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jlacy1987

Carnival First-timer with Questions

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Posted (edited)

I apologize if these have been asked before but searching the forum and Google has left me with blanks.

 

We are cruising to Bermuda on Sunrise in September. If the ship leaves Bermuda at 5pm, what time must we be back on the ship? I believe with NCL it was 1 or 2 hours (can't remember exactly) but I can't find Carnival's policy anywhere.

 

Here are a few more questions I have:

 

1) Adults-only Serenity area is included in the cruise cost, right? I seem to remember that NCL charges (or at least used to) for their adults-only area so I want to make sure I didn't misinterpret that Carnival includes it. And speaking of Serenity, are those fancy cabanas first come first serve or is there a fee to reserve? Again, on NCL I think there was a fee to reserve them.

 

2) The deck plans make it look like the Fitness Center is inside the Spa. Would we need a spa pass to be able to use the Fitness Center?

 

3) I know on Elegant night(s), there is a more upscale dress code. I think we'd prefer to avoid packing a special outfit for 1 day so I know we won't be able to use the MDR. But I know the Lido Buffet will be available. What about the other free restaurants? Will those follow the Elegant dress code or will they be casual like Lido? Just wondering if on Elegant night if Lido will be our only dinner option unless we pack a nicer outfit for everyone. 

 

4) What restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day? I know Lido is and so is the Italian place (right?). Wondering what our food options will be that day. Which will be the least crowded place to eat on embarkation day?

 

5) Will the pool be open for use immediately upon embarkation? We are weighing whether to try and get on board as early as possible and let my 10 year old enjoy the pool before it's packed vs spending time in New York for a few hours. 

 

6) Can kids join you in the lounges? In case there's ever a night we want to go to one of the lounges and listen to some live music, just wanted to know if those are considered adult-only or not. We plan on making use of Camp Ocean so we can always ship him off to them if we can't take him with us.

 

7) How busy do the activities on board get during different times? Meaning what are generally the best times to try to do the mini golf or ropes course or go to the sports square area? 

 

8 ) Is a spa balcony worth paying an additional $142 over a regular balcony? I never did a spa pass with my 2 NCL cruises and I'm not sure how much I'd use it since I think the Serenity area is included. So I'm not sure if I want to "upgrade" to a spa balcony or not (we are currently booked in a regular balcony).

Edited by jlacy1987

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Posted (edited)

Back on board time is pretty standard 30 minutes before leave time. They do post it in the Fun Times and on a sign at the exit.

 

Serenity is included and cabanas are first come first served.

 

You don't need a spa pass to use the fitness center. It is not part of the spa even though it does share the entrance hallway.

 

The elegant nights are everything from really fancy to casual. They just restrict sleeveless shirts, shorts, and really casual stuff, and even then those are generally allowed. The added cost restaurants are sometimes just a bit more strict, especially the steakhouse, but it is not consistent. If you have casual attire, you are safe pretty much anywhere.

 

All the restaurants are open for lunch, except the steakhouse. The italian place has a different lunch menu from the added charge dinner menu.

 

The pool is open at embarkation, so bring a suit in your carry-on and jump in!

 

Don't know about the lounges.

 

The outside activities are pretty empty before noon and during dinner, with a bit more of a crowd during lunch.

In between meals are generally the most crowded.

 

Spa balcony gives a spa pass and is very close to the spa. They have different colored beach towels, thicker towels and washrags, a better robe and slippers, and some sample soap/lotion stuff like you find in some hotels. If that interest you, then it is worth the cost.

 

Remember, all these are very general observations and your mileage may vary.

Edited by Davey Wavey

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1) Serenity is included. All loungers/daybeds/etc. are on a first-come, first-served basis. Understand though, that it is adults only, and usually enforced pretty strictly.

 

2) No spa pass needed for the fitness center - usually it's just a doorway somewhere off the spa entrance. I don't know specifically its location on the Sunrise.

 

3) Lido buffet is always cruise casual - you do not have to dress up. On Carnival, however, you'll find the "elegant" night dress code to be pretty casual - you'd likely still be able to dine in the MDR even on elegant night.

 

4) Also Guys Burgers, Blue Iguana, and Pizza Pirate (is it still called that?). These are all on Lido, but generally outside the main buffet. I'd expect all to be crowded on embarkation day but if you time it right, the line will move quickly enough.

 

5) Usually yes, unless there's some unforeseen circumstance. 

 

6) Usually yes, although there may be a time when the lounge becomes 18+ due to a planned activity. This is usually stated in the Fun Times; i.e. an event will have (18+) next to it.

 

7) I don't usually partake in these but earlier in the day and very late afternoon would be my general assumption.

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19 minutes ago, jlacy1987 said:

I apologize if these have been asked before but searching the forum and Google has left me with blanks.

 

We are cruising to Bermuda on Sunrise in September. If the ship leaves Bermuda at 5pm, what time must we be back on the ship? I believe with NCL it was 1 or 2 hours (can't remember exactly) but I can't find Carnival's policy anywhere.

 

Here are a few more questions I have:

 

1) Adults-only Serenity area is included in the cruise cost, right? I seem to remember that NCL charges (or at least used to) for their adults-only area so I want to make sure I didn't misinterpret that Carnival includes it. And speaking of Serenity, are those fancy cabanas first come first serve or is there a fee to reserve? Again, on NCL I think there was a fee to reserve them.

Yep, it's free. 🙂

 

2) The deck plans make it look like the Fitness Center is inside the Spa. Would we need a spa pass to be able to use the Fitness Center?

Never used the fitness center but I think it's free?

 

3) I know on Elegant night(s), there is a more upscale dress code. I think we'd prefer to avoid packing a special outfit for 1 day so I know we won't be able to use the MDR. But I know the Lido Buffet will be available. What about the other free restaurants? Will those follow the Elegant dress code or will they be casual like Lido? Just wondering if on Elegant night if Lido will be our only dinner option unless we pack a nicer outfit for everyone. 

You do not need to dress up for elegant night, a lot of people don't. Ignore the fashion police. Even if you don't want to go to the MDR, you can eat anywhere else and not dress up. (sans the steak house)

 

4) What restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day? I know Lido is and so is the Italian place (right?). Wondering what our food options will be that day. Which will be the least crowded place to eat on embarkation day?

Everything is open, except the MDR. 

 

5) Will the pool be open for use immediately upon embarkation? We are weighing whether to try and get on board as early as possible and let my 10 year old enjoy the pool before it's packed vs spending time in New York for a few hours. 

Yes the pools are open.

 

6) Can kids join you in the lounges? In case there's ever a night we want to go to one of the lounges and listen to some live music, just wanted to know if those are considered adult-only or not. We plan on making use of Camp Ocean so we can always ship him off to them if we can't take him with us.

Yes they can. However the comedy club at night is 18+. If it's an 18+ event, it'll be notated.

 

7) How busy do the activities on board get during different times? Meaning what are generally the best times to try to do the mini golf or ropes course or go to the sports square area? 

Mid-day or early evening they're not too busy. 

 

8 ) Is a spa balcony worth paying an additional $142 over a regular balcony? I never did a spa pass with my 2 NCL cruises and I'm not sure how much I'd use it since I think the Serenity area is included. So I'm not sure if I want to "upgrade" to a spa balcony or not (we are currently booked in a regular balcony).

Not sure about a spa balcony. Never had any interest in getting one.

 

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Yes, I wouldn't be bringing my son to the Serenity area with me.

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Hi there,

Serenity is included in your fare.

Fitness center is in the spa are but is free for all passengers, 18 and over I think.

You can wear a polo shirt and khakis on elegant night. You don’t need a special outfit.Lido, Guy’s burgers , and pizza are available at no charge. You can wear very casual those places.

I’m not sure about the pool. We got on at 5:30- right before the muster drill.

We were on Sunrise last week, and there were many well behaved children sitting in the lounges with their parents.

I never went up to sports square, but my husband jogged up there every day and said it was not crowded. The ropes course closes at sunset, I believe. I found that places cleared out about 4:30 when folks were getting ready for dinner.

We were in a spa balcony on deck 10. We really enjoyed the steam rooms and sauna(both co-Ed) Also the heated tile loungers are relaxing. Those areas were practically empty in early evening. We ate dinner late.

Ask any other questions if you like.

 

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Thank you, this has been very helpful. My husband and son are very much shorts, t-shirts, and sandals kind of people. I'll probably just have them each pack 1 pair of jeans (since they'd only wear them at dinner) and a nicer shirt and be done with it. That would be fine right? Or do they also need to pack a pair of shoes in addition to their sandals?

 

It's easy for women because I can just wear a sundress and be done. 

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6 minutes ago, jlacy1987 said:

Thank you, this has been very helpful. My husband and son are very much shorts, t-shirts, and sandals kind of people. I'll probably just have them each pack 1 pair of jeans (since they'd only wear them at dinner) and a nicer shirt and be done with it. That would be fine right? Or do they also need to pack a pair of shoes in addition to their sandals?

 

It's easy for women because I can just wear a sundress and be done. 

 

On elegant nights I wear tennis shoes with my jeans. That way I have a pair of shoes in case I need them for anything. Every other night, it's shorts and sandals. 

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Just now, teknoge3k said:

 

On elegant nights I wear tennis shoes with my jeans. That way I have a pair of shoes in case I need them for anything. Every other night, it's shorts and sandals. 

 

Perfect!

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Hi, and welcome to Carnival.  NO worries, I'll start the replies with what I know:

 

We are cruising to Bermuda on Sunrise in September. If the ship leaves Bermuda at 5pm, what time must we be back on the ship? I believe with NCL it was 1 or 2 hours (can't remember exactly) but I can't find Carnival's policy anywhere.

  • It's usually an hour before 'cast off' and 'underway time.'  Bermuda isn't that big, but if you're going on your own, sometimes getting a cab back to the ship is problematic.  Roads are narrow, etc. 

Here are a few more questions I have:

 

1) Adults-only Serenity area is included in the cruise cost, right? I seem to remember that NCL charges (or at least used to) for their adults-only area so I want to make sure I didn't misinterpret that Carnival includes it. And speaking of Serenity, are those fancy cabanas first come first serve or is there a fee to reserve? Again, on NCL I think there was a fee to reserve them.

  • It's included, no charge.  Everything is fc, first served - which leads to "chair hogging," - people that get up, pile stuff into a lounger, then disappear to work out or eat or something.  (I suppose that's the problem with them being offered free!).  Suggest you tag-team with your cruise partner and post a guard while the other one goes for chow, as we say in the Marines.

 

2) The deck plans make it look like the Fitness Center is inside the Spa. Would we need a spa pass to be able to use the Fitness Center?

  • It does like that doesn't it? I've never been on the Sunrise/Triumph but I've been on her sister ships. You don't need a spa pass to use the gym/fitness center, though they're in close proximity to each other. The "spa pass" (extra charge) is getting you access to the Thalassotherapy Pool (very high end hot tub) and the magical heated tile loungers.  There most likely is a charge for exercise classes, yoga, etc. Gym remains free. There are free hot tubs out on deck of course. 

 

3) I know on Elegant night(s), there is a more upscale dress code. I think we'd prefer to avoid packing a special outfit for 1 day so I know we won't be able to use the MDR. But I know the Lido Buffet will be available. What about the other free restaurants? Will those follow the Elegant dress code or will they be casual like Lido? Just wondering if on Elegant night if Lido will be our only dinner option unless we pack a nicer outfit for everyone. 

  • Don't worry about the Elegant nights, unless you want to. Of course the Lido has a relaxed dress code, if, as an example, men show up in the MDR with a "collared shirt" on, that's more than fine.  Even on Holland America, I haven't seen people turned away from the MDR on elegant nights as long as they weren't in shorts and a tank top. 

 

4) What restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day? I know Lido is and so is the Italian place (right?). Wondering what our food options will be that day. Which will be the least crowded place to eat on embarkation day?

  • Anything up on deck would be busy - the Italian place  ( CUCINA DEL CAPITANO) may or may not be more crowded than, say, Blue Iguana out on deck. I'd just get on the ship and start exploring, and when your nose lights up and it's not too crowded...eat!

 

5) Will the pool be open for use immediately upon embarkation? We are weighing whether to try and get on board as early as possible and let my 10 year old enjoy the pool before it's packed vs spending time in New York for a few hours. 

  • It most likely will be, but it's NYC in September so it's liable to be a bit chilly!  The main pool has a retractable cover though, so shouldn't be too bad.

 

6) Can kids join you in the lounges? In case there's ever a night we want to go to one of the lounges and listen to some live music, just wanted to know if those are considered adult-only or not. We plan on making use of Camp Ocean so we can always ship him off to them if we can't take him with us.

  • Yes, of course.  They also do two sets of shows at the Comedy Club, 'family' friendly "adult only." 

 

7) How busy do the activities on board get during different times? Meaning what are generally the best times to try to do the mini golf or ropes course or go to the sports square area? 

  • I'll leave that one to someone just there, but I imagine it's dependent on the weather, time of year, itinerary (long/short/Spring Break) as to how active your fellow passengers are. Sounds like you're going right after school's started, so mostly single adults and retirees? 

 

8 ) Is a spa balcony worth paying an additional $142 over a regular balcony? I never did a spa pass with my 2 NCL cruises and I'm not sure how much I'd use it since I think the Serenity area is included. So I'm not sure if I want to "upgrade" to a spa balcony or not (we are currently booked in a regular balcony).

  • I think what you're getting with the upcharge (aside from a special bathrobe) is access to the Thermal suites (the super hot tub, special steam rooms, heated lounger)  I mentioned. Serenity is included in your basic cruise fare, so unless you really want to hang out in the Spa, it's not worth it. I believe they'll also sell Spa passes to non-Spa cabin cruisers, so it can get crowded in there (that was my experience on the Vista). 

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As a previous poster mentioned, a spa balcony gives you access to the thermal suite. The suite has heated lounge chairs, saunas and steam rooms. I don’t know specifically how the thermal suite on Sunrise is configured because I have not cruised on her yet. We always get a spa cabin on ships that have a thermal suite and think the extra cost is well worth it. If the thermal suite doesn’t interest you, the only other advantage of a spa cabin is you get a bigger discount on spa services. However, even with the added discount spa services are not cheap. 

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8 minutes ago, jlacy1987 said:

Yes, I wouldn't be bringing my son to the Serenity area with me.

 

I assumed as much based on your "shipping him off to Camp Carnival" statement regarding lounges 😁 - but I've seen other people ask the question so who knows for sure what people think!

 

6 minutes ago, jlacy1987 said:

Thank you, this has been very helpful. My husband and son are very much shorts, t-shirts, and sandals kind of people. I'll probably just have them each pack 1 pair of jeans (since they'd only wear them at dinner) and a nicer shirt and be done with it. That would be fine right? Or do they also need to pack a pair of shoes in addition to their sandals?

 

It's easy for women because I can just wear a sundress and be done. 

 

Sandals should be fine. As teknoge3k suggested, tennis shoes or a casual slip on shoe (like boat shoe) is also fine.

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8 minutes ago, lab_love123 said:

 

I assumed as much based on your "shipping him off to Camp Carnival" statement regarding lounges 😁 - but I've seen other people ask the question so who knows for sure what people think!

 

 

Sandals should be fine. As teknoge3k suggested, tennis shoes or a casual slip on shoe (like boat shoe) is also fine.

 

Ok, good. That will make packing significantly easier since we will stick to carry-on sized luggage only. So carry-on plus maybe a small backpack as the personal item.

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14 minutes ago, MauiWowie57 said:

Hi, and welcome to Carnival.  NO worries, I'll start the replies with what I know:

 

We are cruising to Bermuda on Sunrise in September. If the ship leaves Bermuda at 5pm, what time must we be back on the ship? I believe with NCL it was 1 or 2 hours (can't remember exactly) but I can't find Carnival's policy anywhere.

  • It's usually an hour before 'cast off' and 'underway time.'  Bermuda isn't that big, but if you're going on your own, sometimes getting a cab back to the ship is problematic.  Roads are narrow, etc. 

Here are a few more questions I have:

 

1) Adults-only Serenity area is included in the cruise cost, right? I seem to remember that NCL charges (or at least used to) for their adults-only area so I want to make sure I didn't misinterpret that Carnival includes it. And speaking of Serenity, are those fancy cabanas first come first serve or is there a fee to reserve? Again, on NCL I think there was a fee to reserve them.

  • It's included, no charge.  Everything is fc, first served - which leads to "chair hogging," - people that get up, pile stuff into a lounger, then disappear to work out or eat or something.  (I suppose that's the problem with them being offered free!).  Suggest you tag-team with your cruise partner and post a guard while the other one goes for chow, as we say in the Marines.

 

2) The deck plans make it look like the Fitness Center is inside the Spa. Would we need a spa pass to be able to use the Fitness Center?

  • It does like that doesn't it? I've never been on the Sunrise/Triumph but I've been on her sister ships. You don't need a spa pass to use the gym/fitness center, though they're in close proximity to each other. The "spa pass" (extra charge) is getting you access to the Thalassotherapy Pool (very high end hot tub) and the magical heated tile loungers.  There most likely is a charge for exercise classes, yoga, etc. Gym remains free. There are free hot tubs out on deck of course. 

 

3) I know on Elegant night(s), there is a more upscale dress code. I think we'd prefer to avoid packing a special outfit for 1 day so I know we won't be able to use the MDR. But I know the Lido Buffet will be available. What about the other free restaurants? Will those follow the Elegant dress code or will they be casual like Lido? Just wondering if on Elegant night if Lido will be our only dinner option unless we pack a nicer outfit for everyone. 

  • Don't worry about the Elegant nights, unless you want to. Of course the Lido has a relaxed dress code, if, as an example, men show up in the MDR with a "collared shirt" on, that's more than fine.  Even on Holland America, I haven't seen people turned away from the MDR on elegant nights as long as they weren't in shorts and a tank top. 

 

4) What restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day? I know Lido is and so is the Italian place (right?). Wondering what our food options will be that day. Which will be the least crowded place to eat on embarkation day?

  • Anything up on deck would be busy - the Italian place  ( CUCINA DEL CAPITANO) may or may not be more crowded than, say, Blue Iguana out on deck. I'd just get on the ship and start exploring, and when your nose lights up and it's not too crowded...eat!

 

5) Will the pool be open for use immediately upon embarkation? We are weighing whether to try and get on board as early as possible and let my 10 year old enjoy the pool before it's packed vs spending time in New York for a few hours. 

  • It most likely will be, but it's NYC in September so it's liable to be a bit chilly!  The main pool has a retractable cover though, so shouldn't be too bad.

 

6) Can kids join you in the lounges? In case there's ever a night we want to go to one of the lounges and listen to some live music, just wanted to know if those are considered adult-only or not. We plan on making use of Camp Ocean so we can always ship him off to them if we can't take him with us.

  • Yes, of course.  They also do two sets of shows at the Comedy Club, 'family' friendly "adult only." 

 

7) How busy do the activities on board get during different times? Meaning what are generally the best times to try to do the mini golf or ropes course or go to the sports square area? 

  • I'll leave that one to someone just there, but I imagine it's dependent on the weather, time of year, itinerary (long/short/Spring Break) as to how active your fellow passengers are. Sounds like you're going right after school's started, so mostly single adults and retirees? 

 

8 ) Is a spa balcony worth paying an additional $142 over a regular balcony? I never did a spa pass with my 2 NCL cruises and I'm not sure how much I'd use it since I think the Serenity area is included. So I'm not sure if I want to "upgrade" to a spa balcony or not (we are currently booked in a regular balcony).

  • I think what you're getting with the upcharge (aside from a special bathrobe) is access to the Thermal suites (the super hot tub, special steam rooms, heated lounger)  I mentioned. Serenity is included in your basic cruise fare, so unless you really want to hang out in the Spa, it's not worth it. I believe they'll also sell Spa passes to non-Spa cabin cruisers, so it can get crowded in there (that was my experience on the Vista). 

Also, there is no thellasotherapy pool on Sunrise.

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10 minutes ago, beacha said:

Also, there is no thellasotherapy pool on Sunrise.

Got me! Website says there is. Let's just say "Magic Hot Tub." 

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We took our three year old all over the ship with us at night. She would usually fall asleep in her stroller after dinner and we would just tote her around with us. We spent many nights in the Red Frog Pub listening to the musician with her peacefully sleeping in her stroller. We also took her to the playlist productions shows and found an aisle area we could sit her stroller next to us. The only time we had an issue with it was going to the R rated comedy show. They wouldn’t let me in with her even being asleep. I ran her up to kids camp and they kept her there so we could see the show. Lol

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1 hour ago, MauiWowie57 said:

Got me! Website says there is. Let's just say "Magic Hot Tub." 

Haha! The hot tub on Serenity was magic! 

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Everyone has already covered most things I was going to mention. The only one thing I'll add in on is the Italian restaurant, Most people don't learn that it is free for lunch until a day or two into the cruise.  Because of this it is almost always underutilized and never a crowed(like lido)  on embarkation. I'm usually one of the first on-board and that is usually my go to place. I usually spend an hour or two up there by a window watching loading process on the dock.  However, once the word gets out to the new cruisers that they have free lunch, it will be crowed later in the cruise.  

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1 hour ago, wo5m said:

Everyone has already covered most things I was going to mention. The only one thing I'll add in on is the Italian restaurant, Most people don't learn that it is free for lunch until a day or two into the cruise.  Because of this it is almost always underutilized and never a crowed(like lido)  on embarkation. I'm usually one of the first on-board and that is usually my go to place. I usually spend an hour or two up there by a window watching loading process on the dock.  However, once the word gets out to the new cruisers that they have free lunch, it will be crowed later in the cruise.  

We are also early on the ship and go to the Mongolian Wok as it is the rare time the wait is 10 minutes at most, but we do go to the Italian place (pick up a dessert on the Lido before heading up) if there is no Wok. The other less crowded place during embarkation is the BBQ place on the 5th level. Carnival has started pointing that out in the "Lunch Express" elevators (they only stop on 5 and Lido), so don't know how long the quiet there will last.

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8
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
8
19 hours ago, jlacy1987 said:

I apologize if these have been asked before but searching the forum and Google has left me with blanks.

 

We are cruising to Bermuda on Sunrise in September. If the ship leaves Bermuda at 5pm, what time must we be back on the ship? I believe with NCL it was 1 or 2 hours (can't remember exactly) but I can't find Carnival's policy anywhere.

You should be back one hour before the sailaway time. It will be posted in the Fun Times. Make sure you keep your watch on the ship's time and not Bermuda time.

Here are a few more questions I have:

 

1) Adults-only Serenity area is included in the cruise cost, right? I seem to remember that NCL charges (or at least used to) for their adults-only area so I want to make sure I didn't misinterpret that Carnival includes it. And speaking of Serenity, are those fancy cabanas first come first serve or is there a fee to reserve? Again, on NCL I think there was a fee to reserve them.

It is free to use Serenity. The cabanas are first come first served, there is no fee.

2) The deck plans make it look like the Fitness Center is inside the Spa. Would we need a spa pass to be able to use the Fitness Center?

The Fitness Center is free to use. You need to walk through the spa, but it is for the use of everyone, not just spa guests.

3) I know on Elegant night(s), there is a more upscale dress code. I think we'd prefer to avoid packing a special outfit for 1 day so I know we won't be able to use the MDR. But I know the Lido Buffet will be available. What about the other free restaurants? Will those follow the Elegant dress code or will they be casual like Lido? Just wondering if on Elegant night if Lido will be our only dinner option unless we pack a nicer outfit for everyone. 

The Lido is the only free option for dinner I believe. Guy's Burger (on the Lido) is a good free option at night. There is no fancy dress code on the Lido. There are some paying options for dinner, such as the steakhouse, Italian, Asian, etc. They are not very strict with the outfit in the dining room. Just don't wear a tshirt and shorts. Men can be fine with a button down and slacks. Women are fine with a blouse and pants or a skirt/dress.

4) What restaurants are open for lunch on embarkation day? I know Lido is and so is the Italian place (right?). Wondering what our food options will be that day. Which will be the least crowded place to eat on embarkation day?

The Lido and Italian place are open. The Lido has Chopsticks (Asian), Guy's Burgers, pizza (amazing pizza, 24 hours daily), a deli (try the Buffalo chicken sandwich), and other stations. Jiji Asian Kitchen is also open, which is pretty much hibachi but they do not make it in front of you. You get a slip of paper and choose what you want in your food and they make it for you. The crowds are based on when you board the ship. The Lido is generally very packed and there is no escaping it.

5) Will the pool be open for use immediately upon embarkation? We are weighing whether to try and get on board as early as possible and let my 10 year old enjoy the pool before it's packed vs spending time in New York for a few hours. 

The pool is generally open the first day. We tend to board as early as possible, eat quickly, and hop in the pool/waterslides. The pools, hot tubs, waterslides, etc are always pretty empty the first day. You can always visit New York the day before the cruise or after the cruise. I think it is definitely worth boarding early because the Lido is emptier and so are other activities.

6) Can kids join you in the lounges? In case there's ever a night we want to go to one of the lounges and listen to some live music, just wanted to know if those are considered adult-only or not. We plan on making use of Camp Ocean so we can always ship him off to them if we can't take him with us.

The lounges are for children too. The music, shows, comedies (there is family comedy and 18+ comedy), are all family friendly. There are dance clubs for adults only later at night. You can always go out when he is asleep in the room.

7) How busy do the activities on board get during different times? Meaning what are generally the best times to try to do the mini golf or ropes course or go to the sports square area? 

The best time for these are generally right when they open and in the morning. Mini golf and the sports square are always open, but around 9 oclock in the morning and earlier they are pretty empty. The SkyCourse is normally busy. The best times are when the ship is in port and the ship is pretty empty. Also, once again, this is pretty empty when it first opens, but the line starts before it opens.

8 ) Is a spa balcony worth paying an additional $142 over a regular balcony? I never did a spa pass with my 2 NCL cruises and I'm not sure how much I'd use it since I think the Serenity area is included. So I'm not sure if I want to "upgrade" to a spa balcony or not (we are currently booked in a regular balcony).

I personally have never used the spa and do not think it is necessary. I am so busy throughout the day and can relax anytime I want. Sitting in Serenity or on the higher up decks are relaxing enough. Also, I would rather just go to a spa on land during a more stressful time in life. 

 

Have fun on your cruise!! I know most of your questions have already been answered, but whatever.

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