This was the first time we cruised from New York City and the process was very easy. We took an Amtrak train to Penn Station and got a cab to the pier. Getting through security did not take long, but there was some delay in checking in ... Read More
This was the first time we cruised from New York City and the process was very easy. We took an Amtrak train to Penn Station and got a cab to the pier. Getting through security did not take long, but there was some delay in checking in since there were lots of Latitude members on this cruise. It was still an easy process. Once we boarded the ship, we checked our carry-on bags at the Fyzz Lounge and went to Tsar's Palace for lunch. Had a delicious meal and great service (thanks, Bernadette) without all the crowds at the buffet.
The sea days were very nice and we sat out on the Promenade deck or the pool deck each day. It was smooth sailing and a very relaxing way to start our vacation. We love to read and found the library to have an excellent section of books. The Promenade deck is a great place to read and to watch the ocean. On several sea days, we attended various events designed for Cruise Critic members and for Latitudes members. It's always nice to meet new people who share a love of cruising. The tour of the Bridge for Cruise Critic members was very informative and greatly appreciated.
Our cabin was on deck 9 starboard and was adequate in size. We usually select an inside cabin since we find we sleep better there. The closet, drawers, and shelves provided enough room for all our belongings. It was very quiet and convenient to other areas on the ship.
Since we've been to San Juan before, we decided to walk around Old San Juan and revisit our favorite places. The promenade along City Wall is very nice and takes you to San Juan Gate as well as Fort del Morro. At dusk, it was nice to see Christmas decorations in some of the city squares and streets since Three Kings Day was going to be celebrated later in the week.
St. Thomas is always a fun port to visit. Because there were 2 other large cruise ships in port that day, we just did some shopping at Havensight Mall and spent the afternoon soaking up the sun by the pool. It was very nice since the pool wasn't crowded with most people having gone ashore.
We did the Antigua Beach Escape (NCL tour) and had a great time. Sandhaven Beach was very nice with lots of room to spread out and to enjoy the surf. Lunch was included as well as two drinks (with rum or without). The food was quite good and was served buffet style.
In St. Maarten, we went on the Orient Beach Rendezvous (NCL) and had a marvelous time. Our group went to the Kakao Beach section where we enjoyed the warm water and the soft sand. Lunch was included and the restaurant setting was very tropical - tables nestled along the edge of the beach and under palm trees. We had 3 choices for entrees, and the food and service were very good. No complaints - would do again!
We decided to relax and enjoy our morning in Tortola. We've been there before so we simply walked along the streets of Roadtown. The Crafts Alive Market Village is a great place to shop since most of the items are hand-crafted by local people.
The food on the ship was very good with a variety of selections each day. We ate breakfast in the Garden Cafe each day and loved having so many choices. To avoid crowds, we always sat at a table near the Great Outdoors area. Most of our lunches were there, too, since we really liked the soup selections as well as salad and pizza. The only downside on this cruise was not being able to serve yourself at the buffet once we got to San Juan. This was a precaution done to prevent illnesses from spreading on the ship. The beverage lines were quite long but the crew did the best they could in a difficult situation. It was an inconvenience but a minor one in the whole scheme of things. We never got sick so we were appreciative of all the precautions taken by NCL. Dinners were mostly in Tsar's Palace where we had excellent service when seated in the "expansion" room. Very quiet atmosphere with a great wait staff. Two nights we had dinner at Mama's and thoroughly enjoyed both the meal and the atmosphere. Thank you, Reinaldo, for taking such good care of us! One night we had dinner at Tango's with Kris Carlson, Food & Beverage Director. We had sailed with him on the Jade and were very happy to see him again. The meal was excellent - especially the lobster tacos. A big thank you to Kris for making our cruise so special!
The entertainment was good and provided quite a variety of shows. Cat's Pajamas vocal band was really great and we went to see them again when they were in the Spinnaker Lounge. It was a standing room only crowd there. INCANTO with Massimo & Alesia was exceptional and not to be missed. We enjoyed Lumiri Tubo's performance and went to see her again in the Spinnaker Lounge. Le Cirque Bijou was on the last night of the cruise and was a magical show which included singing, dancing, gymnastics, and aerial performances. Quite a finale!
Disembarkation went smoothly. Many passengers took advantage of the easy walk-off. We decided to wait in a lounge until 10:15 am to leave the ship. Since the luggage is color-coded corresponding to times, it was very easy to locate our luggage and go through Customs. It was one of the fastest disembarkations we've ever had.
Overall we had a very enjoyable cruise. The service was excellent, and the staff did their very best to make sure guests would have a great cruise. Their smiles and attentiveness didn't seem forced. Our cabin stewards worked very hard and were always friendly and courteous whenever we saw them. With 33 cabins to care for twice a day, they did an outstanding job. Captain Lars and his senior staff were very personable, approachable, and set the tone for the high level of service provided by all the crew. We love the concept of freestyle cruising and the relaxed atmosphere found on NCL ships. After 9 cruises on NCL, we do feel part of the NCL "family" and plan to cruise with them again in the near future. Read Less