Posted February 12th, 2005, 11:38 PM
For outside cabins, I recommend the starboard side. On the southern leg, you’ll see the Florida coast (not usually seen on the reverse trip, but it was this time due to rough seas.) Starboard will have the view of Key West as you enter port. It is also the side that will be facing Charleston when you are there. I enjoyed the promenade deck because it was easy to go out on deck from there.
Our inside suite did not have many luxuries, but we were very comfortable. We had the standard Andes mint chocolates on our pillow each night, and clean towels each day, plus fresh ice daily. We had purchased the Honeymoon Package, which included a number of nice features.
By far, the most valuable amenity with the suites is the concierge. My parents loved all the attention, and that was lavished upon them. Natasha was very refined and detailed. She commanded a lot of respect on the ship, even to the point of having her own room in the crew quarters. Though they don’t admit to taking reservations at most times, Natasha put us on the “wait list” for our chosen time, and we were immediately seated no matter how long the line was (20 minutes at one point.)
Some sort of goody was delivered to the suite each afternoon (canapés, chocolate-dipped strawberries, etc.) Our honeymoon package included this once; my parents got it each day. They were also not charged for a night in Le Bistro, got unlimited free cans of soda and bottles of sparkling water, and a river of free booze (see below.)
Yes, I smuggled, way too much, it turned out. I don’t think they really even looked for it in the checked luggage – I had one suitcase packed with a case of 18 bottles of 1-liter diet coke, two gallon jugs of water, four cans tomato juice, and a few other things. I thought for sure they would question it, but it arrived at my door along with everything else. All bags were locked with zip-ties. I carried onboard a couple 375 ml plastic bottles on my person, had another in checked luggage, and also two bottles of boxed wine. Of this, a good portion returned home unopened because of all the free booze NCL gave my parents – three 1.14 liter bottles of anything they wanted (they got scotch.) We could only drink two of them and they took the third home.
I bought some duty-free liquor in Cozumel and brought it onboard in a distinctive box. Security paid it no attention, but there was a man at the liquor desk who politely asked to retain it. The steward put it in our room on Friday. I am sure if I had tried to conceal it, there would be no difficulty in doing so.
I bought a six-pack of beer in Key West, and put it in my backpack. The security at the gate to the Navy base inspects all packages but couldn’t care less about the beer when they saw it. There was no liquor desk on the gangway that night.
Although I brought on my own water, I ended up using it only for onshore hikes. I have a backpack with a bladder and a drinking tube so we can drink constantly and keep hydrated while walking. On the ship, the tap water was great. The only “brown” reported was Saturday morning, and I think we were docked and taking on water.
Passengers seemed to heavily use the hand sanitizers in front of each restaurant and buffet line. Staff often prompted us to use them. Sanitizers were also on the gangway and in addition, staff would have spray bottles and squirt sanitizer into your hands as you entered the ship. They are taking no chances and there were no health problems that I know of on our voyage.
I noticed no toilet problems or smells on the ship. There was one pre-planned outage we were informed of, between 1 and 5 AM. I did not need the bathrooms during that time and they worked fine in the morning.
The Atlantic in winter is a rough place, and this ship can get rocky. I doubt we had more than a taste of how bad it can get. Thursday we glided across glassy water near Key West, a few hours later, after a cold front, we bounced around in the Atlantic like a drunken chicken. The staff distributed the little bags (the kind you see in the airplane seat pockets) all over the ship for those in need. Kathy felt ill at one point but turned out all she needed was a good meal and time for the medicine to kick in. The reception desk distributes sea-sickness medicine (sea-calm) to those in need, one chewable tablet every twelve hours; “do not take if you have asthma or glaucoma”, I was warned.