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Host Michell

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    I like them all!
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    all of them!

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  1. Please continue the discussion here. The previous thread was closed due to its large size, but remains available to read at this link -- http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1518418
  2. Part one of this thread, which is now read only, may be found at this link -- http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=989623 The last post was --
  3. Host Michell

    Quick post from Ruby Princess

    Hello, all, I'm sailing the beautiful Ruby Princess this week (my first time on her) and had a couple of updates to post based on some questions lately on the boards. This won't be a "live from" because I'm on vacation and my goal is to leave the ship as loose as a bag of jello before heading back to real life! :) Two things I did want to report, though, based on some current "hot issues" here: 1) The balcony furniture on Caribe on Ruby still consists of 2 reclining chairs, 2 upright chairs, and 1 dining height table; and 2) you can still purchase the Sanctuary for a full week. Hope everyone has a great week, see you all after the 8th. Please be kind to Host Andy, who will be hosting this busy board by himself this week. :)
  4. In January 2012 Princess implemented a new fleetwide smoking policy on their ships. In this thread -- http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1352093 -- we've asked you to limit smoking discussion to the most recent thread on the subject. The purpose of this new "sticky" thread is to be the thread for discussion about smoking on Princess and your experiences with the new policy onboard the ships. This is in lieu of having multiple simultaneous threads about various aspects of the policy, and this is where we will combine posts and new threads with cruise-related questions and discussion about Princess's smoking policy. Thank you to all for participating in our community!
  5. Hello, everyone! As the title says, we've created this thread for members to discuss the Princess Entertainer of the Year contest, the finalists, etc. Enjoy!
  6. Hello, everyone! Please remember that here at Cruise Critic we have guidelines about recommending tour providers, because we are committed to our boards a) containing useful information from travelers who have "been there, done that" and are willing to share their experiences to help fellow members, and b) being free of advertising type posts. A number of our policies are reprinted below. In addition, we do not permit posts recommending tours which have not yet been taken. It is that issue which prompted me to post today -- we have had several posts here on this board lately recommending tour guides before the tour has been taken. If you encounter a post here at CC which you think violates any of our guidelines, please use the red triangle on the post to report it to us for review. We do not do individual replies to those members who have reported posts, but we do review all reported posts, in addition to performing our regular reviews of the boards. The following guidelines are reposted from this link, should you require additional information -- http://boards.cruisecritic.com/announcement.php?f=169&a=64 Ports of Call Posting Guidelines Reviews/Recommendations of Tour Operators/Guides Legitimate third-party recommendations/reviews for tour operators/guides/businesses *must* be posted in response to a request for the information. All others will be removed from the boards. Additionally, repeatedly posting the same “review” over and over in response to many threads is considered “spamming” and will be removed from the boards. Legitimacy of third-party recommendations to be determined at the sole discretion of Cruise Critic. Post Shore Excursion Shares In ROLL CALLS Posts looking for members to "share" your excursion, or posts mentioning that a few more spaces in a van are available and you should contact so and so, are not allowed on the Ports of Call forums. Please use the ROLL CALL thread for your ship’s sailing to find others willing to share your shore excursion tour costs. Participation of Tour Operators/Guides/Businesses/Drivers/Locals in Ports of Call Our Ports of Call forums are meant to be a place for cruisers to exchange information with other cruisers. Therefore, the participation of Tour Operators, Tour Guides, Drivers, Business Owners, Transportation and Taxi drivers is not allowed. “One Post Wonders” – will be removed from the boards without notification to the author. This phenomenon essentially amounts to single or multiple posts created by a brand-new member touting tour operators/businesses/guides/drivers in ports of call.
  7. Hi, all! Because of another thread today I was looking again at what is included in spa-level accommodations on the Epic (suite, deluxe balcony, balcony). I do believe NCL has changed their language on the website about this. On the Epic site it used to state explicitly that these spa staterooms received 24 hour access to the thermal suite. That appears to be gone now. Now it says "private keycard entrance to the stateroom area" (doesn't everyone have that?) When I did a mock booking for our sailing in April of 2011 at ncl.com, the cabin description now doesn't mention 24 hour access to the thermal suite either -- it says "entry to the Mandara Spa experience," (which is not defined anywhere and so could include anything, or nothing). For the Spa Deluxe Balcony it says : "This is where stress and muscle aches instantly disappear. You'll receive private key card access to the spa stateroom complex, entry to the Mandara Spa experience and the fitness center. With soothing spa décor, curved walls, sitting area, private balcony, luxury bath and shower and two lower beds that convert to a queen these three-guest staterooms have it all," then a bit later it adds "Only on Norwegian Epic will you have the opportunity to experience all the Spa Deluxe Balcony Staterooms have to offer. With private key card access to the Spa Stateroom complex, these exceptional spa décor accommodations provide a relaxing sitting area so you can enjoy your private balcony." With some of NCL's other recent ill-considered changes (bar set ups, all suites with courtyard access, etc) I'm starting to wonder if they are going to change what's actually included with the spa level staterooms to a "spa decor" package that excludes actual spa facilities. I'm not changing our booking (for now) but I'll be watching to see what other little tweaks and wording games NCL plays with this. I'd thought it was supposed to be competitive with Carnival's spa cabins on the Splendor and Dream, but not if it doesn't include access to the thermal facililities. Anyone else have any insight about it?
  8. Hi, all! We are sailing out of the Port of New Orleans this December. I've tried a few searches here but I think maybe I can't find the right phrase to trigger what I'm looking for. When we sail from the Port of Miami, we like to fly in a day before and stay at the Intercontinental (or in a pinch the Holiday Inn POM) -- both give a great view of the port, are safe hotels with nearby restaurants and stores, and a cab ride from them to the port is cheap ($10 or so). I'm trying to find the New Orleans equivalent of those, if that makes sense. I've found lots of info on hotels which will let us park our car during the cruise, but we are going to fly in rather than drive -- we value more time in New Orleans over the savings from driving ourselves. It seems like maybe something I've seen called "River Watch" and "River Walk" and "River Side" on various threads may be the area we want -- can anyone give a bit more direction on that? Is that a place adjacent to the port? What other services are there? If we choose to go to the French Quarter the night before the cruise are taxis readily available? Do any hotels in that area offer airport (not cruise port) shuttle services? Thanks for any guidance. I'm a bit lost on this one because the search engine let me down -- normally it's very helpful!
  9. Hi, everyone! The Triumph cruises from New York City to Canada are receiving a lot of reviews recently, so I thought maybe rather than doing one of my usual "travelogue" style reviews I would just give some thoughts in various categories. I have a slightly different take on these cruises than some reviewers. I was on the ship for nine nights, having done the 6/20 and 6/25 cruises back to back, and I was sailing by myself. I took this trip primarily to relax and rest, as well as to see a couple of places I'd never been. I didn't have to worry about driving or parking, as I'd flown into NYC four days earlier and spent some time sightseeing (in the rain -- the news said this was the third wettest June on record in New York City -- and I can believe it)! This was my first Carnival cruise in about seven years, so I had no recent Carnival experiences to compare it to, though I have sailed several other lines, and I do read the Carnival boards so I know what some of the frequently-discussed issues are. ;) [U]Embarkation[/U]: On embarkation day I used the Dial 7 car service (I'd planned on a cab, which might have been a tad cheaper, but it was raining that morning and I didn't want to try to hail a cab in the rain). They were right on time and were able to drop me off right at the porter stand at about 11:25 AM. The lines were divided by decks, and moved quickly -- by 11:45 I was seated and waiting for boarding zone 9 to be called, and by 12:10 I was onboard the Triumph. I found everyone courteous and friendly -- a very smooth start to the trip. I was extra-pleased when my suitcase was delivered at my cabin before 2 PM. I was unpacked and exploring by 2:30. [U]Muster/Sailaway[/U]: On June 20 it was raining, so I wasn't as disappointed when the ship began sailaway during the muster drill as I might have been. On June 25 the weather was nice and sunny, and both muster and sailaway were delayed, so there was no conflict there. I had lots of time after muster to go to Deck 9 forward to see us cast off and start down the Hudson, and then to the funnel deck aft to see us sailing under the bridge. I was able to get really nice sailaway photos and I was very happy about that. :) As I've read in a few other reviews, I thought a SMALL number of my fellow passengers were pretty rude during muster, both times, but particularly on the 25th. At station G there were two women who talked loudly throughout the drill, a group of teenagers who vocally made fun of the crew as they were demonstrating the life jackets, and some people who just walked away during the drill, ignoring the crew's requests to stop. When I was putting away my life jacket afterwards I saw a woman from the cabin two doors down from me talking to the steward, saying that she had skipped muster because "we know what to do." She then asked the steward, "by the way, are we in the front or back part of the boat here in this cabin?" :rolleyes: Suuuure, she knows JUST what to do in an emergency -- as soon as she figures out which end of the ship she's on! Anyway, it wasn't only the passengers. Based on this most recent experience on the Triumph, I was left with the impression that Carnival itself doesn't take muster drill for passengers seriously (at least not as seriously as the other lines I've sailed), and as a result neither does Carnival's crew. They do not take attendance, they do not wait for absent passengers to be present, they do not enforce the rules about staying quiet and listening during the drill, etc. We were told at our station there were supposed to be five lines of passengers -- there were three, which seems to indicate that only about 60% of the passengers were even present at the drill. During the transition day of my back to back I had a chance to see a crew-only muster drill and THAT one was quite serious. The contrast to the "whatever" attitude at the passenger drill was marked. I don't know whether that implies an overall lackadaisical attitude about passenger safety, or not, but I did find it troubling. No wonder every muster drill thread here on this board has several people saying that Carnival doesn't care if they skip drill -- those folks apparently are right! I guess it could vary from ship to ship -- but I don't think it should, and it's not very confidence-inspiring to realize that the crew doesn't care about "this important safety drill." [U]Cabin[/U]: I had Cabin 2445, Category 1A. I posted a separate thread with a bunch of photos of this cabin, since it's often discussed here in solo traveler and 1A threads. My cabin steward was great, the cabin was always clean -- no complaints about service or cleanliness at all. I did find the shower to be temperamental in the extreme. I'd get the temperature perfect, but before I was done showering it would have varied from freezing to scalding several times, requiring me continually to adjust it -- irritating at best, dangerous at worst -- sometimes it suddenly got so hot my skin was reddened for quite a while -- a child or older person could easily have been burned. [U]Dining[/U]: I requested and received late seating on both trips -- I'd have preferred anytime dining but the Triumph hasn't implemented it yet, so I went for late. The first part I was in the Paris dining room and the second part I was in the London dining room, both times at the "solo" table. I preferred Paris, because it's larger and feels airier, but that might also be affected by the fact that our wait team in the Paris dining room (Joan and Cynthia from Peru) was simply wonderful. The staff in the London dining room at our table couldn't seem to get it together -- they seemed out of sync with each other and with delivery to our table. For instance, not one time did we receive coffee with our desserts, even though we all requested it be served that way, and had ordered it at the same time. Every night we reminded them about the coffee as the desserts were served, and every night coffee finally showed up after the dessert dishes had been cleared. I thought the dining room food was very good to excellent overall. Some highlights were the mushroom soup, the chilled fruit soups, prime rib, baby back ribs, Maine lobster, and the warm chocolate melting cake. There were a few duds -- diet pumpkin pie (made without sugar, and also without any kind of pumpkin spices <shudder>), baked chicken (extremely dry), and a couple of other things. But overall I was very pleased. For breakfast I normally got room service or the "express breakfast" on the aft lido deck (at the grill). There was NEVER a line at this location, nor was there a "bacon policeman" to dole it out with tongs. I did eat breakfast in the dining room twice -- and I think the eggs benedict there is the best I've had anywhere. Really yummy! I don't care for a dining room atmosphere at lunchtime, so in order to avoid the insane lines at the South Beach buffet, I tried to eat lunch late. That buffet is just abysmal due to extremely poor design in that the buffet is just twin long, long lines -- no action stations, separate salad bar, etc. You have to wait while each person ahead of you decides if they want 3 olives, or 4 on their salad -- and do they want croutons or bacon bits -- or maybe both -- etc., etc.. I'd read about this here prior to the trip -- stuck my head in on the first day to witness it (on my way to the pizzeria at the aft lido for lunch) -- and from that point on I never went into the buffet before 2 PM! Even with eating late there often still were lines -- and more often than not I chose either the NY Deli sandwich window, or the Hong Kong noodle window -- both of which I thought were better than the food on the buffet anyway. Other food I enjoyed was the sushi in the evenings, pizza from the aft lido deck pizzeria, and the room service turkey sandwich. [U]Entertainment[/U]: I saw both production shows -- "Wonderful World" and "The Big Easy." The following are my opinions only -- you may disagree! I thought the first one had interesting sets, pretty costumes, and performers trying their best -- but I didn't think the choreography and song choice were very good. It was pretty ho-hum overall. I thought "The Big Easy" was much better -- the song choice was a lot better, and the choreography wasn't as repetitive. I'd go to "The Big Easy" again (and did) but passed on that chance for the other one! The fly-in entertainers were good! The comedians on both trips were very good (Dan Siegel and Leighann Lord), and I thought the hypnotist on the June 25 sailing, Asad, was very funny. His R-rated show is DEFINITELY R-rated. Take them seriously when they say before the show "If you are under 18 or easily offended, leave now." Since I didn't fall in either category, I stayed and thought it was great. :D The other entertainers I heard throughout the ship were also good. There seemed to be good music choices everywhere -- Club Rio, Venezia, the Piano Bar, the Casino Bar, the Oxford Bar, the Lobby Bar -- lots of good choices and different music styles. There were also musicians on the Lido deck when the weather was good. This may be heresy, but I am not a fan of the giant tv screen on the lido deck. I thought it was played WAY too loud, especially when they were playing a concert -- like the Beyonce concert they played during the port day in Saint John. When I got back to the ship I tried to sit out and read and enjoy the sight of the town, but the volume on the screen was so loud I could feel the bass in my lungs, as if at a rock concert. Very unpleasant. I also found it virtually impossible to get away from the sound of that screen so that I could listen to my own music through my headphones -- that got better when the weather improved and they put deck chairs on those decks behind the screen, though. [U]Ports[/U]: Having done my research ahead of time, I had a wonderful visit in both ports (including Saint John twice). In Saint John on the first day I took a tour to St. Martins and the Bay of Fundy, learning a lot about the extreme tides and history of this important fishing area (unfortunately, we were there at high tide so couldn't walk out to the sea caves -- low tide wasn't until after we sailed), visiting the reversing falls twice (so we got to see it going both ways), and seeing some of the beautiful countryside of New Brunswick. The second visit to Saint John I took a shuttle from the pier to the uptown area, and wandered around the Loyalist Burial Ground, the City Market area, had a snack at Billy's Seafood (fish and chips -- fabulous!), and then I walked through the harbor area taking photos and window shopping. In Halifax, I rented a car at the Westin across from the pier and drove to Peggy's Cove -- really a beautiful location. I did a self-guided walking tour using information from the visitor's center there, and then drove over to the Swissair 111 memorial, which was moving and hauntingly beautiful. I drove back to Halifax, and came to the highlight of the trip for me -- I'm a big Titanic buff, so being able to visit Fairview Cemetary to pay my respects, then to go see the artifacts at the Maritime Museum was a great opportunity. Then I returned the car and walked back to the ship. Even in the nasty weather I really enjoyed my day in Halifax. I think both these ports require a little effort by the cruiser to do some research ahead of time and think about what one would like to do. Even for a history buff there are only a few things to do while "walking around" the towns, and avid shoppers will likely be SORELY disappointed in both towns -- not a Diamonds International to be seen! I talked to several people on both trips who were disappointed in the port(s) and thought they were "boring," but when asked said all they had done was "walk around the town." :( [U]Weather[/U]: Prepare for bad weather on this routing. I'd read that, and did, but many folks on the ship apparently hadn't (judging by the number of people I saw wearing their Carnival robes as if they were coats when out on deck). Out of 9 days I was on the ship we had two sunny days, two days with mostly overcast but a little sun peeking through, and five days of rain and clouds and fog. The foghorn sounded over and over and over -- the captain only made it to a couple of events, each time apologizing and saying he'd been on the bridge due to the weather. I imagine that is a very nerve-wracking thing. There were times you couldn't see the water from the deck, and he's responsible for this mammoth ship which has a schedule to keep. [U]Disembarkation[/U]: At the end of the first trip I didn't "disembark" but had a chance to see how it went and everyone was off the ship by 9:50 AM. Carnival handled the back to back transition easily. Those of us doing both cruises met in the Lobby Bar at 10 AM and about 10:30 we were escorted off the ship, through customs, then back onto the ship and we set up our new sign and sail at the purser's desk. By 10:40 we were taking photos of the completely empty ship (except for crew getting ready for new arrivals). Disembarkation yesterday wasn't quite as smooth -- my zone wasn't called until 9:55 AM and I wasn't the last zone to be called, nor was self-assist disembarkation finished at that point either. Once I was off the ship, though, it was quick and easy through customs and off to my transportation to the airport. [U]Service[/U]: I have nothing but good to report here, other than the London dining room glitches mentioned above. I thought everyone was friendly, the crew I ran into always said "hello" or "good evening," and I was constantly noticing crew members performing maintenance or repairs on various things. [U]Random Notes[/U]: [LIST] [*]The ship was nearly full to max capacity, and felt it at times, but less so that I'd feared. The buffet area, as noted, was often a madhouse, but I never had trouble finding a seat at a show or bar, or in the casino, or on the Lido deck; [*]For as full as the ship was, I really witnessed very little rudeness from fellow passengers -- or maybe I was just so into doing my own thing and enjoying my cruise I didn't notice it for the most part, which is also possible; [*]Use Decks 5 or 9 to go from one end of the ship to the other -- 3 and 4 are broken up by the galley shared by the 2 dining rooms -- it's confusing until you get used to it; [*]If the galley tour is offered during your cruise, take it -- it was very interesting and something only a few lines still offer; [*]It was partly a function of the weather (which kept deck 3 outdoors, that has a long expanse of deck for ocean viewing, closed a good bit of the time), but this ship lacks quiet outdoor public spaces where you can hear the "swish, swish" ocean sound; [*]I found this to be a "loud" ship -- very few areas were designed for or conducive to small groups and quiet conversations -- even the promenade deck seating was right beside the casino, for example. I found myself using places like the disco during the day for a quiet spot to read and listen to my music through headphones; [*]The ship handled going ashore and reboarding at the ports of call well -- only a few short lines during the three port days I had. [/LIST][U]Overall[/U]: I enjoyed myself on these cruises. I think Carnival offers a good product at a good price -- which to me means it's a good value. I will sail Carnival again, and next I want to go with my SO and have a balcony cabin (which would address my need for quiet areas and ocean swish sounds!). I'll be glad to answer any questions if someone has them. I can't say much about things like Camp Carnival, but I did do a lot of the activities and such over the 9 days and I do have all the Capers to look stuff up if necessary.
  10. I sailed on the Carnival Triumph on June 20, and June 25, 2009 (back to back) and was lucky enough to have Cabin 2445 (Category 1A) for all nine nights. I know that a couple of photos of this cabin or its port-side sister 2444, and maybe one of them from the Liberty, have been posted here, but not recently. I thought it might be good to post some recent photos of this 1A cabin in case someone might find it helpful. EDITED TO ADD -- Webshots' format change made the links in the original posts invalid -- I have uploaded the photos to a different site, check the last post in this thread, thanks Entryway from corridor: Cabin Views: Drop Down Bed if second person in cabin (don't have one of it down and made up, as this was a solo cruise): Storage in closets: [Rest of the photos in first reply]
  11. Host Michell

    Another NCL website glitch?

    I figure this probably IS another case where NCL's technology has failed, but the links on the right side of every ship's menu no longer work for me. I can't see the deck plans, I can't see the staterooms, I can't click the "suites and villas" thing -- nothing. Is it just me?
  12. Hi, everyone! I will be on a Carnival cruise in June which has a day in Halifax as a port call. I'm a huge Titanic buff, and am well aware of the connection between Halifax and the Titanic, so seeing the Fairview Cemetary and the Maritime Museum are big priorities. I'd also love to visit Peggy's Cove, since I love to take photos. Based on that and the price of the excursions (over $100 for a visit to the museum and cemetary? :eek:), I figured renting a car is the way to go on that day. Where I'm having some trouble is figuring out a route/directions to the places I want to visit. I know the Museum is walking distance from the cruise ship dock, and I did reserve my car at the Alamo desk at the Westin Nova Scotia, which is close by. I printed Mapquest directions to Peggy's Cove. The closest I could find for an address to Fairview was "the corner of Connaught and Windsor," so I'm still working on that one. I wondered if maybe anybody local could give a bit more specific directions, or a link to a magic site like "a day in Halifax for a Titanic buff?" Thanks for any help, and if I've omitted critical info, let me know?
  13. Host Michell

    Spa question -- Triumph

    Hi, everyone! :) Having just finished our spring break cruise, I'm now looking forward to b2b cruises on the Triumph from NYC this June. I THINK I know the answer to this question, but wanted to ask just in case my impression is wrong (in which case I'll be very happy!). Our last 2 cruises (HAL Volendam and Norwegian Dawn) have offered the chance to purchase some version of a "thermal suite pass" or a "spa pass," giving access to a limited access area (only those who purchased passes, plus those receiving treatments in the spa that day), with hot tubs, loungers, rain showers, steam rooms, saunas, etc. Does the Triumph have anything like this? For that matter, does any Carnival ship? I haven't found anything here using the search function, so I think I know the answer, but to be sure I thought I should also ask. Thanks for any help!
  14. Hi, everyone! We flew back from Miami today and while the laundry's going and I'm getting ready to head back to school tomorrow I finished my review of our spring break cruise on the Dawn and submitted it to CC. Since publication takes a few days, I'll also post it here. I glanced at the posts and it seems at least one review from the cruise before ours has generated a lot of buzz, so I'll be curious to see what it says! Enjoy and as always, feel free to ask any questions. I have all the dailies, and a ton of photos I'm still working my way through prior to uploading. MichellP [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]This cruise was intended as a relaxing spring break getaway for my SO and me. We are experienced cruisers, and I’m an elementary teacher – so when I found a great price on an AE Penthouse for this spring break sailing back in 2007 I booked it – yes, we waited nearly two years for this cruise! We are 40-somethings and it’s just the two of us when we cruise, so I’m afraid I won’t have much helpful info to offer about children’s programs and such. Our goal was to enjoy ourselves, relax as much as possible, try the various specialty restaurants – and basically rest and rejuvenate.[/SIZE][/FONT] [U][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE][/U] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Pre-Cruise[/U]: We flew into Miami on Friday, the day prior to sailing, on Delta. Our flight left a bit late but landed on time at MIA. We had reserved a town car through LeBlanc Limousine ([/FONT][/SIZE][URL="http://www.leblanclimo.com/"][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3][COLOR=#800080]http://www.leblanclimo.com[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]) and our driver was waiting for us at baggage claim. He stopped by a Publix for us so we could get soft drinks for the cruise, then dropped us off at the Intercontinental. I’d originally reserved a room at the Holiday Inn POM, but about three weeks prior to the cruise TravelZoo offered a fabulous deal at the Intercontinental. A guaranteed harbor view room at the IC was only $10 more than a standard room at the Holiday Inn (no view guaranteed), so we switched. We were really glad, too. The room was enormous, with a fabulous view of the ships sailing on Friday – the Norwegian Sky, the Norwegian Pearl, Carnival Inspiration, and the Jewel of the Seas. We walked over to Bayside for dinner at the Hard Rock.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Embarkation[/U]: We woke up Saturday morning fairly early, to the sight of our ship, the Norwegian Dawn, plus Liberty of the Seas and Carnival Liberty. As we took our time getting ready we saw the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Comfort pulling into port with a fireboat water salute. Around 11:15 AM we took a cab to the port, arriving around 11:30 AM. Check in was a breeze since this trip we sailed in a suite. We met the concierge, Anshuman, and his assistant Edwin, and gave them our dining preferences list. We were escorted onto the ship and were sitting down in Cagney’s to lunch by 12:10 PM. It was a wonderful, relaxing beginning to the trip. After lunch we visited the El Dorado Spa, and booked the spa package for the duration of the trip -- $150 per couple, or $99 for an individual.[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]The Ship[/U]: The Dawn is a very well-maintained ship. We saw cleaning and polishing going on at all hours during the cruise. I found the layout confusing at first, due to the large atrium in the middle breaking up several of the decks. I studied the deck plans (again – I THOUGHT I’d done that before the cruise, but not well enough, apparently!), and decided to use Deck 7 as the main thoroughfare to get to the various elevator banks. That helped a lot, plus it was convenient – our cabin was on Deck 8 so we only had to walk down one flight. One thing I really liked about the Dawn was the art deco brass artwork in several places onboard.[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Our sailing was over spring break and the week before Easter, and the ship was very, very full. There were over 2700 passengers and over 800 children. Even so, the ship seems to handle those kinds of loads fairly well. There were only a few times where we really felt like part of a crowd, but as I mentioned above there were only two of us and we weren’t sailing with kids who wanted to use the main pool, etc.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Cabin[/U]: Our cabin was 8670, an AE cabin looking out over the stern of the ship. It was wonderfully quiet, since it is located away from foot traffic and the elevators. The cabin is large, with tons of storage space (hanging, drawers, and shelves). We loved the bathroom arrangement with the tub and shower. The bedding was very comfortable, and the pillow menu was a nice touch – I could order firmer pillows, which I prefer. The large TV with built-in DVD player was much appreciated – we brought our own DVDs and enjoyed watching them in the evenings. My SO really liked the espresso machine, while I liked having the fridge (we asked our steward to empty it so I could use it for soft drinks, milk, etc.). We also enjoyed the extra room in this cabin, with enough space for a small sofa, a cushioned chair, plus a dining table with four chairs.[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Ship’s Staff and Crew[/U]: We thought Anshuman and his staff were simply outstanding. This was our first trip with concierge privileges, but it won’t be our last. We never did quite figure out what our butler was for (perhaps this is something he could have explained) – he didn’t seem to do the kinds of things I’ve read of here at Cruise Critic (I’d read he was responsible for our in-cabin dining requests, but we were rebuffed on the first sea day when I called during the afternoon to see if we could get some orange juice to make mimosas). After that I basically didn’t call him again until the last night, when we wanted Cagney’s in our cabin for supper – I guess I just didn’t know what he was for, if bringing us juice wasn’t part of his duties, and we were having a great cruise anyway so just let it slide. [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Our steward (Salaam) and his assistant were really personable and nice, and they did an adequate job of keeping the room clean and restocked. Like others have posted here, I think these folks must be greatly over-worked. They appeared to be responsible for servicing at least 25 cabins twice per day. There wasn’t anything major that happened, but there were several minor things I noticed during the week – just a few forgotten things (like no wash cloths one night; trash can not put back in room one morning) that made me think they must be really stressed.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]We met a lot of waitstaff during the week and they were uniformly friendly, smiling, and efficient. I left a STYLE card for Jessica, our waitress at LeBistro – she was SO sweet and really worked hard to make sure we had a memorable meal. Bar staff was also really good overall, though one lady at Pearly Kings could use some retraining – right after muster drill I stopped by there to pick up a bucket of beer so we could put some in the cabin and there was a lady ahead of me getting a daiquiri. Apparently the bartender thought the woman had ordered her drink “virgin” and the customer smiled and said “oh no I’m sorry, you must have misunderstood me – maybe when I said I wanted it frozen? Anyway, please just pour some in and I’ll stir it up.” The bartender said “No, I made you exactly what you said to make you.” The other customer and I just looked at one another, pretty amazed. Other than that, though, I didn’t encounter or witness any kind of rudeness or poor service during the cruise.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]The things we’d ordered or should have received were all in our cabin on sailing: Romance package letter, chocolate covered strawberries from romance package, champagne from romance package, champagne from NCL, Latitudes party invite, Latitudes pins (heard those are going away, but we received them on the Dawn), VIP party invite, and so on.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]We thought the crew earned every penny of the $12 per person daily service charge, and we tipped extra for nearly everyone as well. We really thought everyone was trying their best to help us feel pampered and welcome – and we did.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Entertainment[/U]: We have always enjoyed the entertainment on NCL ships and the Dawn was no exception. Shona, the cruise director (filling in for John Ibrahim during his vacation) was really great – funny, animated, engaging, and friendly. We greatly enjoyed chatting with her in the hot tub in the spa one afternoon (she initiated the conversation – we figured she was enjoying her down time and were going to leave her alone!). George, from the entertainment staff, ran the morning and afternoon trivia games at Pearly Kings, and he did a great job (even though they weren’t very heavily attended).[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]The ship is literally filled with music all day and evening long. Show band, pianists, vocalists – something was going on all the time. The night time shows we made it to were really good – we thought Band on the Run was best, but we also enjoyed Bollywood and the welcome aboard show. The magician was okay (his tricks were much better than his delivery/showmanship), and we were sorry to have missed the comedian’s late night show, because we thought he was pretty funny at the welcome show – but unfortunately we fell asleep the night of his adult show.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Casino, Spa, Internet[/U]: We didn’t win big at the casino, but we did enjoy the time we spent there. I like the chances for match play NCL offers, and the slot tournament is always fun. The casino wasn’t as smoky as many I’ve encountered, but the smell was definitely noticeable. There are non-smoking machines up in Spinnaker’s, though, as an option if you just like slots. [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Buying the week-long spa pass was the best decision we made all week! It was heavenly with the two different types of hot tubs, the lap pool, the steam room, the sauna, the loungers facing the ocean, the relaxation rooms, water and juice, showers and blow dryers, etc. Considering our sailing was so full, the spa was a quiet haven and we thoroughly enjoyed it every day of the cruise.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]No in-cabin internet was available during our cruise – a big disappointment to us, so we didn’t buy a package as we usually do. Apparently they’ve removed all the hard-wired connections to prepare to go wireless throughout the ship, but it’s still in transition. We did take the laptop to the internet café one day to send 2 emails we’d composed ahead of time and spent over 15 minutes getting connected and waiting for acknowledgement that the emails had been sent. After that we went “old school” – no phones, no faxes, no internet![/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Food[/U]: Food is subjective, I know. We aren’t “foodies” by any means and it doesn’t take much to make us happy. All I can report is our impressions and experiences, and I’m going to since we tried lots of the specialty dining venues and someone might find this information helpful.[/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Great experiences, plus the things we liked best: [/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [LIST] [*][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] Salsa’s (warm lobster tacos and Il Popo),[/FONT][/SIZE] [*][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] Teppanyaki (shrimp and filet combo, mochi ice cream),[/FONT][/SIZE] [*][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] Le Bistro (escargot, chocolate fondue),[/FONT][/SIZE] [*][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] Cagney’s (shrimp cocktail, filet, prime rib), and[/FONT][/SIZE] [*][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] breakfast offerings at Cagney’s – that was a wonderful way to begin our days.[/FONT][/SIZE] [/LIST][SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Okay (“no complaints”) experiences:[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]the sushi restaurant (we had lunch there one sea day),[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Bamboo (the appetizers were especially good),[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]room service club sandwich and hamburger (delivered at 3 am when we woke up hungry one night – have to love that!),[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]the Garden Café buffet (but we did avoid peak times here)[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Poor experiences:[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Blue Lagoon’s wings (this was SUCH a disappointment to me – I’ve loved the hot wings at BL in the past, but on the Dawn they offered tiny wings which tasted like they were previously-frozen and then baked to warm them up, with a small bit of sauce poured on them before they were served – they weren’t hot either in temperature or in spiciness),[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Lobster Night at Venetian (very tiny portions – 2 asparagus tips were my entire appetizer, plus the food was barely warm by the time it was served – I expected the lobster to be pretty rubbery/tough – but it was also cold!)[/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Symbol][SIZE=3]·[/SIZE] [/FONT][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Impressions (the appetizers were okay, but my osso buco was mushy and flavorless – so much so I actually returned it and asked for lobster ravioli instead – the ravioli was okay, not great – and the pizza here was just plain inedible)[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Again, those food judgments are our opinions only – and any restaurant can have an off day.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Ports of Call[/U]: We were blessed with gorgeous weather on this trip and made all of our ports of call without any problems at all. In the first port, Samana, Dominican Republic, we booked a ship excursion (Caves, Mangroves & Beach Exploration). One thing we really liked about this excursion was that the tour operator picked us up right off the ship and off we went – since this is a tender port I liked not having to tender into town first. We enjoyed seeing the sights on this tour a lot – I will say these open boats were extremely hot on this warm day, and there is a good bit of walking up and down hill in the caves – it was nice to be dropped off at Cayo Levantado and to sit down in the shade with a pina colada (served in a pineapple -- $5 each; beer was $3 each). [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]Our second port of call was St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. We booked an independent tour here – Air Force One, with “Papa Bear” ([/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://www.havefunwithus.com/"][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]http://www.havefunwithus.com[/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]). This was a great day! Papa Bear was very knowledgeable and informative. I was impressed right off the bat when he apologized profusely to those of us who met him on time, saying he was missing seven others and asked if we minded if he waited just a few minutes for them. We all said that was fine, and four of the others did arrive within ten minutes. Papa Bear handled it very professionally, and was an excellent tour guide (and advocate for his island!). We stopped at several overlooks as he explained some of the history and geography of the island. He shared information about some of the local flora with us (a bay leaf tree, stinky toe fruit, breadfruit, a cashew tree), and then dropped us at Sapphire Beach to spend a few hours. This was a gorgeous beach, with several places to find shade, on the beach food service, a bar nearby, and it wasn’t too crowded (we heard later that both Magen’s Bay and Coki Beach were jammed with cruise passengers that day – three large ships including Independence of the Seas). We returned to the ship well ahead of sailing time, and could have been dropped off downtown or at Havensight Mall to shop if we’d wanted. We highly recommend this tour -- $25 per person, payable at the end of the tour, but you must reserve ahead of time – Papa Bear doesn’t pick up folks at the pier just to fill his bus.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]The third port of call was Tortola, B. V. I. After dithering a good bit over what to do here, we booked the half-day Patouche catamaran sail to the Baths at Virgin Gorda ([/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://www.patouche.com/"][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3][COLOR=#800080]http://www.patouche.com[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]). This was a SUPER choice! The cab driver arranged by Julie at Patouche, Carlton, was right at the pier to meet us and the other family from the Dawn taking the tour – there were five of us in all, and we had the catamaran to ourselves! Clive, the captain, and Branson, the mate, were informative and friendly – the music was good – the sail across Drake Channel was scenic and fun – it was just a super relaxing experience. After we arrived at the Baths Branson led us on a snorkel tour from the catamaran to the beach, then we walked/crawled/climbed through the Baths to Devil’s Bay, and at that point we were free to swim for a while, sun on the beach, snorkel some more, and eventually to swim back out to the catamaran. As we were making our way out to the catamaran we saw two different large tour groups arriving – apparently the ship tours from the Princess ship and either the Dawn or the Costa ship. We were SO glad we’d been able to make our way through the Baths without large groups on the scene. On the sail back to East End they raised the spinnaker and let the wind take us most of the way back – it was completely quiet and so peaceful. They offered snacks, soft drinks, water, beer, and rum punch as well. This was just a wonderful day – we can’t thank the good folks at Patouche enough.[/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]We also had a day at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL’s private island, on this trip. We were on the first tender of the day – which I highly recommend – it’s worth getting up early to get as early a tender ticket as possible. Only two tenders were running (apparently there are two others but both were being serviced on our day), and we heard stories of folks waiting over two hours in corridors and stairwells just to get on the tenders. Later arrivals at the beach also had trouble finding chairs. We felt very fortunate not to have had those issues, and we really enjoyed our day on the beach. I also enjoyed snorkeling once I finally got out far enough to see anything, but I really don’t like having to wear a float vest – I think I understand why they require it (liability, probably) but I still don’t like it! [/SIZE][/FONT] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman][U]Overall impressions[/U]: We had a wonderful week on the Dawn. She’s a beautiful ship, with a great staff and crew. Our main goal for this trip was to relax, and we were able to do that very well, especially by purchasing the spa pass for the cruise. I would love to sail the Dawn again out of New York to Bermuda. We bought a Cruise Rewards on this trip, and might well use it on the Dawn. [/FONT][/SIZE] [SIZE=3][FONT=Times New Roman] [/FONT][/SIZE] [FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3] [/SIZE][/FONT]
  15. Host Michell

    Port of Miami and Luggage

    There have been SO many posts here lately about luggage being misdirected, lost, sent to the wrong ship, and so on. (Or maybe it's just me paying more attention, now that we are sailing in less than 2 weeks). I think we are going to plan on bringing onboard all of our luggage for our cruise on the Dawn, rather than trusting "the system." We've never even thought of such a thing before -- but after looking forward to this cruise for nearly two years, I do NOT want to wind up onboard without our luggage and turn our trip into a farce of "make do" clothing and toiletries. Anyone have any input that might change my mind about this? I'd rather NOT have to babysit all of our luggage until our cabin's ready, and haul it around the ship -- but (regardless of whether it's the dock workers or NCL's employees) these reports have really become VERY common the last month or so, and it's darned frightening. Alternatively, anyone know a way to help make sure our luggage makes it onto OUR ship, and then into our cabin? Per several reports here, tips to the Port of Miami longshoremen aren't doing it.
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