk off situation. Using the express option, we showed our Passport, got in a cab, and left for the airport. Limiting luggage to a roller board and a personal bag helps tremendously. • Scarlett’s Restaurant was as good as any premium dining experience I have had on Holland America or Royal Caribbean. Steaks were expertly prepared. Art for the Table desert has to be experienced to really fully grasp. Delicious and entertaining. Service was 5*. Sadly, the restaurant never seemed fully booked on the whole cruise. • For the first time in 15 cruises, I actually had to use the Ship Hospital when I developed a case of pneumonia. The very kind female physician from South Africa could not have been better. Steroids, nebulizers, and antibiotics were ordered exactly as they would have been at home by a good family physician. She made a point to call and check on me after one very rough breathless night in a hot room. The Bad • The ship was crowded. With 3,700+ passengers on board, the 800 people above typical double occupancy could be felt all over the ship. Lots of lines for just about everything including the elevators. Mid-ship pool was a mob scene that I totally avoided. Carnival just does not do as great a job as RCI at dispersing the crowds with activities of equal draw in different parts of the ship simultaneously. • The Lido Buffet for breakfast was absolutely the same every day. On Day One, I was satisfied that it was the quality of a decent cafeteria. If you are going to eat here every day mix it up with the omelet station or eggs cooked to order. They are almost hidden along the side walls as you approach the buffet. This buffet pales in comparison to any one of Holland America’s. Sometime you just long for a pastry and a bowl of Muesli - not the strange pale sausage covered in onions, reconstituted eggs, and frozen hash brown patties. No problem finding corn flakes and fruit loops if that is more your speed. • Some of our party were smokers, and this meant that we all spent a good deal of time in the smoking areas. Tucked away on an obscure portion of the starboard side of deck 10, Cocktail service was really very sparse in the largest smoking area, and a simple trip to the bathroom requires a trip to another deck. Though clean, public bathrooms seemed fairly scarce overall. Another more agreeable choice is a small area on deck 3 starboard exterior deck – at least it was convenient to the Lobby Bar. Non-smokers would have to go out of their way to be offended here. Lastly, 4-5 bar stools jammed into the casino end of the Dream Bar is the only interior choice for smokers. I guess this is good news overall for non-smokers, but don’t complain when smokers are five deep behind five bar stools in the casino. • Though I did not think the ship was in bad shape at all, the overall design was not my favorite. Decks 3 and 4 present you with the “You can’t’ get there from here” dilemma if you dine in the Washington Dining Room. Back up to deck five to cross over. You will repeat this maneuver many times. • The muster drill was a bit of a mob scene. Cruise Director, Kevin’s very acerbic voice booming over the loudspeakers did not help lower the temperament or the temperature. It certainly wasn’t a great introduction or welcome being jammed onto another obscure exterior deck on level four that I never saw again. The Ugly • Our room was way too WARM. Any sailing out of New Orleans in August will come with heat, but did not expect this in my stateroom. It was reported twice and we received four pre-printed cards that stated that our room met Carnival standards for temperature control. I witnessed one of these inspections. Indeed, the vent was 72 degrees. The only problem was that it did not blow sufficient air into the room. The two letters received from guest services stating that it was important that we call them immediately to make sure our issues with our room temperature were resolved - not helpful. These phone calls just resulted in two more pre-printed cards. It just pissed me off even more when I was told that fans were reserved for those with medical problems. Alas, out of the blue, they did provide a fan. It did help a great deal, but the room was still very hot for a person who is sitting on the side of the bed all night long with a full-blown case of pneumonia. Having never experienced this myself, I have a new respect for my patients who suffer for respiratory problems. • Others reported that their room was a bit cold. Avoid the whole block of rooms that include stateroom 7396 back toward mid-ship if you don’t want a hot room. Many of our neighbors said the same thing. Too warm, but I am sure it meets Carnival’s standards for climate control. Would I do it Again? Nope. Not this time, and that is a first time ever saying that in 15 cruise reviews from RCI’s old Song of Norway to Cunard’s QM2. This ship did not meet my personal standards for comfort. There are many varieties of “Fun”, and I am not swearing off Carnival as a whole, but I am the entire crowded Conquest class of their ships. DONE! I will also stick to longer cruises outside of summer or any other holidays, as I am more compatible with that Journey’s crowd and I am not even a senior yet. There are things that really shined about this ship, but I am afraid that the bad and the ugly outweighed the good on this trip. One last note. The Shore Excursion to Uxmal is worth every penny. This is a world class heritage site that would definitely use Carnival to tour. Progresso is a great stop if you don't go to Progresso. Too logistical to do on your own, but they do a great job for less money. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
We went with 3 dear close friends on a 5 day from New Orleans. We had an excellent time. Tony our Steward was excellent and took great care of us !! Food outlets and restaurants as well steak house were great, We loved Café Denis ... Read More
We went with 3 dear close friends on a 5 day from New Orleans. We had an excellent time. Tony our Steward was excellent and took great care of us !! Food outlets and restaurants as well steak house were great, We loved Café Denis in Cozumel but stayed on ship in Progresso as its too far to go anywhere in our opinion. The folks at The Alchemy Bar especially EDUARDO were fabulous !! Great service and great fun !! Didn't care for the comedian but that's a personal taste. Many enjoyed the show. We would sail it again. The Love and Marriage show was fun but not LGBTQ friendly in terms of having a same sex couple up there. There were numerous gay couples on board, and a diverse crowd. Everyone got along and there were no issues on board except a late fire alarm that I didn't hear about thanks to a few too many XO Martinis. I love the glory and would sail it again. Its an easy ship to navigate and not too large. Its starting to show its age a touch but Im sure Carnival will refurbish it within a few years. We loved it and I recommend it. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2018
My partner and I were very excited to travel on one of Carnival’s larger, “newer” ships. Our first cruise was Carnival Conquest in May 2017. This was a disappointment for both of us compared to Conquest. Dream seemed too large for ... Read More
My partner and I were very excited to travel on one of Carnival’s larger, “newer” ships. Our first cruise was Carnival Conquest in May 2017. This was a disappointment for both of us compared to Conquest. Dream seemed too large for its crew to cope with. Service was severely impersonal, though most crew was at least cordial. At embarkation, a person who I assume works for Carnival at the port of New Orleans was on a microphone trying to direct people, demanded to see my boarding pass over her microphone and chastised me for being behind another guest over the microphone to the entire queue of people outside. I was pretty embarrassed by her awful attitude. Then no porters were around to take our luggage that we could find. Microphone lady rushed us inside and we had to carry our suitcases on and wait with them for about 1.5 hours on in both the crowded boarding area and deck 3 before we could get our stateroom. Maintenance in certain areas like decks and pools was handled by one person in any area it appeared, so a lot of time elapsed between cleanings or upkeep. Only the port side Serenity deck whirlpool was “hot” for the entire cruise. The aft starboard whirlpool was temperate, and every other whirlpool was about 90° or lower. In the dining room, we were often left without certain items on the table and had to ask for the wait team to bring them to us, meals were badly cooked (very tough, over cooked prime rib one night), but we did have two really great servers on different teams. Upon returning to the ship at our last port, our cabin door’s lock died and couldn’t read our S&S cards. Guest services had to replace them, and then we returned when that didn’t work, and maintenance had to change batteries and reprogram twice, as first maintenance still had us locked out later when we left the room. Shows were fine. Only the 80’s Pop To the Max was outstanding, though. The cast couldn’t seem to stay on key in the other shows we went to. The comedians were pretty funny in the adult shows most nights, but the Burgundy lounge has many “blind spots,” where you can’t see the stage, so get there 30 minutes early for a decent seat. The laundry facility was alright for washing ($3, drying is free). The ironing boards and irons were a bit confusing and felt cheap/shoddy. Another guest had to give us a tip on how to use the iron as there were no instructions. For good things: air in the cabin worked well. A couple cool nights we had to use the heater for, and warm nights the AC worked fine. The cabin was good sized, and felt about as big as our interior cabin on Conquest, and bathroom was the same. Disembark was so much better than off Conquest in May 2017! Breezed right out through Customs with a quick check of ID’s. Our cruise director Alex was GREAT! Very friendly and fun. Always nice to see him around the ship when we were walking around. We didn’t do the LGBT mixer, but guests and staff we met seemed mostly friendly with us as a gay couple. So I would say it was an LGBT friendly environment. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2018
Me and my wife took the cruise for our honeymoon and first vacation ever to ourselfs. I was surprised at the selections of food they had on the cruise. Me and my wife definately did not go hungry, if anything we gained a few pounds while ... Read More
Me and my wife took the cruise for our honeymoon and first vacation ever to ourselfs. I was surprised at the selections of food they had on the cruise. Me and my wife definately did not go hungry, if anything we gained a few pounds while on our cruise. The sun decks were perfect for many people to enjoy the sun as well as other company. I enjoyed trying my hand at many games in the casino, even thou I didn't win anything. My wife enjoyed a couple of the games in the video arcade, at least the easy ones. The pool side movies were a nice touch, even thou I only got to watch one of the many they showed. The cabin was spacious for two people to share, might've been crowed if more than two had the same room. The steward we had, Junaedi, was very nice and helpful with any request. We thoroughly enjoyed our excursion we decided at the last minute to go snorkeling and eat a Mexican lunch with tequila tastings with Claudia. I would highly recommend taking the cruise with the triumph going to Cozumel, Mexico. Just make sure to bring plenty of spending cash. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
1) because my brother and his wife have never cruised before. 2) the price 3) where it was going. 4) because my brother and his wife still like to party. Carnival seems more like a party type atmosphere. The staff was wonderful from our ... Read More
1) because my brother and his wife have never cruised before. 2) the price 3) where it was going. 4) because my brother and his wife still like to party. Carnival seems more like a party type atmosphere. The staff was wonderful from our room steward Wayan to our dinner stall Dede, Ignatius, and Polett. to the staff in cloud-9. spent the day in New Orleans before embarkation. Embarkation went very smoothly ( great job) our cabin 7203 is classified interior, but has a window. It is interior with a picture(walkway view).It was our highest level yet. and a good choice. they do sell out fast. we enjoyed most of our dinning I was disappointed in the main buffet, but like the other 3 buffet or was it 4? guy burgers was very good, the pasta bella was not a buffet, but a sit down where you place an order and drop it off at the head of serving line and then go sit down and they deliver it piping hot as you ordered. a don't miss if you travel on the Dream. Main dinning room was very good. the chef's table was an outstanding experience. It di cost extra, but we thought it well worth it. the shows in the encore lounge were to mush like Vegas style and loud. we like more Broadway style performances. disembarkation went very smooth also. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
I’ve always loved the ship. On the voyage, I had a couple problems. For the first time, in 9 cruises, I thought I’d continue my work out during the cruise. I could not get in the steam room because no one would start the steam at any ... Read More
I’ve always loved the ship. On the voyage, I had a couple problems. For the first time, in 9 cruises, I thought I’d continue my work out during the cruise. I could not get in the steam room because no one would start the steam at any predictable time. I even went so far as to speak with the hotel manager, no change was made. The food at La Cucina ,,, just plain wonderful. Every time we go there it’s great. We also ate at the sushi bar and as usual, the food was so tasty. The crispy rice was great. Another meal at Cagney’s proved a little less than great. I didn’t want squash/zucchini. The waiter substituted broccoli. He didn’t order my potatoe soup then he chosen a vegetable for me. This was not good. After delivering our main corse, he just disappeared. Our room attendant was really good. Everything was clean and well taken care. We went to the new stop “Harvest Caye”. The beach and pool was great and that’s all. The other space was filled with commercial crap to buy. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2017
I used to love Carnival. Not the case anymore. This cruise, to put it politely, SUCKED. The service in the Scarlet Restaurant was non-existent. The service of the waiters and waitresses, non-existent. Trying to get a soft drink on this ... Read More
I used to love Carnival. Not the case anymore. This cruise, to put it politely, SUCKED. The service in the Scarlet Restaurant was non-existent. The service of the waiters and waitresses, non-existent. Trying to get a soft drink on this ship is like pulling teeth. No one pays attention to you unless you are an alcoholic. All the fun things happened while everyone was in Port, and the only thing they had to do at night was Seminars on how to improve your posture, and junk like that. I was not on a cruise to be "evaluated" on how I walked, I wanted to have fun. I had none. This cruise line is terrible to say the least. The food is terrible, the drinks were even more terrible and the only thing that made this cruise even worth the trip was the fact that some of the staff were over friendly, and there were a few places on the ship that are quiet and pretty. But again, for the most part, not worth the $3500 we spent . Never again . Read Less
18 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2016
The Dream is a large ship and very much understaffed. From the check in process, to the room steward, the dining room staff, bar staff, it was about the worst service I have ever received on a cruise ship. Carnival now asks that you ... Read More
The Dream is a large ship and very much understaffed. From the check in process, to the room steward, the dining room staff, bar staff, it was about the worst service I have ever received on a cruise ship. Carnival now asks that you chose when you would like your cabin serviced, evening or morning. My steward did not even show up the first night on the ship. Always a shortage of towels. Like to pick up the dirty towels and not replace them. Went 5 days with no pool towels. In the dining room, the waiters continually overlooked our table. I had to find the water pitcher and bread baskets/butter several times. Diner arrived cool several times. Had to track down the cocktail waiter many times when he should have know that we were a table of drinkers after the first night. Buffet was full of dirty tables most of the time. They now charge $20 for some items on the regular dining room menu such as a NY steak. We had an opportunity to dine in the pay restaurant. The food was quite good, however the service was also severely lacking and heaven forbid you ask for something out of the norm. There was no deviation from the printed menu selections. Bar staff and many of the staff in general were not the typical happy engaged employees we once saw on most cruise lines. The Serenity spa is a $139 fee for the week. The gal at the coffee bar would not take the time to make a drink when she prematurely cleaned up the bar 20 minutes early. She simply stated all I have available is... Entertainment seems to be primarily made up of ship staff more than than the usual performers that had been brought onboard. Be careful with your purchases in the gift shop. I purchased an Invicta 18165 watch marked at $795 at a discounted guaranteed lowest price of $149.. When I arrived home I see the watch can be purchased almost anywhere for $89 including Walmart. Having cruised many times, I do have Platinum status. Debarkation took longer than ever. Even with Platinum status it was after 9:30 before I could get off the ship. One good thing, we did luck out with the weather. All in all, try another cruiseline. Carnival has cut far too many corners. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2015
From the moment we began our check in...My daughter Jacorien...and myself were richly impressed. The staff were very professional, yet personal. We had previously come to New Orleans aboard The City of New Orleans from Amtrak. A very ... Read More
From the moment we began our check in...My daughter Jacorien...and myself were richly impressed. The staff were very professional, yet personal. We had previously come to New Orleans aboard The City of New Orleans from Amtrak. A very spacious train in their fleet. We spent a Night in Harrah's Casino Hotel...they offered a great rate. Even though this adventure would not have been possible had it not been for the partnership between Fitzgerald's Casino and Casino at Sea with Norwegian Cruise Line. The Dawn is a beautiful ship to cruise on. The Staff were exceptional and provided much needed information for our Ports of Call...Cozumel Mexico, Belize City Belize , Roatan Bay Honduras, and last though not least Costa Maya Mexico. Once aboard there were numerous activities for which to partake. Art, music, theater, jewelry, wine tasting, dancing and the food...classic American, Brazilian, Italian, French and Japanese. There was no need to try a buffet, their well planned menus that each restaurant prepared were elegant and most delicious. Everyday a three course meals. Never was I bored with my selections, and I only gained four pounds. The staff of the Dawn are the Most attentive to their guest that I have ever had the chance to meet. Always smiling and always one step ahead of what I was thinking. My stateroom was very spacious with amenities that only could be described as luxurious. A huge balcony that was right at the front of the ship...with a view "That was described as to Kill For" before I even saw it. I was most impressed with everything at that point. To view different country's that were still true to their ancestors was amazing. Apart from earning their living in various sorts, shows creativity is everywhere. All you have to do was look for it. The beauty of The Caribbean Sea is really beautiful, with water that is so clear and blue on one side of the islands we saw and emerald green on the shores leading to the mainland. If you are a diver, plain swimmer there is something for everyone. I saw pyramids, ceremonial mound built by The Mayans. The countries are beautiful with tropical vegetation, fruits are plentiful all over. Leaving the ship and checking back in was quick and no hassle. We were greeted with chilled water and a cool towel for refreshment upon boarding back from an excursion. If you have never cruise before, try it you will love it. It was my second and the best so far, I will not knock the other cruise line, they were good also. Norwegian was far more better. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2015
This was not only my first cruise with NCL, but the 3 other passengers I brought with me. The impression was that the cruise was geared more towards an older crowd. We are in the range of 28-38 years of age. I didn't mind that it was ... Read More
This was not only my first cruise with NCL, but the 3 other passengers I brought with me. The impression was that the cruise was geared more towards an older crowd. We are in the range of 28-38 years of age. I didn't mind that it was not a party ship, but I would of liked to see more activities and entertainment for people our age. The food on the ship was very salty. The selections at the buffet were all high in sodium content and the selection was limited. The restaurants on the Dawn were Aqua and the Venetian. They both had the same menus each day. I'd like to think that one would serve something different then the other to promote variety but that was not the case. For free beverages, there was 2 flavors of "enhanced" water, lemonade, coffee, milk and ice tea. The juices were very sugary. I could handled these overlooked problems, but what I was unhappy about was that the food was often stale, hard, dried out, and again, extremely salty. On the flip side, this made me eat less! The next issue was the noise. We were on the 8th floor at the front of the ship. Our room was next to a door marked "crew only". At 6am, you could hear banging noises that woke you up. The sound of stuff being hauled out and rolled out of this room. When an event was taking place below us or above us, the sounds filled the hallways and often the room. This made it hard to try to go to bed early. The scheduled events listed Karaoke at 9:30 every night. One day one, we got all fixed up and headed to the lounge ready to sing. When we arrived the place was packed and football was on the screen. We pulled up a chair and waited. No karaoke. We asked the staff what happened and no one had a clue. So, day two we showed up again and just like the night before, no karaoke. The staff again did not know why it was not happening, they said the football game was happening. I went down to guest services and was told "more people like football then karaoke so majority rules". I approached the cruise director and he said he was unaware that it was cancelled, both times .Why didn't they just move karaoke to another venue? Why didn't they make an announcement so guests wouldn't cancel plans and show up? The third day, karaoke took place for 20 minutes until the machine wouldn't load songs anymore and it had to be cancelled. 30 guests left the bar upset. There was some kind of party with a dj at the lounge every night. The lounge is extremely crowded and hot. No air condition. The program listed was delayed by 30 minutes and the room was filled with senior citizens. The music was out dated. The younger crowd left before the party started. We left and headed over to the Blue Lagoon which serves food 24 hours. When we sat down to eat, 3 intoxicated men entered and sat themselves. They argued with the server. The server told them they had to leave. Two of the men left after ordering food. The angry drunk didn't like the waiter and requested a new waiter, which arrived. He placed his order. A nearby table saw how drunk the man was and got up and left quickly, mumbling something about not wanting to get in the line of fire. Moments later, the drunk appeared at my table and slammed down his water. He put his hand on my shoulders and squeezed as if he were trying to massage my neck. I felt a moment of fear not knowing if I was about to get bashed or molested. He shouted in Spanish at me. I ignored him and he let go of me and leaned on the table causing it to flip We caught it quickly and managed to save our food and drinks. He stood there looking like he was ready to pass out. He then reached over and touched my friend's shoulders, then pectoral muscles, and then head. Fondling all those areas forcefully as the wait staff looked on from afar. The man then proceeded to shout "May I have your attention please? Everyone, I want you all to meet the world's greatest man. A marvelous man I have just met.." Some people laughed included the staff at his drunkenness. Some people shouted sit down you drunk!" He continued to yell and walked over to an older couple. The woman was scared for her life. She shouted "get away from me, don't come near me, don't touch me, I mean it, get out of here!" He then shouted again, Excuse me everyone, may I have your attention" and walked back over to us and began to put his hands on us again. The woman's husband shouted across the room to the staff, "do you guys not work here? Why isn't anyone doing anything?" He grabbed his wife and abandoned his food and fled the restaurant. At this time, during one of his drunken speeches, the waiter comes over and says "would you like more water?" I said "no, taser this guy!" My friend said "get this man away from us, please!" The waiter ran off. As the speech went on, a female waitress came out and said here is your food and tries to force it onto our table. We said, this isn't our food, it's the drunks, please call for help and get him out of here away from us. She took the food and ran off. Security arrives 20 minutes later and chased the man all over the place. They would not touch him. When they got him out of the place, they blocked the entrance so we could not out and chose to interrogate him right there. We could not leave. Eventually, they had left and we went down to guest services where we were told that the protocol is to not get involved and to call security whom cannot touch the guest or detain them. We questioned about the safety of the guests and why no one came to our rescue, how the staff laughed and watched this man put his hands all over us (which is considered assault in the US) and why no one apologized and took down our names at the end of all this. We were told that corporate would review the complaint and contact us. Shaken, angry, and realizing that this incident now set the tone of the duration of our cruise, we were unhappy. What if this man picked up my knife and stabbed me? What if he bashed his glass into my head? What if he choked me or pressed my artery? Why did not matter to NCL that my experience was ruined, that my life was put in danger, that the safety of the guests were not a priority over the staff? Then to not even come over to our table and take down our names and tell their superiors what happened to us. So the next morning, we went to the guest services desk and inquired again. We were told that it was under review and that we should get an email from corporate at a later date that their hands were tied. Later, I went back to the desk and spoke with the Manager of guest services whom I met earlier on in the cruise. She was shocked. She added more notes and apologized. I was relieved to hear someone finally apologize. She ordered a bottle of wine and truffles to be sent to the room. When they arrived, the bottle was corked and there was no glasses and no cork screw. I had to go back to the desk and ask if we would be charged for requesting a bottle opener. They ordered glasses and the cork screw to be sent later that day. Kind of silly, right? We have yet to hear from anyone. When I do hear from them, I hope they offer a big explanation and show a huge amount of sympathy. I am not so sure I'd ever go on another NCL again or recommend it to people I know. I have always used Carnival and heard NCL was better, but I am not so sure about that now. My biggest worry was terrorism. We had the Paris incident happen right before our trip and while on the trip the California killings happened. There was no telling if this drunk guy had intentions of killing. Four people, all from different towns, all with different lives, all first time NCL guests, and all minorities. We have yet to share our experience on social media. I did put this all in my post cruise survey. And my final rant, upon leaving, disembarkation was a nightmare. It was by far the most unorganized mess in the history of cruising. People were missing their flights, the crew was hosing down the balcony glass above our heads and the water was spraying all over the guests! The elderly were unable to stand that long in the line and there was no place for them to rest once they got on the outside decks. The crew was sneaking guests to the front of the line, making the line waiting times longer and longer. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2015
This surely was a fun vacation! As everyone says, yeah it's a smaller, older ship but still VERY clean, well maintained and provides the quintessential Carnival experience! This was my second cruise and my friend's first. My ... Read More
This surely was a fun vacation! As everyone says, yeah it's a smaller, older ship but still VERY clean, well maintained and provides the quintessential Carnival experience! This was my second cruise and my friend's first. My first cruise was on the Dream about a year ago so I was a little reluctant to cruise on a smaller ship as I was a afraid the smaller ship would not provide such a fun or enriched experience. My fears were unfounded and my expectations were met and even exceeded! Ok lemme break it down for you. PARKING & PORT: We pre-paid to park at the Fulton St parking garage for $8/day which also included a shuttle to and from the port. Everything was easy and breezy including once we got to the terminal. They keep the lines moving and the staff is friendly and informative. From parking to onboard took us about 1 hour. CABIN: we were in U230 which is aft-facing oceanview (facing out the back, overlooking the wake). This was an excellent cabin for us. It was larger than your standard oceanview, longer by about 3-4 feet I'd say. We met some people on board and ended up in their room a time or two and the size difference was noticeable. Ours was much more spacious. Since it was way to the back of the ship it was not only quiet and had very little foot traffic, it was easy to find! Just hoof it to the back and you're there. These aft-facing rooms are a bit of a trek to the elevators so if you're not too mobile this would NOT be a good option for you. However, it's a quick trip up the elevators to the Lido if we needed ice or coffee or water or a quick snack. This made it very convenient. The window is recessed and there's a little ledge we could sit on and gaze out the back of the ship. Room steward was Nelson, he was adequate. Did nothing above or beyond and completed the required service and left us alone. We were fine with that! The a/c was cold and the water pressure was excellent! DINING: I've never had a bad meal on Carnival. There are plenty of excellent options in the dining room, the buffet food is consistently hot and fresh although the room service food was a little lackluster but who cares about that? We mainly ordered coffee to the room and not much else (drunkenly ordered some sandwiches one night). We had anytime dining and will always use this option. It just frees you up to create your own daily itinerary and not feel locked into a rigid time frame. Two of the three nights we ate in the dining room we had the same staff and they always called us by name and by the second night they remembered we took coffee with our chocolate melting cake... so it showed up without us even having to ask. We ran into Marija the hostess a few times outside of the dining room around the ship, she always greeted us by name with a huge smile, made small talk and gave some good insight on life on a cruise ship (our favorite quote from her: "you know why you boys always have good meals at Carnival? Because you are good people. We not always have good people in dining room so they complain about something." SO FUNNY) Small details like that make for a very memorable experience. OVERALL SERVICE: we consistently received a high level of service from a very friendly, helpful and happy staff. I've learned that if you greet the staff with graciousness and warmth, they give it back to you tenfold. Smile and call them by name and they'll not only do the same for you, they'll remember you and what you like or want. People complaining on message boards and in reviews of the lackluster service have probably never worked in food or beverage service before. Serving people can be difficult, especially Americans with unrealistic expectations. ENTERTAINMENT: we mainly hung out in the comedy club at night and the subsequent LGBT meetups. The comedians Mutzie and Ms. Caroline... in one word? Hysterical! They're both from Louisiana and have that southern charm and biting wit you'd expect from a Yat. The adult comedy shows were raunchy but we loved them. The acoustic guitar entertainers, Clint and Phoenix we excellent and provided a good low-key hangout option if that's what you wanted. Patrick in the piano bar was friendly and personable and put on a good show that engaged his audience. The band Rocking Dead was excellent, the two lead singers very charismatic and talented. Hasbro Game Show was fun to watch. COZUMEL: ok so it rained all day we were in Cozumel, which sucked. We booked an excursion outside of Carnival's offerings called "Cozumel Bar Hop" which was a lot of fun. We took a cab from the pier to Senor Frogs where we met up with our group, which was the 2 of us and 10 girls on a bachelorette party. Our guide Colleen led us to an air-conditioned Mercedes van and they drove us to the "other side" to 4 beach bars where we were welcomed with shots at each bar and we could purchase food and other drinks. This ended up being an excellent thing to do on a rainy day because everywhere we went had shelter and was right on the water. Beers were cheap and the food was good. They made sure we got back to the ship about an hour early so we'd have time to shop in port a little if we wanted. I think it was $60/person for a 5-hour bar hop and we felt it was worth the money. I'd definitely do this again. There are many good reviews of this tour on TripAdvisor if you're interested and likewise, I highly recommend this but you DO have to book it in advance. No same-day bookings for them. GYM: I think cruise ship gyms are perhaps the most under-utilized venues onboard. You always hear people say "I didn't go on vacation to workout!" Well I didn't go on vacation to gain 10 lbs either. We hit the gym on Sea Day mornings. A good sweat and getting your blood flowing is a good start of the day (and makes you not feel so guilty about the warm melting chocolate cake!). Elation's gym was newer and very functional. The gym everything you'd need for a great workout. The cardio equipment over looked the water and we saw seabirds and flying fish while on the elliptical. How cool is that? NOTE ON THE CHEERS DRINK PACKAGE: you can spot the Cheers program buyers by the sugary tropical drinks permanently implanted in their hand at all hours of the day. I asked a few people about the package and the general consensus was they felt obligated to buy the high-dollar drinks (and keep count of them) to get their money's worth. It seemed a little obsessive to me. I don't go on vacation to drink all day. I DO, however, like to buy drinks onboard to unwind but not continuously worry if I'm getting the maximum bang for your buck. IMHO... the Cheers program isn't such a great deal. DISEMBARKATION: we selected the self-assist option. We were out of our room by about 8:15 and had just enough time for a few cups of coffee and a little breakfast by the time our deck was called to debark. We got down the gangway, through customs, to the shuttle and back in our car at the Fulton St garage by 9:30 and back sitting on the couch at home by 10am (we live in New Orleans). Easy breezy and worked like a well-oiled machine. SUMMARY: your cruise experience is what you make of it. If you go embracing the possibilities, with a make-the-best-of-it mentality you'll have a great cruise. A lot of people go on cruises with these super high expectations of being waited on hand and foot and having everything at their beck and call. Is that really reasonable? I don't think so. Carnival aims to please, they want you to have an incredible and memorable time so you will return. If you walk off the ship with a mediocre experience that's your fault. I've never had a bad cruise experience with Carnival and can't wait to book my next one! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2015
Hubby and I have sailed on this same ship and itinerary twice. I said I wouldn't do it again, but the second time was an invite to vacation with family and friends. The reason we would not have repeated this trip is because we ... Read More
Hubby and I have sailed on this same ship and itinerary twice. I said I wouldn't do it again, but the second time was an invite to vacation with family and friends. The reason we would not have repeated this trip is because we don't have children, and this cruise is definitely for families with kids who only care about pool time. There is a fairly large main deck pool with a twisted slide that the kids will love, good party music on deck, not too "club-like" and not too loud, but very crowded. The itinerary consisted of one day at sea, Cozumel for a day, then one day at sea. The trouble with this cruise for us, personally, was that there was just nothing fun to do for adults. There were two funny comedians on board, though, with a PG show and an 18+ show. Other things were trivia games stationed all over the ship. A towel-folding demonstration, ice-carving demonstration, and other similar things. I kept some itineraries and scanned them in, hoping to attach to this review, so folks could see how boring the line-up is on this ship, but I can't attach an image to this review. I'll figure something out. Also, there are tons of "seminars", of which I'd gone to the first time we took this cruise, only to find out they try to sell you spa or fitness services and products. Also, the spa is so-so, typical expensive cruise ship spa services, but there's the added pressure to buy their over-priced spa products afterwards where you're basically cornered in the room with your technician. This time I just said "No, thank you." Last time, I spent 60 bucks. We sailed on this ship the first time in 2012 and were not very impressed with the outdated decor and tiny atrium on the Promenade deck. It's also a dis-jointed style ship with no way to walk from aft to forward on one deck, usually the Promenade deck. No biggie. Just seemed closed in. There is a bar in the Atrium that was always crowded, but most people got a drink and walked off. Just a few lingered on bar stools. The cabins are normal accommodations, but again, outdated decor. Also, the drawers, closet and medicine cabinet doors stuck. Our porter was nice, but we had to keep asking for a bucket of ice. Other cruise lines would have a bucket of ice already in our room each evening as we were getting ready for dinner. It's sometimes the little things that set a cruise line apart from the rest. The food in the dining room and the buffet/casual dining areas was not that great. Sometimes tasteless, and some steaks were tough and always overcooked. So order your steak rarer than you like them...FYI. Also, our dining service was appalling. It seemed as though we would be taken care of by this one guy, who came and introduced himself, but then he turned it over to a female waitress. Poor lady. I know she was trying to keep up with out table of 11, but she got no support from the bar steward or a busboy. She was stressed and doing her best, but glasses piled up on our table, because she didn't have the means to clear them all off. Got a little better on the 2nd and 3rd night, because we complained to someone, but still not any better. For what it's worth, we splurged on the Faster to the Fun pass, which entitles you to quicker embarkation and debarkation, dedicated line at Guest Services, and some other perks. I think it was about $45 per person, and it's worth it. For a quick getaway, this cruise is cheap, but for anything else, spend your hard-earned vacation time somewhere better. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2014
This was my 11th Carnival cruise. My last cruise on the Conquest in Oct of 2013 raised my expectations. I was excited to sail on the Sunshine and experience all of the Funship 2.0 enhancements, the Serenity area, and to experience the ... Read More
This was my 11th Carnival cruise. My last cruise on the Conquest in Oct of 2013 raised my expectations. I was excited to sail on the Sunshine and experience all of the Funship 2.0 enhancements, the Serenity area, and to experience the showroom lounge that transforms into the nightclub. This ship is visually pleasing, with nice bright spaces that are tastefully decorated. Overall I enjoyed the ship, but there are areas that could use improvement. Embarkation: Overall smooth process. Travel to the port and parking was easy thanks to the abundance of well marked signs. Port baggage handlers tend to treat guests as someone checking into a correctional institution. I understand the baggage handlers do not work for Carnival, but they are tipped very well and could use a few lessons in customer service. I would recommend the cruise lines begin overseeing the quality of service offered for baggage drop off. Baggage handlers are also asking to see passports. I understand the need to see a boarding pass and photo ID to verify the checked baggage, but passports should only be checked by US Customs and cruise line agents. It was refreshing to finally walk into the terminal and be greeted by a Carnival agent--much friendlier and helpful. We were quickly directed to the VIP lounge where an agent checked us in and pointed us to the seating area. There is no longer a dedicated VIP seating area in the New Orleans terminal. We had to push our way through the general boarding crowd to make our way on to the ship. A designated VIP seating area would make the boarding process much smoother and less confusing. Public Rooms: Most public areas are visually pleasing, fresh and enjoyable spaces. The showroom lounge (Liquid Lounge) is a nice space that doubles as the ship’s nightclub; however, it is very small in relation to other ships and the number of people the cruise ship can accommodate. We had to line up at least 30 minutes prior to a show to guarantee we would have a seat or at least a decent one. A dedicated nightclub open on all nights was missed. No late night bar. Most Carnival ships have a bar that stays open until 5 am for the late night crowd; this ship did not. The lobby is a nice with a fresh look, but seems smaller than most ships. The “Ocean Plaza” area is nice; however it is too close to the Alchemy Bar. Live bands and karaoke in Ocean Plaza makes it difficult to talk to others and have a relaxing time while at the Alchemy Bar. I normally like to visit the piano bar (Piano Bar 88 on this ship); however, it is inconveniently located on deck 4 instead of the promenade. It would be nice if the Alchemy Bar, Piano 88 and the nightclub were all located near each other since they tend to complement each other. The casino offers many gambling options, but seemed smaller than other casino on ships the same size and maybe even smaller than casinos found on Fantasy class ships. Pool and hot tubs were open to 3 am on most nights--very nice. The pool on the serenity deck was nice, but smaller than expected. The serenity deck (really 3 decks) was outstanding. It offered a true getaway for adults with a nice waterfall in the background. The only negative is the lack of chairs. Hopefully Carnival will begin to enforce its policy of guests reserving chairs with towels and other objects to alleviate this issue. Dining: There are several dining options to choose from. The steakhouse was outstanding and conveniently located mid-ship on deck 4 near the atrium. Ji-Ji’s offers several Asian dishes, was well decorated, service was outstanding and the food was delicious. The food at the Italian restaurant was okay; nowhere near the best I’ve had. The food on the buffet was average for Carnival. The salad bar did not seem to have the big selection offered on other ships. The variety of food also seemed smaller although the lines were shorter than most ships. The eggs to order/omelet line is located near the Havana Bar at the back of the ship instead of near the normal buffet food. We didn’t find this out until the third day of the cruise. Guys Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Burrito Bar was great as to be expected. The food in the dining rooms was very good. We switched to your time dining option a couple of years ago and normally never had to wait more than 10 minutes to get seated even with large groups on other ships. One night we were told the wait for a party of 3 would be 45+ minutes so we only ate in the main dining room two nights. Breakfast in the main dining room was outstanding: great selection of food and it was delicious. I tried to call for room service one night, but gave up after being on hold for over 20 minutes--fail. The 24 hour pizza station on the Conquest spoiled me; this ship was a disappointment. There was always a long line or wait. One night we decided to wait for pizza: we were the only ones in line and it still took over 20 minutes for pizza to come out and when it did it was raw. I notified the guest services agent of this and was given a phone call that the problem was being looked into and would be corrected. I went to the pizza station the last night of the cruise and only waited about 10 minutes. The pizza was cooked and much better than the first time--still not on par with the Conquest. Entertainment: I have mixed reviews in this area. First, the shows and the performers were nothing less than outstanding. I really enjoyed the “VIP Studio” show and how they transformed from the show to the nightclub. The Liquid nightclub was nice on the nights it was open and the lighting effects were the best I’ve seen. On every other Carnival cruise the nightclub is open every night and offers a nice place to socialize, especially on the first night of the cruise. I was told the nightclub on the Sunshine is not open the first or last nights of a cruise because they are the traditional slow nights. I was also informed the Havana Bar near the back of the ship stayed open until 2 am on the nights the nightclub is closed and offered music for dancing--that is not the case. It may be open later, but no one was back there and we were informed by the Havana Bar staff they could not treat it as a nightclub because guests of all ages were allowed to use that area at all times. I was confused by the answers…bottom line: adult entertainment = FAIL; expectations were not met. Service: Overall the service was great. The bar staff on this ship was outstanding. Drinks were always great and were served fairly quickly. Ioana in the Alchemy bar is my one “by name” mention from this cruise. She was extremely attentive to our needs, made great drinks and gave us some of her mixology secrets to enhance our experience. Room service was great as usual. Shore Excursions: There were a good number of shore excursions available. We booked all of our excursions online; however the shore excursion staff offered assistance with excursions and offered to allow us to change our existing ones…outstanding service. Cabin: We booked a balcony cabin on deck 8. It seemed a little smaller than most Carnival staterooms I’ve stayed in before. It had a nice amount of storage space, great air conditioning control, a nice size flat screen TV, but no refrigerator. The bathroom was nice and included a larger shower than I’ve had on previous Carnival cruises. Fitness/Recreation: The gym was great. It had more cardio machines than most ships I’ve been on. There were also a nice selection of weight machines. The gym hours were better than most ships I’ve been on as well. The one negative is it lacked a steam room in the men’s locker room. The large number of recreation options made it nearly impossible to become bored on the ship. The waterslides were awesome! Debarkation: A mess. “Self-assist” luggage option delays the overall debarkation process. Too many people are using this option. Self-assist creates a gridlock effect on the ship. Everyone using self-assist clogs the elevators, hallways and other common areas. I strongly recommend Carnival minimize the number guests using the self-assist option and/or the size and number of bags people carry off the ship. As a VIP I normally exit the ship within an hour and a half after docking. We docked around 6 am, but were not allowed to exit until nearly 9 am. Summary: It was a nice ship packed with many restaurants and entertainment options; however, I can’t recommend this ship for many of the people I normally travel with; however it is probably more appropriate for an older crowd and families traveling with small children that do not like to stay out late. It does not offer many of the traditional Carnival experiences I have come expect. The flow of the ship is confusing to me and many other I cruised with. I would be more apt to sailing on the Sunshine again if: another level was added to the show lounge, a dedicated night club was added and the ambiance of the Alchemy Bar was not ruined by the events taking place at “Ocean Plaza”   Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
My partner and I decided in late October to take a last minute cruise from New Orleans in Early mid November ohm the Norwergian Jewel just to get away and relax a bit. This is our third cruise with Norwegian in three years so we are ... Read More
My partner and I decided in late October to take a last minute cruise from New Orleans in Early mid November ohm the Norwergian Jewel just to get away and relax a bit. This is our third cruise with Norwegian in three years so we are obviously Norwegian fans. We are very successful in business and work for ourselves. I would say that though we tend to be somewhat frugal we will splurge and enjoy small luxuries when possible. On our past two trips we chose an Ocean View Stateroom on the Spirit and a Balcony on the Epic. This time I started with an inexpensive Inside guaranty cabin for $299 ea (I was being very frugal). However, we had a big contract come through so I then upgraded one week later to a mini-suite gty cabin for $200 more each. Still a great bargain. The mini Suites on the Jewel are a bit larger and fitted out a little nicer than the standard Balcony Staterooms. However mini-SUITE is a bit of a misnomer as they do not include any of the luxuries included in a real suite such as: Priority Embarkation, seating in the balcony 'boxes' for shows, Captains Cocktail Party, Bridge Tour, Private Suite Only dining every day in Cagney's for Breakfast and Lunch, Butler and Concierge Service, hors d'oeuvres and sweets delivered to the cabin late afternoon and each night before bed, Champagne and fresh flowers upon arrival in the cabin, Priority tinkering to shore, and basically being treated like royalty. All of these little luxuries are included in the penthouse suites. However there is one category even higher which is the Haven Suites on Deck 14 with private access to a sliding glass roofed courtyard with a tiny pool (probably 16' by 8') and deck chairs which are shared by 12 -14 suites in this private area. As we were a guaranty mini-suite category we weren't assigned a cabin until two days before the cruise but were very shocked and pleasantly surprised to be upgrade for free to a 2 Bedroom-2 Bath Penthouse suite with all of the luxuries listed above except the Haven Courtyard access. I started researching the cabin number ( Stateroom 11518 - the Opal Suite ) and found that the one negative is that it is located below the weight room and the treadmill area. Several comments indicated that this was very loud and quite disruptive for relaxation from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm each night. We decided this would be an issue if we were paying the extra $600- 800 each to choose this suite but we could certainly live thorough the noise and not look a "gift horse in the mouth"! This turned out to be the right mind set. The gym was loud as people were constantly dropping weights and it sounded like the ceiling could come don a few time. We honestly did get used to it and even had a good sense of humor about it. The suite itself was incredible! Using our card keys we entered into an entry foyer with two doorways. The first door leads to a small interior bedroom and nicely sized private bath with it's own key card access door. Rubber door stops were provided to keep the doors propped open if you so choose. Also accessed from the foyer was a second card keyed door that lead to the main area of the suite (also with a door stop provided). This triple locked door configuration makes the suite perfect for families or room mate situations. Just be careful through! If one of the doors swings shut they automatically lock. I'll explain why this can be a problem in moment. :-0 The main door to the suite proper is flanked by really cool looking lighted columns creating a some what grand entry. Through this door is a lovely wood paneled living area with a table and four chairs, mini bar and cappuccino maker, sofa, two chairs and entertainment center with one of four flat screen televisions and a dvd player. A fairly small balcony is off the living room with two very nice wicker looking padded deck chairs, a small end table, and a foot stool. They are nicer than the chairs on the neighboring non-suite balconies. The view from the 11th floor bacon is unobstructed and very nice. Through the main sitting room is an opening with a very heavy and substantial glass pocked door leading to an open concept grand master bath. The master bath is breathtaking! Unlike any other stateroom configuration I have ever seen, there is a soaking tub and a walk in luxury shower that extend out past the balcony and give you panoramic views of the ocean! The shower actually has one wall that is a floor to ceiling glass panel with a sheer drop down to the water below. There is a privacy screen that can be lowered but it isn't needed unless you are in port facing a dock. The shower itself has two shower heads (one is a removable hand held sprayer) and two body sprays. All of the fixtures are Hans Grohe slimline modern sprayers. Very elegant and high end. The main pat of the bathos a marble floored are with an eight foot long double vanity, multiple mirrors, glass shelving with elegant glass jars for provided toiletries such as cotton balls and bath salts. There are several different lighting sources such as recessed lighten and wall sconces. There is a separate glass enclosed water closet area with a privet phone and a flat screen tv over the tub. In the are you walk into from the living room there is a carpeted section with a large floor to ceiling clothes closet and a built in cabinet housing two safes, armoire storage, and four drawers. There were also multiple compartments, doors, and drawers in the bath are. Too many to use them all. On the interior wall of the open concept bath is a curtained nook for the VERY COMFORTABLE queen sized master bed. It sits in a wood paneled and mirrored alcove with a chandelier over the bed, room to both sides for end tables with drawers, shelves, plugs, phones, and wall mounted halogen reading lights. You can also control most of the lights in the bed/bath sea of the suite from wall mounted switches to either side of the bed. The alcove contains another flat screen tv, built in media center with dvd player, and more storage. One funny story about the three locking doors from the foyer. My partner decided he was going to sleep on the sofa in the living room. between reading habits, television watching, etc... this is how we live now. The first night of the cruise he got up about 2:00am and went through the door to the foyer and then through the door to the interior guest room to use the secondary bathroom. Somehow he knocked the door closed to the main sitting room which automatically locked! He tried knocking softly so as not to wake the neighbors but I didn't hear him all the way through to the master bed alcove. He ended sleeping in the guest room and remained locked out until I discovered him in there the next morning. Needless to say we made sure the doors remained propped ope the rest of the cruise. :-) I know this is long and detailed. So to sum up: Eric the room steward was fantastic. John De'Souza, the head concierge was incredible. He even went out of his way to make us comfortable as a same sex couple though we aren't obvious in any way. All of the other suite guests were ver friendly and accepting of us as well. We never felt out of place or uncomfortable. This was one of the best vacations we have ever had! My partner and I have been together for 27 years. We are life partners and business partners in a very successful Interior Design Firm in Northern Alabama. Though we are both males we fit in well with any group and have never experienced any real negativity or blatant negativity form anyone. I only mention then because we found that Norwegian Cruise lInes has always been very gay friendly and accommodating. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2013
Background Info: We are Gold Latitude on NCL. Hotel Info: We stayed at The St. James Hotel, an Ascend Collection Hotel by Choice Hotels on Magazine Street in NOLA the night before. Hotel was lovely. We would recommend to anyone. ... Read More
Background Info: We are Gold Latitude on NCL. Hotel Info: We stayed at The St. James Hotel, an Ascend Collection Hotel by Choice Hotels on Magazine Street in NOLA the night before. Hotel was lovely. We would recommend to anyone. Embarkation: We've never cruised from NOLA, so you need to know that the ship will be mostly comprised of southern conservatives with a sprinkling of liberals and few international travelers. There were a high percentage of senior citizens and "rednecks", but the mix of folks was fine. As a penthouse guest, we were escorted through the entire process, and on the ship in less than ten minutes. John D'Souza the concierge had a staff member escort us to Cagney's Steakhouse for lunch. A very impressive and stress-free embarkation. Cabin: The penthouse suite is roomy and basically the size of your typical hotel room. The shining features include the Lavazza espresso machine and china, glass, and silver arrangement in the china cabinet. The bath includes private water closet and full size tub as well as Elemis bath products. PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING: Avoid deck 8 Aft. In order to reach your stateroom, you must walk through either Blue Lagoon or Moderno each and every time. It is not only uncomfortable for you, but also a distraction for the diners in the restaurants. Pick a suite on decks 9, 10, or 11. Dining: We chose specialty dining most of the time including Le Bistro, Cagney's, China Chin, and La Cucina. All were wonderful and worth the small fee. Our meal at the MDR Tsar's was serviceable but rushed. Hats off to the manager of Chin Chin who delivered our desserts to our suite. Entertainment: Typical song and dance for a cruise. Don't miss the staff talent show....awesome! Also, the live band they had on our cruise was one of the best we have ever heard. They played one evening for the Mardi Gras pool deck party, and they were sensational! Spa: Had four treatments between the two of us and the staff was professional and excellent. Staff: Shout out to Angel in Star Bar on deck 13 by Cagney's where the LGBT happy hour was held. He was lovely and gracious. Our room attendant Caril was efficient, polite, funny, and caring. Sir Walter, our butler went above and beyond everyday of the cruise. Ports: Montego Bay is to be avoided unless you have an excursion-the folks are fairly aggressive. Georgetown is lovely and our trip to Seven Mile Beach was exquisite. Cozumel is one of our favorite ports and we dined at Pancho's Backyard and bought rugs at our favorite shop. Disembarkation: Piece of cake- from the suite to the cab was 10 minutes... Summary: Our time was restful and delightful. The "rednecks" were annoying but mostly respectful. This cruise is a great value that you should consider. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
I enjoyed the cruise and am very glad I went. However, my biggest disappointment in the cruise was the activities and entertainment. Except for the shore excursions, the on board offerings were somewhat simple and mindless. ... Read More
I enjoyed the cruise and am very glad I went. However, my biggest disappointment in the cruise was the activities and entertainment. Except for the shore excursions, the on board offerings were somewhat simple and mindless. 70's-80's Pop culture, mindless TV game shows etc. and low-level (though well executed) Las Vegas stage shows are fine, even fun, but when they are the only options, it seems like they are being aimed at the lowest common denominator of the population. I did not hear one note of classical music during the entire cruise. (Couldn't there be an audio channel on the TV?) There were no lectures and really no activities that required any thought or intellect--and this is a shame because, for example, people (especially children and teens!) came back from seeing wonderful Mayan ruins, indigenous populations and local economy and history and had no clue what they had seen. So much more could have been done to enrich the experience of the cruisers with a little education and preparation. And how about a couple of rudimentary Spanish lessons--or conversation groups to revive people's knowledge of Spanish? Instead we had big prep sessions and relentless print ads in our daily bulletins to alert people to shopping opportunities! All of this tended to lower the level of conversation on the boat to the catatonic level of a week long visit to a mall. Of course most people come aboard with friends and family, with whom they tend to stick to the exclusion of other passengers, so I don't expect too much in the way of scintillating company. But the most interesting conversation I had during the entire cruise was with a 13 year old boy whose family went off to a specialty restaurant. He was a musician and also interested in child psychology. My other conversations, though pleasant, were mostly stories about casino gambling, how drunk people got the night before, how much they paid for jewelry and how they missed seeing football during the week. The ship is using the internet for its operations. Why does it have to be so expensive for the passengers? Also, even if external internet access is not provided, the "intRAnet" (on-board internet) could be used so much more effectively. There is a "community" section on the internet that is free. This could be used to post restaurant menus, event schedules, television schedules (movies) and many other bits of information that passengers would like to have available. It is already up and running but has only ship embarcation schedules. Regarding food, generally it was OK, but by no means did it ever rise to the level of fine dining and the two extra-charge specialty restaurants were just not that much better than the complementary dining options. I did not try Cagney's steak house, but to my surprise The Brazilian churrascaria, Moderno, had nearly flavorless grilled meats, some of which were actually too tough to eat. La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, was better, but only one cut above the Olive Garden. The outdoor grill barbecue offerings were also dry, tough and flavorless. The Tsar's palace and Azura had dishes that looked good, but were only occasionally really well prepared. I had to do something I never do--namely send food back because it simply was not worth eating. I found the Garden Grill buffet had the best chance to provide edible food, some of which was quite good--the small Indian offerings being reliably tasty. And why should we have to pay extra for espresso? The Garden Grill already has coffee machines that grind and fresh-brew quite decent Americano coffee. Machines that do this and also provide espresso are everywhere. It would be so easy to install them, and it would add a lot to the experience of the cruise. Small matters: The chairs in the library are extremely uncomfortable and narrow. The library was rather heavily used, and more space with comfortable chairs for reading would be welcome. I had plug adapters for European electric plugs, so I could use the library or card room with my own computer for a more pleasant place to do some writing, but others who only had US plugs were frustrated. For folks like me who like to spend recreational time not only reading but writing, a room with tables and universal electric outlets for our own computers would be most welcome. It would be good to have adapters available, or dual wall plugs. Although a service charge of 12% was added to the bill, I felt continually pressured to offer additional tips--even for coffee. I would so much prefer a service charge of 15-18% and a no-tipping policy throughout the ship. This is exacerbated by the fact that the ship is full of concessionaires who work on commission. These are likeable folks, but their income depends on hard selling (and up-selling) and this became obsessive and egregious at times. The shore excursions were the high point of the trip for me. There was a large variety of excursions for different tastes, and the guides and activities were informative and fun. All this said, I want to commend the ship on the superb quality of the crew who were consistently helpful, happy and competent. They made the cruise a pleasure at all times. I also want to commend the ship on its excellent environmental policies. I would cruise with NCL again if only to support this effort. It made me feel that I was not harming the earth quite so much when indulging in a cruise experience.   Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest ... Read More
. . . on a ship, that is! First off, I think a cruise is always the most relaxing of vacations, and have to have one every year. This was the one and only for us in 2013. However, we picked NCL only because we were part of the Aquafest group on board - an association of GLBT folk who each year at Hallowe'en partially charter a ship for a great party. NCL works well for these events, with its "Freestyle Cruising". The party was fun, the ship was fun, the crew was fun, but outside of an Aquafest function we would be sailing on another line. Embarkation was great. We're from New Orleans, so, of course, it's a fantastic place to start your trip! We were on the ship quickly and smoothly. In time for the lunch we always enjoy on sailing day in the main dining room - here, Tsar's Palace. This is a good idea. You avoid the push and shove of the buffet, and are seated for a refined, civilized experience. The ship is decently laid out and easy to get around. I have never seen such clear markings of where the venues are on any ship in the past. Also, the elevators have guides, telling you what is on each deck. This was my first cruise I did not walk the ship deck to deck before sailing to familiarize myself with it. We were able to join the group party at the Sky Bar instead! That said, there is a massive bottleneck between the pool deck and the buffet, as it skirts the pool grill and goes past the pool's restrooms. Two columns in the middle of this path were padded, gridiron style - a reminder of past boo-boos. It appears the pool deck at one time had paths on both the port and starboard sides, allowing for better flow. The port side is closed at both ends - aft by a hot tub that is an obvious addition. A pleasant consequence is there is a nice secluded place by the pool and two hot tubs in the forward port corner of the pool deck. The pool deck on the Jewel is quite large, accommodating two large pools and four hot tubs, plus the one that was an afterthought. The itinerary includes the usual Western Caribbean suspects: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, and The Magic Mayan Kingdom (a/k/a Costa Maya). I understand there's a different set of itineraries too, including Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Again - we were on board for the party, and not the ports. At Cozumel we had a booked excursion through Cozumelwatersports.com. A catamaran/snorkel excursion that was absolutely fabulous. Not too large. A real catamaran. The cast and crew very attentive to safety and comfort. Will do again. NCL quite often, for more money, places you on a cattle boat with 80 people for a "snorkel/sail". Yes, Belize is third world. But not everyone gets to live in the USA. Explore the city. Stay on the main street that goes over the pivot bridge. Absorb it. Watch your wallet, especially when someone "bumps" into you. Ignore the men trying to sell you their sisters. We walked down this street to St. John's Anglican Cathedral, and enjoyed a delightful treat of early 19th Century Caribbean architecture. You could absorb the history from the plaques on the walls. Across from the back of the church is the Government House, open as a museum. Some fine displays of Belize in the past, and a great specimen of old colonial days. I thought I was in a W. Somerset Maugham story! Wondering around the grounds of Government House the staff pointed out to us two iguanas in the trees. What a treat. Walking back the children were being let out of two schools on our route, and it was great to see them in their starched white uniforms. (Much more presentable than the typical American kid, I might say.) Back in the tourist village we went to our favorite shop, The Loom Ltd., which sells pillow covers, runners, etc., to find them in the midst of a liquidation sale. Budging them out of their space? Diamonds International. As if they need more room! At Roatan we did a beach party with our Aquafest group, and it was a blast. A great beach club. Great Honduran beers. Great fun! Not too much at the Coxen Hole port, it appears. Consider an excursion here. Costa Maya was another beach party, one that NCL gave to Aquafest for free. Thank goodness we did not pay for it, as it was a poor cousin to the Roatan experience. 45 minute bus ride each way - but in a comfortable bus. Not much in the way of shaded areas, and no umbrellas. However, a very special young lady pointed out an open thatched hut with recliners and chairs - even a table and a counter - and we enjoyed the day there. Great food and beverage service. But, we might not have been so happy if we had to pay for it. Costa Maya is a huge disappointment, and we are glad that next year, when the Jewel sails from Houston for the Aquafest cruise, it will be off the list. As for restaurants: We are used to dining well - both at home and when traveling (we're from New Orleans!). The only restaurant on board worthy of the upcharge, we concluded, is Le Bistro. The food there is excellent. The staff is the most coordinated and pleasant of any of the dining rooms on board. We ate there four times - twice as scheduled dinner - once as part of the "Chef's Table" event - and a fourth time for the Jazz Brunch the final day at sea. I would recommend all of it. Especially Chef's Table. A multi-course meal with champagne and three different (and good) wines - for about $80.00 per person. A couple photos, too! And, after dinner drinks. The food and service were memorable. Look for this - especially the day you board. We found out about it from a pleasant lady bringing specialty restaurant menus around the main dining room on the day we sailed. Or, ask about it at a specialty restaurant desk in the lobby the day you board. On future cruises we will likely eat in the main dining room for dinner on the other nights, as we did our first night - when we had a pleasant meal. Cagney's is just a steakhouse, and while the food was good, it was rushed and the service was poor. We were ignored after our entrees were served. Moderno, a churrascaria, is a meat lover's orgy - maybe too much. We did not like some of the flavors. The salad bar there is wonderful, though. At Chin-Chin's (Asian flavas) we really enjoyed the appetizers, but our entrees were like the Chinese take out we can get back home. We have yet to have done the hibachi tables they have, though - that might be fun. Finally, we cancelled the Italian restaurant in favor of another Le Bistro dinner after hearing a few bad things, and recalling some less than stellar meals in the Italian restaurants on other NCL ships in the past - moreover, the ship was giving it away to the Aquafest group, another sign . . . On sea days - wait for the cookout on the pool deck. Much better than the buffet, and they stir up a wonderful paella! It is kind of hard to get a drink on this ship. On the pool deck I would observe more crew clearing tables than I would beverage servers. Not the fault of the crew, for sure. A staffing matter. We did not do any ship entertainment because the Aquafest demimonde took up our evenings. There is a great guy who sings and plays piano in the Martini bar on deck six. This bar, and the adjacent Maltings, are among the more civilized venues on board. Overall - a great time! Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
Introduction and Background: I’m a 31 year old gay male cruiser who booked my first voyage with AquaFest group cruises on the Norwegian Jewel. This sailing was my fifth sailing on the Norwegian Jewel with 43 days at sea on her which is ... Read More
Introduction and Background: I’m a 31 year old gay male cruiser who booked my first voyage with AquaFest group cruises on the Norwegian Jewel. This sailing was my fifth sailing on the Norwegian Jewel with 43 days at sea on her which is the longest of any ship I’ve sailed on. Other cruise lines I’ve experienced include Princess (5+), Celebrity (5), Royal Caribbean (1) and Carnival (1) with the remainder being on Norwegian ships. Out of all the 27 voyages I’ve taken, 5 have been with Atlantis Events and 1 has been with Pied Piper. My most recent cruise prior to this was the Norwegian Breakaway inaugural Trans-Atlantic in late April 2013. Events are presented and reviewed in chronological order so enjoy! Pre-Cruise Stay NOLA: Comfort Inn & Suites Central Business District A nice hotel appointed with some great amenities like in room refrigerator, microwave and free continental breakfast in the morning. The location wasn’t all too far from the French Quarter and lively Bourbon Street but far enough in the early AM hours to need a cab if you’ve reveled too much. The front desk staff was extremely helpful during our stay. Norwegian Jewel Cruise: 7-Day Western Caribbean DAY 1: Embarkation Embarkation I arrived to the Port of New Orleans just prior to noon with a long check-in line greeting me, even for Platinum Latitudes. The break down for the line was new cruisers or returning cruisers and then a separate line for passengers with disabilities. Unlike Miami where there are different lines for different tiers of Latitudes members, New Orleans mashes all Latitudes levels together. The check-in agent was fast and efficient when we reached her and she got us on our way as fast as she could have. After over a half hour in the terminal we were on the ship. A leisurely embarkation lunch can usually be found in the ship’s main dining room and Tsar’s Palace offered a perfect reprieve from the chaos of the Garden Buffet while waiting for the rooms to be ready. Our lunch was served to us by a nice waitress named Leyda from Colombia who we had the pleasure of having service from in Azura another time later in the cruise. By 1:30PM the staterooms were announced as ready. Stateroom 5570: I’ve been in balcony cabins only on Norwegian Jewel so this was a new experience in an ocean view. Having the beds combined left little space on both sides barely a foot between the bed and wall. The cabin storage was fantastic for two people traveling with several costumes, regular clothing and lots of shoes. The bathroom is a standard layout and all in one compartment with the toilet having a separate door from the sink/mirror area and the shower. The shower head on the Jewel-class ships has two features  rain and steady unlike the new Breakaway class which has rain only. Norwegian Jewel Ship: This was my fifth time on the Jewel and I can say Norwegian Cruise Line does a nice job of keeping the ship in working order. She looks just as good as the first time I set foot on her in 2007 and everything was in working order. Unlike the Dawn class ships which have had their Spinnaker Lounge relocated, the Jewel still has her Spinnakers intact with great panoramic views of where the ship is going on Deck 13 forward. The flow of the ship on Deck 7 and 6 are quite helpful in keeping passengers moving between venues and the passenger to space aspect ratio is nicer on the Jewel so you don’t feel cramped. After going to the room and getting things in order, it was time to meet the people of Aquafest in the meeting rooms on Deck 6 forward by the Stardust Theater. The check-in for the group was quick and painless and I got to meet a lot of the Hosts for our trip while receiving goodies of a free Aquafest sling-pack, a promotional copy of remixes from DJ Michael as well as our wrist bands for the week and our Roatan beach excursion. At the end of the receiving line was Tom Baker who is the President of Aquafest. It was a nice welcome to the group of Aquafest cruises as this was my first experience with them. I sailed with Pied Piper earlier in the year for the first time and so far this experience was much better. It was a quick jaunt back to the room before muster drill held promptly at 3:15PM before going up to the Sky High Bar for a drink and cast-off party. It was here that I saw Katya, Norwegian Jewel’s resident Beverage Manager extraordinaire. This was my third sailing with Katya and when I did a ship visit to the Jewel in October 2012 I had bumped into her again. She’s a great woman who helped me find a substitute vodka when the Jewel ran out of Grey Goose later in the cruise. Katya knows her alcohols and knows how to keep her guests happy. I knew the cruise would be in great hands with her at the helm. She had just returned from her vacation and joined the ship a few hours previous. We watched the Party-Like-A-Norwegian pool side events while waiting for the ship to cast off. When the ship was under way we headed out back to the Great Outdoors to watch the ship sail off and New Orleans grow smaller behind us. The sun was blocked by clouds so a picturesque sunset over the river wasn’t had this time. Embarkation dinner was actually provided by the Garden Café since we were right there and pressed for time. The assortment of dinner foods was good. The salad bar was well stocked and the main dishes were all tasty. I prefer dining in the main dining room but couldn’t get there with the tight turn around tonight. There was a nice open bar mixer for an hour to meet our fellow Aquafest guests before heading to the Welcome Aboard Variety Show. This gave my traveling companion a taste of the entertainment he’d see all week. There was a production cast number, a comedian and a pianist. The comedian was quite funny but the pianist was not exactly entertaining for either of us so we skipped his show later in the week. With a gap between events it was time to head back and unpack before Aquafest variety show which was hosted by the vicious, yet awesome Bianca del Rio. I’ve never met a drag queen as vicious as her but darn can she make you laugh! By the end of the cruise I wished she lived closer to Boston! Also, we got a preview of Tom Goss and David Hernandez talents. The only person we didn’t like was the comedian Jessica Halem who was being shown up by Bianca quite badly during this show. Bianca totally stole the show! Coming off a late night of reveling in the French Quarter and a long day of traveling it was time to turn in for the night. All in all embarkation day was a busy day of meeting new people, unpacking and seeing what the week had in store. DAY 2: Sea Day It was a leisurely morning and after breakfast we did a workout in the ship’s gym. The gym is well appointed with several weight-bearing machines for the arms, abs, shoulders and legs. The cardio deck has been updated with treadmills and elliptical machines with games on them as well as personalized TV channels. It’s a nice addition to the gym and keeps you engaged while doing your cardio workout. Later in the morning there was the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet in the Star Bar. Thanks to another Cruise Critic member for organizing the event with a gift exchange. Lots of members showed up and so did the senior management of the ship. The Jewel is home to so many familiar faces including the Guest Services Manager Gary Alldredge, Ignacio the Food and Beverage Manager from Spain and Katy the Bar Manager. During this meeting I approached Ignacio about an issue I was having getting through to room service. The line was constantly busy no matter the time you called. I explained my daily request and asked if he could just make sure it was done so I didn’t have to waste time on my vacation calling trying to get through. Ignacio took down my request and it happened like clock-work every single day for the rest of the voyage. It was nice of Ignacio to listen to the problem and take the necessary steps to rectify it right then and there. Next it was time for lunch and Aquafest had a hosted lunch in the Tsar’s Palace main dining room. While standing in line to enter the dining room, Rowena (Hostess) came out and told guests who were doing the group lunch to enter through the other door. I recognized Rowena from the Philippines immediately and said hello to her. Given how busy it was we didn’t have time to talk but would see her later as she was the hostess for the Azura main dining room. Lunch was great and included meeting new people in the group along with lunchtime favorites of the Vietnamese roll and the NY Strip Steak with mushrooms and fries. It was now time to try and get some sun on the breezy private sun deck Aquafest had for the group. We stayed up there for a couple of hours before heading back for to prepare for dinner. During this time Aquafest hosted a singles event in the Star Bar with Bianca del Rio. We stopped in looking for a friend before heading up to the sun deck and it seemed very well attended. Aquafest Entertainment: Kinsey Sicks The Spinnaker’s Lounge was home to performance venues for the whole week for our group. The first entertainers were the Kinsey Sicks who are a vocal quartet and who use their rhythms and some comedy to tell their story. The performers did their best when they were snagged by a technical snafu and recovered nicely to finish the show. Specialty Dining: Mama’s Italian Kitchen As part of the group amenities, there was a compensated dinner in the Jewel’s Italian specialty restaurant. The food was great and so was the service from our waiter. He accommodated a special request to come with the main meal which was the steak. The steak was cooked perfectly and was mouth-watering. We were by the windows at a deuce and had a wonderful dinner together. Norwegian’s Stardust Showtime: BAND ON THE RUN This was the production cast’s first main show. It takes the hits of the 70s and brings them alive on stage with the singers, dancers and acrobats performing. It’s a great way to start off the cruise with catchy numbers that can sometimes get stuck in your head for days. Upon return to the cabin, my travel companion made the mistake of lying down. I went out to check out the Sci-Fi theme night in Spinnakers for a while. I had a drink and retired for the evening myself. It was an early rise the next day. DAY 3: Cozumel, Mexico Norwegian Excursion: Tulum Mayan Ruins Our day started with a transfer to the Ultra Mar ferry at the pier for the transfer to Playa del Carmen on the main land. The sales pitches on the ferry for water were a bit annoying. Once on land in Playa del Carmen we transferred to an air conditioned bus for a drive to the ruins and met our tour guide Angel. There was a brief bathroom, shopping and photo break before continuing to the ruins. In the store Angel explained the Mayan calendar and why it was circular. Once at the ruins Angel did a fantastic job of explaining everything we were seeing and the Mayan culture. He drew in the sand to help us understand principles of mathematics and was just so thorough. I haven’t come across a tour guide in the Caribbean in a number of years as good as him. This was my second visit to these ruins in 12 years and this time was far better than the first. I highly recommend this tour and this tour guide. It’s a full day tour so returning to Cozumel, Mexico meant the ship was departing soon. We did some shopping at the end of the downtown pier in San Miguel and got a drink over a Senor Frogs before heading back to the ship. Senor Frogs was dead as most of the revelers had already gone back. Back on the ship we went up on Deck 14 forward to experience the ship leaving Cozumel and to watch the beautiful sunset along with grabbing a quick bite to eat from the grill poolside. Specialty Dining: Moderno Churriscaria For a cover charge of $20, you get an incredibly filling meal. You start with a salad bar which has lots to offer. The salad bar on the Jewel class ships is not as large as that on the Epic or Breakaway but the offerings still healthy and plentiful. Once you flip your card from red to green on your table the parade of meats begin. You get to sample all of the meats offered and then when you’re finished the wait staff bring back your favorites. I love the garlic beef in this restaurant! The dinner was leisurely and as a result we missed the early evening’s entertainment from Aquafest comedian Jessica Halem. Our mistake was laying down to wait for Tom Goss’ performance which resulted in missing the entire rest of the evening. A great day but early day at Tulum and in the hot sun will put anyone to sleep! DAY 4: Belize City, Belize Norwegian Excursion: Lamanai Ruins The tour starts early and it’s a full day long tour which consists of a tender ride to shore, a bus ride to another speed boat which zips you down the river to the ruins. It seems like a lot but in the end it’s worth the wait. It has rained earlier in the day when the ship first arrived to Belize and these ruins are really in the jungle. The paths were muddy and puddle ridden. If you didn’t mind getting a little dirty then you could experience everything including climbing to the tops of the ruins to catch a glimpse into a neighboring country. After having such a great tour guide in Tulum, I couldn’t have been more disappointed with our tour guide for Belize. She explained nothing to our group and only told us what time to climb down from the ruins by. During this tour I bumped into a photographer friend of mine who’s been on quite a few of the ships I’ve traveled with Norwegian recently Liga N. from Latvia. It was a pleasant surprise to see her in a remote part of the jungle! The highlight of the tour was a local lunch served at the speed boat dock and the friendly service of the locals. I got to have a Beliken Beer which has become a tradition each time I stop in this country! Now a note about Cruise Critic folks booking independent tours trying to save a few bucks. During our tour we had to stop three times to offer assistance to a tour boat done by Cruise Critic members which kept breaking down. Had we not come along I don’t know what the outcome would have been for the people or if they would have made it back to the ship. This was an inconvenience to our tour and delayed our arrival to the ruins and also cut the time short for our excursion. It was nice of our guy to stop but this should serve as a lesson about doing things on your own. This was a full day tour and back on the ship we decided to eat at Azura restaurant before heading up to our spa appointment. Rowena, the hostess from the Philippines, greeted us warmly and seated us in Edgardo’s section. Edgardo is a waiter from the Philippines who started his shift in the Azura restaurant for dinner service and worked until the wee hours in the Blue Lagoon. We’d end up running into him a lot by the end of the cruise. It was a great dinner service and we got a picture with Rowena before sneaking off to the show briefly and to the Aquafest spa night. Norwegian Stardust Showtime: Comedian-Illusionist Jean-Pierre Parent I’ve sailed with Jean-Pierre many times and his show always entertains. It was my fourth time seeing his show which he changed a bit and my friend’s first time. It’s always a good time but we couldn’t stay for the full time because of our spa appointment. I highly recommend Jean-Pierre’s show! I didn’t know at the time the spa night would coincide with Jean-Pierre’s performance. Norwegian Experience: Mandara Spa This is the first time in my cruising life to visit a spa for something outside of using their gym facilities. I was nervous about the whole experience and the massage therapist could tell as the 50 minute spa package included a back, neck, scalp and foot massage along with a facial cleansing. I misplaced the receipt with the spa attendant’s name but she did an excellent job of calming me down and making my first cruise spa experience extremely enjoyable. I don’t know why it’s taken me 27 cruises to try this out. The spa package I purchased cost $120 including tip. It was well worth it and then I got to use the hot tub, sauna and steam room until 11PM. Aquafest Entertainment: Ancient Epics & Superheroes Theme Dance I didn’t bring a costume but wanted to finally get up there and check out the party going on. People put a lot of effort into bringing costumes from the simple Batman & Robin to a Burger King costume! It was a fun night out but a lot of people seemed to drift off early as they were tired from full day excursions including me! The night ended with a trip to the Blue Lagoon and service from Edgardo which included the customary late night chicken tenders!! DAY 5: Roatan Island, Honduras Halloween!! Aquafest Private Excursion: The Beach Club San Simon We met at our designated time pier-side and were split into smaller busses to be taken to the West End of the island and a private beach resort. The beach was pristine, clean and locals peddling goods were kept at bay after a disagreement with police. The water was so clean and beautiful and the resort had a nice pool which we also had access to. The bar staff were friendly and the same waiter we had on the beach set us up with a sheltered table to eat our lunch. It was well worth the investment to do this beach break and I got to meet a lot more of the Aquafest team including getting an invite to a private event later. This beach club is definitely something I’ll keep in mind on any return trips to the island. By 2:30PM it was time to return to the ship, watch her cast off from Deck 14 forward and then return to the cabin to get ready for the evening’s affairs. It was very nice to experience the Garden Villas for a reception before dining in Azura. It was at this event I happened to meet another incredibly friendly Norwegian shore-side staff member named Jason K. who was helping out since our Hotel Director had flown to Miami for a conference. The reception ended and it was off to dinner in Azura where the food was made to order and the service great. Rowena was able to accommodate our ever growing group and put us in Leyda’s (waitress from Colombia) section. It was nice to have dinner with new found friends who we would interact with for the rest of the cruise. Norwegian’s Signature Chocoholic Buffet Once a cruise usually in the Garden Café there’s a chocolate lover’s event that cannot be missed. The signature Chocoholic buffet is where chocolate and ice sculptures are put on display. This cruise was extra special since the theme in the buffet was Halloween with pumpkins, chocolate and ice sculptures carved in mystical and scary creatures. It was a nice touch although the chocolate selection seemed to be easily repeated at each of the action stations. All in all it was still good! Aquafest Entertainment: Toga and White Party Theme Dance Tonight Norwegian Cruise Line was celebrating their Halloween with a costume contest in the Spinnakers Lounge so our group moved to Fyzz. A curtain was placed up for our group’s privacy unfortunately trapping all the fake fog they were using to smoke up the room. It was unbearable to be in there for any length of time and this is the one night where bar service was a problem. The bar in Fyzz is too small to accommodate a group of our size. The fog also gave me a scratchy throat and started me towards laryngitis. Aquafest Charity Entertainment: Boylesque at Sea Three of the hot Norwegian Cruise Line production cast dancers performed a striptease number for our private group all to benefit charity during the toga party. It was a nice addition to the evening and the boys definitely put on a show. The highlight of the evening was seeing a good Norwegian entertainer in a new way! Great work Jean-Pierre for your part of this performance (and I’ll leave it at that)!! Twice we visited the Halloween ship party in Spinnakers to get some air and to get drinks. The first time Spinnakers had a decent turn out with fellow cruisers really getting decked out for the party. The second time we visited the ship party just before 1AM the place was a ghost town while the toga party was still going on pretty strong. We also visited the Blue Lagoon afterward for some chicken tenders and service from Edgardo before retiring. DAY 6: Costa Maya, Mexico Norwegian and Aquafest Private Excursion: Beach Getaway at Jungle Beach Club There were two departure times from the Costa Maya pier to the all-inclusive beach club. Before we knew it we were at the beach club and found chairs shaded by a tree. A friendly waitress took care of us during our entire stay there. I got to sample some of their quesadillas and Dos Equis beer. We ventured out on a raft to a concrete structure off-shore as something to do. The water was not clear like Roatan and was littered with rocks and seaweed. We took the 1PM transfer back to the port so we could do some shopping and meander back to the ship. The ship put on a nice welcome back from our last port of call with music and partying going on alongside the pier. The Mexican military members were kind enough to pose for a picture as well. Aquafest Entertainment: 70’s Disco Tea Dance We sailed from Costa Maya watching land fade into the sunset before heading to the tea dance. Music was great and the party was lively. Some folks including the Aquafest team donned bell bottoms and platform shoes. Tonight we dined in Tsar’s Palace with some of the folks from the tea dance! Except for us everyone else was in costume for a prime rib dinner and the service was great. Some confusion about the changing of Norwegian’s production of Cirque Bijoux to Cirque Expressions due to mechanical problems led me to miss the second production show completely. I thought it was the adagio night from the aerialists which this ship has been known to have in the past. Aquafest Entertainment: Neewollah Ball and Costume Party This is Aquafest’s signature Halloween event. Neewollah is Halloween spelled backwards. With a $1,000 prize for the best costumes split between three categories, everyone was dressed up in their best. I chose to go as a "cool vampire” and it was funny that someone else who lives the next town over did the same thing! Such a small world. Bianca del Rio was fierce in her emcee of the event and let people have it where it was deserved with her witty comments. The winners ended up being people who were impersonating her in a few years! Congrats to them and then the disco night started where everyone was out late since there was a sea day the next day. During the night we also returned to Cozumel for about an hour to offload a passenger who suffered a medical emergency. Earlier in the evening a stretcher team was paged over the PA system. I hope the person managed to get home from Mexico ok. After a night of partying it was time to go to Blue Lagoon and have some chicken tenders with service by Edgardo before retiring for the evening. DAY 7: Sea Day The weather outside was cold, cloudy and sprinkling. It wasn’t great weather to sun yourself on the ship so it was time to go photo diving. We were very photogenic for everyone this trip so trying to amass all the pictures from our trip was just crazy. The lady from the United States, bless her heart, helped us out with a photo order from the Boylesque night. All in all the photo gallery cleaned up nicely off of us and it was well-deserved because the staff took some great photos. We bumped into an Aquafest group host who invited us to lunch. Even though we’d just ate two hours before we decided it was time to eat again in Tsar’s Palace for a very light lunch of the Vietnamese roll and the chicken noodle soup to help coax my voice back. Norwegian Entertainment: Crew Talent Show The crew are always working so hard for us and the talented ones get to take an hour or two out of their day to share other talents with us. The performances included vocal performances by the Washy, Washy guy, a dramatic performance by Sinful Sin (Assistant Cruise Director), the traditional Filipino Tinikling dance and finally the beloved Fountains. Fountains is always a hoot and this time proved no different. If you’ve never seen Fountains before then I suggest you go to the talent show but go anyway to support the amazing and hard-working crew for their other talents. After watching the last sunset of the cruise up on deck at the Sky High Bar it was time to get ready for the last evening’s entertainment on the ship. Aquafest Entertainment: The Kinsey Sicks Back to perform a different show, the girls didn’t disappoint. A new theme with some funny punch lines and their barber shop quartet made the hour pass by easily. This was followed by the farewell bar mixer. We rushed down to Azura to say goodbye to Rowena but she’d already left to pack up for her early sign off for and much deserved vacation. We asked for service from Leyda but she too had been re-assigned to another restaurant but we still dined in Azura and had excellent service. We stayed up later to say our farewells, stopping by the portrait gallery on Deck 12 to say bye Liga and to share a drink with her later on. The night would end with some quick final packing and going to Spinnakers to say bye to friends made over the course of the week. DAY 8: New Orleans Norwegian Shore Excursion: Past, Present & Perfect Disembarking the Jewel was relatively painless since we had black color luggage tags and had a pre-determined meeting time in the Stardust Theater to get off the ship. The tour bus was on the furthest end of the pier from the luggage pickup so schlepping the luggage the whole length of the terminal was a bit tiring but the whole process was pretty quick. The tour was driving around the city and seeing the sights via the bus and then getting off the bus at a cemetery to view how they bury their dead. It’s usually done above-ground and other items were explained. After driving around the city some more we were dropped at a park for a chance to get a beignet and coffee. From there we drove around the city some more seeing some sights before heading to the airport. We were at the airport by 1PM. The shore excursion recommends you not go if you have a flight before 2PM so keep this in mind! Conclusion: Aquafest and the Norwegian Jewel make a perfect pair. The ship is the right size ship for me and the layout is perfect for accommodating the Aquafest group. The Aquafest brand goes above and beyond to elicit guest feedback through their friendly group hosts and their President Tom Baker who was seemingly everywhere! The Norwegian Jewel didn’t disappoint and remains a ship I can call my home at sea. The friendly crew faces I knew always provided the same excellent service which made me remember them to begin with and now there’s some new faces to add to the mix. The Norwegian Jewel is the best ship at sea with the best crew talent and Aquafest is a great addition to an already outstanding ship. I always conclude my reviews by thanking the people who made my vacation memorable and they start with Katya Plyakova, Beverage Manager for her outstanding ability to handle a large volume of guests and manage to keep everyone happy! If it wasn’t for her extraordinary knowledge of vodkas I would have been stuck when the ship ran out of regular Grey Goose. Her recommended substitution (Russian Standard) was spot on and why I’ve come to trust her over the years as the best Beverage Manager at sea for Norwegian. I’d like to thank Ignacio Alvarez, Food and Beverage Manager for addressing my concerns with the room service issue and taking care of my request for the duration of the cruise. The service from Rowena Owen - hostess from the Philippines, Noellen - our cabin steward from the Philippines, Liga Neilande photographer from Latvia, Natalie Hammond future cruise consultant from Australia, Boyd Chen shore excursion manager from Jamaica, Jean-Pierre Parent comedian/illusionist from Canada, Leyda waitress in Azura from Colombia, Edgardo waiter in Azura and Blue Lagoon from the Philippines and the countless other staff members who I didn’t get a chance to catch their names offered such excellent service the Jewel has been come to be known for. A special shout out to the bar staff who worked tirelessly during our voyage, especially those night after night in the Spinnaker’s Lounge for the Aquafest group! As I write this I see a news story on TV of the devastation in the Philippines, please consider donating to whatever charity you wish to help out the country where so many of the crew on cruise ships come from. Without the hard working crew, fantastic vacations like this wouldn’t be so enjoyable. My thoughts are with the people of the Philippines. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2013
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl ... Read More
This was my 23rd cruise overall, and my eighth cruise on Norwegian. I booked with the Aquafest LGBT group’s annual Halloween sailing, and our group made up almost 500 of the Jewel’s 2100 passengers. I’ve sailed on the Norwegian Pearl twice, a sister ship of the Jewel, as well as the Norwegian Dawn twice. Both ships are similar to the Jewel in design and capacity, so I had high expectations for the Jewel. I received the first indication that those expectations would not be met when I checked in. In the past, passengers received a pocket-sized brochure and map of the ship along with their key card. But on this day, I was handed a poor-quality black-and-white photocopy of that map. Norwegian’s continued cost-cutting has become evident even before stepping aboard. Strike one. On my other seven Norwegian cruises, I’ve always admired the friendliness and efficiency of the staff and crew. So I was surprised when after I boarded, I went to the Guest Relations desk and asked where the check-in area was for the Aquafest group. The agent behind the desk stared at me blankly. Then she asked her colleague if she knew what the “Aqua Fresh” group was. I corrected her twice. The colleague didn’t know either. Could it be that the Jewel’s staff was not prepared for a group that was occupying one-quarter of the ship this week? Luckily, another Aquafest passenger was nearby and overheard the conversation, and informed me where to go. Strike two. After checking in with Aquafest and meeting their staff, my friend and I headed up to the Garden Café for lunch. At some point, I heard the news that a surprise CDC health inspection was taking place – this is done approximately every six months on every cruise ship that operates out of the U.S. And when I saw the incredible disarray of the lunch service in the Garden Café – empty food trays not being replaced in a timely manner, lack of fresh plates, many items mislabeled or not labeled at all, etc. – I assumed it was due to the crew’s attention on the health inspection. But as the week progressed, I learned that the inspection was not the reason. These problems persisted throughout the week. Over eight Norwegian cruises, I had never seen the buffet restaurant so poorly managed as it was on the Jewel. Strike three. The Norwegian Jewel struck out in the first inning without a single hit – and I’ve only been on board for an hour. Throughout the week, there was nothing in particular that the staff or crew did to sway my disappointment from the first day. Even the service at dinner that first night in the Tsar Palace was quite slow. Other dinners that week were in specialty restaurants or in the Azure dining room, which had pleasantly prompt service. Our other dinners were in La Cucina, Moderno Churrascaria and Cagney’s Steakhouse – all were as enjoyable as I’ve experienced them previously on other ships. One exception to the lackluster staff was the beverage manager, Katya. She was very friendly and sociable. Because the Aquafest group provided its own entertainment for the guests, I didn’t get to see much of the Jewel’s entertainment. I did see Band on the Run and Jean-Pierre’s magic show – both were very entertaining and enjoyable. But the best aspect of this cruise was the itinerary. New Orleans is a great embarkation port, and my friend and I enjoyed spending two nights here, plus one more night after the cruise ended. The cruise had four ports of call: Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. During my previous calls to Cozumel, I went to a nearby resort and bought a day pass. But because Norwegian uses the downtown pier, it was very convenient to walk around the town and explore the shops. Aquafest had also invited its guests to visit Senor Frogs, where we enjoyed a raucous daytime party atmosphere before heading back to the ship. In Belize City, we took a ship excursion to Altun Ha, a very impressive Mayan historic site. Our tour guide, who had a Mayan background, was excellent in explaining some of the history and architecture relevant to the pyramids. We had the ability to climb to the top of the largest pyramid, which was quite the treat. In Roatan, we joined some other Cruise Critic members for a catamaran sailboat charter, provided by Radical Adventures. This was the highlight of the cruise! Captain Ed and his wife Julie, along with a crew of three locals, sailed us to a secluded cove for a couple hours of snorkeling and a delicious lunch. And in Costa Maya, Aquafest had arranged an excursion for the entire group at a beach club about 30 minutes away. If I had to rank my eight Norwegian cruises solely based on the onboard experience, I would have to rank this cruise as the lowest one. I’m worried that Norwegian’s cost-cutting, as well as all the focus they are putting on Epic, Breakaway and Getaway, is having a detrimental effect on the rest of the fleet. Norwegian needs to do more to ensure that its passengers looking for a mid-sized ship experience are not being ignored. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: April 2013
I must start by stating the positives far outweigh the negatives on Carnival's Conquest. We had a great time!! I haven't cruised before basically because it felt to me in an earlier part in my life that I was too untraditional to ... Read More
I must start by stating the positives far outweigh the negatives on Carnival's Conquest. We had a great time!! I haven't cruised before basically because it felt to me in an earlier part in my life that I was too untraditional to appreciate this mainstream type of vacation. I'm not the "cookie-cutter" type of person. This cruise was taken to celebrate my stepson's 16th birthday for a fishing excursion in Cozumel. He wanted Key West but due to school vacation, price and time constraints, this proved by far at the end of our week that a Western Caribbean cruise would work out fine. I don't Embarkation was well coordinated for those in need of a wheelchair. I suggest arriving early because it becomes very crowded. Debarkation took a long time since our group number was 26. We were able to have a very leisurely breakfast and witness the crew in preparation for the next cruise. If you have difficulty navigating inclines with walking, I strongly suggest using a wheelchair which you notify Carnival of your disability and necessary accommodations. They were very helpful. We were here for relaxation so activities nor nightlife were a priority. We enjoyed the live acoustic music, family comedy show, magic show at Alchemy bar, EA sports trivia challenge, hanging out on the aft Lido deck and the cooking demo in The Point Steakhouse. Activities on the ship were plentiful but not necessarily of good quality and full of cheesy marketing. We were excited to see the shows which were recommended recently by friends. We lasted 10 minutes for "The Brits!", saw a bit of "Divas" while waiting for the restroom - both horrible singing, didn't care for the animation incorporated into the show and honestly quite amateurish. I've seen very few off/Broadway shows but enough to know this isn't a selling point and much improvement is needed. Hasbro show, morning show and bingo were minimally ok. Another thing is GLBT gathering is quite late, past 11 pm, other cruise lines do have it earlier, maybe it would be better attended at an earlier time. The service and cleanliness were excellent. I didn't witness anything out of the ordinary, very polite staff, very appropriate Purel dispensers and door handle tissues with trash receptacles never full and our room was made twice daily. I may not have anything to compare to at this point but reading other reviews I felt I'd probably be inhabiting a big box store on the seas and not to expect much. I was surprised and found this cruise to be a great value. Our first port was Mahogany Bay, Roatan, Honduras. We opted to head to the Carnival manufactured beach which I thought would have been truly uninspired and bad. It wasn't. It was an easy and clean beach day with no extra expense!! We purchased a fresh coconut water and drank it in that pristine water, I don't think if you're seeking a beautiful snorkeling experience you'll find it there but jump off the ship, walk down the landscaped path and you'll have sand (manufactured I'm sure) in your toes. We rented kayaks and it was really nothing much to it but going through some clear water. Later we found out that someone went further distance than us, met a local in the water that was swimming with sea turtles and jumped in. Missed opportunity for us! We enjoyed it and stayed hours longer than planned. Second port was Belize City, Belize. Excursion through Carnival for Air boating through Chukka was poorly planned and executed. The tour started over an hour late, made us change buses due to air conditioning issue and very disorganized. Now we had a blast with the staff at the air boating location and that tour was fun but not in transit portion. This is a very poor country, puts "needs" in perspective and not for the faint of heart. I wouldn't recommend venturing out alone unless you are a very seasoned world traveller. Don't expect to find Starbucks here. Third port was Cozumel and we chartered a boat for reef fishing through Cozumel Charters. Great time and just beautiful!! Our stateroom was an ocean view cabin on the second deck, mid ship, which suited us fine. It's dated in the cabin but it was extremely clean which made us happy. Plenty room for three with more than ample storage. Learned low deck, mid ship is excellent for new cruisers or those prone to motion sickness. I could be very detailed about the food because we're definitely "foodies". I'll say I was surprised by expecting I'd be eating Applebee's food all week because most was much better. First, mdr desserts always hit a nicely presented and good! Guy's burgers had some grisle (once)but they were a tasty with great accompaniments. Brunch was great food, buffet was 80 percent good/great (Indian vegetarian delish!), Pizza Pirate 5 minutes for thin crust pizza and Blue Iguana good breakfast (get early or the eggs are cold) and yummy burritos for lunch. MDR dinner was much better than expected only missed the mark on the last evening - not bad at all!! Coffee is beyond horrible in the buffet, palatable from room service and acceptable in the MDR. Both coffee shops didn't hit the mark but the lobby bar was the only place that was strong. Iced tea was bad also. We'd get hot water and brew ourselves then pour over ice. Learned a hard lesson about desalinated water - don't drink the fluids unless you want to swell like a whale!! Watch out for all beverages, ice and soups. By day 3 we couldn't keep up with all the food but it was really much better than expected. The teen was a little more mature than the same aged shipmates and had no desire to run around the ship. He just wanted to relax, listen to music and observe. So I can't comment on the involvement accurately. Overall, the cruise was a great value and we'd do it in a heartbeat again! We learned for the next cruise - you need twice the face wash and sunscreen to reapply often, Starbucks VIA, lots of bottled water (don't drink sodas), a sweater because windy outside and chilly indoors and no need to really dress up in cocktail attire for formal night, dressy clothes will suffice. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2012
We have cruised many times (on Royal Carribbean, Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity) so there is a level of quality and excellence that we have come to expect from cruise vacations. This cruise did not meet any of our expectations ... Read More
We have cruised many times (on Royal Carribbean, Holland America, Princess, and Celebrity) so there is a level of quality and excellence that we have come to expect from cruise vacations. This cruise did not meet any of our expectations (with the exception of the entertainment which was very good!). First, the food was not only bad...it was AWEFUL! Just to give you an idea, on the way off the ship, we were chatting with first time cruisers and unsolicited, the wife told me she had stopped eating after three days into the cruise because the food was so bad! - now that's bad food!! Here are a couple of specific examples...The selection of food at the Windjammer was the same everyday. On previous cruises, the theme and selections changed daily. Not only was the selection the same, but it looked (and tasted) like they simply reheated and re-served leftovers from the previous day. The bread was stale, the hamburgers were rubbery and tasted like they had been microwaved, and the chicken tasted waterlogged. The fruit wasn't fresh and sweet and the waffles and french toast were stone cold! If we hadn't experienced it, I would have never believed the food could have been this sub-par on a cruise. The food was a little better in the main dining room, but still not even close to the quality of meals we have had on other cruises (including Royal Carribbean cruises). One very telling fact is that someone on the intercom giving accolades to the chef and staff were congratulating them for feeding us on a $300,000/week budget. If you do the math, that comes out to a budget of about $3.00/meal. Ok, you get my drift with the food...now let's talk about staff/service. The crew/staff of this ship had very low energy and there was very little - if any- enthusiasm coming from them. There were a few members of staff who would greet you with a smile and friendly hello, but most were checking the box and doing their job as if they had been sent to purgatory. Again, very very different atmosphere from all other previous cruises we have experienced. The condition of the ship was also sub par. We found out that the ship is going to Asia to be completely refurbished in the next couple of months (which is sorely needed). That being said it did not change the fact that for our cruise, the ships carpets and furniture were stained, the decks were rusty, ATM machines were down, arcade equipment was broken, and several pieces of gym equipment were broken. They can't get the Voyager to Asia quick enough for her much needed face-lift! Meanwhile those of us sailing between now and then are/were stuck with a tired ship. Royal Carribbean should also revisit it's smoking policy. We sailed during the NFL playoffs and wanted to watch the game in a common area with a bar, food, etc. The only place to do that was in the Sports Bar in the Promenade . We assumed that smoking was not allowed in indoor common areas, but this was not the case. Smoking IS allowed in the sports bar which made it uncomfortable to us non smokers watching the game. (We did have an option of going back to our private non-smoking rooms and watching it there, but how fun is that?! Also, throughout the cruise the smoke from this bar permeated the promenade area so to say the common areas are non-smoking is like saying it's ok for folks to pee in one end of the pool, but don't worry....it won't effect you on the other end. Just saying..... On a positive note, fortunately we traveled with friends that we enjoyed and we did get to relax and enjoy time at our destination ports, so the cruise wasn't a complete bust. Prior to exiting the ship, we signed up for a cruise next year on Royal Carribbean's top of the line ship - The Allure. We thought for sure, the food issue would be better on that ship. Upon getting home and reading cruise critic reviews on the food on the Allure, we found it's not much better, so we will be cancelling our reservation on the Allure and choosing another ship line to cruise with next winter. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2011
First of all, I live in New Orleans, where the Spirit sailed from, so it was just a cab ride to the pier. Embarkation was very easy. There was plenty of time to get familiar with the ship, and have a nice lunch in the Windows dining ... Read More
First of all, I live in New Orleans, where the Spirit sailed from, so it was just a cab ride to the pier. Embarkation was very easy. There was plenty of time to get familiar with the ship, and have a nice lunch in the Windows dining room, before the muster drill and sailing. The sailing was beautiful as we wove our way down the Mississippi. I was sailing with the "Aquafest" group - gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered. We accounted for about 30% of the passengers on board, and had a great time. NCL was wonderful in accommodating our functions and events. Our cabin was great, clean, a little tight - but I do not spend much time in it. We ate only one dinner in the Windows main dining room, the first night, and it was pleasant and good. I know the complaints are legion about how NCL pushes the specialty restaurants and sticks the dining room with a single menu, but I for one am game for the specialty dining. We ate at Le Bistro two nights - and it's still our favorite. (The mushroom soup there is such a treat!) We ate at Cagney's twice. It is much better than the Cagney's on the Dawn. Great steaks! We ate at Shogun one night and enjoyed the Asian flavors there. All good, and all worth it. All staffed with a great crew. . . . BUT . . . La Trattoria is a big disappointment, especially if you enjoy wine with your meal. Fortunately the up charge is marginal. Except for the carafes of Chianti, the staff is totally confused about the wines on the menu (not those on the wine list - those actually on the menu) - and it takes them a long time to get you a drink. I think they have to go to a remote bar to obtain them. The Americano cocktail, also on the menu, was, in fact, very good, and one of the best drinks I had on board. Otherwise, order something with red sauce and go for the Chianti - I think it was being kept nearby . . . Moreover, I later realized this venue is merely a sectioned off portion of the Raffles Court buffet. Nothing special at all. My only other "bitch gripe" is the Broadway style production show. The singers and dancers all did a great job, let there be no mistake. But, where was the band? Where were the musicians? Is this professional karaoke? Music in Champagne Charlies at cocktail time is wonderful. I forget their name, but the male/female duo were absolutely beautiful. Especially stirring was their rendition of "My Heart Will Go On" - but hearing it on board a ship was a little bit creepy! It was Hallowe'en, after all. Also, Benny Martini in the same lounge is not to be missed. The pool deck was great. Four spas around the pool. Pool is pretty good size! I enjoyed doing laps in it first thing in the morning. Friendly staff at the pool. On sea days they set up the grill for great burgers, but even better is the wonderful paella they put out at the same time and place. Great Caribbean beats from the pool band. Some sceney see and be seen people watching. All fun! We only did one NCL shore excursion - a "catamaran" snorkel/beach afternoon in Belize. The catamaran was more like a shuttle - no sail, and no rope net to lay on and watch the sea fly by underneath. The staff was nice and attentive, however. And the reef was beautiful. Great snorkeling. A lot of people crammed on board - but still a great time. Unfortunately one of the participants had a bad reaction to a sting from one of the small jellyfish in the water, and we had to end the snorkeling early to swing by the ship. The ship had medical staff on the catamaran as soon as we arrived. We had the opportunity to get back on the ship there, which we did, being more interested in the snorkeling than the beach. NCL credited us 25% of the excursion price - on their own volition. They had not heard any complaints from us, at least. Not as great as what NCL put together in 2010 in Barbados, but still a fun time. I would do it again. Our other shore excursions were beach parties put together by Aquafest, and they were great. I call Costa Maya "The Magic Mayan Kingdom" - if you've never been there, and your cruise is porting there, plan on doing an excursion. The Costa Maya Compound is one flat soda. In Cozumel we just shopped. Los Cinques Soles is the best place there for shopping/eating/margaritas. No high pressure sales tactics! Nice stuff! I'm sailing with Aquafest and NCL Hallowe'en 2012! We booked that baby on board. 11 nights out of Miami. Norwegian Sun. Can't wait! Read Less
Sail Date: August 2011
To see the cruise through my eyes you have to understand a little about me. With this in mind, I'm a 29 year old male who sailed on the Norwegian Spirit from 8/28/11 through 9/6/11 and yes the end date of the cruise was a Tuesday ... Read More
To see the cruise through my eyes you have to understand a little about me. With this in mind, I'm a 29 year old male who sailed on the Norwegian Spirit from 8/28/11 through 9/6/11 and yes the end date of the cruise was a Tuesday morning. This was my 22nd cruise overall and my 12th with Norwegian Cruise Line. This was also my third time on the Norwegian Spirit. Other cruise lines I've cruised on include Celebrity (x4), Princess (x5), Royal Caribbean (x1) and once on Carnival. This cruise was meant to be a relaxing vacation and as such there are not a lot of shore excursions. Pre-Cruise Stay: NEW ORLEANS DAUPHINE HOTEL - Dauphine St, French Quarter It is a very well appointed hotel room with double beds and nice marble in the bathroom. Location is one street north of Bourbon so the location was supposed to be quieter. The hotel offers a complimentary beverage at check-in and complimentary continental breakfast in the morning. I would recommend this hotel as it is extremely clean and the location is right. The only drawback I caution you against is where your room is located within the hotel. We stayed in the courtyard of the carriage house and it was just above where the valet parking was. At 3-4AM on Saturday morning someone's car alarm went off and sounded like a megaphone in there. It kept going off for an hour before it finally stopped and I passed back out. The front desk of the hotel wasn't picking up when I called about it but it did eventually stop. NEW ORLEANS This was my first time to New Orleans and this was part of the reason for booking this cruise. I wanted to experience the city, specifically the French Quarter and the infamous Bourbon St. Upon arrival to New Orleans and just after checking into our hotel, we headed to Walgreens on Canal St. On our way down there we walked over to Bourbon St to take it in before heading down Dauphine. We heard pops and thought it was fireworks or something related. We had no clue and crossed Canal into Walgreens. When we came out there was police tape encasing the entire block where we were and the pops were actually gunfire! Welcome to New Orleans: A guy is shot in the groin for trying to get with his shooter's girl. It made the news that night and we saw the story. This didn't make me feel safe at all. We at the Chartres House Cafe and I had what would be my first Jambalaya of the trip. Turns out I'd eat it noon and night for the next two days until boarding the Spirit as it was the only other menu option available in most restaurants in New Orleans that didn't have seafood in it. I couldn't wait for NCL's great food! On Saturday, our full day in NOLA, we strolled around and took a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter. You could spend a whole day in Jackson Square in all the museums right there and we pretty much did just that. Make sure you see the exhibit on Hurricanes in the building to the right of the cathedral. It's well worth the money and very moving, especially in the last room with the video. We bought the museum combination pass for all of them so after hitting all the museums including the race exhibit at the US Mint we were tired. We jumped on the trolley and headed out to the Garden District. We took the trolley to the end of the line and then rode it back to Canal St. We had dinner in the diner diagonally across from the hotel and returned back to the hotel. DAY 1: NEW ORLEANS & EMBARKATION We headed over to the pier and arrived around 11:30AM. Our bags were taken quickly and we were inside and through security very fast. Check in was a breeze since I am a Gold Latitudes member, the line on this cruise was non-existent! From arrival until the time we boarded the ship was just under a half hour. It couldn't have been any faster and it flowed nicely. Bravo to New Orleans shoreside operations! After a leisurely lunch, the rooms were already available for occupancy. The announcement came just after 1PM. We headed up to our stateroom to drop off the bags and to get somewhat settled in. I was in dire need to take a disco nap. CABIN 9026 - BALCONY (Starboard Side) This is a standard balcony accommodation with two beds and a sofa by the balcony. Our room was in pristine order. Everything worked as it should have and it didn't have any visible signs of wear and tear. There was some minor rust on the balcony but I'm sure that'll be addressed in dry dock in three weeks time. I love the ability of NCL's showers to remove the shower head so as a tall guy I can actually reach my head with it. NCL has the best shower setup of any ship in any fleet I've sailed on! PUBLIC SPACES: As I mentioned before, I've sailed on the Norwegian Spirit twice before (once in 2009 and again in 2010 to Bermuda). Year over year I couldn't find anything wrong with her. The carpeting and all public areas are very well kept. If it were not for some changes to her underside, I'd really say the Spirit didn't need her upcoming dry dock. Tidbits of information from higher ups onboard the Spirit stated some changes passengers will see post-drydock include the introduction of a galley and action stations to the Raffles Buffet and flat screen TVs in each of the staterooms. This will only serve to enhance the guest experience on what is already the most beautiful ship in NCL's fleet. Her Asian dEcor I fell in love with on the first cruise and it's so intricate, you can clearly see that Star Cruises spent a lot of money building this ship and it's an absolute gem in the Norwegian fleet. I love the Spirit's dEcor! FELLOW CRUISERS: About 90% of the cruisers were from the TX, LA, AK, MI area and as a result the entertainment onboard slanted towards a lot of Country music and hoe-downs and related country matters. It seemed like every night there was something country going on aboard the ship. If you like this sort of stuff then you've found your ship! After the lifeboat drill it was back to the cabin to change and get ready for dinner and watch the sail away from our balcony. I thought the Charles River in Boston had dirty water, it was nothing compared to what the Mississippi River has! We turned around right at the bridge and started to head down the river. We requested a window seat in Windows Main Dining Room and met the fantastic server team of Edzel Aberia (Senior Waiter) and Rowena Jomawan (Junior Waitress). Both were so friendly during the dinner service and really made such a warm welcome back aboard we stuck with them for the rest of the trip for the most part. Some familiar dining room faces were also there from the last cruise including Kwasi from St. Lucia who came over and said hello. After dinner we had some time to waste before the "Welcome Aboard Show" and it left an opportunity to go up on deck and watch the sunset over the MI river. We stayed up by the helicopter pad sitting on stacked chairs until well after sunset before heading to the show. The dusk seemed to last forever as the land to the West of NOLA is largely flat and allowed it to last seemingly forever. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "Welcome Aboard Show" featuring the Norwegian Spirit production cast, illusionist Fabien Solaz, Jose & Patti and Comedian Sam Griesbaum. It was a sampling of the entertainment for the entire cruise. The production cast had changed from the previous year but the routine was the same for the opening show. Good to watch. The stand outs were Jose & Patti. This incredibly talented duo has a loyal following on Cruise Critic and I didn't know why. Now I do, they're incredible! They sing just about any song and do it very very well. The comedian Sam Griesbaum was not funny and I don't know where they got him from. Stayed up on the balcony and watched the river go by while waiting for a good time to head down to the disco to give DJ Vibe a CD of music for White Hot Party later in the cruise. I didn't stick around too long in the disco and headed to bed early. DAY 2: SEA DAY After sleeping in later than normal, it was off to the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet in Henry's Pub. For the people who showed up, it paid off as they got to meet the manager of every department onboard and the Captain! Thanks to Klaus Lugmaier who is actually the Director of Hotel Operations for NCL's entire fleet for taking the lead on the introductions and taking the time to talk to us. As the host for this event, I was honored that he shared some of the details of what was going to happen to my beloved ship in dry dock. The one person I recognized year over year was Chef Hans-Peter who instantly came over and greeted me warmly back to the Norwegian Spirit. After a small request for a recipe for a friend, Chef Hans-Peter had to return to his duties. He did stop my mom who was being a wall flower and said a very warm welcome back to her as well. Peter really made this cruise incredible for mom and me (as you'll see by continuing to read). Special shout out to Raquel "Kelly" Nunez for setting up the meet and greet and making sure it went smoothly. She was so nice throughout the voyage. We headed up to Raffles Court for a quick lunch before the Latitudes Party in the Galaxy of the Stars. Out of all the Latitudes meetings I've been to with all the Latitudes tiers, this one was the least attended. Usually Galaxy of the Stars is overflowing with people and is standing room only when the Spirit sails from Boston. This cruise was so much different. The Gold and Platinum Latitudes didn't have a separate gathering either this trip because there were so few of us onboard. The Captain came by and said a nice greeting and introduced the senior management team. Afterward it was back for a quick disco nap and to get ready for dinner and the show. Tonight we requested the aft window section and since I found Edzel in the buffet in the morning I had asked for his section, he didn't start until later though so it left us with a mix of waiters and waitresses which was dizzying. All of them were nice but we had far too many to remember any of their names! This night we met an incredible Assistant Maitre' D named Shridhar Dhuri or simply "Dhuri" who asked us what we liked each night and about our special request for food. Dhuri set everything up for us that it was handled so nicely. We would contact him for the time we'd be arriving into the Windows Dining room and he always had a table for us. He always checked in multiple times during the dinner service to see how the day went and how the food was. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "On Broadway" New with this dance troupe was the musical "Jersey Boys" from the last time I saw this production. What a fantastic way to kick off one of my favorite NCL productions. Any production which pays tribute to good Broadway shows always gets rave reviews from me. Other productions touched upon in this show included Mamma Mia, Wicked and Movin' Out. Definitely a show to catch! After the show and Friends of Dorothy it was time to change for the disco. I stuck around for a bit and danced for a little while before retiring. DAY 3: COSTA MAYA, MEXICO Today was a day about getting to the beach you can see from the ship and just relaxing. With some haggling with one of two vendors for golf carts behind the port shopping area, we were off in a golf cart to the beach. I'd done this last year on Spring Break and it's the easiest and most convenient way to go back and forth and do whatever in Costa Maya. Taxis are affordable but the beach is long so the golf cart helps get you around. I made it over to the resort area I love most and it's so far away from the rest of them that it's really hidden and really nice. It was a nice relaxing day at the beach for mom and me. Back on the ship it was time to get ready for dinner in Windows restaurant with the talented server team of Edzel and Rowena with everything set in place by Dhuri. Sunshine, the Hostess for Windows, made sure we were seated in the right section and right by a window. I couldn't have asked for better service all the way around. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "Duo Acobatique" Maria and Dmitri were on the ship the last time I was onboard but the show had changed. It was less centered on acrobatics and more on dance and this time it incorporated a number from their son who is an aspiring acrobat at the young age of five. If you like Cirque style shows then this one is not to be missed! GAME SHOW: "Battle of the Sexes" Usually every cruise I try and hit at least a few of these which are alternatives or between the major production shows. This battle of the sexes was pretty weak. The guy's team won but the energy from the Cruise Director's staff was lacking to get participants involved. Finally people on each side wound up pulling audience members into it. It was a fun game show but not the energy that I've seen before. After a brief stop by Friends of Dorothy it was off to the disco for 10PM and hanging out with West (Bartender) and new friends at Maharini's Bar. The disco really didn't pick up this night either so it was a fairly early night for sleep. DAY 4: ROATAN, HONDURAS I've been to Roatan several times. Going ashore means going to shops at the pier area and the grocery store down the street and heading back to the ship. This port also allows for fantastic pictures of the cruise ship using natural island flora. Keep this in mind if you're a good photographer with a good eye for setting up shots. Since I had mom with me I stayed around the port area and didn't go to the other side of the island where the nice beaches are. Instead, I headed back on the ship and used the fitness center which was empty. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: Cagney's Steakhouse My favorite specialty restaurant on any NCL ship is the steakhouse. I had the succulent jumbo shrimp cocktail with a specialty soup and then a very large cut of steak that the Executive Chef Hans-Peter recommended for me. It was huge and it was cooked to order. Dessert was a special eggplant ice cream which is a special creation of Chef Peter. I cannot say enough about Chef Peter. The whole cruise he took very good care of mom and I and his culinary creations are darn good! SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "Soul Rockin' Nights" This is the least favorite of the NCL productions on the Norwegian Spirit as I'm not a fan of rock music. However, mom found it to be the best show of the three. It depends on your perspective of the genre of rock music as to whether or not you'll like it but the performers were not bad. It is a one show only deal so if you miss the 7:15PM show then you're out of luck as it's not repeated at 9:15PM like the rest of the shows are. I had an issue with my keycard not working so I headed down to the Guest Relations desk for a replacement and mom took in the show of Jose & Patti at Champagne Charlie's. Jose & Patti would perform here nearly every night of the cruise and no matter what decade of songs they were singing, they were always enjoyable and spot on. This was a hidden gem on the ship so if you happen to see this duo on the FreeStyle Daily - make sure you stop by and see them! I stayed after I got the keycard situation worked out before heading to Motown night in Maharini's. It was fun and I made some new friends that night who liked to dance (finally)!! DAY 5: BELIZE CITY, BELIZE I had a nice leisurely breakfast on the balcony with mom watching all the tender boats fill up and zip off to shore. By the time we needed to go for the shore excursion, it was open tenders and most of the ship was already off. As we were leaving the ship, two contractors from Rolls Royce boarded. I found out later they were there in preparation for the upcoming drydock and to get everything in place for it. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Calypso Train Tour: This one hour narrated tour of Belize includes complimentary water and plantain banana chips. It gives you the highlights of both the rich and poor sides of Belize City and a history of the country's independence from Britain. It takes you by several sights and it well worth the money. Just make sure you hold onto your belongings carefully as the roads in Belize need some repaving you bounce around a bit and things can fall off the trolley. There are step stools available for people with mobility issues (such as arthritic knees) and the tour operator provides assistance for those needing it. An easy tour for a decent price and gives you an introduction to Belize. I had been to this port four times but never took this tour. If you're an adventure person then definitely do the cave tubing tour! After the train tour but before heading back I had the customary lunch and Belikin Beer at the Wet Lizard above one of the terminal buildings. The Wet Lizard is usually bustling with activity but the Spirit was the only ship in port that day so it was fairly dead. Still nice to have lunch shore-side and watch the tenders come and go. Afterward it was back to the ship for a disco nap for the much anticipated dance night of the cruise… the White HOT Party! STARDUST SHOWTIME: "The Second City" After dinner in Windows with the fantastic duo of Edzel and Rowena, it was time for some comedy. I've seen the Second City show on many ships and while it's called somewhat improv, some of it is not really as it is the same thing heard over and over again on every NCL cruise that has a cast of Second City on it. I would like to say they're good but if you hear them repeatedly by cruising frequently, well they're just downright boring. I would recommend them if you haven't seen their act before though because it is funny if you haven't seen it before! GAME SHOW: "Newlywed, Not So Newlywed" Trying to get the oldest couple to join the show was a very hard trick to pull off and took quite a while. The Cruise Director was introduced before the other two couples were picked from the ticketing system. The game show seemed disorganized this time around. I don't know if the Cruise Director's staff was just tired or what was going on. Once everything got going, some of the responses were just downright jaw dropping - especially from the older couple and it made up for the slow start. This is definitely a good game show if you get the right couples involved. DISCO NIGHT: NCL's Signature White Hot Party The start of the party is in Galaxy of the Stars with ice sculptures and cruise staff with angel wings donning white attire. Drinks are served in twinkling bottom drink glasses. The production dancers come up and do a number and stay for the line dance songs (eg electric slide, etc) and then the dance floor opens for regular music. The party continued after hours downstairs in Maharini's Lounge where there was plenty of conversation to be had. The only member of the cruise staff who was out and I actually talked to at length was Johnnie who had just come in Belize and wasn't supposed to start until next cruise as Assistant Cruise Director. Nice guy and I had a nice conversation with him. Returned to the cabin after having an after hours snack at Blue Lagoon around 4AM. DAY 6: COZUMEL, MEXICO I don't know why the White Hot Party doesn't have a sea day after it because I definitely needed a sea day after it! We arrived in Cozumel and tied up. I had breakfast on the balcony and we left for the shore excursion. NCL SHORE EXCURSION: Cozumel Semi-Sub Tour: From the Punta Langosta pier in downtown we took a taxi to the Royal Caribbean pier. After boarding the semi-sub we were brought down immediately to the glass bottom where we stayed until the ship was docked again. The view is of a coral reef which was largely destroyed in 2005 when Hurricane Wilma pummeled the small Mexican island. (I remember this Hurricane well as I took a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale when Wilma was coming straight for Florida.) There is only some 300 feet of what was once over 1,000 feet long coral reef. We circled it quite a number of times and fish showed up to show off their stuff and then we circled back. It's a neat little excursion and I would recommend it. Caution for those with mobility issues as you do have to go down a set of stairs into the sub and for those with claustrophobia issues as the door to the top is closed at all times and you are in the bottom part for the entire time during the tour (unless you're getting sea sick and then you go topside). Back to the ship for lunch and some shopping at the mall across from the Punta Langosta pier and then into Carlos N Charlie's for a yard drink. Now that Senor Frogs has a half location up by the Carnival and Royal Caribbean piers, this place was not hopping as it usually does. I got a yard, consumed about one quarter of it and then headed back to the ship for a nap before watching cast off. It never fails that people in this port invariably miss the ship or there is a list of names announced and this cruise was no different. We had actually untied all the ropes and were starting to thrust away from the pier when I spotted two runners coming down the escalator. We did thrust back to the pier and pick them up and later on I'm sure they were quite thankful we did. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "Jose & Patti" Throughout the cruise mom and I would stop by this duo and hear their vocal talents and plethora of songs. They never disappointed the whole trip and tonight they were no different during their early show. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: "Elements" This show is a combination of Cirque-style aerials, acrobatics and dance with no vocal components. It is the best show in the NCL fleet in my opinion. I love it each time I see it and we caught the second show. Stay tuned at the end of the show for the Norwegian Way/Wave where a selection of talented crew and the senior officers come out to pay tribute and say goodbye to the guests. The whole show from start to finish is just great. SPECIALTY NIGHT: "NCL's Signature Chocoholic Buffet" On the Norwegian Spirit, the Chocoholic Buffet is held in the Windows Restaurant aft on Deck 6. It's a nice spread of chocolate goodies with elaborate amounts of ice sculptures and decorations made of chocolate. If you like chocolate at all or even just a wee bit, you've got to get to this event! It was immediately following the second show of Elements. We returned to the stateroom where I sat and waited for the midnight Ship-N-Males performance in Maharini's Lounge. I ended up falling asleep and missing the whole thing. BUMMER! DAY 7: SEA DAY I woke up in the morning and the ship was rocking and rolling a little bit. The wind outside was howling and I wondered where this bad weather had come from since we had good weather the entire trip up until now. We left the cabin to go to Guest Relations and do some other errands on the ship so the cabin steward could make up the place and when we returned we found a towel animal of a monkey hanging off our air conditioning vent. While down at Guest Relations there was a map of Tropical Storm Lee showing it going into LA just West of New Orleans. We heard another guest ask if the MS River had been closed and wondered just how bad this was. At approximately 10AM the Captain came on the public address system and announced we were not heading back to New Orleans until Monday because the river had been closed by the US Coast Guard and that further information would be available after 11AM. Seizing the Day Activity: “How to Run a Floating Hotel” A slideshow of what the ship consumes in food, fuel and other things was presented before the floor was opened up to the Captain Kenneth Harstrom, Hotel Director Klaus Lugmaier and Chief Engineer Ioannis Karloutsos. Surprisingly a lot of the questions didn’t have to do with the weather outside and our delayed arrival. This is where I learned why the Rolls Royce people had signed on in Belize. Questions ranged from intriguing to downright silly but the three of them answered them as best they could. They had to leave to attend a conference call with Miami NCL to figure out how to proceed. Another announcement was made around noon letting us know that satellite calls and internet would be free until the ship docked in New Orleans for people to re-do their travel arrangements and that our arrival was expected around 4PM on Monday. This sent a frenzy of people to Guest Relations but the senior management onboard was out in full force to answer questions for everyone and security was present to keep the crowds under control. After getting the flight re-arranged quickly with Southwest who said the airport was closed anyway, it was back to the vacation. We booked a Tuesday flight home as there were no flights late enough on Monday to fit the “planned arrival” time. Seizing the Day Activity: “International Crew Talent Show” Your stateroom stewards, laundry department folks, waiters and waitresses and the rest of the crew work so hard and tirelessly to take care of you, the least a cruiser can do is cheer them on when they have some other talent besides what they’re doing on the ship. Complete with the Tinikling native dance of the Philippines and a hip-hop troop from the same place and a few good singers, this show doesn’t disappoint and was a great sea day activity. Back to change and get ready for dinner in Windows with the fantastic service of Edzel with Dhuri stopping by every now and again to see how things were going before… SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Farewell Variety: Fabien Solaz & Sam Griesbaum” Since we had another day on the ship, the entertainment line up got shuffled a bit and the 7:15PM show was changed to mirror the 9:15PM show with the comedian and the magician. The magician was great but the comedian was not very funny. GAME SHOW: Adult Quest Mania No matter what the cruise staff comes up with for items, it’s always interesting to watch. I never spoil the ending but lets just say most people prefer if pictures were not taken but I always tell people I never join the team because I’ve seen it too many times and well the saying: “What happens on the ship stays on the ship!” is a lie! Down to the disco for a short bit before attending “Tease: A Night of Burlesque” in the Galaxy of the Stars. It was a nice production by both male and mostly female production dancers with the singers getting in on the action as well. Went back down to the disco until 2AM and then headed to bed. DAY 8: SEA DAY – SUNDAY A leisurely morning of getting up on the ship and going around before heading to a… Seizing the Day Activity: “Culinary Demonstration” This activity was created and thought up by Executive Chef Hans-Peter the previous day when they found out the ship would spend an extra full day at sea. Chef Peter had four tables set up, one as a fruit carving station, another as a vodka pasta sauce station, hot cucumber soup station and finally a bakery station where the person was making roses and showing the audience how to do so. It was a nice event and the audience got to sample the cucumber soup and the vodka sauce with penne. Audience members were also given the recipes which was a nice added bonus. After finishing lunch, there wasn’t much going on around the ship so I took the time to walk the Promenade Deck and do a work out. I thought the gym would be insanely crowded but it turned out not to be nearly empty. The gym has a small free weight area, upper body and one abdominal machine. The cardio deck consists most of treadmills with four bikes and four elliptical machines and one stair step machine. Upon return to the stateroom I found a note on the door from the Captain indicating the ship would not be at the berth in New Orleans on Monday and that he was going to try and embark the pilot on Monday morning and if successful we’d be alongside later on Monday evening and NCL was going to allow passengers to stay onboard and disembark on Tuesday – if needed. Dinner tonight was in the Windows Dining Room with Edzel and Rowena so we could say goodbye and tip them extra for their excellent service throughout the entire cruise. Special requests were nailed down by the third night and you didn’t even have to ask anymore, they just brought it with the appropriate course. After dinner mom attended the “Liars Club” while I called the hotel shoreside booked for Monday night and cancelled. Mom said the Liars Club was ok. SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “An Evening of Enchantment” Jose & Patti was the main draw for attending this one time only 9:15PM show. Other singers included production cast members Lisa Quibell (from New Orleans), Michael Seward and Chase Kamata. It was a great show and is generally a one-show only on the last night of a regular seven day voyage. Be sure you catch it! Out to the disco briefly since the ship was moving a bit too much, it was too dangerous (in my opinion) to be that far forward and try to dance so I turned in early that night. DAY 9: SEA/RIVER DAY I woke up around 8AM to the ship rocking and rolling and going 6 – 7 knots in a very small circle with old oil platforms all around us. I had no clue what was going on other than the ship was really moving and it was dangerous to walk unless you pretended like you had ataxia. I made it around the ship to pick up my breakfast and back to sit inside the cabin to attempt to eat on the balcony. Out of no where, the Carnival Triumph showed up and they had first berthing rights. A pilot boat approached her and she headed for the mouth of the river which was at our bow. We knew we’d at least get into the river and sure enough a pilot boat came out for us and we watched on the starboard side the pilot and a US Coast Guard official come aboard the Promenade Deck (as the waves were too high to embark them on any lower deck) and into the river we went. Seizing the Day Activity: “Chef Peter’s Cook Off” Again Chef Peter stepped up to the plate and offered guests another culinary show but this time, he picked out passengers to cook up Hungarian goulash or at least whoever came close to it would win a free dinner for two in the specialty restaurant of their choice. After a minor technical glitch with the power, the competition was off and the second team got the judges panel vote (which was also made up of passengers) but the closest to the Hungarian goulash actually turned out to be the third team. Both of them got specialty restaurant dinner reservations! After a leisurely lunch, I saw that there was shipboard scavenger hunt (and not the Quest kind either) and decided to partake. It was fun running around the ship for a half hour trying to find everything. Thanks to Raquel “Kelly”, Group Service Coordinator for her letting me borrow her raincoat for the scavenger hunt. We didn’t win it but it was fun running around to all the crew that mom and I made friends with seeking out the items or getting them from our cabin. The conclusion of this event coincided with NCL’s Complimentary Rum Punch. Yes, you read that right! For one hour on Day 9 of the voyage NCL gave out free rum punch at every bar on the ship. It was a very nice gesture of NCL to do. Mom had a cup but as an avid Grey Goose vodka fan I didn’t. SPECIALTY RESTAURANT: NCL’s Signature Le Bistro Restaurant The food was great and it turns out with so many cruises we knew the Maitre’ D of this restaurant from the Norwegian Jewel. Chef Peter stopped by the table personally to wish us a safe journey home and we thanked him for all the special requests he did for us all week. He made sure our dinner was fantastic for the last night onboard. I had the escargot, a steak dish and crème brulee for dessert. It was a very nice way to spend the last night onboard in the anchorage space some 13 nautical miles south of the New Orleans pier. After taking a picture on the Promenade Deck of a sun that was trying to set given all the clouds from Tropical Storm Lee, we headed to the… SPOTLIGHT SHOWTIME: “Farewell Variety Showtime: Take 2” Back by popular demand the Norwegian Spirit singers, dancers, acrobatic duo of Maria and Dmitri, Kyle Dodson (Cruise Director), Jose & Patti and the comedian Sam put together another show to entertain the guests. The show flowed nicely and Jose & Patti again stood out amongst the performances. It was a nice evening show to end the cruise on. It was time to head back to the stateroom and start packing all over again and put the bags out before heading to the disco one last time. Carnival took longer than expected and we were still at anchor well past the time the Captain had originally said. He came on and told the guests that it wasn’t expected to be until after midnight that we’d tie up. I headed to bed around midnight and we still were not moving. At 2:20AM hooting and hollering very loud from the Carnival ship as it went past us down the river made it so there is no way anyone on the Starboard side of the Spirit could have slept through it! DAY 10: DISEMBARKATION – New Orleans – Tuesday, September 6, 2011 Most of the passengers opted for the easy walk-off program and actually started to disembark the ship at 3AM when we were alongside. Our ship had already cleared the non-US citizens on Monday while we were anchored in the river so by the time we got up at 6AM with a wake-up call from Guest Relations; the ship was pretty much a ghost town. After having a sit down breakfast, it was off to the room to pack up and listen for the bag tags. Instead of calling them by color individually, they said all bag tags may disembark. There were so few of us it didn’t matter what color you used, they just wanted us off the ship. 8AM we were shoreside and by 8:30AM we were at the airport thanks to a quick driving taxi! OVERALL: This is the first cruise I’ve ever been on where the culinary/restaurant team has out done the cruise staff. I’m really not a foodie either. On this cruise Executive Chef Hans-Peter took very good care of mom and me from the moment he welcomed us back at the Cruise Critic gathering until the last dinner onboard. This guy is truly a wonderful person and NCL is blessed to have him! The dining room staff was excellent specifically the service from Edzel Aberia, Senior Waiter and his assistant Rowena. Shridhar Dhuri, Assistant Maitre’ D in Windows was also incredible in getting our table setup each night and holding it for us if we ran a little late along with having our favorite server team (Edzel & Rowena) wait on us – even if their section was across the restaurant. The hostess Sunshine was always so pleasant and her assistant Marciel was just as nice. My graduation dinner in Cagney’s was handled very nicely by the talented team of George de Torres and Lyss Torres Chura. Klaus Lugmaier, Director of Hotel Operations for all of NCL was the Hotel Director and every time he saw me out and about he would always check in with me to ask how things were. I did inquire about the placement of the White Hot Party with a port day the next day and he followed up and had the Cruise Director call me and explain why that was the case. Klaus means business and he’s another great asset to NCL! It was great meeting such an incredible man who worked tirelessly on the passenger’s behalf to try and keep us happy during what the crew called a “crisis.” (I didn’t see it as one but a bonus vacation!) Raquel “Kelly” Nunez was everywhere at the end of the cruise and she was always out and about trying to help the guests as much as possible – even taking time to lend me her jacket so I could use it for the scavenger hunt! These great people made the cruise for me and hats off to each and every one of them!! John D’Souza, Spirit’s Concierge, deserves a hat’s off for his help in making contact for a situation of a personal nature during the satellite crunch. We were able to make contact and get everything straightened out fairly quickly to allay any anxiety it may have caused my mom. I wish I could be more specific but he did an excellent job with his help in that situation. Thanks John! Having sailed on the Norwegian Spirit three times over, this trip is definitely the most unique of all three because the staff and crew bent over backwards, starved themselves (quite literally) and hardly slept to take care of the passengers over the last few days of the elongated cruise. It was a job well done and NCL handled it great (front desk staff all the way on up to corporate decisions). I’m proud to say I’m a loyal NCL cruiser now and I highly recommend the Norwegian Spirit to any cruiser considering this ship. If they can weather a storm at sea and handle it flawlessly and with such compassion for their guests, they can handle anything! Read Less
Sail Date: March 2011
I've read all of the other reviews of the Spirit and NCL--and its like we were on completely different ships/staff. We took this NCL Spirit cruise as part of the Mardi Gras BearCruiseUSA 2011 voyage. I will start with ... Read More
I've read all of the other reviews of the Spirit and NCL--and its like we were on completely different ships/staff. We took this NCL Spirit cruise as part of the Mardi Gras BearCruiseUSA 2011 voyage. I will start with the positives for each topic: 1) The Bear Cruise USA portion was fantastic. The organizers and fellow travelers were a pleasure. The ports and impromptu gatherings provided for many many lasting memories to be made. Getting on the ship was a breeze. 2) The "front line" staff of NCL seem to be the most friendly, hardest working, and eager to please staff on the seas. 3) The NCL Spirit is a beautiful ship. The size of it was just about perfect for a group of our size--you could get away when you wanted, and easily find each other when you wanted as well. 4) Cagney's was the perfect "last evening of the cruise" restaurant--great service, amazing steaks, and the Oysters Rockefeller is not to be missed. We left smiling. 5) Liquor prices were reasonable. We greatly enjoyed 2-for-1 martinis in Champagne Charlie's nightly. The professional entertainers there were extremely talented as well. Now for the negatives. As a rule, my husband and I have a good sense of humor about all of this. That said, I've worked most of my professional life in service industry jobs; all of these complaints are absolutely inexcusable. Not only does NCL know about the issues, but their senior management on the ship were downright apathetic and defensive about complaints raised. 1) If it were not for the memories our group made in the preceding 6 days, disembarkation would have ruined the cruise. An emergency medical evacuation delayed our arrival back into New Orleans significantly. NCL handled the resulting delay abysmally. NCL did not openly communicate what resources were available to find alternate travel plans nor did they provide accurate estimates when we would disembark. At disembarkation, we watched as guests pushed and shoved for 2 hours following the call for guests to (voluntarily) "carry your own luggage off the ship". We experienced similar serious delays on Princess last year disembarking in Puerto Rico, but the entire time Princess apologized profusely. At the end, we were thanking the Princess staff for their professionalism and hoping to return soon. NCL did not once use the words "I'm sorry" or "we apologize" in their announcements. Continually, we heard "We understand there have been delays and we thank you for your patience." That irks me most of all. A sincere apology is free. Note: there were several public areas where passengers were instructed to wait for disembarkation. The restroom facilities near these areas were in deplorable condition. No toilet paper or paper towels, evidence of previous guests, puddles on the floors, etc. 2) Although the front line staff is friendly and eager--they are either woefully understaffed or provided inadequate resources to complete their jobs. A perfect example: when we returned from shore in Roatan around 3:30pm, we wanted food. The buffet was offering only finger sandwiches(??), so we went to the Blue Lagoon. It appeared many others had this idea too. It was a madhouse. A server, Gemma, was incredible--she was balancing her duties at the adjacent bar with assisting servers deliver food in the Blue Lagoon. Still, even the best intentions and enthusiasm couldn't make up for only one restaurant being open, and running out of menu items. Each time we returned from port, it was as if NCL was downright surprised that people might be hungry after a long day of activities. The servers were helpless, and managers we talked to were unapologetic. 3) Such a beautiful ship should not have mildew/mold in the cabin showers and toilets that don't flush until 10 minutes after you press the button. We should have brought this to our cabin steward's attention. However, wasn't he the one cleaning the shower and the toilets? I'm sure he also noticed the stains on the fresh sheets he was putting on our bed. We didn't see him in the hallway to tell him, and we weren't going to go out of our way to complain about little issues that were merely another sign of what we knew: staff can only be enthusiastic and friendly for so long before frustration makes them stop trying. We understand the ship is the oldest in NCL's fleet. It is not showing the signs of age, it is showing the signs of neglect. 4) We strongly suggest you order 2 or even 3 entrees at the Windows dining room if you choose to dine there for dinner. At least 1 of them might be edible. Entire plates of food were terrible: often cold or just badly-prepared. We had gnocchi that were hard as ping pong balls. Pasta was always overcooked; sauces were bland. A tortilla soup had ONE strip of tortilla in the whole bowl, the rest was broth. I'm not making this up! Seafood tasted fishy (old). A table-mate described a vegetarian dish one night as "curry abuse". Breakfast was the only meal we would recommend eating in Windows, and even then it appeared just to be plated food from the buffet. We tried Shogun (for a charge), which we had loved on the NCL Gem last year, but it was a disappointment on the Spirit. Our group reservation for 12 was treated as an imposition. Although some food was tasty (spring rolls, shrimp, bbq spare-ribs), most was cold or flavorless (street noodles, mongolian braised beef). It was not worth the up-charge. The "floor show" was entertaining like a train-wreck. More on that in #5 below. 5) While liquor prices were reasonable, there was a huge problem with college-aged adults on spring break being over-served. NCL reportedly sold unlimited alcohol packages for $250 to several groups of college students. NCL then proceeded to continuously over-serve those guests to the detriment of other's enjoyment of their vacations. At Shogun, we watched as a college student slammed his fists against his table and yelled loudly. The young man then proceeded to drink until he was unable to keep his eyes open. Around the time he placed a linen napkin over his face and swayed back and forth in his chair, he was served a glass of white wine. Later, the individual was served a glass of sake before being unable to find the door to exit the restaurant. He was allowed to wander unescorted through the cruise-ship yelling at other passengers. In what way is NCL being a responsible vendor of alcohol? More than once, these college-aged students were seen sleeping in the hallways because they couldn't find their rooms. The ship ran out of Pina Colada mix on the second day of the cruise. They went on to run out of rail rum, rail vodka, Bud Light, Fosters, and Dos Equis to name a few. The NCL front-line staff profusely apologized; the managers shrugged and offered a more expensive beverage. Any time we brought up a concern about a clearly intoxicated guest being served additional alcohol, the front-line staff said they already knew about the problem and suggested we speak with a manager. When we spoke with a manager, they were quick with an excuse and continued serving the drunk guests. Eventually we stopped complaining to staff, and started sharing our poor experience with fellow guests--our experience was shared by many of them as well. Near the last day of the cruise, the ships executive staff were made available in an open meeting with guests. The management team's response to the overwhelming chorus of dissatisfied passengers was, "Well, it IS spring break." Well, it IS our money, and we will always choose your competitor in the future. NCL... you're now free to "Whatever." Read Less
Sail Date: March 2010
I first would like start off with the good My partner and I booked this cruise through a travel agency Who specialized in a unique event called a Bear Cruise there were 200 gay men from all over the world who defined them selves as bears ... Read More
I first would like start off with the good My partner and I booked this cruise through a travel agency Who specialized in a unique event called a Bear Cruise there were 200 gay men from all over the world who defined them selves as bears or bear admirers and the staff on board the Spirit really went out of there way to accommodate and include us in all onboard activities. The embarking process out of New Orleans was smooth and quick. I liked the prepay soda plan and the bottled water package they offered on board. Our cabin was kept very clean and stocked throughout our voyage. The 2 for 1 Martini Nights in Champagne Charlies with the great lounge duo that entertained us every night was always a must do between 7-9.Cagneys steakhouse was world class and service was perfect.The Blue Lagoon Cafe had great wings! Now the Bad The freestyle experience in regular dining was horrible with the quality of food.Wrong Orders,Tasteless Food both at Windows and The Garden Room after the 3rd night We both had enough and resorted to the specialty restaurants of course Not FREE! In the Shogun Restaurant the Chinese food was good but when I asked the server for crispy noodles and hot mustard she looked at me like I was asking for a unreasonable request.No hot mustard in a Chinese Restaurant? ?Our ship was plagued with hundreds of young collage kids who got a 350$ all you can drink on the cruise special package.What were you thinking? Every Night I felt like I was on a college campus during frat night. Our first port was supposed to be Costa Maya but the captain declined to dock due to rough seas?Funny how other ships got to dock and of course still charged for that portion. Now the WORST Due to a medical emergency on our last day at sea We got delayed 8 hours to dock in New Orleans My partner and I had to pay 598$ to change our flight which was the last flight out of New Orleans at 7.35pm We were told we would dock at.5pm and if we chose to carry our own bags we could be the first group to disembark. We dragged our 4 big suitcases down to deck 7 at 2pm and stood there for 2.5 hours hundreds had converged on deck7 by then and at 430 we were all told to move to the exit by the casino as they were NOT using the mid doors .So now were were at the BACK of the line and all We got was sorry? We docked at 5 and guess where they started to disembark.The MID Doors and that was the only way off the ship We stood in line for another hour and a half till we got off the ship at 615pm customs was quick and thanks to a very fast cab driver we made it to our plane severely stressed out at 730 pm.Norwegian did nothing to help us with our travel home they did supply a whopping 6 laptops to help 2000 people rebook travel and I had to plead with the manager to waive our 30.00 Internet charge to rebook our flight. So if it's "Free"style your looking for bring along an extra 1000 for flight changes and decent food as of yet I have not got any sort of compensation or even an apology from this letter I sent to Norwegian Read Less

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