This was my 5th cruise. My previous cruises were on; Carnival Destiny, Triumph, Paradise and NCL Sky. I was accompanied by my sister, mother and aunt. My mother and aunt had never cruised before.
Before I begin the review, I want everyone to know that we had a WONDERFUL time. Any negatives that are mentioned were inconsequential, minor annoyances at best. NCL did a great job. If you are booked on this ship, you should be very happy, because you are going to have a great vacation.
I booked my air to Fort Lauderdale with Jet Blue Airlines. I have now used this airlines several times and have greatly enjoyed their service each and every time. The airplanes are wonderful with roomy leather seats, additional leg room and the private satellite television for every seat. This is a wonderful airline and I can’t say enough positives about their service. I did have a connection that I failed to make due to weather, but this is the primary reason that I always travel the day before the cruise. If this had happened on cruise day, we would have missed the ship.
I used the Miami Airport shuttle to transport us from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. It was 17 dollars a person plus tip. This service met my needs.
I used Priceline to book my overnight stay in Miami. We had two rooms at the Hyatt Regency in Miami. We were lucky with our rooms as the hotel was booked and they had to move us to suites. The room had two sliding glass doors with balcony. I was on the 19th floor, overlooking the water. We were able to see just the tops of a couple of ships. The room was quite noisy with the sliding doors open, but I enjoyed these sounds. There was a draw bridge next to the hotel that was also mildly entertaining to watch. They were tearing down a building across the street which would have greatly bothered me if I had been staying more than just the night. I would not choose this hotel for a family vacation; however, for one night pre-cruise at 45 dollars for a suite….I was very, very happy. I really liked that the terminal for the Metro-mover was inside the hotel. The Metro-mover is free and we used it to go to bayside marketplace. It is also a nice way to get a quick glance at the city. We took a taxi to the Port of Miami, which is only 5 minutes from the hotel.
This was the easiest embarkation that I have ever had. We arrived at the pier at 12:15 and were onboard in our rooms at 12:30. This was wonderful and very painless!
The ship appears to have been well cared for. We had an inside cabin on deck six. While I was envious of those in balcony cabins, this cabin met my needs. In hindsight, I should have selected a different cabin location as both main dining rooms are on this floor, this made it necessary to go up one floor, walk the length of the ship and then back down the stairs to get to the dining room. I also regretted being at the front of the ship, as I found that I spent my day in the back of the ship. I had heard many complaints regarding the beds being very hard on this ship. I lucked out and had a very soft, comfortable mattress; however, my mother’s room had beds that were as hard as a rock. It took two egg crate mattresses to make it even close to being acceptable. The blow dryers were really not acceptable for people with thick hair. I was able to use it okay as my hair is very short, but it would have taken over an hour for my mom and sister to dry their hair. An acceptable alternative was found however in the ladies locker room. There are a couple of vanities with blow dryers that have the usual power. The showers in the cabin were wonderful. They were roomy with a sliding glass door. There is a dispenser with soap and shampoo in the shower. The storage space in the cabin was more than adequate. Don’t’ forget to bring a multi-plug in adaptor, as there really is only one plug in available in the cabin. You can not use your blow dryers from home.
I found the ships public areas to be very beautiful. I was very impressed with the emphasis placed on hygiene. There was a repeating program regarding the Norwalk virus playing on the cabin television. There is alcohol based hand sanitizers placed outside of each food venue. I also saw the staff continuing to “encourage” people to sanitize their hands before going through the buffet. I was disappointed that my usual favorite seating area was not to be found. I have always enjoyed sitting on the promenade deck on a lounge chair under the life boats reading. This ship only had 5 lounge chairs available on this whole deck. These chairs are very hard and are not adjustable. I loved that the promenade deck goes all the way around the ship! This was a first for me and was a wonderful surprise.
I loved the Aqua Swim pools. There is no charge for using this pool. They limit their use to one person at a time with a 30 minute time limit. They were available without a problem and were fun to use. I also really enjoyed the steam room and the sauna.
This was the first ship I had sailed on with a movie theater, and I enjoyed this feature as well.
The casino had multi-denomination slots that allowed you to play pennies! The slots paid better than my previous cruises and were a lot of fun. My sister won about $100 dollars playing nickels!
There were very few children visible on this cruise. In fact the children’s area was completely taken over by adults. Adults used the kids hot tub, pool and lounge chair area.
I LOVE freestyle cruising. We dined at: The Garden, Windows, Blue Lagoon and Raffles. The food in the main dining rooms was really good. I did not experience the long wait that previous cruisers had complained of. We never had to wait more than a couple of minutes to eat dinner. We usually ate around 6pm, but this did vary up to 7pm and again, did not have to wait for a table.
I must admit that I do miss just a little; getting to know the wait staff and having them remember that I drink ice tea etc. However, the other benefits of freestyle far outweigh this slight drawback. Our food was good and the portions were more than adequate. I really enjoyed dining in the main dining rooms. Raffles buffet was fine, typical in my opinion for a ship buffet. The Blue Lagoon was the only place on board to get good French fries. There was food available constantly! I do have the menus from the main dining room that I would be happy to email to anyone who wants them.
My room steward did a great job. He was not overly friendly, but my cabin was cleaned well and he was always polite. I had brought onboard a small cooler bag to store my diet caffeine-free Pepsi and he kept this full of ice at all times.
The staff all over the ship was very friendly and helpful however; my sister did surprise a couple of crew members who were poking fun on the passengers. They were mimicking a passenger asking how to get to Windows. They just about tripped over themselves apologizing when they realized they had been heard. We found this quite funny and harmless as I am sure they do get asked the same things over and over again!
I did not enjoy the Cruise Director. I believe his name was Ricky. He did not always introduce the shows or performers. He wasn’t funny and I had a hard time understanding him when he spoke. The crowd did not react to him.
The shows in the Moulin Rouge were average. The comedian on board was far from funny. He tried to sell his CDs after the show and not one person ventured forward to purchase one. The musical shows left something to be desired. I did enjoy one, but then left the others early.
There was a wide variety of activities going on at all times. I prefer lounging in the fresh warm air and reading, however, my mother was on the go constantly. She said that she hated to go to bed, because she was having too much fun. ( I think this was her first of many cruises to come!) I have a copy of the freestyle daily papers if anyone is interested in this.
Barbados: Upon arrival, it was overcast and raining on and off. It was very foggy. I had planned to spend the day at the Crane Hotel and beach. We cancelled these plans and instead took a taxi into the town to shop. This was a disappointing stop and in hindsight, I wish that I would have at least taken a tour.
Grenada: I loved this stop. I had planned on going to Grand Anse beach for the day, but the morning started out rainy and overcast, so instead we decided to take a tour. We had a wonderful tour guide, Garfield St. Louis. It was very sad to see the devastation that Hurricane Ivan caused on this beautiful island. The hurricane was four months ago, and many houses still have tarps for roofs. Only 30 percent of the island has had their electrical service restored. The spice crops have been destroyed.. We ended our tour at Grand Anse beach as the sun finally came out. The beach was enjoyable; however the vendors were quite aggressive selling their wares. After settling down, they did finally leave us alone to enjoy the afternoon. Garfield came back to transport us to the cruise ship for 3 dollars a person. Garfield was very knowledgeable and personable and my time with him was one of the highlights of the cruise. If anyone is interested in booking a tour with him, I do have his home and cell phone numbers. He only charged us 20 dollars a person plus tip
St. Lucia: This was our only tender stop. I had pre-arranged a island tour with Cosol after a recommendation from the Cruise Critic boards. This tour was also WONDERFUL. There were 6 of us total on the tour, his air conditioned van was very comfortable. He took us to bananas plantations, the Volcano, waterfalls, fishing villages, the rain forest, Pitons and much, much more. He stopped along the way at many local eateries and purchased local foods for us to try. He clued us in on where to shop to get the best prices. Our tour was going to end at a beach, but the weather did not cooperate. The tour was 35 dollars a person, but he paid for all of the food sampling and entrance fees along the way. I highly recommend spending the day with Cosol when in St. Lucia. I have his email if anyone is interested.
Antigua: I had planned on spending the day at Grand Pineapple Beach, which is an all inclusive beach resort (35 dollars includes use of water equip, unlimited food, drink, beach chairs, etc), however, once again the weather did not cooperate, so instead I wasted my time shopping and returned to the ship very early.
Tortola: I usually book my excursion privately, as I do not like taking a tour with a hundred people and usually can save quite a bit of money, however here; I took the ship sponsored tour, “Virgin Gorda Highlights”. The stop is so short at Tortola, that you do not have enough time to do the Baths on your own and make it back to the ship before sailing. This tour was wonderful because it is basically just transportation to the Baths. I had seen pictures before going, but the real thing blew me away. Gorgeous! I believe that the beauty equals that of the US Virgin Island St. John. Snorkeling was amazing with many beautiful fish and sea creatures seen. Our excursion was late getting back, but because we booked through the ship, they waited for us. There is a place to rent snorkel equipment here; I think the charge was 7 dollars. I did bring my own, but really didn’t need to as the equipment here was good. You do need to be reasonably flexible and steady on your feet to do the walk through the caves. The cost of the ship sponsored tour was 54 dollars and was worth every penny. At the end of the day, everyone received a complimentary glass of rum punch or fruit punch. There was also a very nice gift shop.
The island temperatures were in the mid 80’s every day. Even though we only had a few days of sun. It was still a wonderful vacation.
Fellow Cruisers: The crowd seemed much older than our previous cruises. There were very few children and I would say the majority of the passengers were 50+, but certainly all ages were represented. There were actually a few very RUDE passengers. I can’t help but be amazed at how miserable some people can be. If they are this miserable while I vacation, I can’t imagine what they are like in the real world.
I really didn’t mind this day. Both breakfast and lunch were served at raffles. Pool games were scheduled. We were the 3rd from the last color called for debarkation and we were off the ship at 1:30. I love that you can stay in your cabin until your color is called. The process was very smooth and painless.
I took a shuttle van that I arranged at the pier back to the Fort Lauderdale airport. This cost was 20 dollars a person plus tip. My return flight was on TransMeridian, and unfortunately, this was the worst part of my trip. The seats were very small, and leg room was nonexistent. They actually made us get off the plane on our 45 minute lay over and get in line to get new boarding passes. They instructed us to leave our belonging on the plane, then once off the plane they told us we needed our previous boarding passes. When my mother tried to get her new boarding pass for the second leg of the flight, they told her that she was a no-show on the original flight and no new boarding pass was available. They finally believed her and gave her a new boarding pass, but it was not easy. The flight crew was unprofessional (when trying to read the standard safety info, the flight attendant kept laughing and had to stop, when we landed, she welcomed us to the wrong city, then laughed again, before spitting out the correct city, etc. When paging other crew members in the terminal on their radios, they made jokes the whole time.” I will try not to fly this airline again (however, this was our only choice to get back to our small city airport before midnight….so I may not be able to avoid it.)
The cruise was wonderful. The ship was great, the staff was great, and the itinerary was great. I would highly recommend this cruise. If I can answer any questions, I would be glad to do so.