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17 New York (Manhattan) to Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

This is the second time we took the Breakaway, same cabin, same itinerary as last January. I love the larger balcony because we use it a lot. Last year they had one lounger, two chairs, and a small table, but this year was even better: two ... Read More
This is the second time we took the Breakaway, same cabin, same itinerary as last January. I love the larger balcony because we use it a lot. Last year they had one lounger, two chairs, and a small table, but this year was even better: two loungers, two chairs, and a large table, so we were able to eat breakfast on the balcony whenever the weather permitted, and I was able to do my yoga on one of the loungers folded flat. Perfect! The cabin was more than adequate and we had a really nice cabin steward, Jay R, from the Philippines. We ate dinner in the Manhattan dining room every night except the night we were in Puerto Rico. The menu was hit or miss, but some off the fish dishes were wonderful, and the soups were always good. We liked all of our servers, but Sophia, Lordes, and Melroy really stood out and made our dining experience very pleasant. There's always enough chairs on deck and the DJ was particularly good. We don't go to the shows, but since they featured a tribute to the Rat Pack one night, the music of my parents' era, I thought I'd give it a go. The performers were very good, but unfortunately threw in a gay joke and a limp wristed affectation for no apparent reason, which spoiled the whole experience for me. However, when I mentioned it to Julie, the Cruise Director, and told her it was no more acceptable than a black joke, or a Jewish joke, or a Polish joke, she immediately called my cabin and apologized profusely and said she would address it with the entertainers. Read Less
Sail Date January 2015
This was one of our best vacations ever. My wife and I have cruised before, but it was the first time for our daughter. She is 10 years old, and after countless and I mean countless trips to Disney we need a Mickey break. So we booked The ... Read More
This was one of our best vacations ever. My wife and I have cruised before, but it was the first time for our daughter. She is 10 years old, and after countless and I mean countless trips to Disney we need a Mickey break. So we booked The Norwegian Gem, we got a fantastic price and my wife hates to fly. So leaving out of New York is easy because we live in South Jersey. Embarkation was so easy, before you know it, you are on the ship. I followed a reviewer's advice, and went to the Grand Pacific for a sit down meal, instead of fighting for a seat at buffet. I am only going to complain two little times during this review, so don’t take this as anything bad. We waited forever for our food, I guess they had new staff and this is where they let them try to serve. We ate dinner there to (First night surf and Turf) very small portions (but, you can order as many meals as you like as you know) and cold, we were not fans of the Grand Pacific, never ate there again. We manly ate breakfast in the Garden café. Second tiny complaint, fix the toasters!!! Okay got that off my chest. Here is a secret, a real hidden "Gem" is the outside seating in the Garden cafe. There are coffee stations and the same food without the fight of the main buffet line. Before 9:00am, it easy to a seat with a million dollar view. Did not really eat lunch, my daughter loved the hot dogs and the burgers we excellent. The poolside barbeques had phenomenal food. Magenta was good, the waiter was so funny and made our dinner entertaining. We ate at all of the specialty restaurants. La Cucina was good-very good. The Brazilian restaurant was excellent. Le bistro was excellent. Cagney’s was excellent. Tapenyaki was beyond excellent, so good and entertaining. Besides our first day at Grand Pacific, food was very good We stayed in a mini suite on the 11th floor next to the bridge. It was very clean, quiet and comfortable. Our room Steward Gabriel was the best, made my wife feel safe during some rough seas and made my daughters day every day. My wife and daughter loved the spa and the spa manager was very nice and helpful. My daughter played diva for the first couple of days and did not want to go to the kids club, she regretted it at the end. She met so many friends and had such a good time there. Those people have a lot of patience and do their job very well. Entertainment was good; this is a good family boat . This is not your I am getting wasted for 9 nights boats, rarely saw anybody truly drunk, while 10 years ago that would have been me. Ports San Juan was beautiful, take a tour and check out old San Juan. Nice shopping. St Martin was our favorite, we booked a private tour with Capt. Bob Cass Souloja Destinations. Six hours on a power boat with snorkeling and alcohol, soft drinks, and lunch included. Highlight of our Cruise. St Thomas was beautiful, we took a tour we should have gone to magaens bay or St. John. Samana, well let’s just say go to the beach (Cave Levanto) a private island or do a private tour. We went on our own with a taxi, very nice people, but very poor country. We made a mistake, should have gone to the beach Disembarkation was a breeze Overall awesome time, I have read people getting mad about the $12 fee per person per day, added to their bill and they actually went to get it taken off. This is horrible; these awesome people make their money from tips. If you had to tip these people per day for dining and cleaning your room, it would be far more than the $12 bucks a day. Then I heard people complaining just to complain, listen I look at it this way, I did not pay for the Ritz Carlton so I did not expect Ritz Carlton food and Service. Actually sometimes, I received better. My daughter already wants to go next years and has not stop yelling come to the Spin-a-ca lounge! You need an English accent, to make it sound funny.   Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
We arrived at the Pier at 10:15am, gave our luggage to a porter and walked right through the security gates without a problem, we went through the Latitudes line in 5 minutes,checked in and were sitting in the lounge area at 10:35am ... Read More
We arrived at the Pier at 10:15am, gave our luggage to a porter and walked right through the security gates without a problem, we went through the Latitudes line in 5 minutes,checked in and were sitting in the lounge area at 10:35am waiting for the call to enter the ship..At 12 Noon we were called by numbers we had number 10 and boarded the ship. It was an easy process, no hassle, no worry quick and efficient. We had lunch in the Grand Pacific Dining room which was not crowded and the food was very good. We then went upstairs to the pool area where there was a BBQ going on and guests were lining up to eat. It was chilly and not windy as it was about 1:30PM. We then decided to go see the Ying and Yang, Mandara Spa as we bought the couple's Spa Pass on the Pier after check in, it was $268 couples special for the 10 day cruise and let me tell you it was well worth it, as 5/10 days you couldn't use the pool area due to the cold weather. They sell only 60 couple passes so if you are interested check it out on the Pier before they sell out. The area is private no children permitted and there is a private ladies and Men's section, with lockers, sauna, and steam room Bathroom and showers plus a unisex section with lounge chairs and thermal heating therapeutic chairs, coffe, Tea, orange juice and cold water, towels, and bathrobes. My wife and I enjoyed it and showered there rather than our cabin as it was roomy and easier those cabin showers are tight,we spent hours there its open 8Am-10PM. We sailed exactly at 4PM as they wait for no one, as we found out later during the cruise, we went up the Hudson and the weather changed as now it was foggy and by the time we got to the Verrazzano Bridge it was snowing and visibility was poor. The seas days were quiet there were many things to do and a number of shows and lounges with entertainment. We checked out bingo but its very expensive like $140 for daily games I'm not sure how many games you played but too expensive for us. There are Art Auctions, Trivia games, Library, card room etc..but we stayed in the lounges at the Spa and relaxed. One night we made reservations for La Cucina Italian Restaurant we ate too much and the food was very good well worth the $10 charge PP. Finally we arrived Puerto Rico after 2-1/2 days at sea which were very calm at around 2:30Pm and we got off ship by 3 and just walked around front street in Old San Juan, you there only 6 hours and we felt it was a waste to go on any tour. Plus the fact we have been to PR about 12 times, so how many times can you see El Morro..We were back on ship by 7 and we sailed at 9PM for St. Thomas. St. Thomas was quiet we arrived at 8AM on Sunday and we were the only ship in Port the stores opened in the Havensight Pier area. My cell phone charger broke and I found out that Verizon is not in the islands so I was out of luck, and phone was dead. I found an Asian restaurant right down at the end of the Pier with an internet cafe upstairs for $2 for an 1hr. and in the restaurant they rented cell phones and sold phone cards $2 ea. for 2 hours use to call home..So for $6 I called home had 2 hours calling time and used the internet for an hour. We asked a taxi guy where's the closest beach and for $6 he took us to a resort on Morningstar beach, chase lounge $10ea they had bar and changing bathrooms its 10 minutes from Pier and was a beautiful beach. We went last year to Meagen's bay which was long ride and cost add'l $4 ea for use of beach. We again sailed at 5PM.. Next up was St.Maarten we have been there many times this time we took the water taxi $6 ea round trip to Philipsburg to see front street and the beaches the area was crowded with tourists the beaches were jammed and all the pushy sellers along front street selling everything and anything were bothersome. They also had an internet cafe for $5 for an hour well worth it compared to the ship ripping people off for there slow minute eating internet on board. Don't waste your money every port we visited has an internet cafe just ask. Next time we visit St. Maarten we are going back to Orient beach a beautiful beach not to mention all the topless girls...We sailed at 5PM. Next stop Antiqua, last year we just walked around the straw huts which are all the same. This year we took NCL's Antiqua Beach Escape $48 ea, it was well worth the money, the took us by small buses to a resort on Runaway Beach they had beach chairs ready and for $7 you could rent an umbrella we did, it was hot and sunny, we also were served lunch chicken and ribs and rice it was tasty and very good. we stayed until around 2:45Pm buses were waiting and we were back on ship by 3:30PM, again we sailed at 5PM but a couple with children missed the time and were left to find there way to Tortola. So be back on time they will sail without you..Be aware of the time... Next stop Tortola we arrived 7AM and left at 1PM, not much you can do here that is worth while we did Virgin Gorda and that was wonderful last year only drawback you have to be off ship by 7:15AM and you are back on ship by 12:50PM and then they sail immediately...Its an NCL tour so they won't sail until you are back so not to worry. Its a beautiful Gorda water is magnificent its just took short and expensive. BTW we heard couple met up with ship in Tortola with there children. The staff was very good a few problems here and there with service in the restaurants especially when its crunch time and many people are in the dining room, its forgiveable as we found out these workers work every day 10 hours , and some have as many as three jobs. We only had to wait one evening about 10 minutes for a table in either Magenta or Grand Pacific Dining rooms. We enjoyed the food we had lobster 2 nights and prime rib, and shrimp and ribs 4/10 nights in the main dining rooms. We don't do the charge restaurants except this time we did do La Cucina,which was worth the $20 the others are expensive and we heard from a number of guests not worth the money, but each to there own taste's but we enjoyed the food and service. The NCL staff and Officers are very pleasant and courteous we encountered no problems with the staff. we had an Aft Balcony Cabin 110168 which was really nice to look out the back of the ship and was great with us backing into 3/5 ports. The main drawback was you are in the back of the ship and almost everything we did Stardust theater, Magenta Restaurant, Pool, Spa, casino and lounges are all up in the front of the ship, and its a looong walk to the front and if you forgot something a loong way back. We decided to try it one time as this was our third cruise out of NYC in the last 3 years but from now on we will book mid ship cabins and save the wear and tear, we sure did get a lot of walking. Our sail back to NYC was uneventful and we docked at 8AM, the Pearl also docked a little before us and it took almost 2 hours before we started off the ship it was a slow process and we didn't get our luggage until around 10:45AM and get through Customs and meet my son who picked us up. It was the only downer of the cruise NCL should S..t CAN that policy of caring off your own luggage its not really a time saver, it only saves them time from carrying all the luggage off, and it jams everyone else up waiting for there color to be called..I would rather see them go back to everyone checked there luggage, especially latitudes members like myself we had white tags and when it was time for the colors to be called they called both white and orange and there was a mad crush to the doors, and it was very noticeable that officers and staff with the exception of one poor soul trying to keep everyone from crushing one another trying to get off were missing in action or were they hiding..Hmm. There was no benefit to having the white tags for latitudes members. NCL gets a "F" for there service in Disembarkation. Really a lousy lousy job. They should review this stupid policy.. Except for the last few hours waiting to get off the ship, All in all it was a very good cruise great weather, the seas were calm staff excellent. However we have had it with the Eastern Caribbean so next year we decided to drive to Miami and take NCL Sun on an 11 day cruise to the Western Caribbean, Mid Ship Cabin PLEASE !! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Departed from Bayonne (not listed in departure ports list) SUNSHINE - Ship is elegant and gorgeous. The central lighting in the MDR is amazing! Likewise the twelve-deck towers of glass elevators in the atrium. I loved looking across the ... Read More
Departed from Bayonne (not listed in departure ports list) SUNSHINE - Ship is elegant and gorgeous. The central lighting in the MDR is amazing! Likewise the twelve-deck towers of glass elevators in the atrium. I loved looking across the atrium space to gathering areas on the forward side. - Cabin stewards were wonderful. The halls were always full of stewards going about their business and offering cheerful greetings to every passer-by. - Dining room staff went above and beyond. We loved them. The manager stopped at each table nearly every day asking for feedback. Friends and table mates who tried premium restaurants assured us they were a waste of money -- that standard dining room meals were equally good and well-presented. - Security for reboarding was nicely handled. - Cabin was generally comfortable, with lots of hangers. Other storage is limited, as noted later. - Bathroom was excellent. Lots of hot water, and towels seemed to be changed within minutes after leaving cabin -- even though we always rehung, indicating we would reuse. Would be even better with drying line. - Mattresses were supremely comfortable. I actually like being able to hang my toes over the end. - We liked the dim light that remains always on in bathroom. Nightlight in cabin was welcome in interior unit, though we'd feel safer if it remained lit when power was off. We had a power outage in an inside cabin once and became totally disoriented, making it hard to locate our flashlight or find our way to the door. - Bathroom ventilation was excellent. - Front desk staff were cheerful and always tried to be helpful, though they were usually not well-informed, and not always believable. - I appreciated that we docked near town in San Juan rather than at the newer remote dock that fellow cruisers told us about. - Hamburgers at the (free) grill were superb and fries outstanding. - The Captain's Club reception at the end of the cruise was terrific. - My two favorite places to hang out were the Hide-Away and the Library. One type of chair in each location was tolerable to sit in for prolonged reading (see later comment about chairs). - The self-service complementary coffee and tea on the Hide-Away was a welcome treat, especially for those of us with cabins far to the front of the ship. - Unlike dining room chairs, chairs in the buffet area were comfortable and easily positioned. - Staff in the buffet area did a splendid job of keeping tables cleared and cleaned. - Trivia was great, though some specialty sessions seemed absurdly obscure, and many times staff had the answer wrong, but were disdainful of looking things up. - Tea selection was awesome. MILD OVERCAST - Food was okay, with great variety. Some dinner entrees were disappointing, others magnificent. One meatless pasta entree tasted like pot roast on noodles, yuck! I should have sent it back. Chefs may have gone overboard on entree innovation. Vegetable servings were meager and seemed to have been waved through a column of steam too quickly to soften -- the result was predictable raw-tasting, tough veggies. Fortunately salads were great. Overall, the food was adequate, not cause for complaint, but I don't pretend to be a foodie. - Variety of activities was fantastic, but it wasn't always clear what was free and what fees were involved, or how to sign up. Activities Director Pete seemed not to know the ropes and repeatedly dropped ball after encouraging me to set up a free event. He told me it would be in the daily bulletin. Later I learned that Celebrity protocol precludes listing unhosted events in the bulletin (understandable). In spite of his assurances, it did not even appear on the announcement board until an hour beforehand. (Pete acted surprised to learn this, and I heard him make a call directing staff to take care of it right then the previous evening). Promised assistant never showed with promised paper and pens, and set-up staff was preparing for a different gathering presumably scheduled to use the room at the same time. Needless to say, results were discouraging. Is this because Pete was leaving for vacation the next day, or maybe he was just clueless, or staff acts in a vacuum? Not impressive! - Educational lectures during sea days were occasionally misleading or inaccurate. One speaker jumped around a lot and seemed not to have control of her material. I attended only one and decided to skip the rest. - Lounge area for Trivia was marginal. Foot traffic often interfered as passers-by called out answers. Furniture was difficult to move for large-group sessions and quite uncomfortable to perch on. SHADOWS - All seats on sun decks were lounges. There were none available for sitting upright. - The "free" coffee was disgusting -- perhaps to encourage sales of premium brands? Sorry. I dig in my heels at that type of coercion. I switched to tea. - Clothing storage in cabins is lacking. We had lots of hangers we could remove from the rod, but the closet lacked shelves, and we had only three extra deep, narrow drawers, enough for one person, but definitely not two. Shallower ones would be better. We climbed on the bed to use overhead bins for stacking folded shirts, jeans, etc. This complaint was shared by people in all cabin categories. - The awesome bathroom lacks a drying line for wet swim suits, which take much longer on the small hanging knobs. - Furniture placement in cabin was awkward, not like illustration photo. When in use, the desk chair blocked access to the far side of the bed. No reading light was available for the one armchair (not two like in photo). - Interior hallways and lounges were over-cooled on warm days. The ship's doctor I consulted for the cold I caught mid-cruise blamed the constant shift from the hot outdoors temps to frigid hallways. - Most chairs aboard were far too deep for the average woman but the ones in the buffet have good lumbar support, thus encouraging a slouching position uncomfortable for many with back problems. Some chairs did have cushions, but the cushions were fixed in place, furthering the problem rather than helping. I spent a lot of time perched on the edge of chairs, trying to keep my aging back straight. - Dining room chairs are world class awful. They are elegant to look at, but way too deep for the anyone shorter than 5'10". They must have been chosen by basketball players! Fortunately pillows are available for those who think to ask, but some pillows were better than others, and having to tell the servers "Please give me the striped pillow rather than the red one, and please don't ever give me that horrid thick cushion again ..." makes me feel like a whiner and does not enhance the dining experience (even though our servers were awesomely obliging, anticipating every need)! The chairs seem to weigh 100 lbs, with thin legs that sink deeply into the carpet. Even with assistance it's nearly impossible to position them precisely, and leaving the table for the ladies' room was too awkward to contemplate -- thus dinner was cut short a couple of times. - The theater and shows were a huge problem for me. I attended fewer than half the shows in the Silhouette Theater. This is less of a problem than it might seem, because I don't generally enjoy the sort of shows Celebrity features under any circumstances, but I don't like being forced to make that choice because attending them is painful! They were physically painful for two reasons. First, they were way too LOUD! After the first night, I wore ear plugs, which made the volume tolerable, but fuzzed out the sound. It's ironic that they control smoking to protect lung health even though when in international waters, but think nothing of assaulting tender ear nerves with sound equivalent to large jet engines. My macho uncle lost most of his hearing because he refused to use hearing protection. The second pain source in the theater was the seats. The backs are positioned to encourage lounging. They slope enough that I kept sliding forward in my seat, causing my lower back to sag and go into spasms. Carrying in a pillow was not an option I'd consider. I will not attend shows on future cruises, should I book any. Suppose I could get a discount? Yeah, right! - Music in Deck 3 Atrium was also deafening, making it unpleasant to join the throng of dancers. (It's tough to have sensitive ear nerves and great hearing.) - I did not attend any late evening events in Celebrity Central, the Sky Lounge, or the pool area because they were even louder than the ones in the theater, and based on feedback from friends, it was nearly impossible to find a place to see the action anyway. The really good ones I watched on t.v. later. - Even the MDR was quite loud. It was barely possible to carry on conversations at the dinner table. But that was poor design, not amplified noise, so more tolerable. - When I filed a formal complaint about the volume, I was solicitously assured by customer relations staff and the cruise director himself that "we will look into it and turn it down a tad." Yeah, right. If anything, it got louder! Overall, I'd rate this cruise experience three stars. If I disregard the activities, noise and chairs, I'd rate it 4.5. But the uncomfortable seating and noise levels don't even rate a 2. I'd rather go on a smaller ship with fewer loud entertainment events and more comfortable lounging and reading facilities, and it seems unfair that I am unable to enjoy the premium entertainment I'm paying for on Solstice class ships. We only signed up for one Ship Excursion (that cost only twice as much as buying the same tickets ashore), and that only as insurance against unforeseen delays returning to the ship. We had a great time getting around on our own, as did most of the people we met. DO NOT expect the helpful staff to provide any shore information not connected with ship-sponsored excursions. Remember -- they are there to sell excursions and ship services, not to help us find free WiFi, drugstores, or public libraries ashore. In spite of my ambivalence about this cruise, I do like cruising, especially the longer cruises with more sea days and am disappointed at Celebrity's news that next year all cruises will leave from Florida and be limited to a single week.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
My goal this time around is to keep this short and sweet — or at least shorter than most of my previous reviews. :) I don't believe reviews that are all glowing or all scathing, so you'll find a mix here. The bottom line is ... Read More
My goal this time around is to keep this short and sweet — or at least shorter than most of my previous reviews. :) I don't believe reviews that are all glowing or all scathing, so you'll find a mix here. The bottom line is that anything that momentarily annoyed me or compared unfavorably to past cruises did not affect my overall appreciation of this cruise at all. This was a wonderful trip, the ship is amazing, and the itinerary was top-notch. We love NCL, and we'll definitely be sailing with them again. BACKGROUND My husband and I are in our early 30s and this was our eighth cruise together, our fourth in a row on NCL. We've grown to love the "Freestyle" philosophy, we love the ships' layout and appearance, and, since we're big fans of food (ha), we appreciate all the specialty restaurant options (more on that later). PRE-CRUISE As in the past, since I hate to fly, we picked a cruise leaving out of NYC and booked a night at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Newark, NJ, which has a good stay-and-park deal that allows us to leave our vehicle there while we're cruising. (The hotel itself is nice enough, but this was probably our last time staying there, as we've had multiple run-ins with the same rude employee and we've grown weary of it.) We had a service called Fortas Limousine pick us up in NJ, and they came in a Navigator, a welcome sight considering the sheets of ice covering the roads that day (Feb. 2). They were efficient, on time and pleasant. We'd use them again. EMBARKATION Embarkation went smoothly, as it always has for us with NCL. We arrived at the port around 11 and were on the ship by just after 12. SHIP/PUBLIC SPACES We previously sailed on Jewel's sister ship, Gem, so we were already pretty familiar with the layout. There were a few touches and amenities that Gem had that Jewel lacked — we missed Gem's Bliss nightclub, for one, and what's up with the dollhouse-like furniture in the Jewel's atrium? — but all in all, she's a gorgeous ship. Everything was spotlessly clean and attractive. The layout is easy to navigate, and everything is spaced well enough that there rarely seemed to be congestion. Our favorite place to hang out was Bar City, the convergence of three bars — Maltings Whiskey Bar, Magnum's Wine and Champagne Bar and Shakers Martini Bar — in one area. The Spinnaker Lounge, with its forward-facing windows and colorful furniture, was gorgeous as well. My husband fell in love with the Chill Out Lounge, the private spa area. It was $119 per person for the 10-day cruise, and it featured a room at the bow, lined with windows, containing heated ceramic lounge chairs and a thalassotherapy pool. There also were gender-specific areas containing a Jacuzzi, tropical showers, a plunge bath, steam room, sauna and lockers. This was a great place to read or relax — when there weren't too many people. They only sold 50 passes (or so they claim), but the women's area seemed bustling most days, and unfortunately (despite the myriad of signs begging patrons to be silent) there was a lot of loud, disruptive talking. There were fewer men, though, so my husband found it a great place to get peace and quiet. All in all, it was worth the money, though Norwegian Dawn's private spa area far exceeded Jewel's in quality, with more co-ed amenities like a warm freshwater lap pool and Jacuzzi. The gym is probably the site of my biggest complaints. (If you don't work out, you can completely skip this part — you won't care.) I'm kind of a gym rat, and I tend to go a little bonkers on food on cruises, so I usually work out twice a day. The gym is open 6 a.m.-10 p.m., yet they advertise that the weights and treadmills are only open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Um, why? And it turns out, that's not exactly true. I got up every morning to work out at 6 a.m., and some of the treadmills were available, and some were roped off. This makes no sense to me. On Gem, the gym was open 24 hours, so why is the gym only open some hours on other NCL ships, and why is some equipment even more limited? It's been my experience that a lot of die-hard gym people like to get up early, so putting a restriction on the equipment like that just seems ridiculous. Also, as on every other NCL cruise I've been on, the front desk tried to tell me the gym wasn't open the morning of disembarkation. But, as on every other NCL cruise, it WAS. So if you like working out ... you might not want to take them at their word. I marched down there that morning and sure enough, it was open. I learned my lesson from previous cruises. Lastly, this has nothing to do with NCL — and they actually enforced it well — but please, people: don't let your young children run around the gym, banging on the equipment. On the first day, I saw a woman with multiple kids in the gym, and while she rode a bike, her kids loudly abused the rowing machines and dashed around until a crew member was forced to ask them to leave. Come on ... have some courtesy. There are plenty of children's facilities, and the gym isn't one of them. OK, I'll get off my soapbox now! One thing that really disappointed my husband was a lack of a cigar bar. I'm no fan of smoking, but he likes to smoke cigars while on vacation, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in the Havana Club cigar bar on the Dawn last year. He was bummed to learn that the Jewel had inexplicably gotten rid of its cigar bar. The area where it once was is still there (and it's still on the deck plans), near Bar City; it even still has cigar posters — right above "no smoking" signs. The worst part of this is that though cigarette smokers have all kinds of places they can light up, including the casino, cigar smokers are forced to smoke outside at the Sky High Bar, which was often windy and cool and, thanks to wall-mounted blue lights, has all the ambiance of a patio with those obnoxious bug zapper lights. If you're going to make so many accommodations for cigarette smokers, can't there at least be one indoor place for cigar smokers? This didn't ruin our trip by any means, but I disliked the Sky High Bar so much that my husband usually ended up there alone, whereas on the Dawn, we could hang out together, relax, and meet new people. STATEROOM We were in 5528, an oceanview. It was like every other NCL cabin we've ever been in. Nicely laid out. Love the sliding shower door versus the curtain that allows bathroom flooding on other cruise lines. FOOD As on all of our NCL cruises, the food was great, with a few misses and a whole lot of hits. We love the fact that the dining room and buffet food is typically very good, so eating in the specialty restaurants isn't a necessity, if you don't want to fork over the cover charge. But it's nice to have the option. We actually ate in more specialty restaurants this time than ever before. We tried Tango's, Teppanyaki, Le Bistro, Cagney's and Mama's, the Italian restaurant. We enjoyed all of them. For main dining rooms, we preferred the ambiance of Azura, but both seemed fine. (Azura and Tsar's Palace serve the same menu.) The buffet, Garden Cafe, was extensive and well-organized to distribute passengers and try to alleviate crowds. There was always a plethora of hot entrees, excellent pizza, burgers, the best salad bar I've ever seen at sea, and tons of desserts. If anyone tells you it's impossible to find a seat, they're not venturing far enough down the line. There always were plenty of seats to be had. My "must-eats" of the trip, in my opinion: the chocolate chip cookies and double chocolate chip cookies in Garden Cafe, the onion soup and mussels at Le Bistro, the truffle-oil fries and espresso brownie at Cagney, the apple streusel pie and chocolate Bavarian creme in the main dining room, the chicken fajitas and cinnamon chocolate cake at Tango's, the shrimp and fried rice in Teppanyaki, and the foccacia bread and chicken parmagiana at Mama's. STAFF/SERVICE Over the years, we've kind of come to terms with the fact that sailing NCL means giving up a little bit of the personalized service you get on other ships. On most ships where you have a set dining time, you have the same server every day in the dining room, and you develop a rapport. On NCL, you never know who you might have. And, in the past, we've never met our room stewards on NCL, unlike on other lines. That said, this time, we did meet our stewards on the first day, and they greeted us every morning in the hall and were very responsive to our needs. And we met a bar server in Bar City, Chastine Aliser, who was exceptional, always remembering what we liked, greeting us, chatting with us. We went back every evening to buy drinks from her. Gusti, in the martini bar, was constantly attracting a crowd, performing tricks like balancing glasses on his head and making napkin roses for the women. In fact, overall, we would say the general service on this ship was the best we've seen on four NCL cruises. It was excellent. The cruise director, Silas, was friendly, but I felt he wasn't as visible as some past cruise directors, and had kind of a ... car salesman-type aura to him. And the announcements by him, the captain and the assistant cruise director, "Ferdilicious," seemed interminable. Short and sweet, please! We're trying to relax! ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT My husband and I don't go to many shows, but we went to the welcome aboard show, which is a good way to get a feel for the various performers on the ship, and the Cirque Bijou on the last night, which we declared the best show we've ever seen at sea. It had music, dancers, acrobats — it was amazing, even more so than the similar production on the Dawn. We went to a few art seminars, which were interesting. We like the art auctions, but were trying not to spend too much money, so avoided those this time. ;) My husband attended an NCL-U Scotch tasting event at Malting's (for an extra charge) and loved it. After eyeing some of the fitness courses all week, I took pilates in the gym on the last day ($12) with Adrian from Australia. There were only two of us in the class, and it was really fun. (My abs hurt for days afterward!) I also splurged on a port day deal at the spa and got a full-body massage, scalp massage and facial for $129. On past cruises, I've sometimes been disappointed by the quality of the spa treatments relative to the cost, but not this time. Sarah from Australia gave me the best massage I've ever had! We sat for a few minutes in a Broadway performance by the production cast in Spinnaker but left when we didn't seem to know any of the songs — they were all obscure. But the singers did have beautiful voices. We weren't a huge fan of the piano player in Bar City (too much Carpenters, ugh!) but RJ Red, the guitarist, was very good if you like folksy music. We saw Twist of 8, a pop/rock musical group, a few times around the ship and thought they were great, and we also enjoyed the calypso group that often played on deck. ITINERARY The itinerary was excellent on this cruise. We'd been to all of the ports before, but we didn't mind. We had two sea days right off the bat; the first was cold, the second was fairly nice. The first stop was San Juan where we just walked around and took pictures before getting back on the ship. The city is filled with history and gorgeous buildings, plants and statues are plentiful. I bought a churro from a street vendor that was the best I've ever had. We had considered doing the bioluminescent bay kayak trip, but I was too lazy to take the lengthy ride by bus to the site (I have the attention span of a gnat!). In St. Thomas, we'd planned to shop and then go to Magen's Bay, but we decided instead, after doing some shopping, to just relax on the ship. In Antigua, I insisted on going back to what I am convinced is the most beautiful beach in the world: Dickenson Bay. As before, we asked the cab to take us to Tony's Watersports, and we rented chairs beneath a thatched umbrella and read and relaxed. The sand is smooth and white, the water is turquoise, and the entire scene is just breath-taking. People constantly approach you to sell you bracelets, horseback riding excursions and, heh, even some "local herb," but they're generally friendly when you politely turn them down, and it isn't too intrusive. We took an NCL excursion in St. Maarten, a lagoon kayaking trip across Simpson Bay. It was really cool. Our guides, David and Oliver from Tri-Sport, led us in double kayaks across the bay, where there were dozens of yachts, and to the place where the imaginary line divides Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin. David showed us mangroves, plucked a jellyfish and sea cucumber out of the water, and told us about the island's history. I had never kayaked before, but we caught on fairly quickly. It was definitely worth doing. We'd booked an outside excursion through another company in Tortola, to visit Virgin Gorda, but it got cancelled due to lack of participants. So I just wandered out to the local market for a few minutes, which was pretty much the standard collection of touristy shirts and knick-knacks, tote bags, flimsy dresses and cheap swimsuit coverups. Otherwise, we just stayed on the ship. We'd been to Tortola before and found it pretty but a little sedate for our tastes, so we didn't have much interest in doing anything else. Two sea days back: It was still warm and pleasant the next day, then got cold again the last day before getting back to NYC. DISEMBARKATION Disembarkation went smoothly. We learned long ago after a bad experience on Carnival that we have no desire to do the "easy walk-off" where you carry your own luggage and get off first. Unless your definition of "easy" is people screaming and practically stampeding in the halls, I wouldn't recommend it (to be fair, we've never tried it on NCL). Also, we really don't care if we're the last people off the ship. So we took the colored luggage tags for the last group to be called (although apparently we would have had to anyway, as for the first time, NCL had required certain decks to take certain colors, and we were on 5). After eating breakfast and cleaning out our stateroom, we waited in Bar City and played cards, then got off easily around 10:30 when our color was announced. The only small annoyance was having to stand outside in the cold in line for 15-20 minutes, waiting to get into the terminal, because there was a backup at the escalators. It was quite the jolt after 85 degrees in the Caribbean. We found our bags easily, grabbed a porter, got a cab, and we were off. We're booked on Carnival for next February, but we can't wait until we can cruise NCL again. We loved every minute of this trip and would definitely recommend it! If you have any questions or would like to see pics of any particular part of the ship (I took hundreds), please feel free to e-mail me at cortreporter@sbcglobal.net . Happy sailing! Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Just arrived back from 10 day trip on Gem out of NY to southern Caribbean (5 ports). NCL does this cruise 4 times a year. Right up front I will say our last cruise was on Princess and received last minute free upgrade to mini-suite, so ... Read More
Just arrived back from 10 day trip on Gem out of NY to southern Caribbean (5 ports). NCL does this cruise 4 times a year. Right up front I will say our last cruise was on Princess and received last minute free upgrade to mini-suite, so hard to compare with inside cabin on this trip. This trip was educational conference so wanted to try and stay within budget with inside cabin, now regret decision. Unfortunately we got off to rocky start, any one occurrence was fairly minor and probably not worth mentioning, but as these minor occurrences starting piling up so quickly, we were becoming irritated. We are both fairly easy-going and undemanding as we understand the difficulties of catering to 2300 people in close quarters. I initially chalked this up to REALLY needing a vacation but the wondered if the fates were conspiring! Things improved second half. My issues: 1) embarkation seemed unnecessarily long. Arrived at noon, took close to one hour. Never had to stand in lines that long. 2) Walked around ship to acquaint ourselves, happened to walk past spa. Greeted by two staff, asked if we would like tour. Politely declined, one spa worker demanded in not so polite voice, "why not!!". I'm sorry, I do not owe you an explanation. Spa workers are not NCL employees, but this was not courteous and set the tone for us. Later had spa treatment which was very nice. 3) Looking for conference rooms and restaurant, misdirected 3 times by staff. 4) Sometimes had long wait times for main dining rooms. I realize that there are peak times and difficulty gauging who will go where on any given day; had to wait 45 minutes one time and 30 minutes another. Usual wait 10-15 min. 5) Hostesses at main dining rooms. A little too engaged with their headset microphones to determine available seats. Often made big production with person at other end in dining room as to what table was open. On two occasions led to table in Magenta dining room that apparently wasn't open, leading to more microphone discussion. Left circling around dining room until table could be found. Once told we had to wait because only tables for 4 available and only 2 in party; hostess then changed mind. 6) Had 15 minute break from conference and wanted speciality coffee, visited Java cafe around 3 pm day 2 and could not get waited on. Only one bartender on duty, had to give up. 7)TV in room listed 2 for 1 martini special at specific bar from 5:30-10 pm, apparently 8-10:30 in daily "Freestyle" newsletter. Since we had to wait 45 minutes for dinner, we thought we would go to bar for this special (6 pm). Told by bartender the TV was wrong, did not start until 8. When I asked what the "special" included, bartender said he would bring back menu. Walked back to bar and forgot about us. Only 3 others in bar. Generally when an error like this is made, they should honor it anyway. Not real happy at this point. 8)One night in the Grand Pacific restaurant, our waiter came to the table, said, "may I take your order?", we both momentarily glanced down at our menu and in just that split second, he walked away. We both sat with our mouths open in disbelief. He had quickly walked over to another table without saying excuse me for a moment, returned in about 30 seconds to one minute.9) Did not see much of room steward, finally ran into him in hallway on day 3. Room usually not made up until after lunch, had to ask every single day for replacement beach towels. One day hubs came to room after lunch for nap, so room never made up until bedtime, despite the fact we only occupied room that day for 3 hours in afternoon. Asked on day 3 if twin beds could be separated so there was more room, told steward he could do it next day as he had already made up room. Didn't happen for 3 more days. Bathroom always had peculiar smell (didn't matter if not used all day!) 10) St. Thomas stop was on Sunday, would have appreciated note in daily Freestyle newsletter that downtown stores close at 3. We snorkeled in morning, came back to ship to clean up. Hired taxi and in downtown by 2:15 with plans to shop until 4 or 4:30. Shops all closed up between 2:30-3. Very disappointed, wasted taxi money; would have rearranged day had we known. 11) we enjoy sitting on covered deck to get out of sun (deck 7 in this case), there were about 6 chairs total available and a few very low wicker recliners semi-caved in in the middle. Second half of cruise went much more smoothly but first half did not make us fans of NCL. The devil is in the details. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
- Check-in very good after we figured out there was a separate area for 'suite' check-in. Wouldn't have enjoyed the long lines we began with. - Cabin...kind-of new bordello in appearance, but cute too..spacious and good ... Read More
- Check-in very good after we figured out there was a separate area for 'suite' check-in. Wouldn't have enjoyed the long lines we began with. - Cabin...kind-of new bordello in appearance, but cute too..spacious and good bathroom. - 'Butler'...a joke. Had to run to restaurant most of the time to get milk for coffee and usually had to keep asking for the coffee for the coffee maker. I think the idea of a butler service (which we have had on other liners) is wonderful, but these employees need to be trained. The function of our butler, as best as we could tell, was to deliver the goodies at the end of the afternoon. - Concierge service was very good...especially after we found that NCL wasn't about to be at all accommodating when we found there was a very good chance our daughter would miss the cruise (joining us in Venice) because of the volcano eruption. Daughter did make it (whew) and concierge graciously extended the 'Cagney's Restaurant' invitation to her also. - Activities...marginal. We enjoy bridge very much and expected some organized bridge. Not only was there nothing offered, but the area allotted for the social bridge was in a restaurant that was surrounded by the atrium with the music blasting or whatever else was slated for the area. It became hopeless and we found that playing in our stateroom, with another couple we met on board (thank goodness for a table and chairs there)was the only way to have some peace and quiet. The NCL staff was totally not interested in trying to accommodate anyone to have a quiet place to enjoy bridge. There was nothing 'exceptional' about any other activities offered. Same ol', same ol'....mostly not run by anyone who understood the particular activity. - Food...marginal. We did not use the 'pay per dinner' restaurants. We can eat at Macaroni Grill, PF Chang etc and enjoy the menu more. Cagney's for breakfast/ lunch was our saviour. - Entertainment...OK. - Laundry I am now going through the clothes we brought and will have to replace most 'whites' after sending them with our 'promo bag' of laundry. I would never have believed the laundry would throw everything (new black crew socks with white undies) in a machine together. And I'm sure these clothes were washed maybe five minutes. They came back totally disgusting. Everything is being re-washed as I write this. - NOISE LEVEL UNBELIEVABLE. THERE WAS NO PLACE TO GET AWAY FROM THE CONSTANT BLASTING OF MUSIC. I found people sitting in the passageways (window seats) trying to find a place to retreat. The library to hold those who would like some peace and quiet is entirely too small for the passenger numbers. And even there, everyone was 'visiting'...not a whisper to be heard. So much for that. We spent lots of time in our cabin to escape. How about that early cup of coffee in the peace of the morning...HA...the music was on all the time...everywhere. - Excursions...we don't take them for the most part. Too expensive and we have traveled enough to know that we can see what we want to see on our own. - Costs...totally outrageous to be charged every time we turned around. We had our wine and beer (for the most part) when we stopped in the various ports and had our fun meals. And to be charged around $2.50 for a Coke? It broke my 'habit' in a hurry. - Disembarkation We were escorted out of the terminal and then hit reality of disorganization. The shuttle bus to take us to the water transport was full of people who had obviously had a rough time leaving and were less than happy. People were pushing and shoving with luggage being put onto the bus and then thrown off. It took a long while to finally just get going for the five minute trip. There was no organizing staff to help at all. Fortunately we were not heading to the airport and once off that terrible bus experience were able to get off on our own. - Another NCL cruise? Most likely never. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
My husband frequently says that happiness is who you're with. If he's right, and I think he is, then the NCL Gem is a place that should make most people happy. My reference point for gauging any vacation is that I have never ... Read More
My husband frequently says that happiness is who you're with. If he's right, and I think he is, then the NCL Gem is a place that should make most people happy. My reference point for gauging any vacation is that I have never been anywhere that's perfect. I'm holding out that rating for Heaven. Every trip I've ever taken has a few bumps along the way. The real test of whether it's a good vacation is whether the destination works to avoid the bumps and corrects for them when they happen. If the flaw doesn't work to ruin the whole package for you, then it's probably a good vacation. But enough about my philosophy. The NCL Gem is the newest ship in the fleet and in some ways, both good and not quite so good, it shows. The ship itself is beautifully maintained. The public spaces are clean and someone is working on them all the time. I could question the decorating choices as a little gaudy (Yeah, I'm talking about you, "inside a purple geode-looking atrium ceiling."), but then everything ain't for everybody. It's not so garish as to put you off, but some understated quality would have been enough. The staterooms are slightly upgraded with new and improved mattresses, magnifying makeup mirrors, and improved coffee and coffeemakers. A small vase of flowers in the room is nice touch. Our stateroom was a minisuite with a balcony and it's well worth the extra expense if you like to enjoy a private, quiet time with the ocean. The barriers between the balconies are also a bit larger than on other NCL ships, offering slightly more privacy. The food.... I've eaten in five star restaurants and had food that made me want to slap my mama. It was that good. The Gem had one or two moments like that, but because it is catering to thousands of people at one time, I sensed a holding back on the part of the chefs, so as not to offend the majority with more inspired risk taking. I have no complaints. I had one wildly superior meal in Cagney's and one "Meh" meal in Tequila. Not a bad meal in the lot. All of the specialty restaurants are worth the extra cost, with the aforementioned Tequila and the Teppanyaki restaurants being the weakest of the group. The main dining rooms, The Grand Pacific and the Magenta, were consistently good and the service was excellent. The music....There are, I believe, two standard bands that are issued to NCL ships - the reggae band and the pop band. I think Amce must manufacture them in Taiwan and ship them out to NCL. The other music choices vary from the house jazz band to standards playing piano man. This trip, the ship added a string quartet and a blues guitarist. I thought both additions were interesting choices and at least attempted to speak to the different tastes among the passengers. My only possible quibble is the placement of some of the performers. Acts were placed in the common areas, such as the atrium, where there is a significant amount of foot traffic and commerce occurring. I think this is disrespectful to the artists and to the audience. It's distracting to both and not conducive to the full enjoyment of the performances. The activities.... There were less than I've come to expect from NCL. There were fewer classes, trivia competitions and demonstrations than on my previous sailings. There's a sense that more staff was necessary. Staffers were clearly called on at the last minute to take on some activity that they had previously been prepared. They were definitely on for the game, but their surprise at having to do it was evident. The Main Stage shows.....Didn't see 'em. I work in community theater. I don't watch it. Just my personal bias. The Second City Company was good. The magician had a great rapport with the audience. And the Chocolate Goddess, (and I freely admit that I have a mental block on her name and an absolute refusal to look at my notes,) was way too old school for me. The audience, on the other hand, ate it up and asked for seconds. Now, to get back to my caption. It's not where you are. It's who you are with. The staff on this ship is amazing. I've never seen a group of people so committed to customer service. The crew radiates positivity and concern for guest welfare. I can't count the number of times I was asked if there was anything wrong, simply because I didn't finish an entree. It didn't strike me as a forced concern, which I have seen on other ships. It never hit me as "Gee, I'm saying "Good morning" to you cause my boss might be around the corner and I'll get canned if I don't." It truly seemed genuine. (Trust me. My BS detector is fairly well defined.) One of the standouts was the maitre de in Cagney's, Adina. Her concern for our well being was beyond anything I've come to expect in a restaurant. Kudos to her and her staff and the genius that hired her. (Now, genius, promote her. You'll be doing the ship, the line and her a favor.) That's it. The best thing on this ship is her crew and that ain't no small thing. This crew is a credit to the NCL line and they need to recognize it. For them alone, I would definitely recommend the Gem. Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Our embarkation experience was positive and pretty much in line with previous reviewers' experiences. The staff were prepared, knowledgeable, and pleasant. The public rooms, and our cabin, were about what we expected after studying ... Read More
Our embarkation experience was positive and pretty much in line with previous reviewers' experiences. The staff were prepared, knowledgeable, and pleasant. The public rooms, and our cabin, were about what we expected after studying the brochures for nearly a year. Our cabin looked just like the picture. We have plenty of space for hanging clothes and don't mind having shelves instead of drawer space for folded items. We would have appreciated, though, a reading lamp near the sofa. We selected a Princess Grill cabin specifically because of the separation between the sleeping and sitting areas, but the lack of adequate lighting made the sitting area space virtually unusable. Having two television screens seemed like a great feature, too, until we discovered that we couldn't adjust the viewing angle of the high-tech screen. The screen in the sitting area was positioned so poorly that we couldn't watch anything on it without standing up in front of the screen. Our biggest disappointment is in the meal menus. The service in Princess Grill is outstanding; our waiter and his assistant are some of the most consistent professionals we have seen anywhere in the world. They are to be commended. However, though the menu choices look appetizing, the execution frequently falls short of our expectations. The beef offerings are standard grade meat, tasteless and tough. For $1,000 a day, we'd expected better. Despite chef's claim of offering healthy selections, we rarely see a vegetable other than potato on the plate. And when they are present, the portions are little more than a bite or two. A selection touted as "steak with asparagus" could have included more than two spears of asparagus. And for the first month, the kitchen served spears sliced in half vertically! So the apparent serving of two spears was in reality one spear disguised as two. And I'll never understand the meal planning in the Lido buffet. Today's choice was touted as "Mexican" but whoever planned - and cooked - the meal has obviously never been even close to Mexico. The pork roast was tasty but was served dry and carved amateurishly with the grain, making it stringy and all but inedible. Anyone who's eaten at even the worst Mexican restaurant knows that rice and beans are never served mixed together, nor would you ever see a kidney bean in Mexican cuisine. There wasn't a tortilla in sight. The vegetable choice was the inevitable frozen cauliflower-broccoli-carrot medley, English-style broiled tomatoes, artichoke bottoms sauteed with mushrooms in olive oil, and Cajun-spiced potatoes... accompanied by Minestrone soup! What are you people thinking??? I chuckled the first time I heard some loyal Cunarders refer to the Lido as "the smash and grab" but I understand better now after having tried to enjoy a decent meal there. The incongruous menus, coupled with the dreadful traffic flow mentioned by other reviewers, and the general tendency for a certain group of passengers to push into queues as though they haven't seen food in weeks makes the Lido dining experience all but unbearable. The shore excursions are interesting and reasonably priced, but they are far too ambitious for the typical Cunard traveler. Whoever planned the 30-minute stops failed to take into account that it takes at least ten minutes to get the passengers off the bus and another ten minutes to get them back on. Allowing ten minutes to see any sight, let alone something priceless like the Luxor Temple, is just plain incompetent. Every tour we went on tried to cram five sights into a time space that could reasonably accommodate perhaps three. Combine the rushedness with the Lido-type pushiness of that certain group of travelers, and the experience becomes more frustrating than satisfying. I suggest the tour staff pay some close attention to the "slow travel" trend and reconsider the excursion itineraries. Despite all of this, we've enjoyed our World Cruise. The Cunard experience wasn't quite what we expected, but the ship is beautiful to look at and very comfortable. Our cabin steward is outstanding and anticipates our every need... always with a smile. But did we get $1,000 a day worth of value? I think not. We'll think twice before booking with Cunard again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
Just finished our first cruise on HAL - the Noordam Xmas and New Year cruise out of New York. Overall we had a brilliant cruise, but this was mainly due to the friends we cruised with, the brilliant tours we did, and the itinerary. We have ... Read More
Just finished our first cruise on HAL - the Noordam Xmas and New Year cruise out of New York. Overall we had a brilliant cruise, but this was mainly due to the friends we cruised with, the brilliant tours we did, and the itinerary. We have only cruised Celebrity before this one so thought it was interesting to note the differences with HAL, some we liked but many we did not. So overall, we have decided that HAL is not for us and we are back to Celebrity for our next two cruises at least. Anyway, for anyone that might be interested, these observations are our personal opinion, of course others may have a completely different view. BTW, we had a balcony cabin on deck 5. In no particular order........... Fruit in cabin - on HAL you are asked to select two choices and the fruit bowl is replenished daily. I believe you only get this benefit in Concierge class on Celebrity. Hairdryers are better on HAL. The beds are comfortable on HAL however sleep is almost impossible due to the constant droning of the air con which cannot be turned off. Hydropool and Thermal Suite - HAL - we got a couples pass for the whole cruise and it was the best thing about the ship. Heavenly. As well as the safe, there are lockable drawers on HAL. Bathroom toiletries - HAL wins with Elemis products. Bag full of laundry - HAL wins - $12 for as much as you can get in the bag. It's surprising how many items you can get washed and ironed - I think we got about 20 items in one bag (without cramming). A total bargain. Entertainment -we only saw two shows on HAL, Don Ware (comedian), and the Las Vegas production show. They were both very good. We could not see any more than this as the dining room service was so slow (see below). Embarkation - HAL was a total shambles and took around one and a half hours to board. With our Celebrity experience we were on board within a few minutes. Dining room - service was much better on Celebrity - the first thing our HAL waiter did was to apologize that he couldn't give us the service we were expecting??? What???? For the whole cruise???? Yes - as he was so busy. Tables were hardly ever laid correctly, drinks were ordered and didn't arrive without reminders after half an hour, bottled water went walkabout to other tables. Service was very slow, and most nights we missed the shows. We had 8pm fixed seating - one night we had not received our entree by 9.45pm. Our friends had to collect their daughter from Club HAL at 10pm so quite frequently one of them would have to go to Club HAL then return for the rest of their meal. We were led to believe that cappuccinos etc were available after dinner in the dining room on HAL. We were never offered them, but did have them on a couple of nights when we requested them. Overall we thought the food quality, presentation and general atmosphere on Celebrity was much higher than HAL. Cabin Steward - Celebrity wins. Almost without fail our cabin was not attended to until at least midday on HAL. I understand someone has to be last in line for getting their cabin cleaned, but it should be rotated so you get done early at least a couple of times. Also the cabin steward kept moving things around the bathroom so that our shampoo/shower gel would be by the sink and you would have to step out of the shower to retrieve it. Quite annoying. Room Service - Celebrity wins again. We ordered coffee on HAL, was asked if we wanted cream and sugar - we told them we did - coffee arrived without cream and sugar. Had a meal in our cabin then called for the tray to be collected (there really isn't room for a tray that large in the cabin) - after 2 hours we gave up waiting for it to be collected and went to sleep. Celebrity are so much more efficient in room service. Buffet - Celebrity staff are always available and offering to carry trays for you. No offers to help from HAL staff until about the 12th day of a 14 day cruise. Waffles - No contest - Celebrity wins hands down! Cabin - Celebrity supply a pitcher of iced water in your cabin, replenished twice daily. HAL supply a bottle of water which you may PURCHASE. We found the French Doors on HAL annoying as you had to move the furniture around on the balcony to open and close the door - Celebrity have sliding patio doors which are much more user friendly in such a small space. Layout of ship - personally we did not care for the layout of Noordam and after 2 weeks were not that familiar with the ship. Celebrity have bars close to the Dining Room, with dancing and music, great for meeting up with friends just prior to dinner. No bars close to the Dining Room on Noordam. Services - Celebrity have on screen accounting and on screen room service ordering. To get account details on HAL you have to go to the front desk and request a print out. Pillow Chocolates - Celebrity win again. Xmas present - We received a very nice photo box/album last year on Christmas Day from Celebrity. This year from HAL we got a Candy Cane each!!!!! I kid you not. It was about 2 inches long and at first we thought it was a joke and something else must be missing. Nope. Everyone got the same. We found it very insulting - would have been less insulting if they had given us nothing - the fact that someone dreamed this up as a Xmas present when you are paying the highest prices of the year was absolutely gobsmacking. Speciality Restaurant - Celebrity really are special in this area. The Pinnacle Grill was not a great success - this meal was a gift from friends we were travelling with so I will not go into great detail as she may wish to elaborate herself. Cabin Storage - HAL wins - plenty of storage in the cabin and suitcases fit easily under the bed. Theatre - Celebrity's theatre has tables at every section of seating. The only tables we could see in Noordam's theatre were right at the front in the sofa style seating. So if you wanted a drink you had to hold it for the whole show. Umbrellas - Celebrity supply umbrellas in the cabin - HAL do not. Balcony furniture - HAL furniture is superior to Celebrity's. Outside decks for night time drinks - How we missed Celebrity's Deck 10 aft, with a late closing bar and music, sitting under the stars relaxing with a drink and chatting with friends. HAL's outside bars seem to close at around 9pm. Pools - the aft pool on Noordam is a brilliant idea for adults only, however the water was so cold, hardly anyone was ever in it. Maintenance - twice we received notification that our balcony was going to be cleaned and railings varnished. Not a huge deal but we made the effort of being out of our cabin early on both days so as not to be disturbed by the activity. It never was done on either day and we received no explanation. Announcements - Both lines are very good at keeping announcements to a minimum, however a little more information from the Noordam captain regarding the high seas, rocking, rolling and crashing on the final two days back to New York would have been very reassuring. Sorry the above does seem to jump around a bit. I realize that not everyone will agree with me about all of the above - please remember this is our opinion only. Especially the poor service around the Noordam - yes the staff were very busy, however this is HALs problem - with a full to capacity ship and prime holiday time, they should supply extra staff, and not expect staff to stretch themselves so that guests suffer. This is not what we paid premium prices for. Someone else said on a review for the same sailing " You really have to take what you are giving and make the best of it." Sorry, actually I don't. So back to Celebrity for us. Doubtful we would ever sail HAL again - it's just not the line for us. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
This was a one night cruise to nowhere that NCL called a dinner and dancing cruise. Boarding was easy since we didn't have to check our bags and they just checked licenses for ID. The Gangway was VERY Steep, but we got up to the ship ... Read More
This was a one night cruise to nowhere that NCL called a dinner and dancing cruise. Boarding was easy since we didn't have to check our bags and they just checked licenses for ID. The Gangway was VERY Steep, but we got up to the ship and were ready to go. They allowed us to board early at about 11:30am and our rooms were not to be ready until 2pm. We ate our lunch in the Windows Dining Room. The food was nothing special. I had a quiche appetizer that was terrible and a risotto that was bland and sticky. My husband had a hot dog that he said was horrible and everything was served cold. We would find that this seemed to be a trend on this ship. The service was adequate, but nothing over the top as we have seem on other cruiselines. The room was very small in comparison to past cruise ships we've been on. Again, nothing special and the tile in the bathroom looked as though it hadn't been cleaned in months. The balcony was also very small and not too clean. There was a sailaway BBQ on the 12th & 13th floors, but the line for food was 45 min-1 hour long. We decided not to eat anything there because we wanted to enjoy the view of the Statue of Liberty and the Verazanno Bridge as we left the port. For dinner we went to the Garden Room Dining Room for another cold crappy meal. The service left something to be desired as well. Even the desserts weren't good. Even the late night buffets looked bad with left overs from everywhere else on the ship. The breakfast selections were good, but once again everything was cold. Overall, this was an ok ship, but the food and service were not what we expected. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
We booked the Crown ONLY because we had a large points credit from our NCL credit card. We had previously been on the Dawn and absolutely HATED it. Our voyage on the Crown was totally totally different. We left from NYC on July 8. Got ... Read More
We booked the Crown ONLY because we had a large points credit from our NCL credit card. We had previously been on the Dawn and absolutely HATED it. Our voyage on the Crown was totally totally different. We left from NYC on July 8. Got there early enough to be amongst the first bunch of passengers to embark the ship. Once embarkation started, it went quickly and efficiently. Instead of using your sign and sail card to enter the room, you have a key, so I would suggest bringing a lanyard or a keychain especially for those who have a tendency to misplace keys (such as myself). Our daughter got both the kids soda package and the teen drink coupon package. She didn't use all the coupons. I usually will get the soda package for myself, but looking at the cost, it was more economical for me to buy them soda by soda. Our room was spacious for my husband, myself and our 16 year old daughter. The mattresses left something to be desired - my mattress had a crater in it which made it uncomfortable sleeping. Our room steward was an older gent who was very polite and kept the room neat and tidy. Now I am not a fan of the freestyle dining and I have some food allergies. I alerted the NCL ship coordinator by email before we left and also the assistant maitre d in the dining room. The assistant was absolutely fantastic - she went out of her way to take my dinner order for the evening when I would stop by the dining room at lunch time. Then she would bring the menu for the next night over to our dinner table so I could choose what I could eat for the next night. I had absolutely no problems and enjoyed every meal. Contrary to the Dawn, who when I pre-ordered a chicken parm with no sauce (one allergy is to tomato sauce), I was provided with a cutlet that had the sauce, breadcrumbs and cheese scraped off the top and flipped over on the plate. The buffet was good - though food could have been a little warmer. I like omelets in the morning, and hubby likes the waffles made to order. The coffee was a little muddy tasting to me, and after reading reviews from other members, I had brought along the Folgers bags, so we were able to have our morning coffee. Lunch at the buffet could have been a little simpler quite honestly. It seemed like they were trying to make all the dishes "fancy". Plain is just as good. I did see a young man with his parent take a handful of fingers thinking they were chicken - when he tasted one while waiting on line and discovered they were fish, he took his handful with his hand and threw them back into the serving dish. ICK. The pool area was always clean and picked up. The bar servers in that area were absolutely wonderful and happy. They were always smiling and appeared very content (for real, not the fake smiles for the passengers and you can always sense whether they are "disgruntled or tired"). The ships officers were very visible and approachable during our trip. My issue with the pool is the diapered kids in the pool. Cruise ships are concerned with sanitization issues and the Crown does a great job, except I really don't want to swim in diluted diaper dung. The show lounge was clean and there were plenty of seats for everyone. The stage show was ok, I've seen better, but considering the size of the stage area, it was ok. We loved Dave Heenan, the comedian. Even had the pleasure of spending some time with him by the pool and again in the buffet. Our daughter participated in the teen activities and had a great time. We have friends in Bermuda and have also been there before, so we didn't participate in any shore excursions. We did, on our own, make reservations for Dolphin Quest. Its FANTASTIC! Its out at the Royal Naval Dockyard. We had taken a ferry from Hamilton. We prefer Hamilton over St Georges and the Dockyard. Our friends took us out to Horseshoe Bay Beach - wow is all I can say. Bring cash to rent beach chairs, umbrellas and eat. We used the dine ashore coupons, which worked out great. In St Georges, we dined at the White HOrse Tavern down by the square. Its very economical and would definitely recommend it. On the last night of the cruise, hubby and I were sitting in the StarDust lounge waiting for the show. Our daughter and a friend she met came in and went to the bar area to get their teen cocktails. The bar tender gave my daughter her drink, and the other girl turned around and knocked it over on her. My daughter asked for another, and the bar tender made her use another coupon. Hubby went up to the bar to say something and was for the most part poo-pooed off with a shrug. We saw similar things happen with spilled drinks all over the ship that week and the drinks were replaced. Pennies to NCL. Since we were completing our evaluations that evening, hubby asked for the guy's name, who he pleasantly gave, saying thank you (he thought he was going to get a compliment). Well, hubby and I left the bar and went to the customer relations desk to let them know what had happened and we didn't think it right (we didn't ask for anything and didn't say it was our daughter - just that it wasn't right to do to kids). The bar manager called that night and hubby explained to him and the bar manager must have said something to bar server, Harry (bald guy with glasses - seems to be more in the casino bar) because when hubby walked past on way from b'fast, Harry looked at him and turned away. I would love to go back to Bermuda on this ship. This was our 10th cruise. I don't think I'd do another Norwegian Ship (the Dawn really put a bad taste in my mouth) except for the Crown. I like the intimacy of the smaller ship and I think the crew is less stressed - therefore, much more eager to please and pleasant. The ship, despite its age, was clean and comfortable. We took advantage of the express disembarkation - we carried our luggage off. So we docked around 8 ish and were off the ship and on the way home by 9 ish. All in all, great voyage and we wish the ship wasn't sold so we can go on her again! Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Carnival Miracle Review I cruised the Carnival Miracle June 12-20, 2007 with my husband, parents, and two family friends. Overall we had a great time. Embarkation: This is the second time that we have cruised out of New York City. ... Read More
Carnival Miracle Review I cruised the Carnival Miracle June 12-20, 2007 with my husband, parents, and two family friends. Overall we had a great time. Embarkation: This is the second time that we have cruised out of New York City. Though this time embarkation went far better than the last time, it still takes far longer than many other embarkation ports. We got to the pier around 1:15. Porters were outside to take our luggage the minute we pulled up, which was fantastic. We waited about an hour total to have our tickets checked, our pictures taken, and get on the ship. Cabin / Ship DEcor: We originally booked a guaranteed inside cabin and were lucky to be upgraded to an obstructed view balcony cabin, number 5157. We have never had a balcony cabin, so we thought we had died and gone to heaven. We were not able to see out when we were sitting on the balcony, due to the lifeboat, but when we stood up we could see fine. Our cabin felt much bigger than several other cabins we have had in the past. The ship dEcor was a little crazy. I didn't think all of the rooms tied in to a common theme, but everything was nicely decorated. My favorites were Frankenstein's Lab, the Mad Hatter's Ball, and Maguire's Sports Bar. The dining room was done with a grape theme and was interesting, to say the least. This is the first ship that I have been on that uses the lower decks for lounges and bars and the higher decks for cabins. I am guessing this was to make room for more balconies. I liked using the lower floors for common areas; you felt the ship's movement much less on the lower floors. Staff / Service: We had fantastic cabin and dining steward/stewardesses. Our cabin was always clean; no matter what time we awoke. Both of our cabin stewards (Ling and I Made) called us by name the entire cruise, from day one. Our dining table (number 238) also had wonderful service. Karolina was our head waitress and she was always attentive and helpful, but she is leaving for a well-deserved vacation in a month. Biljana was our assistant waitress. She also did a nice job, but became ill the last few days of our cruise. Chayaya took over for Biljana and was very pleasant, as well. Kelly took care of our drink orders for dinner and she was fantastic. We all had soda cards, as we do not drink. In our experience when a bartender sees the soda card, they get the original then stay away. Kelly was amazing. She had our sodas on the table waiting for us when we got there, and she would come back several times throughout the meal to check if we needed refills. Entertainment: Brent Mitchell was the cruise director. He was okay, but we did not see him very often. You heard his voice far more than you saw him. There were four social hosts, Jennifer, Brandon, Julie, and Allen. They were seen often throughout the day, and did pretty good job with their activities. The ship did have a lot of activities going on throughout the day. We played almost every game of trivia that was offered, and managed to win a few of them. The ship also had their own rendition of Family Feud, Millionaire, and several other fun games. The nighttime shows were average. I thought the singer/dancer shows were okay, not as good as some of the other ships that we have been on. The only show we didn't go to was the Welcome Aboard show, because we were too tired. Lido: The Horatio Restaurant on the Lido deck far exceeded my expectations. Though it was a little crazy and hectic at times, the food was far better than any other Lido buffet. I also liked that they did a "taste of nations" and featured a different type of cuisine everyday. Ports: San Juan - My husband and I did the Bioluminescent Bay Kayak tour in San Juan. This was an adventure. It was a pretty long drive, though a lot of traffic, to get to the bay. Our driver was great and told us the history of the island while we were driving. Let me start off by saying that my husband and I have never kayaked before. We had a TOUGH time. I think I was a little panicked by how dark it was, kayaking through the mangrove. It got a little chaotic at times, with tons of kayaks coming and going. Other kayaks kept pushing us into the tree roots, which we were warned were not snakes! When we finally got to the bioluminescent part of the bay, we were amazed. It is well worth seeing, though if you have never kayaked before I might not suggest doing it in the dark for the first time. St. Thomas - This was my second time in St. Thomas and I absolutely love this island. We booked a tour with Godfrey and he was fabulous. He picked us up at the ship at 10 and took us on a tour of the island. Then he dropped people off at their beach choice for two hours. Then he dropped everyone off in town for two hours of shopping. He was fantastic and I would recommend him again to anyone. Tortola: My father and I did "The Baths" tour in Virgin Gorda. It was about a 25-minute boat ride to the island of Virgin Gorda, then a 15-minute bus ride to "The Baths." Once you get to the Baths, you have to walk down a 350ft trail to the beach. The trail is rocky, and can be a little tough in places. Once at the beach, you can either snorkel or take the Devil's Bay Trail. They recommend that you be physically fit to take the Devil's Bay Trail. You have to stoop to get through some areas, use a rope to climb up a rock, take several ladders, and wade through some water. One guide joked that this was the "Indiana Jones" part of the tour. Once at the other beach, you will see it is worth it. There were probably only 50-60 people there and the water was gorgeous. We did see quite a few fish, and had a great time. Disembarkation: Incredibly easy. We did the self-assist and were off the ship about 10 minutes after they made the self-assist page. All in all, we had a wonderful time. I think a cruise is what you make of it, and we definitely made the most of the Carnival Miracle. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
We arrived in New York for our 10th wedding anniversary. We flew in from France, via Milan Italy on Alitalia. Fortunately, we arrived in NYC the day before the cruise, as the airline had lost my wife's suitcase, and said we were not ... Read More
We arrived in New York for our 10th wedding anniversary. We flew in from France, via Milan Italy on Alitalia. Fortunately, we arrived in NYC the day before the cruise, as the airline had lost my wife's suitcase, and said we were not likely to get it back until after the cruise, as the next days flight from Milan had been cancelled! Well, after a days shopping at Jersey Gardens , we had purchased a small winter and summer wardrobe for my wife. More on this later. We arrived at the dock at Midday, through check in and security, yes it took a fair time, and I feel that there could be more information on what to do and where to go, but all in all ok. On board by 1.45, the lobby and garden cafe was packed, so went to the Bimini bar, sat outside with my wife and had a bucket of beer, as the snow started to fall. Chatting to the staff, and relaxing , met a lovely couple of ladies from New Jersey who had come on the Dawn with a group. Anyway, from that day forth, the staff at the Bimini bar always had a smile for us and remembered both my wife's and my name, welcoming us, and saying hello wherever we were. Regarding the kids on board.....they were a pain, with lack of control, by teachers/parents, but this did not mean all the kids were bad. I would like to point out that most of the kids who were causing trouble were also to be found in The Kosher Corner. The 1st full day at sea was rough, my wife spent most of the day in bed, but our cabin staff did pop in to make suer all was ok. Then the sea calmed and wayhay... the sun shone, what a diffrence. We did 2 tours, the Cataman Champagne to St John form St Thomas (only because we did the same 10 years previosly for our honey moon), and the Dolphin experience in Tortolla. Both were fantatic, well organised and worth the cost. Food. The food in the restaurants for dinner was excellent, Salsa was great, Cagneys Steakhouse, which we did for our Anniversary dinner was out of this world, (by the way, I am a chef of 20+ years)Bamboo, food was very good, but the Impressions restaurant, next to Gatsbys bar(great Pianist Dan Hodge)probably had the best MDs and waiting staff , the food was rategr good aswell. Afetr dinner we would relasx to the music in Gatsbys, and although they ran out of Calvados, the service could not be faulted. Breakfast buffets.........awful, but the Venetian restaurant was only open for 2 hours in the morning, so somedays it had to be the buffet. The BBQ on deck during sea days were very good, as was the hot dog and burgers at the Bimini(they could have done more choices I feel) Room service was good, on time , but the breakfast menu was limited,(and like always, the water is not boiled for a good cup of English tea). Overall,great food,great cruise, loved the free style,some awful kids, great staff the cruise staff and cruise director were very good, only did 2 shows, was happier in Gatsbys after dinner. Bingo was fun, but could get expensive, we did win once, Casino was busy, lost overall, but some people were winning big.Our waiters, MD, bar severs and cabin staff were magnificent, the cabin staff made 2 swan towels for our anniversary. NCL itself offered us nothing for our anniversary. Will travel with NCL again, probably with the kids next time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
Jan. 29, 2006 -- This was our first cruise on NCL. I will divide this review into + and -. Before I do that, however, I would like to say in spite of everything we finally ended up having a nice time. The Embarkation and Debarkation was ... Read More
Jan. 29, 2006 -- This was our first cruise on NCL. I will divide this review into + and -. Before I do that, however, I would like to say in spite of everything we finally ended up having a nice time. The Embarkation and Debarkation was the Fastest I have ever had!!! But we carried our 1 suitcase and backpack each on ship and off ship. It took 10 minutes to board and 10 minutes to get off. Then it took 1 hour and 20 minutes to get a cab waiting on the never-ending line. (more about this later.) The shower was the biggest I have ever had on any of my 10 cruises. It had sliding glass doors and you could actually move around in it. My husband felt the same although he couldnt exactly remember all the showers in his 30 cruises. The jogging track was separated from the lounges by a Plexiglas divider. This was terrific, as you didnt have to zig zag around the lounges just around the people who walk ¾ abreast on the jogging/walking track. But we are use to the people and we are fine with that. We are always polite and say on your left etc. The gym was open 48 hours. The library was lovely along with the Internet cafe. Windows dining room was just terrific. So was the Garden Room but smaller. We liked the more open feeling of the Windows dining room They had 2 lap pools in the gym, which were really nice if you wanted to exercise by swimming against the current. The womans Steam and Sauna room was large and nicely appointed. The ship was very clean. Everyone was always cleaning. 99% of the employees on the ship that we came into contact with were polite and very helpful. They always had a smile and a good morning etc. The Galaxy of the Stars room where the Martini Bar was beautiful. It was totally surrounded by glass and it was SMOKE FREE!!!!!!!!!! Here again there was a Plexiglas divider separating the dance/bar area and all the lovely seating available to just look out at the ocean and relax. It wasnt always quiet because they held bingo there and other activities but non-the less we liked it very much. Jose and Colbert were great waiters and we stuck with them the whole cruise! Our room Steward/ess Joseph and Nannette were also terrific. BEST DEAL: The best deal of the WHOLE cruise is the $78 Honeymoon/Anniv. Package! For $78 you get, a bottle of champagne (cold) and chocolate dipped strawberries in your room upon arrival. Dinner at Le Bistro (awesome!) and a bottle of wine for $22 if you want to upgrade you just pay the cost over $22. An anniv party with champagne and delicious cake (you dont have to go) Hors d'oeuvres in your room like ½ way thru the cruise, a free 5x7 picture. You cant beat that! No, you dont have to be on your honeymoon or have it be you Anniv. either. The lighting in the bathroom was almost non-existent. I called maintenance and they sent some one up in about 2 hours, which was fine. They couldnt put in a stronger bulb so what he did was to take off the plastic cover leaving the bulb exposed and bingo we had more light than in the cabin itself. The cabin itself was also rather dark. The toilet got clogged 3x, didnt overflow, and they had it fixed within about 15 minutes each time which we thought was great! You can go to the front desk and ask to see the whole week's menus for the 2 dining rooms (the same) also for the pay restaurants and for Tratoris (they alternate 2 menus). Now for the MINUSES Usually when we board we meet our cabin steward/ess immediately. They are there and introduce themselves. Well 3 days later I finally found out who they were by going up and asking the 3 people that were working in our hallway. Once, I found Joseph and Nannette, they were absolutely wonderful the whole trip. Whatever we asked them for, Nannette always managed to get for us. For example we had read on the threads again that the mattresses were hard. My husband has problems sleeping on a hard mattress. We read to ask for one of the foam mattresses to go on top. It was there by that night with no problem. Also asked for a wine ice bucket to keep our water bottles in. The ice bucket they give you couldnt fit a small bottle in. ROUGH SEAS:The first and second nights at sea were very rough, and the waves were only 12 feet!!! As per the Captain. Well the way we were tossed around you would have thought we were in the 30ft waves we had just gone through in Nov. crossing the Atlantic. There were barf bags everywhere on the ship and I do mean everywhere. In the dining rooms, bathrooms, hallways, rooms, just everywhere. People were going up to the desk to get seasick pills. My husband has never gotten seasick in his whole life (65) and he was on this trip. I made it through (I knew women were the stronger sex!). Not only that but the ship creaked and groaned so much at night you would have thought it was going to break in half. One night, there was this LOUD BANG, if woke me right up. I thought this is it, get the life preservers on. I have no idea where it came from. I do know the people in the bow of the boat were dying. I think the Capt. needs to ask for better ballasts and stabilizers for his Christmas present. This is too small a ship to go thru these kinds of storms. They even closed off deck 7 two nights in a row because of the winds. FREE STYLE DINING: We are not that fussy about our food. If we dont have to cook it is terrific. The first 3 nights of free style dining was horrible. The first night we never even got a glass of water, let alone asked if we would like more. We had to ask for some bread and then was never asked again. Our waiter/waitress asked us what we would like for dinner, we replied, and then when it came it was plopped in front of us and off they went. Nothing else for the rest of the dinner. This went on 2 more nights. On the second night we wanted to eat at 6:30 got to the dining room about 6:15 and got a beeperand was told we would have a to wait probably 30 minutes. Well shucks, I could have that at the Outback or Applebees plus get better service and food to boot. Ok we took the beeper and went for a drink. Sure enough in almost 30 minutes the thing buzzed and the red lights were flashing away. Off to Windows we go and guess what, the same service as the night before only in a different area! Now I am just a bit perturbed! On night 3 the same darn thing. FINALLY!!!!!!! On night 4 we got very lucky and ended up in Jose and Colberts station. These two men were terrific! And to add a plus, they actually spoke with us. I had read somewhere in the threads to make reservations. I thought the person meant for the other restaurants. Then I overheard someone making reservations for Windows. So, that is exactly what we did for every night thereafter we made reservations for 6:30. When we got there we requested Joses station. One time they were full and were going to put us somewhere else. I said NO, that I was not going to go through what we went through the first 3 nights again. Jose just happened to go by and he opened an empty table up for us and took us right away. Thereafter, we told Jose/Colbert that we would be in their station at 6:30 unless we told them otherwise we would be there at 6:30. Never had a problem after that. . The food on this cruise left very much to be desired. It was so bland, it was blah! My husband who is a vegetarian and just so not fussy said most of his food was dried out. The selections were not very good as well. I am use to having the best meal of the cruise during formal night. Well, formal nights food was awful. The best meal of the whole cruise was the Capt. Dinner. It was lobster and Chateaubriand. I must honestly say it was superb. I had one of each to make up for all the other terrible food. I did find out that you could order anything you wanted, within reason, of course and if the chef could he would prepare it for you. I ended up having the alternate of Salmon most of the time as it was really good, juicy and very flaky. I had spoken to quite a few people so many others joined my opinion of the food. It was as though they lowered the quality of the food so you would go and spend money in the other restaurant Every night before dinner we had a drink in Champagnes Charlies. All other cruises we have been on have at least had peanuts on the table. Nothing on these. Finally on the 5/6 night, not sure which, I asked if they had any peanuts. Our waitress said, oh sure and brought us a small bottle full of snack nuts etc. I FOUND OUT THE SECRET WORD ON THIS SHIP WAS:ASK, ASK, ASK!!!!! GRATUITIES: WOW, We have NO problem of tipping the people that take care of us on our cruise. In fact, we tip them generously. Our problem on this ship is that they automatically deducted each day $10 from your shipboard account to pay for the gratuities. Total for a 10 day cruise $110. My problem with this is that I am tipping people that never had any contact with me, that gave me lousy service in the dining room etc. Went to the Main Desk and complained. Told them that I wanted to pay my tips in cash. They didnt like this idea. I told them that I didnt authorize them to deduct this money from my account(it was in the very very fine print). Other cruises you have a choice. I had to sign a paper stating that I was going to pay $110 in tips at the end of the trip!!!!!!! Then I had to go back the day before the cruise ended again to get the gratuities taken off of my account. What a hassle. I paid my head steward/stewardess, head waiter/assistant waiter, and the two bar waitresses that waited on us. I divided it up as I would have on RCCL plus extra for each one. I was informed rather nastily that this was going to be the mandatory tipping procedure in the very near future and that if I wanted to sail on NCL, I would not have a choice She was the only person on the whole cruise that was not polite and courteous, and helpful. From speaking with many of the service people on the ship, they make less now with NCL tipping policy than they did when you tipped them directly. I dont think this is quite fair as they get paid little, and work long, hard, tedious hours. Made reservations in the Trattoria Italian restaurant. The fence off the back park of Raffles at night and make it into and Italian restaurant. It is free and it is a good thing. They need to teach the cook how to cook Italian! Raffles was the standard buffet. HOWEVER, there is one station that makes stir fry. You pick out what you want and he stir-fries it for you. It was delicious. I had stir-fried veggies almost every day! I think it was the 3rd day of the cruise we were in Raffles for breakfast. It was disaster! There was one poor girl for the whole side of the buffet. The tables, chairs, and even the floor were piled high with trays and dishes. I have never had that happen in all my cruises. Raffles isnt big enough to fit every one to begin with let alone not having any room because the dirty dishes were piles sky high! Then there were the coffee machines. There was regular at one end of the buffet and decaf at the other end of the buffet. One set on each side if /Raffles. At the regular coffee there was skim milk/milk at the other end was the ½ and ½. So after you filled your coffee up you had to make your way thru all the people to the other end and put in your ½ and ½. It took me 2 days (little slow in my old age) to put the ½ and ½ in a glass and then go fill up with regular coffee. Then the regular coffee machine broke on the one side on day 5 and NEVER got fixed. Now you had to go all the way to the other side, go thru the same routine and then make you way all the way back to the other side to sit down. Sometimes you just cant sit on the side you want to. It was always a mad rush for a seat anywhere! It is our opinion that the drinks were more expensive than on any of the other ships we have been on. Drink of the day was $7.95 on other ships it is $5.95 It cost $3.95 to set up and Internet account and 75 cents/minute. Now all Internets are slow on all ships. However, we just did a TA on RCCL in Nov. No charge for setting up and account and 50 cents/minute. The same for Carnival unless they changed since we were on it in August. If you can, bring a few of your own store hangers and leave them there. The closets are short on hangers. There really wasnt an atrium per say. Just a large double staircase, which was quite nice. The had a group by the name of Tres Amigos play there almost every night and they played nice dance music. However, there were only about 5 tables for 4 and 3 couches that sat 3 and 2 chairs. There was never enough room for everyone to sit and enjoy, you had to stand. Or go up to Champagne Charlies to listen. But if you wanted to dance you had to come all the way down the staircase and then up again. It was plenty big enough to put in more tables and chairs. I have no idea why they didnt do this. The area where the chairs and tables were was very small and you could smoke. If you dont smoke or dont like to sit by smokers you were definitely out of luck for a seat! The Shanghai Bar was smoke free. But, what an awful bar. Very tiny (which would have been fine) but TVs all along the wall. It was like a sports bar, and the seats were all in the straight line across the side of the ship. Had absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever. The entertainment was awful!!! My husband was so excited because he remembered NCL when they use to produce almost Broadway like shows. Not this ship. If you needed something done or needed your room steward, you always had to call the operator, give her your message and then she would call whomever was necessary and then call you back. I wanted to know who was the head steward/ess and who was the assistant. I called the operator and asked for housekeeping, sorry, I cant connect you says the operator.  You need to tell me your problem and I will call you back. I tell her my question. She calls me back and gives me the head of housekeeping. No, I said I want to know whether Joseph/Nannette for room 5061 is the head steward/ess not the name of housekeeping. She calls back and finally gives me the answer I needed. It just seems to me to be such a waist of time. I have never had to do this before on any of my cruises. All I can say is it was an experience. When we finally got all the kinks out, and got rid of our frustrations that were with us from day one, we really enjoyed ourselves. The ports, most of we had been to so we stayed on board and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. The last 3 ports I had never been to so we did take excursions. Mandoo on Grenada, who was awesome, Beno on Domica who was terrific, and a ship excursion to the baths which was worth every penny being we had such time constraints and couldnt book privately. The secret to this ship is to 1: make reservations for dinner in the main dining room 2: what you dont see ask for 3. go inside bottom deck middle for a room if you travel in January during storm season. We rocked but not as bad as everyone on the upper floors. 4. Ear plugs for the creaking and groaning of the ship DEBARKATION: If you carry on your luggage and want to carry it off, you can do that and get off much quicker. However, they state many times that they WILL NOT help you in anyway with your bags. You are on your own. I can understand perfectly them not helping. They have nine million other things to be doing beside carrying your bag. However, if you can manage it do it. We were off the ship in 10 minutes. However if you are landing during RUSH hour during the week, here is my advice. The taxi line was never ending. It took us 1 hour and 20 minutes to get a cab waiting on that line. Just before you leave the terminal on the left there is a big elevator. Take it down to the first floor, leave the elevator and go out onto the street. Cross the street and hail you own cab! Our taxi driver told us that no one wanted to go there during rush hour because it took them ½ just to go around and get on the ramp up to the taxi stand, let alone the time it took to get their fare to where they want to go. I asked if we should have gone downstairs and gotten our own cab and he said that would be a much smarter thing to do. Now I am not saying you wont have to wait there also but I dont think for over an hour. I was going to do it this next cruise on the Noordam March 15 but then I realized we dock on a Sat. so that is that. Maybe someone else can post something on this. Will we ever go on NCL again. I dont know. People who had sailed on the Dawn and were very unhappy on this ship, said the Dawn was sooooo much better. We will have to think awhile before we make a final decision about NCL. ONE ROTTEN APPLE DOESNT SPOIL THE WHOLE BASKET. But, yes, we probably will if only for the stated metaphor. Read Less
Sail Date January 2006
Cruise to St. Thomas, Curacao & Panama - January 3-15, 2006 QM2 is truly a magnificent, elegant ship....from the moment we stepped on board it was like living a dream. A dream come true! After checking out our cabin (roomy, ... Read More
Cruise to St. Thomas, Curacao & Panama - January 3-15, 2006 QM2 is truly a magnificent, elegant ship....from the moment we stepped on board it was like living a dream. A dream come true! After checking out our cabin (roomy, comfortable, quiet) while enjoying some complementary champagne we could not wait to explore the ship. What would be the next surprise around the corner? She is huge, lots of room to roam and explore. Youre never crowded or feel rushed anywhere on the ship. Plenty to do or nothing at all-always your choice. We managed to explore every inch of the ship-what an adventure! The lounges, Todd English, Queens Ballroom, G32 Disco, Royal Court Theatre, Planetarium, and Britannia Restaurant all had a chic 1920s feel of elegance. Beautiful velvet couches, satin curtains, deco wall sconces, chandeliers, fresh gorgeous flower arrangements everywhere added to the ambiance of the ship. Dressing for formal nights was exciting! Plenty to do every day.....classes, lectures, art auctions, dance classes, spa, Tai Chi classes, trivia quizzes, exercise room, extensive library, movies, planetarium shows. At night, theatre, dance, music shows, comedy, ballroom dancing, disco dancing, Karaoke, jazz, piano solos, classical quartet, the cruise band Xtasea. It was very satisfying to do something different every night and to have so many choices. One of my favorite places was walking the length of the promenade deck (3 times around equal 1.1 mile) The sea, sky, clouds, sunsets, and several double rainbows were a glorious site to see. One of the most memorable things on board was the Maritime Quest Exhibition. This consisted of panels and graphics all over the ship that told the history of the Cunard lines, the people that worked on them, the celebrities that traveled aboard, their stories, photos, diaries, facts. The dinners in the Britannia Restaurant were delightful, exquisitely presented and delicious. We had two excellent waiters, Anthony and Romeo who helped make our dinners a special time. We really enjoying sharing dinnertime with our table mates, Karen & Peter, and Chris and Chris. We had the best time with these folks, laughing, telling stories and lingering after dinner. The shows were very entertaining, well paced and professional. The singers and dancers were fabulous and put all their energy into their roles. They were all so passionate about their craft. Costumes, music, lights and staging were all a feast for the eyes. We met interesting people from all over the world. The staff we met were the best, very hard working and eager to make our trip a happy one. Our room steward Abraham always had a kind word and a smile for us, and did a great job. The Black & White Ball, Captains Reception, Pirates Ball, and Sail Away Parties were all lots of fun! Champagne, dancing, laughter, I can really get used to this! Ports of Call..... St Thomas - Visited beautiful Magens Bay Beach, strolled the seashore........ Curacao - Gorgeous - visited Haito Caves, tour of the island - music in the square, inspiring lights and colors of this picturesque island. Panama - Magnificent - walk the rainforest, see the sloths, monkeys, flowers, visit the Panama Canal. Costa Rica - Could not dock - sea was too unstable for tenders to launch. (Maybe this port will be in our future - another time and another place.) Were dreaming of the next journey...with lots of joyous memories of this QM2 adventure. Gifts of the Journey..... The first glimpse of the QM2 from the port in NYC Twinkling lights in NYC horizon as QM2 starts on her journey Exploring the ship....whats around the next corner? Sail away party with band Xtasea Surprise double rainbow Bright turquoise Caribbean Sea Morning greeting by a giant sea turtle Cocktails on the beach at Magens Bay Getting a glimpse of the puppies on board Full moon shimmering on the waves on Friday 13th Sunsets on the back deck DJ Alex always playing our dance requests Dancing and dancing in Q32 Watching the graceful dancers in the Queens Ballroom Formal tea and treats Lights at night at Curacao Surprise of reaching the ocean on our Panama rainforest hike Quiet time in the Winter Garden by the waterfall Meticulous service and friendliness of our waiters - Anthony & Romeo Delicious dinners every night in the Britannia Restaurant Enjoying our time with our table mates - Karen & Peter and Chris & Chris Quiet time watching the waves by Canyon Ranch Fresh exotic fruit......everyday Meeting the wonderful crew members from all over the world Gorgeous fresh flowers everywhere Dreamy clouds seen from Promenade deck 7 Laughing and smiling a lot Savoring an afternoon Pina Colada Admiration for all the people who took part in planning, designing, and building the ship Always being able to find a quiet spot to relax Admiring the art work on the stairs and public rooms The sleekness and sophistication of the Commodore Club Walking and walking Deck 7 - feeling so alive Magical night at Todd English Watching the ocean dance from the many port-holes on ship The wall sconces making beautiful designs on the wall The velvet couches in the Royal Court Theatre Enjoying the jazz trio The camaraderie in the Lions Pub Enjoying the talented singers and dancers so passionate about their craft Babies Liam and Corner smiling Admiring the elegant Vogue Lady Little kids splashing in the pool Listening to all the languages spoken on board Feeling the summer sun on a January day Beauty of Tai Chi class Elegant vibe of the Chart Room Watching the beautiful dancers and colorful costumes in the Panama terminal Watching the men host dancers having a ball on the dance floor Dreamy afternoon naps Comforting sound of the waves from the balcony Enjoying the classical quartet Keeping all these fabulous memories alive Feeling so appreciative of being able to be on this journey Making plans to do this again......soon. 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Sail Date January 2006
We sailed on Navigator's cruise from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland, during the latter part of June 2005. We took advantage of Radisson's free coach air package. We have sailed previously on Crystal (several cruises), HAL, ... Read More
We sailed on Navigator's cruise from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland, during the latter part of June 2005. We took advantage of Radisson's free coach air package. We have sailed previously on Crystal (several cruises), HAL, Celebrity and NCL. This was our first Radisson cruise. We chose this cruise primarily for the itinerary, which included port stops at Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, L'Anse aux Meadows (Newfoundland), Heimaey in the Westermann Islands, and an overnight in Reykjavik. The precruise transportation and hospitality which included a night at the New York Hilton and Towers was very good. After we boarded we found that the number of passengers was well below capacity (about 265 pax on a 490 pax ship). I will be posting a much longer review on the RSSC board later, so will just list the highlights and lowlights here. Highlights: Our standard verandah cabin on deck 6 midship (631) was exceptionally large and comfortable. The walk-in closet and large bathroom with separate shower and tub make these "standard" cabins really outstanding. Our cabin stewardess did and excellent job keeping everything in the cabin clean and neat. Room service was outstanding -- the food was very good and it was delivered in an unbelievably short time. The ports were interesting for the most part, although the recreated Viking village at L'Anse aux Meadows was a bit underwhelming. We missed Heimaey because of mechanical problems that prevented the ship from sailing at normal cruising speed for the last two days of the cruise. Iceland was spectacular even though the weather was quite cool and cloudy. The ship's staff, for the most part, were friendly and helpful. The quality of the food in the dining room and alternative restaurant generally was very good to excellent in quality, although often too rich for our taste (too much butter and cream). Lowlights: The ship's public rooms are small and dreary. Most of the art on the walls was supplied by the Park West art auctioneers -- really, really tacky. The entertainment was strictly amateur hour, nowhere near the quality of Crystal or for that matter HAL. Open seating dining turned out to be not so great. When we sat at a large table the speed of service was determined by the slowest eater. And since we never were at the same table the wait staff never really learned our preferences. Even when we arrived at the dining room at 6:45 p.m., we were not finished with dinner until close to 9 p.m. The swimming pool area is small, and there is no protection from the elements (no retractable cover) so the pool grill was closed for most of the trip owing to the cool weather. The Internet service has to be the worst I ever experienced. It was slow beyond belief, and the Radisson firewall is the most restrictive I've ever encountered. The vibration in the aft areas of the ship was very intense and objectionable at times. Read Less
Sail Date June 2005

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