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Albinroo

Norwegian Joy Panama Canal Trip Report - Concierge Family

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I was inspired by the Epic trip report to do a similar, but lesser, report from our 12-day sailing out of Miami a few weeks ago (october 27th - november 8th)

We're a family of 2 30-somethings (ok, pushing 40 in a few years) with 3 kids and along for this trip my mother came along as well, so 6 of us in total. It's our second NCL cruise after doing a Baltics Geatway earlier this year, and our 6th cruise in total, having previously done Disney Transatlantic and Bahamas, Celebrity Alaska and RCCL Baltics. 

 

Embarkation

So for Concierge, which is supposed to be something lesser than Haven but better than nothing, we had priority embarkation. This meant nothing in the line to get through security. It did mean something for check-in, and also getting on the actual ship but it just seems like there was no clear rule and we were told different thing by different staff members. For example, after checking in we received a group 11 boarding pass, but when we asked at the waiting area we were told we could go straight through as Concierge. And then that person left so once we had grabbed all our things the new person said no. And so on, but in the end we got on fairly quickly.

 

The cabin

We stayed in a large family inside 2-bedroom cabin on level 14. This is probably the best deal for a large family, since it's inside it's affordable and it had a lot of pro's. Such as the layout, with a living room in the middle with a large pullout sofa, a master bedroom on one side with a bathtub and a second bedroom on the other side of the living room with it's own shower. The "virtual" balcany was really nice and gave the feeling of some natural light. I have never stayed in an inside cabin before and was tempted to bid for Haven cabins, but they just didn't have the same good layout and I would have worried that the kids would get out on the balcony themselves. We were really happy with our cabin, although I must say it was a bit disappointing that the King bed had 2 mattresses pushed together so you could feel the split when laying down. 

 

What we did on the ship

So 4000 cruisers on a ship. I will say that it felt crowded, especially while waiting for elevators but we aren't easily put off by such things and we took the stairs whenver we didn't have our stroller. With 3 kids we of course spent time on the pool deck by the kids splash area, which was really fun for the kids. Not many kids on this cruise, 70 in total under the age of 18 I was told (compared to over 1000 kids on the next one) so I think it would have felt much worse if there had been more kids playing around in the same area. 

Our kids checked into the kids club and we played in the Guppies nursery for under 3s, it's not Disney but it was fine - again thanks to there not being a lot of other children on board.

As for activities, we didn't try the Galaxy Pavilion or the go-karts. I had planned to, but in the end they just felt too gimmicky and not worth spendgin extra money on. 

Our favorite area was without a doubt the waterfront on level 8, which was even better than the observation deck I'd heard so much about. The only problem was that on sea days it was nearly impossible to find a seat. 

 

Food

The best thing about Concierge was without a doubt having breakfast and lunch in la Cucina. For us I think it was even better than Haven, since La Cucina breakfast gave the option of eating cold things from the little "buffet" and ordering hot food as well. This is incredibly nice when you have children who are quite impatient to wait for food to be cooked. We said we were going to try breakfast somewhere else but we never did, in La Cucina they had these perfect little bowls of granola, bircher muesli, berries, natural yoghurt and so on. The cooked food was good too. although I have to say the pancakes and french toast are much better on toehr cruise lines in my opinion. 

The lunch menu was good too, but the same every day. We did try the buffet a couple of times, but it is just super busy and hectic and loud. The food wasn't very good either, so best lunches were had in the a la carte restaurants and o sheehans. 

For dinner we did the MDR most nights and were really happy with it. The staff were so kind and polite. We had a 5 night specialty restaurant package, but in the end we only used it twice, for La Cucina and Teppaniyaki. La Cucina was fine but more for something different than the food being outstanding. Teppaniyaki was mostly for our kids who loved the show last time - they did now too but this one was much shorter and not half as exciting. The food was really good though! Looking at the menus for food republic, american diner and Q I just wasn't interested - I missed Moderno from the Getaway!

 

Entertainment

I will say that the family entertaintment was supper limited, perhaps to there being so few kids onboard. On the daily planner it listed the guppies nursery being open and the 1 activity there as fun for family every single day throughout the cruise. My mom when for the beatles show and footloose, which she raved about but the music entertainment in the atrium was the regular cruise ship level performance. In general I have to say that most of the entertainment on the ship seemed geared towards making people spend more money. So the daily planner would be filled with all kinds of sales events or things that denoted a fee. We had a good time though, but not thanks to the entertainment team. 

 

Stops and excursions

I just love Cartagena. I know the traffic is bad and the street vendors are annoying but I just love it there. A shame we only had 6 hours there, we took a taxi into the walled city and walked around in the heat. It's very safe these days, so even with small kids I never felt even slightly worried. 

We didn't get off the ship in Great Stirrup Cay, it was the second day and our kids were tired and jet lagged and the whole tendering process just seemed too much. 

Panama Canal was great, they had an informative speaker throughout the day so you knew what was happening. Really a sight to behold. 

Honduras - we got off for the Maya Key excursion, it was OK but not sure if value enough for money. But it was a simple, a short boat ride from the ship and perfectly clear water, an OK lunch plate and lots of animals. That includes the sand fleas unfortunately, and the squirrel  who jumped on us. 

Costa Maya - here we did Maya Chan. What a nice place! Too bad about the sargassum/sea weed problem... 

 

Harvest Caye Beach Villa rental

Do this! Seriously, best spent money of the entire vacation. It was relaxing, luxurious, beautiful. I might not have felt the need if it were just me and my husband, but with kids it just made everything so much easier. 

 

Getting off

Getting off was bad! We were stuck in thejoy theatre for 2 hours, and we had planned for an excursion doing sightseeing in MIami and then a trip to the shopping mall. Instead we had to go straight to the airport (I would have preferred straight to the shopping mall instead of 6 hours at the airport but whatever) so I really hope there will be no problem in getting a refund from NCL. Wasn't a fun start to our 48 hour trip back to home. (I need a new vacation after that...)

 

Final thoughts

We had a great time with our 3 boys. Since there weren't many kids on the cruise, lots of staff members and fellow passengers were really happy to see our kids, even when they didn't behave perfect. We probably won't go on another NCL cruise, although I wouldn't say never again. The ship was nice, the staff and service nearly perfect, the food pretty good. I only felt that they are trying to cram in too many people and are constantly selling things. At least with Disney you're paying the money upfront and then they don't hassle you for the rest of the trip. Then again, the Haven does sound appealing, I just don't know if I ever want to be on a ship that large again. But, having 3 kids, most older ships can't fit us all in one cabin... Oh well, first-world problems...

 

Anyways, I will post this in the review section as well - if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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4 hours ago, Love my butler said:

When your kids weren't behaving, fellow passengers weren't 'happy' to see them.  Trust me.

Obviously you wouldn't be, sorry. However there are many, many people who have more tolerance than you do. And when I say there weren't behaving perfectly I'm talking about stuff like my 3-year old pretending to talk English to people in the elevator when they spoke to him even though he doesn't know the language at all. Or our baby crawling around on the waterfront, mesmerised by the views. Trust me, I pointed no guns as peoples head to make them come up to us and compliment our adorable kids. 

On the other hand, on the few occasions when our kids were too tired and started crying in the restaurant or such, we were of course quick to remove them. Which I think is perfectly reasonable, although there will probably always be one or two persons who think our kids ruined their day by existing and how dare we go outside with them. 

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3 hours ago, Albinroo said:

Obviously you wouldn't be, sorry. However there are many, many people who have more tolerance than you do. And when I say there weren't behaving perfectly I'm talking about stuff like my 3-year old pretending to talk English to people in the elevator when they spoke to him even though he doesn't know the language at all. Or our baby crawling around on the waterfront, mesmerised by the views. Trust me, I pointed no guns as peoples head to make them come up to us and compliment our adorable kids. 

On the other hand, on the few occasions when our kids were too tired and started crying in the restaurant or such, we were of course quick to remove them. Which I think is perfectly reasonable, although there will probably always be one or two persons who think our kids ruined their day by existing and how dare we go outside with them. 

I often find that some adults are more poorly behaved than kids!

Thanks for your review - I have been thinking of booking this room on Joy. I do love Haven, though.....

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Just to clarify one thing we were told by multiple staff members there were slightly more than 3000 people onboard. The ship was light about 800 passengers. 
 

(and I Can’t resist...I HATED Cartagena and would never, ever get off the ship there again!)

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Wow, it was light 800 passengers?? That doesn't bode too well for a full ship.

On 11/16/2019 at 7:33 AM, kollegekreed said:

Just to clarify one thing we were told by multiple staff members there were slightly more than 3000 people onboard. The ship was light about 800 passengers. 
 

(and I Can’t resist...I HATED Cartagena and would never, ever get off the ship there again!)

Oh I completely understand your feelings about Cartagena. I spent a few weeks there about ten years ago and fell in love with the city, so I have a very special fondness for it but I can totally see why people would object to all the traffic, vendors, and so on.

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On 11/15/2019 at 10:33 PM, kollegekreed said:

Just to clarify one thing we were told by multiple staff members there were slightly more than 3000 people onboard. The ship was light about 800 passengers. 
 

(and I Can’t resist...I HATED Cartagena and would never, ever get off the ship there again!)

Curious, what did you hate about Cartagena?  We are going in February.

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On 11/15/2019 at 4:23 PM, Albinroo said:

Obviously you wouldn't be, sorry. However there are many, many people who have more tolerance than you do. And when I say there weren't behaving perfectly I'm talking about stuff like my 3-year old pretending to talk English to people in the elevator when they spoke to him even though he doesn't know the language at all. Or our baby crawling around on the waterfront, mesmerised by the views. Trust me, I pointed no guns as peoples head to make them come up to us and compliment our adorable kids. 

On the other hand, on the few occasions when our kids were too tired and started crying in the restaurant or such, we were of course quick to remove them. Which I think is perfectly reasonable, although there will probably always be one or two persons who think our kids ruined their day by existing and how dare we go outside with them. 

If you've been on this board for a while, then for that remark about your kids......just consider the source. 😄

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15 minutes ago, janmojo1 said:

Curious, what did you hate about Cartagena?  We are going in February.

We've been there twice.  A tour or a visit to the walled city is really nice...and interesting.  I will say though that Cartagena has the absolute worst traffic I've ever seen.  Why they don't have at least a hundred motorcycle deaths a day there is beyond me.  Or...maybe they do.  

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2 hours ago, roger001 said:

If you've been on this board for a while, then for that remark about your kids......just consider the source. 😄

Yes I know, shouldn't have bothered replying. Just couldn't help myself!! 

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One ncl specific tip about Cartagena and traffic- they now offer catamaran to the walled city which is nice if you want to avoid traffic. It was sold out when we finally got around to try booking it, so we ended up in a cab. 

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On 11/15/2019 at 10:05 AM, Albinroo said:

Our kids checked into the kids club and we played in the Guppies nursery for under 3s, it's not Disney but it was fine - again thanks to there not being a lot of other children on board.

 

Is there a dedicated Guppies room onboard? Is it down on Deck 5, as part of Splash Academy? When was it open?

 

We're thinking about a Panama Canal cruise on the Joy, and we'll have a 2.5 year-old at the time. I couldn't find a Guppies room on the deck plan, so I'd be curious to hear your experience.

 

Thanks!

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I was also on that cruise in a concierge balcony.  I recall seeing a couple with three (red headed) kids at several of the breakfasts and lunches.   We were a group of five adults (4 seniors) and I noticed no issues and recall them being well behaved.  Regardless of what others may have said, the kids were not an issue and we were NOT unhappy to see them.

 

As for Cartagena, it was my fist visit to this port of call. Although the city looked beautiful, the traffic was horrible.  Had we not been on an NCL excursion but on our own, I would have been very concerned that we would not be back at the dock in time.

 

The vendors were horrible - the same group of vendors followed us off the bus, throughout each site visit , and then flanked us back to the bus.  The whole time they shouted and shoved their products in our face. They were human mosquitoes, that could not be shaken off. The maracas vendors in particular, refused to stop rattling their wares in my face.

 

Based on stifling traffic and the incessant encroachment of the "vendors", should I ever revisit this port of call,  I would opt to stay on the ship.

 

 

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19 hours ago, dcipjr said:

 

Is there a dedicated Guppies room onboard? Is it down on Deck 5, as part of Splash Academy? When was it open?

 

We're thinking about a Panama Canal cruise on the Joy, and we'll have a 2.5 year-old at the time. I couldn't find a Guppies room on the deck plan, so I'd be curious to hear your experience.

 

Thanks!

Yes, there is a dedicated Guppies room or at least there was during our cruise. It wasn't originally built as a Guppies space I would think, just as another part of the splash academy, so I can't be sure if they use it as Guppies room for every cruise or just because there wasnät that many children on board during our cruise in total. It was down on deck 5, and open every day between 9am-7pm with one or two activities daily at 9am and/or 5pm. We spent a lot of time there and both our 1 year old and 3 year old did enjoy it. 

Other than the Guppies room our kids enjoyed the splash pad up on the pool deck. 

 

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On 11/27/2019 at 9:01 AM, Albinroo said:

Yes, there is a dedicated Guppies room or at least there was during our cruise. It wasn't originally built as a Guppies space I would think, just as another part of the splash academy, so I can't be sure if they use it as Guppies room for every cruise or just because there wasnät that many children on board during our cruise in total. It was down on deck 5, and open every day between 9am-7pm with one or two activities daily at 9am and/or 5pm. We spent a lot of time there and both our 1 year old and 3 year old did enjoy it. 

Other than the Guppies room our kids enjoyed the splash pad up on the pool deck. 

 

 

Thanks so much!

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