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TracieABD

Live From the NCL Spirit- A "Suite" Escape to the Western Med.

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Hi-

My name is Tracie-Lynn and this is my first NCL cruise!

 

Demographic Information:

We are a mother and daughter- dynamic duo! We have taken several yearly trips to different locations all over the world. As my mom's mobility issues have increased, we have found traveling is a wonderful way to cover a lot of territory with minimal impact. I am turning 51 on this cruise. I am older than my mom, who is holding at 29! ;)

 

Travel Day-

Leaving Charlotte... We did the most incredibly risky thing, one I would not recommend to anyone... We booked our flight from Charlotte, North Carolina through JFK in New York to Barcelona to arrive the first day of the cruise. And then we fretted. We paced. We wrung our hands. We stalked the Weather Channel. And we hoped... We watched a crippling storm roll through the Eastern United States, canceling thousands of flights. And we hoped... Finally, the day came to leave and the weather looked clear (well, clear is relative, as it was raining). It was even "warmish". Once we arrived at the airport, I dropped my mother and the 80,000 pounds (no, really... 80,000 pounds-- thats 40 tons for those of you who are in 3rd grade math) of luggage at the door, and I went to park in long term parking. As I parked the car, the shuttle arrived and actually waited for me! For those who utilize airport parking, you know how rare this is! Was this an omen of good things to come?

 

Check in was a breeze. Then all we had to do was wait. I am totally, militantly OCD about arriving to the airport early. This day was no exception. I continued to stalk both the Weather Channel AND the Delta Flight Info app. I know, I know. I should learn to relax, but I knew I could relax when we arrived in Barcelona! Our flight took off on time. We landed at JFK early. My mother requires assistance for mobility issues. The wheelchair was right there with the most pleasant and helpful man. We left Terminal 2 and made our way to Terminal 4. Once there, we had another 5 hour lay over, so I did what I do... I stalked the Weather Channel AND the Delta Flight Info app. Oh, and I ate a really delish hamburger from the Shake Shack! It was really, really delicious AND cheap! (By NYC standards, it was under $5.00- and did I mention delicious?)

This is my first hint- If you are a carnivore in search of a delicious and inexpensive meal-- Shake Shack-- Terminal 4-- JFK! Be there!

 

Our good fortune continued...The flight to Spain was scheduled to depart at 7:36, and I swear we were wheels-up at 7:38... On our way to Barcelona! We had upgraded to Economy Comfort, so we were granted additional legroom and more seat incline. Most of the plane was packed, but not our section. So at some point in the middle of the night, I moved over to two unbooked seats, laid down, and napped. Score! For all of an hour and 27 minutes. Which is better than I normally do.

 

This is where our fortune improves even more! Our flight landed an hour early! All those weeks, well days (I have a short attention span, what can I say?) of worrying-- for nothing. We arrived an hour early in sunny and cold Barcelona. We had another lovely experience with my mom's assist. I speak the world's worst Spanish (saying something in English with a heavy Spanish accent does not actually constitute speaking a second language--- yet, I do this. I occasionally try to throw in a few Spanish words, like I am going to fool the natives. Crazy, I know!). Our assist person did not speak much English. So, we did what we do in these situations. Spoke our own language, slowly and loudly, and waved our hands around a lot. It worked. We cleared Immigration, cleared Customs, gathered our luggage (yep, all 80,000 pounds arrived intact, give or take a few items) including my mom's personal wheelchair, and made it to the taxi stand in less than 45 minutes.

 

Our cabby also did not speak English. I told him in my really bad Spanish (which is, if you can remember from last paragraph, really English with a Spanish accent, and one of 30 Spanish words I do know...) "porto". He seemed to understand, and then rattled something off in a veritable machine gun fire of words. I put on my thinking cap, gave it a guess, and figured out he was asking "Which ship?" Now, I don't have any idea how to answer that, so I pulled out a picture of the Norwegian Spirit. He smiled, sighed, and nodded his head. Thirty-five euros later, we arrived at port.

 

More later-

Tracie-Lynn:)

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Trying to get "caught up"...

 

Day One-

We arrived at port so early, there was no one there to check us in. We were directed to the lounge area, and we took a seat. If the Priority Lounge was any indication of the Norwegian as a whole, I knew everything would be ok! They had coffee, tea, lemonade, orange juice, and little finger sandwiches waiting for us. I found a cappuccino, but was too tired to eat. We did have to wait a bit until Francisco, our concierge arrived, but that was fine. At 11:00, we were escorted to the check in counter, and at 12:00, we were escorted to the ship. Our cabin was ready.

 

Our cabin... wow! We have always sailed in balconies and mini-suites and I thought that was great. I have heard others on this board say that after their first suite, they would not be able to go back to another type of room. I will go back to a balcony, but I will always dream of being in a suite. And NCL treats its suite guests wonderfully. Our cabin was 10001. There are many lovely features. The suites on the Spirit all have a different theme. Ours is the Thai Suite, and that means some of our accents have a definite Thai flare. Our cabin is one of two SE suites that does not have the 1/2 bath. So far, we are managing... ;)

 

I decided to eat my first meal at Cagney's, while my mom rested. I had the turkey burger (no bun) and a very good salad. The service and decor are lovely. As a matter of fact, I think the entire ship is lovely. We have spent considerable time wandering and looking at the art on the walls. The carpeting is amazing. It is apparent that when this ship was built, the designers spared little expense on the details. There are so many things that I liked on the ship. I really liked the size, the decor, the layout.

 

We spent much of our first day meeting people and wandering. We decided to eat our first meal in the Garden Room. This is where we hit a bit of a snag. We were brought to our table, given menus, and then we waited. And waited. And waited. We waited for a good 20-25 minutes for someone to bring us water and take our order. Once, they did, the service picked up and moved along. I ordered the gnocchi, but was given the the Moroccan rice cakes, which were very tasty, but about 20 degrees too cool. In the main dining room, the food was just not quite hot enough.

After dinner, my mom headed to to the casino and I headed to bed. At this point in the adventure, I was operating on no sleep so I promptly fell into a coma that lasted for about 9 hours. My mom did not sleep at all. Her coma was to come later...

 

Tracie-Lynn:)

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Day Two

Our first Sea Day!

 

We were not the earliest risers (and usually we are). We headed down to Cagney's for breakfast. The breakfast there is a two part wonder. They have a cold/ continental buffet (with fruit, meat, cheeses, yogurt, juice, and various breads), and then there is the hot menu (with eggs, meats, pancakes, toast). We are loving the coffee in Cagney's. We are of Swedish descent, and therefore, we drink coffee like some drink water. We can even be coffee snobs at times. The coffee in Cagney's is not the powdered or syrup mess normally served. It is french-press, and it is fantastic. And after a pot of that, we are up and at'em!

 

We shopped and explored around the ship a bit. The prices in the Galleria are just about 25% greater than you would spend on land. There is a limited selection, but they did have the face scrub that I was looking for, so I was happy.

 

We also had lunch in Cagneys. I had my usual: Turkey burger- no bun. No fries. Fruit. Coffee. I am working very hard not to gain a million pounds on this trip, so I am attempting to cut back on carbs and desserts.

 

After a short nap, I walked/ jogged the Promenade Deck for just shy of 4 miles. It was pretty cold, which lends nicely to exercise weather. I really like the Promenade Deck on this ship. It is a full lap (without interruptions like stairs or walls). At the bow, the deck is fully enclosed, cutting back the wind and spray normally found on Promenade Decks. There are slight inclines and declines at the aft which also helps to break the monotony. The only thing I was not crazy about is there was a person smoking in the enclosed area of the the bow. The smoke was trapped there and it took 3 laps to fully clear out. In the ship's benefit, I did not see "no smoking" signs in that area, so I suppose it is fair game.

 

We had dinner at Shoguns. I had the lettuce wraps, a beef dish, and the banana pancake. My mom had the short ribs, the sweet and sour, and no dessert. We were actually full with the appetizers. They serve a lot of food there, and I suppose that is the justification for the up-charge fee. Overall the food was good to very good.

 

I attended the Captain's Cocktail Party. It was held in the Art Gallery. It was a lovely affair with just the right number of people (about 50). They served wine, champagne, and sparkling water. They also had light canapés. I stayed for about 30 minutes and left to meet up with friends.

 

I did go to see The Flamencos' in the Starlight Theater. They had balcony seating for us and I had an excellent view of the stage. The dancers put forth an engaging performance of different styles of flamenco dance. I enjoyed the percussive dances the best. They seemed to do this well. Most of the costumes were lovely and understated. The performance lasted just shy of an hour.

 

I headed back to the room to prepare for the next day and sleep.

 

More soon-

Tracie-Lynn:)

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Day 3

Casablanca/ Marrakech, Morocco

 

 

And here is where the trouble begins...

 

We always attempt to book private tours as much as possible. This had worked to our favor in numerous occasions, especially with my mom who has moderate mobility issues.

 

Upon disembarking the Spirt, we met up with our travel companions, K and M. They graciously invited us to share their excursion that they booked with Oscar C. Oscar comes highly recommended on both Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor.

 

Once we met up with Oscar, we headed out of Casablanca toward Marrakech. We did stop at the Hussein Mosque, and it was beautiful. What I find amazing is this is a newer construction with many modern features. They did maintain the integrity of the architecture, though, and at first glance one would never know it is less than 25 years old.

 

As we proceeded toward Marrakech, we were surprised at the changing landscapes. There were farmer's fields and desert; flat planes and small mountains; green pastures and red sands. It was beautiful. When we arrived in Marrakech, we were taken to the Kasbah, then a Riyad, to lunch (which I did not love), and to a Souk. Somewhere in the middle of the our trip, we ran into a ships tour, and they informed us that we would be departing early (7 pm instead of 11 pm). This guide seemed so unsure of her information, that we were not totally convinced. I called NCL in New Jersey to verify, and they said that "all aboard" was 10:30 pm. Still, with 4 adult women, we began to get a little nervous, so we asked our guide to cut the last shopping stop and head back. Better early than late! Right????

 

On our way back to Casablanca, we stopped to ride camels. I, of course, got the ornery camel. I managed to stay on and safe. Though, after this experienve, I am newly inspired to purchase the Suzanne Sommer's Thigh-Master~ It takes some extraordinary inner thigh control to stay on one of those beasts. We completed our camel ride without accident or incident! I was super grateful that no one was spat upon by the humpy-backed beast. I planned to do camel rides in two ports, but I am good. I can check that off my bucket list and call it a day!

 

We made our way back to Casablanca only to be met with 7 pm rush hour traffic. It took us (no exaggeration) 14 cycles to clear one light. As we drew closer to the the port, the tension in the car mounted. Would the ship still be in port? Did the ship's excursion travel guide have the correct information? Did NCL in New Jersey have the correct information?

 

As we entered "Gate 1", at 7:45, we all exhaled at the sighting of the Spirit! Once our guide and driver dropped us at the stern of the ship, I began to roll my mother toward the gangway. I did notice a conspicuous lack of people on the dock, but just thought that was due to the rain.

 

As I approached the gangway, we were converged upon by many, many crew members. They literally picked my mother up, wheelchair and all, and carried her over the gangway onto the ship. I was right behind her, and what I spotted next was absolutely heart stopping. The senior crew was lined up in two rows waiting for us. Upon seeing me, the Senior Deck Officer exclaimed, "Dr. Tracie! We are so happy to see you!". Mind you, this is before they scanned my card. There were many hugs and handshakes. I was then pulled aside by security and they did what every cruiser most dreads....

:eek:

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The Unthinkable...

 

...Security pulled me aside to hand me an envelope containing the contents of my safe. Cash, credit cards, passports. I was stunned. And I also knew what this meant. We almost missed the ship.

 

We learned from our Concierge, that due to severe storms and very, very high seas, that there was a short window of opportunity to get out of port in Casablanca, which meant leaving 4 hours earlier than originally scheduled. They made every attempt to contact us and others on private excursions, but if they did not leave the port by 9 pm. They would not be able to leave for at least one day.

 

In preparation, they did make arrangements with the Port Agent to help us to find our way to Madeira, but that would be two days away. I feel extremely fortunate that finding my way to Madeira by land/air is not NOT a part my story.

 

And that is when the impact settles in... We are the "Bing Bong People",

 

(What are "bing bong people, you ask???) On every cruise in port, there are always a couple of people who arrive late, causing the the crew to send out an all call that sounds like this, "Bing...Bong... Will Mr. John Doe and Mrs. Jane Doe of stateroom 1234 please contact Passenger Services immediately." I have so many items on my bucket list, but Bing Bong person was never one of them. As a matter of fact, I had just said to my husband 2 weeks prior, " I would die of embarrassment if I were ever one of the Bing Bong people". He agreed. We laughed a little. I am such a prompt person, I did not think this could happen to me. But it did. I would like to personally apologize to all of my fellow passengers for holding up the boat. I feel like I should wear a shroud of shame- so everyone will know who the Bing Bong person of Casablanca is. Thankfully, I do not have to do this.

 

This makes me think twice about private tours. I am a pretty experienced cruiser, with lots of private excursions under my belt, and this was one gamble I almost lost. Just a thought.

 

Ironically, we were not the last people to board. There was another group of 4 that they did not board. I am not sure if they made it back or not, as the ship departed at 8:55 pm, a full 2 hours and 5 minutes early. I will check around and try to let you kind readers know.

 

We ate in the suite as the ship left port and then the rolling began...

:)

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Day 4- Sea Day

A little "old time rock and roll" (and not the musical kind).

 

I am pretty sure that none of you have read my "live froms" from the past, as they were either on the Princess or the Holland boards. If you have, forgive my redundancy.

 

My whole life, I have been saddled with crippling sea-sickness/ motion sickness. I have thrown up in every type of moving vehicle known to man. I do not typically take mezclizine type medications. I have always relied on copious amounts of ginger (in varying forms) and my psychologically suggestive Sea Bands. This offered me some relief, but not total abatement of the symptoms. Seriously, the sea sickness was so bad that I threw up ON A SURFBOARD! Who does that? Very crazy...

 

On one cruise, that all changed. I was on a HAL Alaska cruise that was subject to very rough waters. I committed all of the voodoo that I could to help relieve some of the symptoms, but I was still really sick. After 16 hours of not doing so well on this cruise, I fell asleep. I woke to an internal shift. Something inside my vestibular system reset and I was no longer sea sick. I thought I had found my "sea legs". This crazy theory was put to test last January around the Horn on Princess. I did not feel seasick.

 

But the real test has been on this cruise. The seas have been remarkably high. We have experienced so much movement. Drawers won't stay closed. Everything keeps sliding, and we have had two glasses that have "jumped the barrier" and shattered. I am not seasick. However, I am feeling a bit like an infant. All of the rocking is making me very sleepy. I slept for 13 hours last night and this morning. My mom is still sleeping.

 

I did make it to Cagney's for a quick lunch (the usual), and have spent the last two hours trying to catch up my blog. No run today, as they are not letting people out on the Promenade Deck. It is very hard to move around the ship. I have hit a couple of walls pretty hard. It is a good day to stay in the cabin and enjoy the suite. I am grateful for a little down-time.

 

 

More later...

Tracie-Lynn:)

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While the ship is still very tippy, I have had a wonderful afternoon and evening. I decided to run down to the Passenger Services Desk for a couple of items. What did I hear on Deck 8 above me? Music Trivia!!! Yay! I love trivia. I don't always win, but it is so much fun to play. I have met people while playing trivia on other cruises who are still my friends today.

 

I rushed upstairs, found a couple from our CC Roll Call and asked to join them at question 6. D and R were gracious enough to invite me. Yay! Team trivia is so much more fun than solo trivia! We played through the questions, and when it came to scoring, we tied for first. The tie breaker was to sing a song. I just don't sing, no matter how hard I try, just can't do it. So, I payed a little homage to the Bloodhound Gang and rapped 8 bars from one of their little ditties! We tied and they awarded each team a bottle of Champ. Since I don't drink, I made my exit, and went to shower for dinner.

 

My mom is having an official "pajama day", so I decided to eat alone in La Trattoria. She is not a huge fan of Italian food, so I was waiting for this opportunity. I ordered carpaccio, paste e faglio (for my friends with names ending in vowels... yes, I know pronounced "fa' zhjul"). I also ordered the chicken parm and a salad. They did not feature an antipasto. Italian food is my second favorite food (next to Indian- specifically

The service was a little slow. There were five tables occupied (including mine), and it took about 20 minutes to order. No worries, as they brought bread and water very quickly. They present the bread with a variety of oils for dipping (pesto, rosemary, chili, and garlic). My favorite was the garlic-- good thing as there will be no kissing for me on this cruise, as I left my husband in Charlotte. All through dinner, the ship rocked back and forth, several times so much that there was much clattering in the open kitchen that is adjoining the restaurant.

 

The carpaccio was excellent and well balanced with the lightly-dressed, bitter dandelion salad. The portion size was perfect, compared with the appetizers in Shoguns- which were huge and filling. The salad arrive and had pears on it. I did not read the selection on the menu carefully and the salad came with sliced pears. I have a bizarre and very serious allergy to apples. Basically, the consumption of apples renders me breathless. Because of this, I refrain from eating pears, as they are in the same family. They graciously made a brand new salad for me and it was wonderful; fresh bitter greens, shaved parmesan, fresh red peppers and a lime vinaigrette. I really only like raw veggies, so it is not unusual for me to order 2 salads. Calorically speaking, the types of salads that I order are pretty low impact.

 

My next course was the paste'e faglio. Best I have ever had. The soup was presented "empty bowl" style. With the sausage, orzo, white beans, and escarole neatly presented at the bottom of the bowl. The broth was poured table side. (No small trick with this high seas). The tomato broth was both light and flavorful. I absolutely enjoyed it. So much so, I decided if my mom were to have another pajama day, I will come back to La Trattoria for my dinner.

 

I decided to try the chicken parmesan for my entree. Typically, I would not do this, as this would be too heavy, but the waiter recommended it so enthusiastically, who am I to refuse?!? The meal was delicious, though the portion size was a little overwhelming. The chicken cutlet was as large as a toddler's head served aside a small mountain of spaghetti. Both were done well, but there is just no way to eat all of that. Plus, it is my duty to report on dessert, so I took one for the team and at only 1/4 of it (though my little devil voice was saying... "Come on, Tracie, you can finish this!) Logic and goodness prevailed and I quit at a quarter portion (which was still probably a million calories!)

 

I ordered the Torta di Cioccolata for dessert with a decaf cappuccino. It was less a torte and more a pie. I am a huge fan of chocolate pie, so I dug right in. The filling consisted of two layers (thus the torte?). A dense layer that was the consistency of a ganache but a bit (for a lack of a better word) chewier, and a layer that was the consistency of a heavy mousse. The torte was accented with a vanilla cream, raspberries, and pistachio nuts-- a surprisingly apt combination. Overall, I enjoyed the dessert course very much.

 

Overall, impressions of the meal...

The chef's staff did not commit a common error in Italian food- to over-salt. Most Italian food is deliciously spiced without a need for a lot of extra sodium.

With the exception of the chicken Parma, the portions were perfectly sized and manageable.

Service was gracious and well-paced. I felt neither rushed or ignored.

Absolutely worth the extra $15.

They seated me next to a window at a table with a lovely view of both the sea and the kitchen. Believe it or not, as a solo diner, this is very rare. Typically, these tables are reserved for romantic couples.

 

After dinner, I met with friends for an hour or so and then went to the show in the Starlight Theater. The entertainment has actually been pretty good. Cheesy, at points, but overall a step up from my last couple of cruises. I ran into K and M right before the show, and chatted with them a bit about the "Bing Bong Incident of Casablanca- 2014". We laughed about it. We do have one more shore ex with them in Malaga. Fingers-crossed this one goes better!

 

Tomorrow is Madeira. We will be back to ship hours early!!!!

:)

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Love your review! Very funny! We were on the Spirit in Nassau, Bahamas in 2007 when a group of about 6 people came running up to the dock. We watched in amusement from our deck as they waved frantically. The ship had actually started pulling away from the pier, but pulled back in, put the ramp back out, and let them on. I would have been so embarrassed if I was them, but it gave us something to talk about ;). We took some pictures.

 

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7d629b3127ccec184ec7288ef00000010O08EaMWrVq0cg9vPhw/cC/f%3D0/ls%3D00009455501420070809020638113.JPG/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D720/ry%3D480/

 

http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7d629b3127ccec184d75dc84500000010O08EaMWrVq0cg9vPhw/cC/f%3D0/ls%3D00009455501420070809020639134.JPG/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D720/ry%3D480/

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The Unthinkable...

 

...Security pulled me aside to hand me an envelope containing the contents of my safe. Cash, credit cards, passports. I was stunned. And I also knew what this meant. We almost missed the ship.

 

We learned from our Concierge, that due to severe storms and very, very high seas, that there was a short window of opportunity to get out of port in Casablanca, which meant leaving 4 hours earlier than originally scheduled. They made every attempt to contact us and others on private excursions, but if they did not leave the port by 9 pm. They would not be able to leave for at least one day.

 

:)

 

Wow, I have never heard this happening and we are on the same itinerary in March. Was there an announcement or sign up at the beginning of the day that you missed? Or did they just change the time during the day?

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Hi Traci who is your butler and concierge? Enjoying your review!

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

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We decided to eat our first meal in the Garden Room. This is where we hit a bit of a snag. We were brought to our table, given menus, and then we waited. And waited. And waited. We waited for a good 20-25 minutes for someone to bring us water and take our order. Once, they did, the service picked up and moved along. I ordered the gnocchi, but was given the the Moroccan rice cakes, which were very tasty, but about 20 degrees too cool. In the main dining room, the food was just not quite hot enough.

We found exactly the same on the Spirit last month. Both MDRs the service was poor and mostly the food was barely warm.

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Wow, I have never heard this happening and we are on the same itinerary in March. Was there an announcement or sign up at the beginning of the day that you missed? Or did they just change the time during the day?

 

Hi-

We were in the port of Casablanca from 8 am to 11 pm. We were off the ship at 8:30 and told to return by 10:30 pm. At noon, the captain decided to depart early due to pending weather. We were two of 10 people on various private tours. Eight of us made it back, but two did not. NCL paid for their hotel, food and flight to Madeira, as it was not really their fault.

 

We were actually in ready to board a full three hours before the posted departure.

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Hi Traci who is your butler and concierge? Enjoying your review!

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

 

Our butler is Mary Jane and our concierge is Francesco.

 

They are both very, very nice.

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Mary Jane is wonderful! Our concierge was Yahira, wonder where she went? Enjoy your cruise. I loved the turkey burger as well.

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

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I have found free internet. All aboard time is 4:30, so I have about an hour to mess around on the internet.

 

This morning we had another little mishap. In the stormy seas, my mothers wheelchair tipped over blocking the door to the balcony. Our wonderful room steward climbed onto our balcony from our neighbors balcony (Think James Bond only not as graceful and no tux) to open our balcony door from the out side. I really feel like we are putting these poor people through the paces. And they are so stinkin' cheerful about every one our requests.

 

Wheelchair rescued, my mom and I set out on our private excursion through Madeira. We booked with Daniel Madeira Taxi Tours. We had Choel as a driver and he was great. We went up the cable car which was very peaceful and then rode down the big hill in a wicker basket! Yay! Another bucket list item. It was so fun, albeit a bit spendy. Definitely worth it!

 

We were supposed to go to the mountains, but it was rainy and foggy, while it was sunny and warm near the coast. We were able to go on the glass cliff walk. The government built this and it was free. It was also much smaller than I expected.

 

Finally, we went to Ria Brava, which is Madeira's oldest town. It was very quaint. We dropped my mom in port and I walked back into Funchal to find a coffee and some 'net. Check... Check.

 

It is a lovely day here and we are having a grand time. Feel free to ask questions. I will do my best to answer them for you!

 

Tracie-Lynn:)

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Mary Jane is wonderful! Our concierge was Yahira, wonder where she went? Enjoy your cruise. I loved the turkey burger as well.

 

 

Sent using the Cruise Critic forums app

 

Thank you so much! I am sort of sad that I missed the turkey burger today, but my coffee/chocolate milkshake is making me pretty happy.:)

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Loved the description of the rescue of the wheel chair. I can image some of our stewards doing the climb. Yikes! We are also in an SE, but the end ones with the 2nd bathroom. We took both end units.

 

Guess I have a new reason to keep my phone on while off the ship, usually we don't turn the things on except to check email on WiFi. I was planning to buy world minutes this time anyway. Guess that's a good call

 

I'm really enjoying your review. Thanks for sharing.

Edited by IluvZ

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Really enjoying your review as well! I am also allergic to apples - never ran into anyone else who was. But I can eat cooked apples (pie, tarts, etc) - just not raw apples. Too funny!

 

I had a couple of questions about Marrakech.

 

How long did it take you to get there in the morning?

 

How were the souks / medina? Interesting? Worthwhile?

 

What kind of food did you have?

 

Did anyone you bumped into who did the NCL tour comment if they were enjoying it or give any feedback?

 

Outside of the whole leaving port early nightmare, would you recommend going to Marrakech? I've read many mixed reviews. We are on the spirit next month and on the fence for that port

 

Thanks in advance, and enjoy the rest of your cruise!

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After my adventure in town, which included buying a gray "replacement" sweater at H&M (Charlotte, NC, when will you ever get your H&M???). I walked and took in a few sites. Funchal is lovely. The buildings are old, yet extremely well maintained. The streets are negotiable. The people of Funchal speak English. I had a lovely two hour walk through the streets, and then headed back to the port. Just in case you are wondering...I was back an hour before All Aboard.

 

I stopped in the Blue Lagoon and had a half proscuitto and mozzarella panini, which reminded me that I left a quarter pound of proscuitto in the fridge at home. The panini had a healthy dose of fresh basil and red peppers. Whoops. I also had fries with malt vinegar. The Brits sure got that right! Fries and vinegar = yummy! The sandwich was good. The fries were better. Even though I walked about 7 miles, I figured I should go easy. I did not finish either the fries or the sammich.

 

I have also been taking the stairs exclusively. According to my super duper pedometer I am averaging over 1000 stairs a day and about 16000 steps. I have yet to hit 20K steps, but tomorrow is a sea day, and if the seas are forgiving, I may be able to spend a bit of time on the Promenade Deck. So, I am not running much on this trip. I am moving. I keep meaning to take a class in the gym, but so far this has not happened.

 

This late lunch led to an inspired nap that lasted about an hour too long. I just couldn't get it together for dinner, so I went to see the first showing of the Une vie D'Amour. As a whole, I find shipboard entertainment to be rather meh. This was wonderful. It was a dance performance that combined acrobatics, with silks, straps, and rings. The two dancers also did a lot of balance work combined with classical ballet. I enjoyed it so much, I went to tell my mom about it, so she could see the second performance.

 

I finally settled in the Windows dining room. The service boondoggle continues... I am trying not to eat my way through this cruise, so I ordered soup and a salad. Pretty basic. Right? It took an hour and 15 minutes. And the wait staff are not standing around chatting or taking smoke breaks. They running, yes, literally running back and forth to the kitchen. I am thinking this is less a wait staff issue, and maybe it is an NCL issue. I am not sure how they could improve, but this might be a little food for thought.

 

Tomorrow is Lanzarote. I will get to stand on a volcano and eat food that has been cooked in the ground. How very caveman! (no offense to cavemen. some of my best friends are cavemen...). However, I will not be making a second appearance on a camel. I think that was a once in a lifetime experience for me. Because, you know, I will get the ornery camel. I always do.

 

That is enough.

More tomorrow!

Tracie-Lynn :)

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Loving your review Tracie-Lynn, Thank you so much for taking the time out to post.

We are taking my mum 82 on her first cruise for 40 years, she spent the last cruise horizontal.We will be sailing on Spirit on 1st March. As you also suffer from seasickness can you recommend a good medication? I have read on these boards about Bonine being the favourite but we are unable to buy this in the UK, do you know if it is possible to buy it onboard?

Also, there is talk the Spirit is in dry dock from 24th January for 18 days do you have any info of what they will be doing to her while she is there.

 

Hope the sea conditions improve for you and you continue having a great time.

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I am loving your review! We will be on the Spirit in June. Not your itinerary, but I appreciate all of your details about the Spirit. We will be in an SF suite, so similar to yours.

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Thanks for the review. I was on the cruise before you where we had much better weather by the sound of it. Sadly I left the ship at Malaga and remain in hospital there. Hard to believe the Spirit will be back on Wednesday the day I hope to fly home to the UK.

We did a tour in Casablanca and enjoyed it. My sister and I would not have spent much time there otherwise. People we spoke with who didn't do a tour soon came back to the ship. It seems this port has issues with the weather as the port was closed for 2 days prior to our visit. Best seasick pill for us British is Stugeron from any chemist. Give my regards to Francesco. He is a lovely young man.

,

Sent from my GT-I8160 using Tapatalk 2

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OK... I have to cut this sleeping-thing out! I slept another 10 hours (that is 2 nights sleep in Charlotte). I woke and immediately hit the jogging track on the Sports Deck. I speed-walked about a mile and a half. I would have gone longer, but lots of people parked themselves on the jogging track. Grrrrr. It is not like the pathway is not clearly marked. Passengers are asked not to run on the Promenade Deck, and are directed to the track on the Sports Deck. My favorite were the smoking people... I don't want to go off on tangents here, so we will call this "rant over".

 

For those of you who lost sleep due to my claim of not hitting 20K steps... I walked 22K yesterday and 2600 stairs. We do have a scale in our room, and sadly I have not lost any weight, but have not gained any either. Actually, most days it is far to rough to weigh. Due to the ships movement, there can be a 40 pound differential on the scale pending the wave pattern.

 

I ate 2 oranges, a banana and got ready for the day in Lanzarote. I made cappuccinos in our nifty espresso maker, and I was off!

 

I booked a private tour with Lanzarote Tours. I was met at the gate by our guide. We had a bit of a wait for the remaining 12 passengers. While waiting, I met D and R from our Roll Call. They are a very pleasant couple from the UK who were on their 5th cruise. The shore-ex was very interesting. The scenery in Lanzarote is stunning and stark. There is little to no green. When we reached the National Park, we were given 3 demonstrations: 1) We could hold the volcanic rock-- It was really hot. Most people dropped theirs quickly. 2) We watched the park guide put a shrub into the ground and it caught on fire. 3) The park guide poured cold water into a tube in the ground and it created a geyser (only here they pronounced it "geezer"--- took me a minute to figure it out!). I did my best to take a million photos, as it was such an unusual landscape. We proceeded through the park and then made a few other stops overlooking the ocean with black sand beaches. That never gets old. Our final stop was at a winery. I don't drink, so this is of no consequence to me, but I did find the unusual way they cultivate their vines interesting. They build a semi-circle wall around 1 single plant. We were told that most plants each will yield 20-40 kilos of grapes yearly. Unlike Madeira, the majority of the wine produced on the Canary Islands will be consumed on the island. I get that. It is pretty bleak there. A person might want a little wine to warm 'em up!

 

After the tour, we returned to the boat. I refrained from taking a nap. I had a 6 pm reservation to La Trattoria, but changed that to 7 pm so that I could relax and write. I had the same three suspects for my appetizer, salad, and soup. I decided on the rib-eye for the entree. This is where the meal struggled a bit. I asked for a bloody (extra rare) steak, trimmed of all extraneous fat (I know, I know... fat is flavor. Ick) and I received an extraordinarily large rare to medium rare side of beef. The flavor was fine, but I can only eat about 4 oz. of red meat at a seating, so this 14 oz. behemoth was out of my league. I ate about a 1/4 of it and half of the polenta (love me some polenta-- after all, I do live in the South and polenta is a first cousin to grits!). I saved enough room for some tiramsu and coffee. The tiramsu was lovely and the coffee was passible (which is no small feat on a cruise ship). Another successful meal at La Trattoria. The full 5 course meal took an hour and 40 minutes. Just 25 minutes longer than soup and salad in the Windows dining room last night.

 

Alright, I have to admit, I do love a little drama, especially when I am not involved. The table of four in back of me about had a seizure over the lack of dessert wines offered (in spite of the fact their were several Muscato's on the wine list). They droned on and on about how they "knew dessert wines, blah, blah, blah). When the waiter pointed out the Muscato, they compromised the very fiber of their beings and ordered a bottle. After the first taste (which they found pleasing), they went on to discuss how awful American wines are. I don't even drink wine, and I find nothing more entertaining than an uneducated wine snob. When the bill arrived, they began arguing over who should have to pay for the wine. Wow. I considered it dinner and a show. Why do classless and loud alway accompany one another? (Um, that is rhetorical).

 

After dinner, I noticed the seas became markedly more bumpy, so I went to the casino to find my mother. I caught her at the tail end of her dalliance with a slot machine, and she and I made our way to the room. The movement of the ship was different. It was more up and down, verses side by side. We each took a sea sick pill (prophelacticly) and I donned my psychologically suggestive Sea Bands. After a few good giggles, we both made our way to bed by midnight.

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After my adventure in town, which included buying a gray "replacement" sweater at H&M (Charlotte, NC, when will you ever get your H&M???). I walked and took in a few sites. Funchal is lovely. The buildings are old, yet extremely well maintained. The streets are negotiable. The people of Funchal speak English. I had a lovely two hour walk through the streets, and then headed back to the port. Just in case you are wondering...I was back an hour before All Aboard.

 

I stopped in the Blue Lagoon and had a half proscuitto and mozzarella panini, which reminded me that I left a quarter pound of proscuitto in the fridge at home. The panini had a healthy dose of fresh basil and red peppers. Whoops. I also had fries with malt vinegar. The Brits sure got that right! Fries and vinegar = yummy! The sandwich was good. The fries were better. Even though I walked about 7 miles, I figured I should go easy. I did not finish either the fries or the sammich.

 

I have also been taking the stairs exclusively. According to my super duper pedometer I am averaging over 1000 stairs a day and about 16000 steps. I have yet to hit 20K steps, but tomorrow is a sea day, and if the seas are forgiving, I may be able to spend a bit of time on the Promenade Deck. So, I am not running much on this trip. I am moving. I keep meaning to take a class in the gym, but so far this has not happened.

 

This late lunch led to an inspired nap that lasted about an hour too long. I just couldn't get it together for dinner, so I went to see the first showing of the Une vie D'Amour. As a whole, I find shipboard entertainment to be rather meh. This was wonderful. It was a dance performance that combined acrobatics, with silks, straps, and rings. The two dancers also did a lot of balance work combined with classical ballet. I enjoyed it so much, I went to tell my mom about it, so she could see the second performance.

 

I finally settled in the Windows dining room. The service boondoggle continues... I am trying not to eat my way through this cruise, so I ordered soup and a salad. Pretty basic. Right? It took an hour and 15 minutes. And the wait staff are not standing around chatting or taking smoke breaks. They running, yes, literally running back and forth to the kitchen. I am thinking this is less a wait staff issue, and maybe it is an NCL issue. I am not sure how they could improve, but this might be a little food for thought.

 

Tomorrow is Lanzarote. I will get to stand on a volcano and eat food that has been cooked in the ground. How very caveman! (no offense to cavemen. some of my best friends are cavemen...). However, I will not be making a second appearance on a camel. I think that was a once in a lifetime experience for me. Because, you know, I will get the ornery camel. I always do.

 

That is enough.

More tomorrow!

Tracie-Lynn :)

 

 

Just curious about your "eat food that has been cooked in the ground" comment. In Japan we ate boiled eggs that were cooked in the underground thermal pools. Did you do something like that? Enjoying your review! We are thinking of doing this cruise.

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Another sea day, another Cagney's lunch! I decided to try the Bruchetta sammich with my salad. It was very good, but much heavier than I anticipated. I think I will return to my bun-less turkey burger for the final sea day (gosh, that makes me sad to write). I had another pot of French-Press and a half dessert.

We are celebrating my birthday tonight at Le Bistro. I have an affinity for French food, so I am really looking forward to the meal.

 

Tonight's entertainment was a magician. I just needed to skip that. I am not a huge fan of magic. I do enjoy a little slight of hand, but it is not worth sitting through a long and protracted performance to have a possible chance to witness a bit of slight of hand.

 

I decided to walk this afternoon. I walked the Promenade Deck for 90 minutes, which equalled about six miles. The weather was beautiful, albeit a bit tippy, still sunny and lovely.

 

We had dinner at Le Bistro. So, so good. I had the French onion soup, the salad (without duck), and the filet (which was, by the way, cooked perfectly!). I had creme Brulee for dessert. They sang happy birthday to my invisible twin sister "Stacie". Lots of fuss for a day. Actually, my real birthday is tomorrow, but we will be in port all day, so today was designated as celebration day!

 

I am in for the night. I think I am going to put on my jammies and watch Moneyball.

 

More later!

Tracie-Lynn :)

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Just curious about your "eat food that has been cooked in the ground" comment. In Japan we ate boiled eggs that were cooked in the underground thermal pools. Did you do something like that? Enjoying your review! We are thinking of doing this cruise.

 

There was a hole in the ground, and they put a grill rack over it and cooked the meat. We did not have time to try it though. :(

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Day 8

January 22

 

Today dawned sunny and bright, though cold. We changed a little money, ate breakfast in Cagney's, and got ready for the our private tour with Spain Day Tours/Top Day Tours to Granada and the Alhambra. When we made our way downstairs, we found that we were 22. We were told that when we reached the Alhambra, we would be split into 2 groups. The bus took just over two hours (with one rest stop at a very clean bathroom) to reach the Alhambra in Granada. Our tour guide, Rafael, was a veritable fount of knowledge. He had studied architecture in Spain, France, and England, so we learned a lot about a lot of things. He also had moments of being pretty funny. We traveled to Granada by bus and the weather changed about 25 times. This is my warning to people who are going to Granada... It is cold! We were seriously underdressed. I am so glad that I brought my rain jacket. My poor mother had on a very light shirt and sweater. We think that the weather is a conspiracy to make people buy hot chocolate from the vending machine... We referred to it as "hand warmers".

 

The Alhambra is lovely. And old. And really, really well restored. And reasonably priced (13 euro). I will offer another hint... Buy your tickets in advance. They only let you into the "palace" section at a specific time that is printed on your ticket. If you buy your tickets the day of, you may find your time to be 3:00 pm (as a certain young gentleman did). You may also find it prudent to have a guide, as there is a lot to see. I really loved the summer palace and the gardens the best. The craftsmanship is unbelievable.

After the Alhambra, we were let loose in downtown Granada for a couple of hours. My mom and I sampled the tapas, and then shopped a bit.

 

I do want to add a side note here. My mom and I have traveled all over the world. She has mobility impairments and occasionally, she cannot access all areas of the local attractions. I was amazed at how accessible the Alhambra was. They had ramps everywhere. The staff there were also willing to help. For those of you who need a wheelchair or love someone who does, this is amazing and unusual.

 

The saddest part of visiting Malaga and Granada is one day is just not enough time. This little corner of the world is so lovely and enchanting. I am trying to find a way to come back to stay longer. I have not been to Spain since I was very young, and my memories of Madrid are not my fondest.

 

All aboard was 6:30 pm and we pulled in at 6:25. Fortunately, we came in with an NCL shore ex, so there were no frowny faces. I pushed my mom up to our room, and when she opened the door, she exclaimed that it really needed to be vacuumed. Upon further inspection, we found that the room had been completely decorated for my birthday! This included many balloons, streamers, signs, and confetti all over the floor. In the bedroom, instead of a towel animal, there was a "towel birthday cake"! So cute! This was truly an "above and beyond" demonstration by the crew. I am most certainly grateful.

 

We dropped our bags, took a bunch of photos, and headed to the Stardust Theater for the Elements Show. I have to say, NCL has it over Princess and HAL in their entertainment. Most cruise ship entertainment is really, really cheesy (and there was a bit of cheese on NCL, as well), but there were were a couple of production shows I would have paid to see.

 

After the show, I dropped my mother in the casino and made my way to the Blue Lagoon for a bit of soup. The service here was great and they really keep the people moving.

 

Tonight also hosted the Chocoholics Extravaganza. We convened at Deck 11 at 9:45. While much of it looked delicious, it might have been too much of a good thing. I had a pineapple crepe and a chocolate banana. And a glass of milk!

 

That's it. Stick a fork in me. I am done! It was a wonderful and fun day!

 

More later,

Tracie-Lynn :)

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January 23

Last Day- At Sea

 

Of all of things I love about cruising, I dislike the last day so much, especially if it has been an enchanted vacation.

I had breakfast at Cagney's then walked for just shy of 8 miles (2 hours) around the Promenade Deck. I find this so peaceful. I wish that I could do this every day.

 

I showered. Trust, I needed it! And returned to Cagney's for lunch. Had my turkey burger (sans bun) and fruit. Oh and of course, a salad.

 

Then I packed. Ugh.

 

We returned to Cagney's for dinner, as guests of Armando DiSilva. This was the brightest spot in the day. I had the potato soup, which was lovely but filling, so I only ate half. I also had the wedge salad. Love me a good wedge! The petit filet was cooked perfectly. I finished with Creme Brûlée. Only I could not finish it. Just too much food!

 

My mom went to the casino. I returned to our stateroom and just sat. I burned the balance of my internet minutes.

 

Friday- Home...

We had a 5 am wakeup call. Breakfast arrived shortly after, but there was little time to eat much. I made our final lattes in the wonderful little machine, and we were off to the atrium to catch the bus to the airport. We arrived at the airport about 30 minutes before the Delta counter opened, so we waited in line and chatted with people we met on the ship. I also spent about an hour trying to track down a little thing my mom Inadvertently left on the plane when we flew into BCN. Believe it or not, after a lot of running around and employing my super bad Spanish, the item was recovered and returned to my mother, who was thrilled!

 

We boarded the flight to JFK. We were in the front section again, so we had a fair amount of space to spread out. When we arrived in NY, we were shocked at the change in the weather. It was 12 degrees F. Just brutal.

Our connecting flight was off the tarmac, so my mother had to ascend 6 very steep stairs. She was exhausted, and this took a bit of effort. We did get her on the plane, and she was able to rest during the flight home to Charlotte.

 

When we arrived in Charlotte, it was super cold (for us in the South with our very thin blood). I gathered the luggage, then took the shuttle to Long Term Parking. Car started. Mother and luggage loaded... and 20 minutes later, we were home!

 

I will post my final thoughts soon.

Tracie-Lynn:)

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Final Thoughts:

 

I have really wrestled with this, as I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Yet, I am in a supervisory position (in my real "non-cruising" life), and I have found that honesty is best. So, here goes...

 

I must preface my final thoughts with the following:

 

We received a number of cards and communications from various officers.

 

Most notably- and I think this is interesting, and somewhat important...

I received a hand written letter from the Captain.

 

A few days prior, I wrote him a little note, thanking him for how he handled the situation in Casablanca. In the face of some extenuating circumstances, he and his staff did everything possible to tend to the welfare of all of their passengers. I felt it warranted an expression of gratitude.

 

Within a few days, I received a little note back. The gist of the note stated that he was very glad that we made it back on ship and that he really did not like leaving people behind. Then he added a post script stating, "I like your writing on Cruise Critic." Just proving that what is posted on these boards is monitored. Sometimes, in "real time". I am really glad that I learned of this at the end of the cruise, as opposed to the beginning, because the knowledge that my postings were being read by shipboard personnel, most notably the Captain of the ship, may have skewed my writing. (Though it is nice to know that a couple of people read the blog:))

 

So with all of that said, here are my final thoughts:

 

I thought this ship was understated and lovely. It was also spotless. No matter where I looked, there was something being done to maintain the original integrity of the vessel. I want to send a special shout-out here to Armando- who supervises 800 of the 900 crew. Much of this is due to the fact that Armando really loves this ship and cares about her appearance. I want to send a second shout-out to the crew who maintain the exterior of the ship. As I marched around the Promenade Deck for hours at a time, I observed a small crew committing acts of painting, varnishing, and polishing. The ships was as lovely on the outside as it was elegant on the inside. Well done!

 

 

The crew of the ship were so cheerful and personable. It seemed as though they really wanted their passengers to have a wonderful cruise. There was much smiling and greeting. There was only one person who was less than gracious, and I believe that he was overwhelmed. Fortunately, I only encountered him one time on the cruise, so I believe his was just filling in for someone else.

 

 

The entertainment was top-notch. And I don't say that lightly. I would rather have a root canal without the benefit of anesthesia that sit through most cruise ship performances, but NCL has really put together some great acts. Making it to the shows on time became a priority!

 

 

Our accommodations were fabulous, and comfortable. We loved the suite and will find it hard to return to a standard stateroom (but we will suffer, in the name of cruising).

 

 

The concierge, butler, and room steward were marvelous! I will say that I sent a list of 20 items 3 days prior to the cruise, and they did everything possible to address all of our "wishes". And they did it with a smile. As a matter of fact, these were some of the smiliest people I met. A huge shout out goes to Eric for all of the towel animals (a veritable zoo) and the birthday decorations.

 

 

The specialty restaurants were wonderful. The food was delicious and well prepared. The service was even. The waitstaff were accommodating. The price was reasonable. When sailing on NCL again, I will purchase the dining package.

 

 

Sadly, I cannot say the same for either of the standard dining rooms. The food was not hot (sometimes, not even warm). The service was not even or well-paced. The waitstaff were literally running but the meals would take so long. (I wrote in an earlier post that it took an hour and 15 minutes for soup and salad). I think this is one of the downfalls of the Freestyle cruising movement. On other cruise lines, we always partake in traditional dining. We get to know our waitstaff and they get to know us. This seems to expedite the service. I wish NCL would offer this as an option.

 

Finally, I would like to thank the Captain and his staff. They sailed us through some very challenging waters, and had to some very difficult decisions due to situations beyond their control. I was very impressed with them.

 

 

I loved this cruise and would do it again in a hot second. Both my mother and I had a terrific time aboard the enchanting Spirit.

 

Thanks for coming along!

Tracie-Lynn:)

Edited by TracieABD

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Loving your review Tracie-Lynn, Thank you so much for taking the time out to post.

We are taking my mum 82 on her first cruise for 40 years, she spent the last cruise horizontal.We will be sailing on Spirit on 1st March. As you also suffer from seasickness can you recommend a good medication? I have read on these boards about Bonine being the favourite but we are unable to buy this in the UK, do you know if it is possible to buy it onboard?

Also, there is talk the Spirit is in dry dock from 24th January for 18 days do you have any info of what they will be doing to her while she is there.

 

Hope the sea conditions improve for you and you continue having a great time.

 

Our butler, Mary Jane, would leave us packets of Bonine. So I think it is available on the ship.

 

Dry dock: I asked Armando about the dry dock, and he said it was general maintenance and repairs. There are no major structural changes planned. As we were leaving, they were boarding 500 workers who will live aboard during the dry dock.

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Sadly, I cannot say the same for either of the standard dining rooms. The food was not hot (sometimes, not even warm). The service was not even or well-paced. The waitstaff were literally running but the meals would take so long. (I wrote in an earlier post that it took an hour and 15 minutes for soup and salad). I think this is one of the downfalls of the Freestyle cruising movement. On other cruise lines, we always partake in traditional dining. We get to know our waitstaff and they get to know us. This seems to expedite the service. I wish NCL would offer this as an option.

 

+1 for the MDRs food being cold.

 

Royal Caribbean seem to have it just right.......on Allure there was a whole floor for "freestyle dining" but they try to seat you with the same waiter every evening. And they knocked their pipe out to make sure they got a 5* on the comment card.

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I spoke with Pradrag the Chief Engineer. He says the Dry Dock is because the ship is now reaching 15 years old. The hull structure has to have extensive checks to test it's integrity. He also said a lot of electrical wiring was to be replaced again due to age and with future safety in mind not because it is faulty in any way. Other than that as Tracie said, just general maintenance stuff.

 

Tracie you had as good a time as I did and met and loved the same people I do. I hope to cruise with you one day, I think we would get on and have a blast.

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