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About kathy884

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    Cool Cruiser

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    St. Louis, MO
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  1. kathy884

    First time NCL cruiser thoughts

    I'm so glad you enjoyed your cruise and appreciate your detailed comments. Even though we won't be on the Bliss this makes me excited about our upcoming Getaway sailing. We sailed on the Escape two years ago, but because of unusually stormy bad weather in March the waterfront outside area was closed most of the time, so hoping to be able to experience that. We have a lot of 5:30 p.m. dining reservations and I'm hoping service won't be super slow.
  2. kathy884

    Soft Drinks on ship

    A diet coke/diet dr. peppers soda lovers experience on my last NCL cruise (the Escape two years ago) I like Diet Coke and drink way too much of it (don't drink coffee or tea) and brought an empty wheel bag to hold soda to purchase at vending machines at Miami after security and lots of $1 bills, but alas Diet Coke at the vending machines was gone (others had gotten there first). If I didn't have an excursion and had extra time at the ports I looked for Diet Coke or Diet Dr. Pepper to buy and drink off ship (Yes as another poster alluded too you can't even bring a 1/2 drunk bottle of Diet Coke on board and enjoy a Diet Coke on your balcony). I tried with a 16 once bottle of Diet Coke and had to dump the soda or not board. At some of the ports too, they just sold a product called Coca Cola Light that IMHO didn't have the same taste as Diet Coke and that I didn't care for and wouldn't buy again (don't count on getting Diet Coke at all the ports). Maybe I should just consider NCL cruises a place where I can't participate in my worst vice (drinking Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper). I don't drink alcohol or Pepsi products. I tried Diet Pepsi twice on the ship, but did not like it (That fact saved me dollars on the cruise -- under $6 in extra drink charges for the duration of the trip). I just ended up for the most part drinking their tap water on this cruise (the lemonade that I tried was typically either too weak or too strong) and I actually survived and am even doing an NCL cruise again. But -- I must be a true addict (I would much prefer a land based vacation where I can get what I want to drink (I prefer land based vacations over cruises even discounting the soda issue). Also, if doing a cruise I would prefer a cruise that sold Coke products and all other things being equal would chose a different line. I would not if it was just my choice do an NCL cruise again, but my family wanted to go (extended family were keen on joining too) and we got too good a deal on this next cruise -- DH Casino discount, so about 1K off what we would have otherwise paid for our mini suite and large balcony for three of us -- so two years since my last NCL cruise it appears I will be doing another week of for the most part just drinking water (coming up this January). Maybe I should take this next cruise as an opportunity to go clean and kick my soda habit (I am by agreeing to go on this cruise being forced to for the most part go cold turkey for a week). When I posted something similar on another soda thread sometime back, I got posts from several people who said I had real issues if I like Diet Coke that much and didn't like the idea of cruising NCL because of their soda policy. I wondered what some of those posters would have thought, though, if it was an alcohol free cruise, which would not bother me in the least.
  3. Thanks for your well balanced review. We've only done one NCL cruise, the Escape two years ago in March and we'll be doing the Getaway this coming January (end of month). On our one and only one cruise, service for dining was fine for six out of seven dinners (three specialty and three main dining room), but we had issues with major slowness at one of the specialty restaurants (had to wait over an hour for food). They apologized and gave us a special card to give to our server at the next specialty restaurant we went to (maybe to say to take extra good care of us, due to previous screw up). I made reservations for specialty ahead of time online early to get the seating times we wanted and main dining day of after having to wait 20 minutes to be seated the first time we tried the main dining room for a party of seven (NCL recommendation to reserve). Cruising on one of the big ships felt a little bit like going to WDW where you reserve fastpasses for rides 30 day in advance. It doesn't feel too free style when you have to decide ahead of time where to eat every night, but I'm a bit of a planner so am OK with that. We booked shows and dining (even main dining room due to party of 11) ahead of time for our upcoming cruise in January. And we will book comedy right when we get on the ship. We didn't do that last time and couldn't get tickets to any of the shows. But we did enjoy the walk in "Howl at Moon" . Our son is most impressed with the big ships for amenities and is who talked us into doing a cruise in the first place, so I don't think a small ship is in our future. We picked NCL the first time and to do NCL again because DH had a gambling certificate that gave us about $1000 off our room for booking thru the casino desk. That was a big enough incentive for us to do NCL instead of another line (my guess or assumption is that in general different lines are more similar than different or at least that is what my parents who have cruised on many different lines tell me -- Their favorite is MSC for the music and second the RCL Oasis for the great ship design and not feeling crowded, but are cool with any cruise really). I really prefer land based vacations though -- more of a national park or city vacationer vs. a cruiser (just what I like doing more). A cruise is a nice easy way to travel with a large group, though, so should be fun again. The only other line we've cruised besides NCL is Carnival and we never had dining service issues there (easier I think for them with assigned main dining room times and more limited specialty restaurants).
  4. I have a group of 11, and online was able to make reservations for 12 (just did even numbers) in one of the main dining rooms at the same time I could start booking specialty restaurants. The other two main dining rooms and specialty dining just did parties of up to eight online. You could maybe make two reservations for 12 ahead of time and call when you get on the ship to see if they can get the two tables close to each other or what they recommend for 25.
  5. This is the second time we have done a casino certificate and upgrade (Penn gaming). Last time (two years ago) the deal was much better. The deal then was a cruise for two with balcony (seven nights) and the casino paid air for two also. We upgraded to a large balcony which wasn't too much more and had three NCL perks with that free at sea offer. This time the deal is just for just for an inside for two (seven nights) with one free at sea perk, and we upgraded to a mini suite with large balcony (doing the Getaway -- seven night in late January and used the third person free perk for our son (22) - part of the reason we wanted the slightly larger room and large balcony with three of us). To get this room (last march -- certificate required booking by the end of that month), we had to pay $1967 including taxes, etc. What the certificate amounted to was about a $1000 savings over what the cabin would have cost on it's own or really less of a savings than that because we just got one perk instead of three, but really we were mostly interested in the third person perk -- we're not drinkers, will maybe do one specialty restaurant on our own but that's about it. As we have extended family, a group of 11 going on this cruise, we all wanted to be together, next to each other in similar cabins. Being together is a big deal to us (like having cabins close), so upgrades that could put you anywhere etc., aren't something we would consider or try on this one. It's really my son who wanted to cruise and talked DH into using his certificate. Then we mentioned it to other family in case they wanted to come, and eight others joined. The other family members were keen on the larger balconies offered by a mini suite, so we decided to go with that too. It is nice for multiple people socializing on your balcony, which we will have a lot of. All and all a cruise vacation would cost me about 5K for three of us for the kind of room we'd want with no casino deal, everything included from air, hotel before, excursions, misc. spending, dog kennel etc. and in this case is will cost me about 4K, maybe just $3400 as the deal may cover two airfares (had to book before free air was an NCL perk and any changes mean loosing the casino discount). I think this is probably the last time we'll do a cruise vacation for a while. While cruising is a perfectly nice way to spend a week and fun with extended family, it's really not my preferred type of vacation. Most land based vacations we do cost between 4K and 5K too, so a cruise trip is right in the ballpark for vacation budgeting purposes.
  6. The NCL balconies are small (regular ones are smaller than other cruise lines we've been on). We on this line upgrade to large balconies as we travel with family and want more people out there than two.
  7. kathy884

    Why do you walk out on Rock of Ages?

    Just saying as someone who goes to NYC annually and whose favorite splurge (when it's the right show) is seeing Broadway in NYC I totally disagree. But I realize that not everyone likes the same things and some high school and community groups certainly do a wonderful job and offer a tremendous value. That's a great way to see theatre inexpensively and on a budget. In May of 2017 we saw "Come From Away" with the original cast on Broadway and 'Hamilton" (not the original cast, but we were really curious to see it with all the buzz). Both were really incredible pieces of work that for me and my family were such a treat to see. This past January we were in NYC and saw "Dear Even Hansen", "Wicked", "Sweeny Todd" (a fabulous production in the Village in a small venue that served meat pies), "Anastasia", "Sponge Bob", and "Kinky Boots". We ended up getting snowed in with flight delays, so splurged on more shows since we were stuck in NYC for three more days and we were right in the theatre district, and for "Dear Even Hansen" were able to get last minute tickets for what previously was unavailable and really expensive for a good price, due to other getting to change tickets due to weather conditions and both Sponge Bob and Kinky Boots were additional add ons we were thrilled to get last minute. The shows this past year in particular that we saw were mesmerizing and awe inspiring for us with our favorite new shows for us being "Come From Away" and our second favorite being "Dear Evan Hansen". And DS is a huge fan of "Wicked" and has seen it more than one time. Do note my whole family loves theatre, and that we spend a lot of time reading about the shows and looking at a great site "Show Score" to pick the right shows (good fit for us). Many times there aren't that many things we'd like to see, but for us 2017 / 2018 in New York had fabulous offering and our crazy mini Broadway trip is something we look back on with awe. // It's a lot of money, but the talent in NYC is unbelievable. And the chance (something we rarely have the opportunity or cash to do) to sometimes see an original cast is so cool. Back to NCL. We saw the Brat Pack and Burn the Floor and thought they were good. Talent was excellent too, but not NYC caliber, but actually not that far away from traveling show talent. We were impressed with the talent. And we saw these because they were included with our cruise with no upcharge not because they would be a show that would particularly appeal to us. So they were fun entertainment that we enjoyed, but not mesmerizing or awe inspiring. Our local rep theatre (we are season ticket holders) did "Million Dollar Quartet" and I'm interested in seeing how the NCL version will compare (willing to see it again, as it's included in my cruise fare with no upcharge). Otherwise, while a perfectly nice fun show, I'd give it a pass. It wasn't offered on our cruise, but I could easily be someone who would try "Walk of Ages" and maybe leave?? I would definitely check it out if it were offered on our ship, but I wouldn't have gotten tickets I NYC or tickets for the traveling show (It has come to our home town three times) and I haven't seen it.
  8. kathy884

    Why do you walk out on Rock of Ages?

    I think on a cruise ship for entertainment that is included (no upcharge), many people will give something a try that may not really be their thing, and know that if they don't like it or if it's a bit too loud or raunchy for them, they can just leave. At home they wouldn't buy tickets for the traveling show (especially given warnings), but hey it's one of the main attractions, why not give it a chance. That's going to mean way more walk outs than a traveling Broadway show, for example.
  9. kathy884

    Convince me to giving NCL a try

    On our last NCL cruise (The Escape, so a newer larger ship in their fleet), we met three different parties who had recently sailed on the RCCL Oasis. All three although they liked the NCL cruise said that they liked RCCL large ships more than NCL because of the excellent ship design where it didn't feel as crowded (so much bigger ship than the Escape, but the Escape felt more crowded). My brother and parents have commented how uncrowded RCCL ships feel too. Now I haven't tried RCCL. Just saying that you too, may prefer the RCCL ship designs more than NCL. RCCL seems to command a little bit of a premium on their newer big ships compared to Carnival and NCL, and part of that is probably supply and demand. My brother is willing to pay about a $150 pp premium for RCCL over Carnival, but more than that doesn't think it's worth the extra expense for a similar itinerary/cabin/newer ship. Actually my parents favorite line is MSC due to the classical music offerings, but they just like cruising in general and have done lots of different cruise lines (Holland, Princess, Carnival, RCCL, etc). My brother likes Carnival and RCCL all better than MSC and has not done NCL. I've done four Carnival cruises, and two NCL and will be doing my third NCL in January (the Getaway this time). Oh and my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my godparents, and my godparent's son and granddaughter are all joining me, my husband, and son too. Despite having different favorite ships, it took them no time at all to decide to join us, so that might be saying something positive for NCL. Despite thinking it would be fun to try RCCL or Disney, I like a large balcony and both those lines when I priced them out were too rich for my blood (not in my vacation budget or worth the rare splurge trip above budget). DH has a casino offer for $1000 off on a seven day NCL cruise, so that was a no brainer, and this cruise fell into the ole vacation budget very easily. So far I like NCL a little better than Carnival (shows in particular are much better) and really for me it was just that we had done quite a few Carnival cruises in a row, so switching up was kind of fun. I'm budget sensitive when it comes to cruising, though -- think of the general concept and all mainstream lines as being more similar than different. If you are nervous about NCL and in love with RCCL, maybe do RCCL again and wait till you want to do something a little different to do a new line
  10. kathy884

    Roatan Trips and Tours

    I'm glad you enjoyed touring with this company and appreciate the thumbs up. We booked with them for January. Four of us opted for the sight seeing and cultural tour option (visiting a church, school, and orphanage and having lunch with locals plus some site seeing/photo stops). I did this based on reviews on Trip Advisor. Their website looked pretty basic and I had to book by phone (online booking wasn't working). Plus they asked to call or email, confirm the week before.
  11. kathy884

    NCL "Free Cruise"

    We took a free cruise casino offer for a cruise (offer was for inside for two people -- air for two people was also included reimbursed by casino, not NCL -- free air perk not part of NCL package when we had to book -- last March). We are doing this cruise in January 2019, and all the free cruise really amounts to is a $1000 discount on the cruise portion and free air for two out of the three people in our family (That's worth about $700). We upgraded from inside to mini suite large balcony (Basic cruise cost of about $2800 that we are getting for $1800 and also just getting one instead of more freebies -- with upgrade you still only get freebie offers for an inside which is one). Our cabin is on deck 8 on the Getaway. For our one Free at Sea offer we took third person cruising for free in same room (and of course, you pay taxes on freebies). All in all if I consider the entire budget for the vacation for the three of us, the trip will cost us about 4K (2K for the cruise, one more airfare, kennel for our dog, ubers/taxis, unlimited wifi for DS 23 (the freebie person coming with us), we are doing two dinners in specialty restaurants that we don't have freebies for (one is the Cirque show), hotel the night before, tips, excursions, food/snacks before after cruise, travel insurance (we go outside rather than getting this thru NCL, etc.). We don't drink on cruises and usually don't have much in upcharges except what I have already mentioned (DS's wifi, our tips, and two dinner upcharges). Our excursions are independent, not with NCL, and were actually less costly on normal on this particular cruise. We have nine other people coming (four of other cabins), all who will be on deck 8 and many also picked the mini suite extra large balconies too. Part of our doing the upgrade was to have the larger balcony for extended family visiting and to be in the same section of the ship (right next to my parents and god parents) and near by brother and god parent's son. If you stick to the inside, you pay taxes and the administrative fee, plus any extras. The reality which we clearly understood is that an offer like this is basically just a 1K discount, so if you want to do a cruise, sure and it's a decent discount (for us it was enough to decide to do NCL instead of a different line), but it's something we usually pass up. We usually prefer land based vacations, but variety is the spice of life and do enjoy the occasional cruise (especially with a large extended family group -- A cruise is very easy and fun to do with a larger group). Casino discounts have gotten stingier too. The last time we had a casino discount it was for a few categories higher -- balcony rather than an inside.
  12. Having to travel at Christmas anywhere exotic and wanting somewhat reasonable prices like maybe spring break prices has in my experience always been difficult. There are too many people out there where this is the only week that works for their family with school calendars or that getting together that week is a family tradition. And although percentages may be small there are a lot of people out there with plenty of disposable income that aren't that price sensitive. Air is a killer too. I don't know how many times I have flown on Christmas Day to have more reasonable airfare with holiday travel. If you are willing to drive and have some flexibility, though, that's huge. I've never tried a holiday cruise. I have, though, gotten let's say decent last minute good prices on condos from owners in Florida, things like that (people who were holding off renting their units, trying for ridiculously high prices for that week and then willing to rent the unit for their maintenance fee and maybe $100 or $200). For me too, these deals usually came up maybe three weeks before the holiday.
  13. kathy884

    White board for cabin door?

    We are planning on white boards with our extended family group. I am buying one for each cabin. All in my immediate family and some in our extended family will get the app too which we expect will help with communications. A general message on the white board ("… and ... are playing shuffle board. ... and … are at the talk in the atrium about ..., etc. if you want to join" is way easier than calling four different rooms, especially when we aren't really needing to get hold of someone, but just wanting to be inclusive). I haven't tried these on a cruise, but I think it sounds like a great idea. We don't have any kid/teens in our group (party of 11, ages 23-82). Also we are all on eight (special door to go through after the common areas on the Getaway with a bunch of those mini suites with the large balconies), so maybe will get a little less traffic going by. If we get unwanted messages and find the white boards annoying, we'll just take them down. I'm all for them as a great means of communication, though. For the phone app, I mostly see it if I specifically want to know where someone is / contact them. I can see my mostly using it to contact my 20 something son who is getting the unlimited wifi and will have it with him most of the time.
  14. Appreciate all the responses. For about $10 pp for the week, some of us will definitely try the app. and I'll keep my expectations relatively low. I think I'll get some of those white boards and post it notes too -- pretend like I'm back in college and keep the group informed where we are going to some extent.
  15. Thanks so much Pyrate13 and 1025cruise. I really appreciate your thoughts and taking the time to post. I have a bit of a bean counter personality and am concerned that although I'm sure I'd love the ship, I wouldn't think of it as a good value for my vacation dollar.