This was my first trip on NCL. I’ve previously cruised with Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean.
We are Houstonians and so were able to drive directly to the dock. They had a convenient luggage drop off area with porters waiting to assist and parking was less than 50 feet away as well (long term parking is 49$). The unloading, waiting in the quickly moving line, registration and getting on to the ship were all easy and accomplished in about 20 minutes.
One thing I really liked about this ship was how they greeted you at the entry with spray on hand sanitizer (this was also at each food station in the café and at the entrance to all restaurants).
We dropped our stuff in our cabins. (category FF) These cabins were the tiniest I’d seen yet on a cruise line. There were no refrigerators, which bummed me out since I like to keep cold drinks handy. The shower was just big enough to fit into but there was no way I could pull the curtain and still turn around without it gluing itself to me. It worked fine without the curtain though. Also there was just one plug in the room on the desk behind the phone. I was glad that I brought the extension cord. I was also glad I’d brought the table fan as the ac didn’t seem to be working very well and we had it all the way turned down. My 5 yr old insisted on sleeping naked on top of the covers he was so warm.
We then made our way to the Seven Seas dining room for lunch. The dining room was mostly empty with only about 4 tables occupied total. We were a party of 7 and they tried to seat us at a table for 6. We politely asked if we couldn’t perhaps sit at the table for 8 directly next to the table for 6. The hostess said no we could not as that table had no waitress service. We politely mentioned that all the waitress would have to do is turn around to serve that table as well and of course we would be more comfortable at the table for 8. The hostess again said no so we sat at the table. I was flabbergasted that they would actually persist at squishing us together for no reason and hoped this didn’t set the tone for the whole trip.
The food was fine. Not amazing. Not bad either. All the meals we had in Seven Seas were palatable with the exception of a vegetarian curry dish one day which I couldn’t eat and so traded meals with my husband. He couldn’t choke it down either. The service the rest of the week was good as well. I had no complaints there. I love the freestyle idea but I did miss someone knowing what I liked already as on previous cruises.
We dined in the Four Seasons dining room only once. The view and atmosphere was nice here but we ended up with a waiter that I can only describe as sullen. He argued with my sister because she wanted ice cream from the kid’s menu instead of a dessert from the adult menu and then took his sweet time getting it. After a 20 minute wait for the ice cream, we inquired about it to the girl refilling our tea and she went to him and reminded him. He appeared to be arguing with her about it. He eventually brought it over but set it down roughly and left without a word.
We dined in Pasta Café once and this was very good from the food to the service to the atmosphere. Very pleased here.
We ate at Le Bistro once as well. This was definitely the culinary highlight of the trip. The food was MUCH better than anything elsewhere on the ship. I had a wild mushroom soup that I have to say is probably the BEST mushroom soup I have ever had in my life.
The surf n turf was amazing as well and the service was superior.
I was sorry that we’d scheduled our meal for the last day of the trip. If we had gone there earlier, we definitely would have made a repeat visit.
Room service: Ugh. Don’t bother.
The shows I caught were very enjoyable. The casino was large and well stocked with slots and gaming tables. The bingo was fun and I love those machines they have now that do all the work for you. Sadly I didn’t win any of the games. J But I had fun playing. Game room and library: stock as usual was on the slim side but I’m still waiting to be on a cruise ship that takes this room seriously. Art auctions were good and I came away with 3 free pieces of artwork. The movies shown during our trip in the theatre were Can we Dance, Ray and Taxi. I think there was another but I don’t remember. The band poolside was good and the “vibe” around the pool was fun too. The pools were all salt water which was a bit of a drag. I much prefer the fresh water pools. They had two pools. The main pool had cool sides all around where you could sit or lay in about 3 inches of water. The interior however was 6 feet all over. The second pool also had the surrounding “splash” area (much larger area for this one) and then a 3 foot depth side and a 6 foot depth side. This was the children’s pool. Both my 2 year old and 5 year old had no issues in this pool aside from the salt in their eyes.
My kids were looking forward to this trip having loved the kid’s clubs on Princess. This time round my 14 year old was very disappointed with the teen’s club. However, I really think this had more to do with not making a “connection” with any potential friends than the activities that were on offer. This of course isn’t anything the cruise line can control.
He had brought along his xbox just in case something like this happened and so he was happy playing xbox games for most of the cruise (?!)
My 2 yr old and 5 year old both loved the club and my 5 begged me to sign them up on a port day that we were staying on the ship (Cozumel). So we did and it turned out that they and their 9 year old cousin were the only children signed up for the port day. They still did okay but I felt guilty having them in there and kept checking on them in case they wanted to leave. When I checked in at 2:40 pm, they still hadn’t had lunch. I asked the counselor when they would have lunch and she said soon. After I picked up the kids at 5 pm they said they were starved and had only had ice cream to eat all day. Hmmm… I never did confront the counselor about that but felt sure my kids were telling the truth by the way they scarfed down dinner. That was the last port day I put them in the club. They enjoyed it overall and the 5 year old thought it was better than the Princess club too. I have the schedule if anyone would like to see it.
Cabin Steward: I saw our steward a few times and each time he was pleasant. He wasn’t very accessible for anything we needed and I really missed that call service button on the phone that we used on Princess. Whenever we needed him, we had to hunt through the hallways and ask around until we could find him. Our room was cleaned on occasion but not every day as it seemed like the times he wanted to clean our room always clashed with us either sleeping in, my daughter’s naps or her early bedtime.
I had the mini hot stones massage and it was bliss. Loved it ! My sister had the full body massage and didn’t like it because they wouldn’t dim the lights so she felt like she couldn’t relax.
We didn’t do any of the ship’s tours. We did our own thing in every port except Belize which was probably a good thing considering how much it rained. In Belize we had booked the Shark Ray Alley and Barrier Reef tour through Coral Breeze.
Coral Breeze staff were all great. We had brought the kids along thinking it was a simple on your own snorkel. Its not. Its actually a snorkel tour where you swim behind the tour guide through the reef. This was a bit more athletic than I’d figured to be and everyone in my party with the exception of my husband (a strong swimmer) missed seeing the fish and coral for the most part as we were too busy either trying to keep up with the group in the strong currents, trying to fix our equipment or generally trying not to drown. It was a great tour and a memorable day but I definitely wanted people to be more prepared for it than we were. Two of the CB crew took my younger kids out in life jackets and let them splash around the boat so my husband and I could both take the tour. We had originally planned to have each of us take turns snorkeling while the other watched the kids but the way the tour was set up didn’t allow for this.
We then went from the coral reef to shark ray alley. The crew through sardines and small bait into the ocean to attract the sharks and rays. The sharks came, ate the food and left before we even got into the water. The rays hung around and are actually quite social. There were tons of them swimming around us and the CB guide brought one up for petting (slimy). The water here was about 4-5 feet so you could stand up but the currents were pretty strong and quite a few of the people in our group, including me, kept getting slammed back into the boat. I ended up in the propellers a few times. Luckily I didn’t get cut. Overall the tour was a lot more physically demanding than I had expected. I’m not sure how much this had to do with the tropical storm brewing in the gulf.
Our second to last day on the ship, I woke up with bacterial conjunctivitis (pink eye). Not sure where I got it but I made sure to be careful what I touched and notified the Ship’s crew so they could heavily sanitize my room for the next bunch of people.
All in all the trip was okay. I’m a bit conflicted about our next cruise and if we should try NCL again. I think it’s well known that the ships that leave from Houston & Galveston are not the best of the line for NCL or Carnival. I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone that has sailed both the Sea and one of NCL’s newer ships. We could just go with the tried and true Princess and Royal Caribbean.
Bottom line is…it was a cruise and therefore a good thing.
Hey, we could have been at work!
Raidiance of the Seas April 2002
Royal Princess July 30, 2004
Sapphire Princess March 26, 2005
NCL Sea June 4, 2005