Introduction: Myself (22), my brother (19), and both of my parents went together on a 7 day Florida and Bahamas cruise from New York in Mid-March. We originally booked an Aft-facing Haven Suite but upgraded a few days prior to the cruise ... Read More
Introduction: Myself (22), my brother (19), and both of my parents went together on a 7 day Florida and Bahamas cruise from New York in Mid-March. We originally booked an Aft-facing Haven Suite but upgraded a few days prior to the cruise to a Haven 2-bedroom family villa, which was well worth it! We have cruised NCL in the past (Getaway) and had such a blast so we chose to return.
Embarkation: We chose to drive to the terminal from Maryland the day of the cruise (I-95 traffic was a breeze on a Sunday morning) and we parked on the pier next to the ship (~$200 and well worth it!). Our car was parked less than 100 feet from the side of the ship and you really cannot get any closer. You absolutely pay for the convenience. We go tlost trying to find the inside of the terminal from the parking deck (they need more signage) but we found it eventually. The porters saw our priority embarkation tags and whisked our luggage away quickly. The terminal just opened and the line to security was full, but moved very quickly. We did not notice or see any signs for Haven guests at this point (there was apparently priority security screening for us but we missed it). After security, we found the line for the Haven and we were taken to their private check-in room. A little tight on the inside with lots of furniture stacked up on the walls but it was quiet, comfy, and they had good food. Within an hour of entering the terminal, we were boarding the ship as one of the first guests. As soon as you board, they take you to the Haven where they give a welcome speech and provide cocktails and sliders (they looked SO good!). Lunch was offered in both the Haven restaurant and La Cucina. We chose to go there since we did not have a reservation on the other nights and the italian lunch was delicious.
Stateroom: Our stateroom was ready very early in the day and it was truly perfect. The parents loved the king size bed and luxury shower. Their favorite part was all of the jets in it, equating it to a "car wash". Myself and my brother stayed in the separate bedroom, which was comfy and the perfect size for both of us. We appreciated that there were two separate beds (one pull-down) for us. The living area was perfect with the most comfy couch ever, private dining area, and tea/coffee nook. We loved all of the furnishings in the room and our Butler, Henry, made our cruise. My only criticism is that the balcony is very small and I wish it was a little larger but it was not a big deal.
Dining: We ate in the Haven restaurant most nights and we thoroughly enjoyed the service. We quickly noticed that the menu does not change and I wish they offered just one or two appetizers, entrees, and desserts every night that would rotate. We enjoyed every meal in the Haven.
On the first night, we ate at The Supper Club and watched a magic show by the same guy who was on The Worlds Best. Did not care for the food at all since it was a pre-fixed menu. The salad dressing had an odd taste to it but the dessert was very good. Good dinner show.
We also ate in Cagneys and Moderno (loved both of them on the Getaway so we had to return). Moderno was delicious again, will always come back. Cagneys on the other hand was a disappointment. I enjoyed my seafood plate as it had a good variety and seemed very fresh. My father chose to get their signature Porterhouse and claimed it was the worst cut of steak of his life, simply too tough to eat and you had to use a chainsaw to cut it. Our server was very understanding and did her best to accommodate us but this was simply the one "off" meal we had. The desserts at Cagneys were probably the best though, we loved their creme brulee.
Our third specialty dining experience was Bayamo, which was a complete RIP OFF. They take the specialty dining plan but they add a surcharge to it, which is fine since it is a special specialty restaurant. However, once you sit down a lot of the menu items have an additional surcharge to it. Even the lobster has a $15-$30 surcharge (couldn't remember the exact number). All of the seafood presented on the menu we could get in the Haven for no surcharge and down in Bayamo, they charge you left and right. Plus, their menu was not that appealing, simply too basic with subpar fish options (including fish and chips). We explained this to the Maitre D and he understood, refunding our specialty dining reservation and giving us a free bottle of wine. Instead, we went to Le Bistro (which we also went to on the Getaway and we absolutely loved but wanted to try something different). It was delicious as always with sophisticated french food and fantastic service. My only gripe with NCL's dining is that you cannot get lobster anywhere on the ship but Bayamo. Too bad cruise ships are doing away with lobster night.
We also frequented O'Sheehans, a favorite of ours from the Getaway. The wings tasted even better this time and the loaded nachos (even though you can tell they used fake cheese lol) were so delicious, I had to get them every time. Service was great every time and the venue is always so much fun. We loved going here in the afternoon for a mid-afternoon snack. Favorite complimentary option!
Entertainment: The magic show on night one was okay. Entertaining but the tricks were very basic. The trivia throughout was so much fun and we liked to go to their special trivia contests they would have on specific topics (like Airlines of the world, Harry Potter, etc.). We chose to see "Choir of Man" and we were absolutely blown away. I believe it was their last show on the Escape but I really hope they return. The show was very interactive with the audience (they gave away free beer haha) and they delivered a showstopping performance. I cannot speak more highly of them and Choir of Man has to be my favorite show ever.
Service: Service was impecable throughout the cruise. Our butler, Henry, made every request possible and truly went above and beyond to make our cruise special. Our stateroom steward Erlito was also very very nice and always so happy. Once we communicated our preferred turndown times with him, he made it work. Fantastic job! Also, the host at the Haven, Made, did a fantastic job and always made us feel special. She was always cheerful and knew us by name very quickly. All of the staff in the Haven were fantastic and made us feel special. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the Haven and I have to say, the staff on the rest of the ship, from the entertainment staff to dining staff, were fantastic as well. It is always interesting to get to know each one and they truly do work very hard so we can enjoy our cruise. Service on NCL exceeds our expectations again.
Ports: The cruise stopped in Port Canaveral, Great Stirrup Cay, and Nassau. We have been to all of these ports except great stirrup cay (their private island).
We arrived to Port Canaveral (1pm) on a wet, foggy day and we had no shore excursion planned as there really isn't much to do except go to Cocoa Beach (a tourist trap) or Kennedy Space Center (a must-see, already did it). Instead, my brother and I grabbed an Uber and went to the mall nearby to watch Madea's Family Funeral at the movie theater. Uber was about $20 each way and it was only 15 minutes from the port. The mall itself is run-down but when the ship is in port (hopefully a Tuesday), it is $5 movies at the movie theater, a bargain! Highly recommend doing if you just want to get off on the ship on your own. The ship left at 9 or 10pm and we were back by 5pm.
Thankfully, we were the first cruise to be able to tender to Great Stirrup Cay in a while. The tender process was very easy and the island was beautiful. The water was a little cold but the sun was definitely shining (my father got really bad sunburn). Everything about the private island was good. Pretty generic in my opinion but it was a fun day in the sun.
Lastly, we arrived in Nassau. We have been to Nassau previously and we were aware of the high crime around the port so we believed a ship-sponsored tour was a must. We went to the Atlantis waterpark (did the same excursion on the Getaway and loved it) on a cloudy day. We arrived very soon and walked with our tour guide through the property (it's massive!). We quickly grabbed a lounger by one of the pools and went on the waterslides (no line at first so go quickly). Once the lines got long we chilled in the rapid river. Always so much fun and we enjoyed it. It did rain two times throughout the day (torrential downpours for 15-30 minutes) which helped keep the lines down and may have made some people sad but hey, you're at a waterpark, getting wet in the rain is okay. It wasn't that bad!
Haven: If you want personalized service with your own private area of the ship, the Haven is for you. The area itself was nice as the lounge and bar were never busy and the restaurant was just the right size. Our favorite part was the courtyard with loungers on the main deck and above. The roof does retract and stayed closed most of the cruise so we could swim all seven days. My only gripe is that there were way too many young kids (expected for a spring break cruise though). I wish they had adults-only hours in the courtyard, particularly in the afternoon (i.e. 2-4pm when kids sleep). Overall, we loved staying in the Haven as it was very quiet and relaxing. We do think our experience would have been completely different if we stayed in our original aft-facing haven suite outside the Haven (which means you would have to walk from one end of the ship to the other just to get inside the Haven).
Ship Layout: Very similar to the Getaway but slightly larger. We did notice there was a lot of wasted space throughout. For instance, the wine venue on Deck 8 was almost always not open and never had people in it. I wish they could make the venue something new. Also, I was not a fan of the lounge/bar in the casino, which seemed to be the only place on the ship where they had live music late at night. It was simply too dark and way too smoky. I think the ship layout flows well as everything is pretty much up top or on decks 6, 7, and 8 but the venues themselves need work.
Overall: I would recommend the Haven if your ship has many days at sea. It was very relaxing and the perfect spot to relax. The cruise itinerary itself was okay, not too exciting, but we would do it again just for the ship. NCL does a great job with the little touches (i.e. damp towels when you return to the ship and a live DJ) and they maintain their ships very well. We will absolutely cruise NCL again and we will probably start building loyalty with them. Read Less