We really enjoyed the cruise. Normally we prefer the larger “fun” ships with NCL such as the Epic, Getaway and Escape but with five ports of call and only one day at sea it really didn’t matter not having the waterslides and other ... Read More
We really enjoyed the cruise. Normally we prefer the larger “fun” ships with NCL such as the Epic, Getaway and Escape but with five ports of call and only one day at sea it really didn’t matter not having the waterslides and other activities found only on these ships.
Some (negative) general comments first. Although we still enjoy cruising with NCL, we have noticed increasing costs and certain cuts since we first started with them 6 years ago. Perhaps they are just following a trend in the industry but the changes have been noticeable. Some examples:
- Adding a room service fee, first for overnight orders and now at all times.
- Not allowing people to bring food to their room (thankfully that ended very quickly when it was announced!)
- Not allowing people to bring non-alcoholic beverages on board.
- Charging extra for certain dishes in the main dining rooms (looks like this was stopped)
- Sharp increases in the cost of their drinks as compared to bars/restaurants on land. A couple of years ago they had these “premium” drinks such as a Dark and Stormy for $18 as compared to $12 for other drinks. These prices were not on the menu on this cruise.
- Less interesting options at the buffet during theme nights. They had crab legs in the main buffet on our first cruise on the Epic.
- Charging $2 more for the same volume of Heineken in a draft at O’Sheehan’s than what you get in the bottle. Both the glasses they use as well as the bottles are 12 oz. You can buy both! Maybe it is just me but I would have assumed a pint class would be used at a pub.
I think it is important for passengers to provide their feedback, both positive and negative, directly to NCL for these and any other items you want to bring up. I normally do after each cruise!
Now moving on!
- We started with one day at sea, followed by stops in Barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and St. Thomas.
- We would have preferred having the sea day on our last day of cruising. Would have been a great way to relax after getting off the ship five days in a row. However, I think this would require reversing the order of the stops as Barbados is the furthest destination.
- As I mentioned earlier, the ship is smaller and doesn’t have the water slides, rope courses, climbing wall, large sports deck (though it does have a smaller one), etc that you will find on some of their bigger ships .
- Some of the areas (such as the theater and main restaurants) were really cold, more so than I would normally expect on a cruise ship. It was mentioned by a number of other travellers we spoke with too. I would suggest bringing a shawl, light jacket, long sleeve shirts, etc. The theatre was probably the worst.
Getting on and off the ship
- Embarkation went smoothly. We boarded between 1:00 and 1:30, with our cabin being available within an hour or so.
- Our cabin was on deck 5 which made if very convenient to get on and off the ship from deck 4 at each port of call.
- Disembarkation was really easy and stress free. We used the self assist option so we were able to keep our bags with us overnight as opposed to leaving them out by 11 pm the night before. One major difference here with self assist is that we didn’t need to rush off the boat early as we have experienced on the Epic, Getaway and Escape when using this option.
Transfers between the airport and the Pan American Pier
- We spent the night in Isla Verde before the cruise and used an UberXL to get there for around $14. In general, Uber is an inexpensive and convenient way to travel around San Juan.
- On the day you disembark, you have multiple options for the airport when you exit the terminal.
- NCL’s is probably the most expensive of them all and I would not recommend it.
- When you first leave the terminal, there will be a series of private shuttles charging $10 per person. They will also wait until they feel they have enough passengers. I would also suggest that you skip this option.
- If you walk a little further, maybe 40 feet, you will find the regular taxi line. Fares are regulated and costs $21 plus $1 per piece of luggage to the airport. You will first speak to a dispatcher who will provide you with a paper confirming the cost. On our day, there was an exception where they were adding an extra $3.50 because the usual route to the airport was closed due to construction.
- It does appear that Uber is an option but the fares at the time were similar and involved a bit of wait before a car could arrive.
- We were on deck 5 with a window. Note, on deck 4 the windows are portholes.
- We were three, 2 adults and a child. There is a bunk bed that folds out from the wall. I don’t see how a second child could be accommodated in this cabin as there is no convertible sofa or anything and little to no room for an extra cot.
- There are plenty of drawers (6) as well as some shelves in the closet. However, we still found it useful having brought magnetic hooks as well as some extra hangers.
- We find the food at the complimentary restaurants to be more than sufficient for us so we don’t typically eat at any of the speciality options.
- Of the two main dining rooms, we preferred Aqua over the Venetian. This has nothing to do with the food since they have the same menu but rather we found the service to be faster. Not sure if this has anything to do with the fact it is smaller.
- The food at O’Sheehan’s was excellent.
- The food is also excellent at Bamboo but reservations are required if not at least recommended.
- We had supper one night at the buffet. It was ok but it is not as good as we experienced six years ago when we first started cruising on NCL. The theme nights and associated options just seemed better back then to be honest.
- There is room service but NCL charges a convenience fee of close to $8 per order. When we first started cruising with them, there was no fee. Then they added one for overnight orders which looks like they have extended to all hours.
Bars – pay attention to the glass size used for drafts at O’Sheehan’s
- Didn’t really hang out at any of the bars on this trip but we did have supper one night at O’Sheehan’s, where the food is very good and is complimentary.
- They only had two beers on tap, one of them Heineken. I would have expected more at a pub to be honest.
- Note, they are serving their draft beer in 12 oz glasses, not 16 oz (pints) that you would normally be accustomed to at a pub. You can also order Heineken in 12 oz bottles.
- For some reason, the same size in a draft costs $2 more than the bottle. The reasoning provided was that the quality is better with the draft something that I don’t agree with when it comes to beers like Heineken. I wished I had noticed the size before ordering the draft.
- The fitness centre is more spacious on the Dawn as compared to the bigger ships. You don’t have that cramped feeling.
- The jogging track is on deck 13 and also has less traffic than what I am accustomed to on the Getaway and Escape.
- On deck 7, you can walk, not run, along the promenade all the way around the ship.
- For the first time we played shuffleboard. Our child was really into it and became his new ping pong obsession/replacement while onboard. There are two on deck 7 and one on deck 13.
- Speaking of ping pong, there are two tables on deck 13 near the sports deck. However, they are in a spot that receives a lot of wind when the ship is moving so it really affects the ball.
Pool, hot tubs and chairs
- There is one pool and four hot tubs on deck 12. There is an additional hot tub at the front of the ship on deck 13.
- The kids’ area at the back of the ship has another hot tub as well.
- We didn’t have any problems finding chairs either in the sun or in the shade during our one sea day.
- The production shows are not at the same level as the ones we’ve experienced on the Epic, Getaway and Escape. If you are expecting something similar then you will be disappointed.
- The comedian on the other hand was fantastic. He had two nights of shows in the main theatre, one family friendly and one 18+ and both were great. There is no separate comedy club having nightly shows.
Splash Academy – Kids club
- There weren’t as many children on this cruise and consequently not many using Splash Academy, including ours.
- The staff members were really friendly and trying to get children involved but I can see how with few other kids around at the kids club, your child may not want to spend much time there.
- Luckily, ours was meeting people on the sports deck and playing with them after getting back on board at the end of the day. Read Less