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Posts posted by coldweather

  1. Does anyone know the "rules" for the future cruise credit (FCC) for cancelling?  Specifically, when you book your future cruise, does it have to be for the same passengers?   For example, I am booked (paid in full) on a May cruise with my elderly mother.  My mother may not be in a health enough condition to cruise in the future.  Would I be able to substitute a different passenger and use the FCC?


    Since I have time, I don't want to clog the NCL phone lines.  I thought someone might have experience with this situation.



  2. I am going to reply to bump this up.  


    I was on the Aida Luna cruise ship docked in Montego Bay in early February 2020.  That night back on the ship,  I met a fellow passenger who said he took the free Hard Rock shuttle at the pier and paid $12 for chairs and an umbrella.


    Any other experience with this?

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  3. We booked from the ship.  The buses picked us up directly next to the ship. You are provided with new headphones.  You plug in and select the language and listen to a recorded tour as the bus drives along. The ride without getting off is 1.5 hours. A walking tour of the old city area is included.  On the bus they will ask you if you want to purchase a ticket to see the fort. That is an extra charge.


    When you want to return to the ship, you gather at one of the stops (I forget which one but they tell you).  At this return-to-the-ship-gathering-stop there is a covered, glass wall fenced waiting area with chairs.  This keeps away the very aggressive peddlers.  The open air bus was a nice way to see the city. 


    One of the standard hop on /hop off bus stops is the McDonalds in the resort area.  We got off here to use the restrooms and wifi.  It is a good location if you want to walk around this area.  There are many modern shops.  It feels like a very safe area.


    If you don’t want to book with the ship, you can also provide your own transportation to and from the old city and just book the hop on/hop off bus directly once in the city. Booking from the ship eliminates the taxi ride to and from.


    Note – The peddlers are very aggressive. Take standard precautions and anticipate being approached at the popular stops especially the old city stop.  Once the bus was out of the old city area, the quantity of peddlers decreased a lot.

    • Like 3
  4. This is the beach you can see from the ship. 20-minute walk from the port area through shop areas to Great Bay Beach.  There are also taxis and water taxis available. Walk up and down the beach until you find your location of choice (many to pick from). The going rate seems to be $20 for 2 chairs and an umbrella.  Some have been able to negotiate to $15. The chairs are squeezed closely together on the beach.  All are in excellent condition.   Most include access to bathrooms and wifi.   Most have wait staff to bring you drinks. There is no snorkeling here.   There were no kayaks or  for rent.


    The beach is on a large promenade with many shops and restaurants.  Directly behind the promenade is the main street of the town.  You can find just about anything.  There are pharmacies/retail stores there if you find yourself in need of some supplies.


    I have received a lot of good information on these forums.  This is my opportunity to help out. 

    • Thanks 1
  5. Outstanding!  This is a tender port. We took the ship excursion.  The boats pull right up to the ship and off you go chasing whales.


    Samana is the where the Humpback whales give birth and congregate between mid-December and March.  We were there in early February 2020.


    There were a variety of boat styles that we boarded from our ship.   My boat had about 40 people in it. It was low to the water.  Warning – They are not kidding.  In such a small boat on a windy day, the waves/ seas were rocking the boat.  A few passengers did get sick.  Also, when the boat speeds to get to the whales we were 100% covered in splash from the waves.  There was some water rolling around the bottom of the boat.  This is NOT an easy, gentle boat ride to watch whales in the distance. I share so you can be prepared.  Don’t bring too much stuff.  There is no room for it anyway and it will get wet.  Note – there were a few other styles of boats but we were loaded in order.  You did not get to select your boat style.


    If you can handle the potential sea sickness, go for this trip.  We were only feet away from the whales.  The whales were plentiful and it was fun to watch them.  It was non stop action once we got near the whales.  I share because I have been whale watching were you spend a lot of time staring at the ocean looking for whales.  This was very different.  The whales are everywhere and active.

    • Thanks 1
  6. I share this because I have seen questions about taxis.  I wanted to give back to the board that have been helpful to me.  Here goes.


    The secured port area with shops, bars and taxis is directly at the end of the pier. There will be many taxi drivers in orange uniform shirts asking if you need a ride or a tour.  (This is inside the secured area.)  Go ahead and talk with any of the taxi drivers.  They will walk you to the central taxi kiosk where a dispatcher groups tourist going to the same location and pairs them with a taxi driver.  They do wait until the taxi is full or near full.  This took less than 10 minutes to get our group together.   At first you may feel like you are being pressured by the taxi drivers recruiting fares.  Don’t be.  Since you are inside the security area it is very highly organized as the taxi driver brings you to the dispatch area. Very safe.  Enjoy!

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  7. $8pp shared taxi each way. The beach bar staff was very friendly and tried to be helpful.  The beach bar is very old and rustic. It is not a modern beach resort with a lot of amenities.  There were people trying to sell jet ski rides.  I did not see any rentals of kayaks, snorkel equipment or paddle boards. 


     The day we were there I saw beach guests but I didn’t see people buying much at the bar.  Not sure if they offered food.   There are posted signs $5 per chair, $10 for a fixed wooden umbrella.  A staff member sets you up.  Expect to provide a few $$ tip.


    It is a nice sized crowd.  There are about 30 fixed umbrellas.  There are toilets (rustic)  and an outdoor rinse off shower (didn’t use).


    I saw posts asking about the drop off (visited Feb 2020).  Yes, there was a slight drop off.  I would never have noticed and thought to mention it but since people were asking, I can confirm there is a slight drop off.


    You can snorkel from the beach.  The water is very shallow where the rocks are.  I did not feel comfortable to get to the other side of the rocks so I chose not to snorkel.


    Next time in Antigua I would choose a different beach.

    • Like 1
  8. This was good, not great. Small area with lots of tour boats.  Enough snorkelers that you had to pay attention or possibly get kicked.  There was coral, fans and fish.  I did see an octopus. The cave is small but interesting.  I swam in, looked around and swam out.  The cave has a narrow opening that many snorkelers were trying to get in and out of. 

  9. You dock right in town.  You can see McDonalds from the ship. Yes, it has free wifi. At the end of the pier was tourist information to answer questions and provide maps. On the map there are indications where there are free wifi locations.  It was a very walkable town.   Sharing for those who like to know and prepare. 

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  10. Hello.  Lots of discussion about some fantastic beach choices.  I didn't see the cost of cab fare to these beaches. 


    Any cab fare info from the cruise port to:


    Turners Beach

    Darkwood Beach

    Ffryes Beach

    Runaway Beach

    Dickenson's Beach





  11. 21 hours ago, FL-Cruzer said:

    When the 120 day mark comes.  you will be able to see show times and make reservations, Make sure to be online that day.  if you need to change as soon as you get on ship go to the comedy club and you should be able to make changes. Keep in min about 90 min for dinner, if you let your waiter know you are going to a show they will work with you.


    We can make show reservations 120 days out.  Does anyone know what time the reservations open?  Midnight eastern time?  Sometime else? 

  12. I called the phone number on the Aida website during German business hours.  I used Skype. The person answering the phone spoke English and booked our cruise.  I had to call back a few times and each time the person answering the phone spoke English.


    My confirming and follow up emails are in German.  I get a weekly email that is in German.  It is easy to translate with online tools.  So far the emails are about things like making sure your passport is current, booking excursions, etc.


    I am sure there will be a few surprises but that is all part of the adventure!

  13. I also do not get an internet package.  I try my best to pick up some wifi while in ports.  


    Something to think about.... 


    I have had serious conversations with family about what to do in an "emergency."    Here is what we have come up with.  This applies to all travel not just cruises. 


    Medical Emergencies:

    1. We have designated 1 person who will make any contact with me about an emergency situation.  This person also has electronic copies of our passports in case we have the emergency.  🙂  

    2. Well in advance I have had conversations with this family member about reaching out to me for an emergency.  We have agreed to be specific on what she wants me to do.  For example, if she contacts me to tell me that grandpa is in the hospital.  Is she just keeping me in the loop so I can keep grandpa in my thoughts and prayers or is she asking me to get off the ship, make my way to an airport, buy a ticket and fly home?  

    3. If you ask me to fly home, what is it you expect of me when I return?  If grandpa is still in the hospital am I immediately needed at home? Maybe I have some role in support/care after grandpa is released from the hospital.  Back to the original question..... are you asking me to fly home now?  Why?

    4. We have also had the discussion about the "fly home" option.  Many times the cruise port is not near an airport.  It may take up to a few days to be at a port that has an airport.  You could be at sea for a few days.  You could be at one of the private islands and need to get to a larger port so you can then make your way to the airport.   It is not as easy as another type of land based vacation might be to just go to the airport and change an existing return flight.   If the person contacting you does not travel much, they may not understand the logistics and costs to changing travel plans.  


    House/Pet Emergencies:

    1. We have a trusted neighbor look after our pet and our home.  For the home, our neighbor is provided with a good friend contact who will make any decisions and financial commitments that may need to be made in a true urgent emergency.  Think of a tree branch falling through your roof. Who do you want to handle that in your absence?


    2. For our pet, we have provided our neighbor with instructions on how to handle a medical emergency?  I got this idea from the neighbor as they had a sick pet and the neighbor was going 1/2 way around the world with limited wifi access.  We had the hard talk about what she wanted me to do.   Under what circumstances should I take the pet to the vet?  What amount are you authorizing me to spend on your pet?  What if the vet recommends putting the pet down?  


    All travel has the risk that you may not be close by for any kind of event.  My suggestion is to identify emergency contacts and have a discussion on expectations.


    Then..... go enjoy your cruise!!



    • Like 2
  14. I have been on deck 4 before and like it.  It is quiet when sailing.  Also, because you are lower and closer to the water, you will have less motion if the ship starts rocking.  I traveled with a person who could not climb stairs.   It was perfect.  Each time we boarded the elevator from deck 4 there was an empty elevator.  No worries.  Think of the money you saved with the GTY.  Enjoy. 

  15. If you don't mind packing up, consider 2 consecutive cruises on 2 different ships or cruise lines.  The past 2 years we did this and just love it.


    You book a cruise you really want to take.  Then look at all of the ships that sail just prior to or just after this cruise from the same port.  In San Juan we just packed our stuff at the conclusion of the first cruise and walked across the pier and boarded the 2nd cruise.


    The reason I like to do this is I get to experience the newness of the 2nd cruise.  New ship.  New cruise director.  New restaurants, etc. 


    We like to mix up cruise lines.  Last year we did a Carnival followed by a Royal Caribbean.  This year we did a Carnival followed by NCL.  It is fun to see the similarities and the differences. 

    • Like 1
  16. I forgot one.


    Carnival Fascination has guest, self-serve laundry.  Bring quarters or plan to wait online at guest services to make change for quarters.  It is an older ship and does not use your room card to charge the laundry fee.


    NCL Dawn does not have any self serve guest laundry.  They do have a service where you can send out your laundry and they will wash it for you for a charge.  (I don't know what the charge is.)

  17. (Post 4 of 4)




    Adult Only Pool Area:

    Carnival Fascination:  Grade A: They offer a complimentary area for adults only that is called Serenity.  It is quiet.  No sound track playing.  Nice loungers with cushions.  A bar and waiter service available.


    NCL Dawn: Grade N/A:  No dedicated adult only area.  (There is a dedicated children’s area off the back of the ship.)


    Fitness Center:

    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  The fitness center was in the front of the ship with many windows.  You could be using the equipment looking at the Ocean.   I used this every morning.


    NCL Dawn:  Grade F:  The fitness center was in a dark, dingy area.   The equipment is against a wall with mirrors.  When running on the treadmill you stare at yourself.  It was poorly laid out and not inviting.  I used it 1 day and then moved outside to the walking track.


    Guest Services Desk:

    Carnival Fascination:  Grade F:  The lines are always long.  There is a dedicated line for guests with platinum status or who purchased the Faster to the Fun package.  It is like Carnival wants this line to be long and slow so guest who have a dedicated line can feel they are getting a benefit for their status.


    NCL Dawn:  Grade A:   The line always moved along quickly.


    Beverage Policy:

    We did not have beverage packages on either cruise.


    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  Passengers are allowed to bring one 750ml bottle of wine per person for no charge.  Additionally, you may bring 6 cans of soda per passenger.  You must carry the beverages on yourself.


    NCL Dawn: Grade 😄  No beverages may be carried on with the exception of wine.  Wine may be carried on with a corkage fee of $15/bottle. On previous NCL cruises I have had the beverage package as an included “perk” so I did not pay much attention to the beverage carry-on policy.  


    Documents/Final invoice:

    Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Easy to complete check in. Flow was clear and easy to complete. 1 document for each person. Prints on 1 page.   In general, I found the user experience better on the Carnival website.  The guest invoice on the ship was easy to read and understand.


    NCL Dawn: Grade B: Check in was ok.  Print spills over to multiple pages. 1 document for the cabin.  The guest invoice was not user friendly.  In all fairness we had a lot of charges and perk-credit for 9 shore excursions.


    Conclusions:  Carnival lives up to its brand as the fun ship!  NCL is a step over Carnival in luxury.  Each ship and brand does an excellent job.  As a customer it is important that you select the brand, ship and sailing that meets your interests and your expected level of service.  Keep traveling!



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  18. (Post 3 of 4)




    Broadway style shows:

    Carnival Fascination: Grade C   We went to the All Board preview show the first night.  The dancers/singers were ok. The aerialists were great. Magician was entertaining.


    NCL Dawn: Grade B : Much better dancers/singers.



    There is a very clear difference between the brands for comedy.  Carnival has a lounge called the Punchline Comedy club.  The comedians are highlighted entertainment.


    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  On a 7-night cruise there were 4 nights of comedy with 5 shows and 2 comedians each night.  The first 2 shows were family friendly.  The later 3 shows were adults only.  For the later shows, they make an announcement asking children to leave.  They also announce if you are easily offended, you will be so please exit the lounge.   I like that they don’t dumb down the comedy to fit the masses.   The comedy is packed every night.  You need to arrive a bit early to get a seat.


    NCL Comedy: Grade 😄  They had 2 comedians over a 10-day cruise.  Both performed in the main theater.  Not a very intimate comedy setting.  The comedians provided generic comedy that is rated G.  Comedy is clearly not a focus for NCL.


    General Music:

    Carnival Fascination:  Grade A:  There were music venues each night in addition to the comedy club and the main theater show.  There was a Latin music band, Dance music band, 70s/80s.  As we were sailing from Puerto Rico, there were a lot of Puerto Rican families onboard.  The Latin music band was fantastic and packed every night.  It was the fun place to be.  

    Carnival sail away each day had a DJ playing fun, Caribbean music.  The general sound track that played around the ship in the hallways was 70s and 80s classics.


    NCL Dawn: Grade B: The music was subtler.  There were duets and slow music.  There was a live band for the sail away for each port.  The general soundtrack around the ship was easy listening.  I found the music a bit dull.   I don’t recall this from my prior NCL cruises but the music catered to the older average age of the passengers.


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  19. (Post 2 of 4)




    Main Dining Room:

    Carnival Fascination:  Grade 😄   Only ate dinner in the main dining room 2 times on a 7 day cruise. The food was so-so. I noticed as others have reported there are no table cloths in the dining room except on formal night.  I would have never noticed this except people on CC comment about it.  The dining room tables were nice without the cloth.  They had some type of subtle decoration on each table.  This was fine for me.  I ate breakfast in the dining room most mornings.  I enjoyed that there were 3 or 4 items listed as more of a “health” choice.  I loved the egg white frittata and the avocado toast.


    NCL Dawn:  Grade A:  Food was great! White table cloths for every meal including breakfast.  Wait staff puts cloth napkin your lap (I don’t care for this but I know others have observed this.) Feels like fine dining at every meal.

    General Food:  I found the quality of the food on NCL was higher than Carnival.  Here are some examples.  Both ships had watermelon every day.  Carnival had seeded watermelon.  NCL had seedless watermelon.  Both ships had shrimp cocktail on the menu.  Carnival had very small shrimp.  NCL had large ship.  Carnival had complementary lobster and steak on formal night.  I didn’t see lobster on the NCL main dining room menu and they had an upcharge for steak.  (I may have missed the lobster on NCL.)  Both ships offered soft serve ice cream.  In addition, NCL offered scooped hard ice cream during lunch on the pool deck.



    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  Hands down Carnival beats NCL.  Carnival has a dedicated pizza restaurant open 24 hours per day.  There are 4 or 5 choices of pizza and it is made for you.  The pizza is not sitting out on a buffet.  This is a very popular food option.


    NCL Dawn:  Grade 😧  The pizza is offered on the buffet.  It looks like boxed frozen pizza from the grocery store.



    Carnival Fascination: Grade A: Carnival has Guy Fieri’s Burger restaurant.  This is a restaurant on the pool deck that is dedicated to hamburgers.  They are awesome and the french fries were great.  The customer demand for these burgers is high so they are always right off the grill and fresh.


    NCL Dawn:  Grade 😧 The hamburgers were served on the buffet.  They looked like hockey pucks that had been sitting under the lights too long.  In 10 days I never saw anyone select a hamburger from the buffet.



    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  Carnival has a pool deck restaurant named Blue Iguana that is dedicated to preparing custom ordered tacos, burritos or taco salad.  There is an extensive topping and salsa bar to complete your meal.  This is awesome.  We ate here multiple times for a late lunch when returning from a day ashore.   Very well done!


    NCL Dawn: Grade 😄 NCL offers a specialty, sit-down restaurant called Los Lobos that served Mexican food.  There is a surcharge for this restaurant.


    Deli/Smoked Salmon:

    Carnival Fascination: Grade A:  In addition to complimentary restaurants of the Main Dining room, Guy Fieri’s Burgers and Blue Iguana taco/burritos, Carnival offers a deli where they custom make hot and cold sandwiches to order.  They offer a smoked salmon with cream cheese on a bagel.  The portion of smoked salmon is very generous.  I had this a few times.  I saw people order the salmon with no bagel or cream cheese if they just wanted the salmon.  In addition, the deli offered hot sandwiches like a reuben and cold sandwiches like turkey on a ciabatta.  Smoked salmon was also available in the Main Dining room. 


    NCL Dawn:  Grade N/A: I chose to comment on this because over the years I have seen some threads about smoked salmon.  I did see salmon mousse on the buffet and smoked salmon was available in the Main Dining room.


    Buffet layout:

    Carnival Fascination:  Grade A+: I ate 5 of 7 dinners in the buffet. I don’t usually do this but because there was so much evening activity with the comedy club and lively music, the buffet just fit our schedule better.   The buffet is well laid out.  You could get your food and sit down.  You were NOT constantly bumping into people.  They have different stations that are spread out within the buffet dining room so the flow of people is disbursed.  They had a dedicated salad bar and dedicated dessert station.  The buffet itself is shorter than on NCL.   There are fewer choices.  I found this to be a plus as I was not wandering looking at all of the options.   I was able to go down the line and chose between 4-5 appetizers, 4-5 main entrees, 4-5 sides, a carving station and a large choice of bread selections.  I could always sit down without a problem.


    NCL Dawn: Grade 😧  I dreaded going to the buffet.  You were constantly bumping into people and finding seats was a challenge.  The length of the buffet is huge.  This is a plus and a minus.  Many food choices but it encourages guests to wander around in search of food choices.  This leads to constantly bumping into people.  Many times the food looked like it was sitting under the heat lights.  Many of the entrees were covered in gravy or sauce.   I definitely preferred the NCL main dining room over the NCL buffet for ease of service and a more pleasant meal.


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