BOOKING: This was a group trip planned almost a year ago. We were a group of 7 of various ages. I booked directly through NCL and booked a studio (solo) cabin to myself. We didn't give a thought to the fact that this might be during ... Read More
BOOKING: This was a group trip planned almost a year ago. We were a group of 7 of various ages. I booked directly through NCL and booked a studio (solo) cabin to myself. We didn't give a thought to the fact that this might be during spring break. I like the fact that you can pay towards your balance, so I split my bill by the months I had and paid a little each month. Then I paid my gratuities (and air fare). That really took the sting out of paying for vacation! Also, I got the UBP booze package included as well as $75 in OB credit. Prior to leaving, we all downloaded the iConcierge app.
BACKGROUND: I'm 41, but look much younger (which I'll allude to later). I usually get along with anyone and like talking to new people, but I really dislike crowds and foolishness. This was my 4th cruise and 2nd on NCL. Others were RCCL and Princess. We're from New England where snow was still on the ground.
ARRIVAL: We went down a day early mostly to avoid any issues with flights and weather. We pub crawled around FLL and had a great time. I (traveling alone at this point) took the Port shuttle the next day from FLL to the docks for $20. There's some bad reviews on google, but the experience was great. I even called an hour and a half early and asked for a pickup which they did. That means I was THE FIRST PERSON IN LINE to board the ship. First. Period.
I didn't notice no one was collecting bags. I had to stand at the entrance until it opened (9:30a). Then I sat waiting for the xray (10a) which is when I realized no one else had their luggage. But I threw it into the machine and no one batted an eye. I went to get my room card. I didn't notice a seperate line for rewards members, but whatever- I was first. And then we waited again for boarding (11:15ish). I made friends with a few people including the person who happened to be staying in the cabin next to me! Some were trying to get on the ship asap to get the Vibe pass. I had no interest, so I let them go ahead of me. When I got on, they say the rooms aren't open until 2pm. I went immediately to my room with my luggage and it was ready, so I settled in. Great job steward!!!
THE CROWD: I read reviews about the ship being very crowded. I also read some that said it was fine. Being a person who appreciates some quiet, I decided at last minute, days before the cruise, to get the Thermal Spa package (more on that later). But overall, with the exception of a few events, I didn't feel the ship was all that packed. I didn't have issues finding seats or tables. I had no interest in lounge chairs, but that didn't appear to be an issue, either.
There were a lot of college kids aboard. Thankfully, most of them seemed fairly responsible and in control. The guys didn't seem all that D-Baggy. There was at least one sorority. And I, as a single male cruiser, was happy for the eye candy. My friends and I were asked which college we attended (remember, I'm 41) and I even spent an evening with a 28 year old- enough said, but thank goodness for that single cabin.
THE APP: I hear the iConcierge app is being replaced soon. We all bought the $9.99 unlimited onboard texting package to communicate between our 7 people. It was worth it. Though the app bites- you have to continually reload it and it was question as to if and when your messages were delivered. But, again, it was still worth it. You don't need to pay for that feature but instead use it for checking your account and the day's events. not to mention reserving tenders and other events.
THE SHIP EXPERIENCE: Our first stop was O'Sheehans. I expected this place to be a corner pub that was largely ignored. In reality, it's the heart of the ship and second only to the main pool- if even that. This is the bar that never closes and has food which any other place doesn't. Being St Paddy's- my first drink was a Guiness. PRO TIP: While in Miami or another US port, you will get taxed on your drinks! You'll see a charge on your NCL app- this is NOT gratuities, but tax! After we left port, those charges disappeared.
I never went in the main pool. I did go into the spice h2o hot tub once. But I prefered the spa, mentioned later. All in all, I spent more time on decks 6-8 than up top. I didn't attend any shows or most of the events. Most were poorly, if at all, described. So why bother going if I didn't know what it was? The first night, we went to Irish trivia in the brew house and won, easily. Speaking of trivia, we also played World Beer trivia which we should have won (especially being brewers and beer judges) except for the fact that someone got them ALL right... but only because they've been on the ship for weeks and already knew all the answers according to the quiz master. So to the morbidly obese couple in the rascals- I hope you get a lot of use from your (MY!) frisbee. You'll probably use it as a plate. You're cheaters and the worst people I encountered on the cruise.
So, speaking of the brew house... 8 port forward in a corner by the stairs... this seemed to be the hidden gem of the ship. Nice place and never too crowded. Adults only! But this as well as many other places had weird operating hours, even when the ship wasn't in port. Sometimes the only place to get a drink (or food) was at O'Sheehans.
There was one afternoon while in jamaica that I was the ONLY person on deck 8. 4pm and no one was around and nothing was open. I found that to be annoying.
MUSIC: The bands on board were decent and floating around venues. There were a few, but not very many, bands at the pool deck. The DJs Suuuuuuucked!!!! And it's not that they didn't play the music I like. I was happy and actually looking forward to some booty shaking garbage music the kids listen to. I went to the first dance party at Spice around 10:30p and had an amazing time dancing (which I never do, being a middle-aged hetero male) and then went to skyline after that an danced some more- and received compliments and a companion back to my room.
BUT THEN came the glow party (white party, neon party). Same situation- Spice H2O 10:30p. What a HORRIBLE time! They played remastered versions of popular songs for about 15 seconds each followed by the DJ saying ok.. 3, 2, 1, jump! So, basically it was
a bunch of mismatched people (kids and the elderly there despite there being a family glow party at 8:30) jumping up and down and not being able to dance because as soon as a song came on and you started to get into a groove- it was changed to something else. This was probably the most disappointing event on the ship. I hear the 80's night was much better as was the one I attended. Avoid the glow party at all cost!!
FOOD & DRINK- I love food. I grow it, cook it, eat it. I like food from every country and eat anything from taco bell to fine french cuisine. I also like booze and am a brewer as mentioned. The food overall on the ship was okay. The closest anything came to standing out was some indian food in the buffet one night. The desserts, with exception of the rum balls, were spongy and disappointing. And the food, whether buffet, MDR (we did the manhattan room many times), or even in the a'la carte restaurants was just good. Not great. Not memorable.
Having that $75 credit and nothing to really spend it on (minus the texting plan). I brought some dishes at food republic. Same story- good but not great. Especially considering you have to pay extra for it. I also tried some bites of other peoples' items and was still unimpressed. On the last day, I still had $35 in credit, so I bought a friend that expensive $50 glass of wine. -$15 for UBP discount +$7 service charge. I'm not a wine person, though I've been to many wineries and have even made my own wine (pinot noir and riesling). While this $250 bottle of wine was indeed smooth and tasty, I've had $20 bottles that I'd vastly prefer over this Mondavi thing.
The brew house had a decent lineup of taps and bottles. Nothing too great, but still impressive for a cruise line. I appreciated trying the floridian brews including Funky Buddah, Cigar City, and others. Though, I mostly kept to hard alcohol drinks as beer is too filling and sometimes doesn't do the trick. Most of the drinks were okay though your overall choices are sugary or sour. So it's not long before you're sick of the acidic mixed drinks and start getting creative. Bombay and tonic. Rum and ginger beer. In most cases, the bartenders were great. I had one or two bad experiences and received drinks that were way off.
STAFF seems like a good segue now. Other than the drink blunders above, I found the staff to be very friendly and attentive. Some of my friends would disagree, but I didn't have an major issues. Kudos to them and their hard work.
SPA - So, again, I got the thermal spa package ($200 a week or $50ish a day) and I consider it money well spent. If you're contemplating getting a massage, just get the spa pass! It's a far better value and you'll enjoy it more. I'm not a rich man by any means and I like to watch my budget, but I have no regrets about buying the week pass. I went every day and maybe even twice on one of the days. It's quiet and relaxing. I'd go into the steam room and sweat out the booze then hit the jet pool for a massage better than what I've gotten from many humans including professionals. The saunas were also nice and then I'd finish in the salt room which did clear up my nose. For obvious reasons, I never stepped foot in the snow room- I can just open my door at home.
OVERALL - There were times I was too bored, too hungry, and too sober. Not from lack of opportunities, but lack of interest in the available opportunities. The experience was okay, but I'm not looking forward to a cruise anytime soon. But if there's a next time, it'll probably be on RCCL. Read Less