Wish I knew why the system is stuck on 3 instead of the correct number of cruises. First started cruising as a kid with my parents aboard the Calypso Liner to the Bahamas in the mid-1960s. Later, lived for a summer aboard the old "Italia," formerly the "Kungsholm II" when she was a floating hotel in Freeport. Cruised aboard the "Bahama Star," then the "Emerald Seas," Disney's first "Big Red Boat" ("Oceanic") and Royal Caribbean's "Song of America" in the 70s and 80s. Another Bahamas cruise on Carnival "Fascination" in 2004, followed by "Destiny" (now "Sunshine") in 2012. Checked out Royal Caribbean's "Liberty of the Seas" and Norwegian "Sky" in 2013, followed by cruises aboard Carnival "Victory" and Norwegian "Pearl" in 2014. Cruised aboard Carnival "Elation" out of New Orleans in August 2015. Went to see the "Big Ditch" (Panama Canal) aboard Norwegian Pearl Halloween 2016. Squeezed into a tiny cabin aboard Norwegian "Sky" booze cruise again January 2017. Main interests: Sea, Sun, Food, Drink, Photography, Video, Culture, Technology, Art, Architecture, Design.
Cruise Lines: Norwegian Cruise Line
Second time on this ship for only two main reasons. After my first cruise on NCL three years ago, I started collecting ship models, neglecting to obtain one of the Sky. After my voyage to Panama Canal on NCL Pearl last October/November, I was left with only one more night to move to the next tier on their loyalty program. My goals: going Silver and getting a model. My goal was to avoid unnecessarily expenses despite temptations brought on by the constant buzz thanks to their open bar. Brought my buddy Steve because he was desperately in need of a change of scene. He came along three years ago and we wanted to see if this ship has gone into the toilet. My ex-wife originally volunteered to come but her work interfered. Here's what we noticed: the smoke in the casino had...disappeared. There were fellow drinkers a-plenty but none seemed particularly smashed. Just a few ones, the young stuff learning how. No one was belligerent, some drunks spontaneously broke out into a song at inappropriate circumstances (Such as myself.) Bar service was faultless, friendly and relatively prompt considering the demand, and good mixes used for Bloody Marys and Mojitos were delicious. Pours were standard jiggers. Both shows at the Stardust were about expected, songs and dances served with cheese. The duo performing mostly acoustic guitar ballads and required bar songs ("Margaritaville") were adequate for setting a mood. Food abounded, and the quality was hit and miss as expected. The beef was pretty good, at least it showed up as ordered. The prime beef was tasty but full of fat and sinewy waste. Same with the 18 oz. steak, that lost a good 5 oz. in trimmed fat and sinew. The crab and fish "cake" was inedible. Tasteless, like mashed potatoes. The dal and the Indian lentil dish at the buffet were exceptional. Good, inventive salads there including a Mexican bean. I refrain from eating gray meat, so I can't testify to the burgers and meatloaf. I also stay from frozen fish, so that eliminated most of the seafood dishes. The smoked salmon was delicious. As usual the chocolate desserts were superb, particularly that Mexican brownie--dense and rich. The peach melba was an unexpected treat. The coconut cheesecake married two of my favorite things. On Great Stirrup Cay the salads were delicious and cold, and the chicken was hot, not spicy. Re: hamburgers. Not this time. Saving my burger craving for Guy Fieri's aboard Carnival. The beaches and newly-planted palms frame views of the sea. Unexpected: a hidden picnic area in the mangroves, surrounding a well. Safe place to smoke without bothering anyone. Cabin was barely adequate for two adults--I had originally planned to go solo which would have been perfect. Tiny beyond belief, 121 sq. ft. Stand up STRAIGHT shower. No problem with a/c, electrical or plumbing. Bed was fine, pillows puffy. Excellent steward with some impossible-to-pronounce Thai name. Kept my ice bucket filled and my towels replaced. Did our exercise walk in Nassau--uphill and downhill--on our way to the Watling Distillery. Fantastic! Loved that place to drink and smile at the softness of the scented tropical air. Visited an old graveyard to get in touch some forebears with my name. On the way back to the ship we stopped to buy fresh conch salad from a boatman tied up along Woodes Rodgers Walk. Excellent! Sweet as sugarcane and hot as blazing as the sunset. An altogether wonderful day. (Dis)Embarkation is a snap, organized and getting through the line takes about 10 minutes. The tenders shuttle folks between the ship and the dock at Great Stirrup every few minutes. I love it, to me it's like they throw in a free boat ride. Look forward to another one of my dumbass videos.
Kevin Nino, the sales rep from NCL, assured me when I booked this cruise that no passport was necessary. Trusting him and his training, I plunked my money down and started planning shore excursions--two weeks before departure. As I started my online Check-In, the system stopped me at the "Travel Documents" stage--no passport. I got the sales rep on the phone--admitted he sold me the cruise using incorrect information. I cancelled, and got a full refund. The next day I showed up at the US Passport office and paid extra for expedited service. DAYUM! It was ready the next day! I got NCL back on the phone and re-booked it--with a cabin upgrade! My stewardess Campana Ritzel took excellent care of me. I really liked my inside cabin--90210--sort "man cave" with all my fishing gear and camera stuff all around. Yep. I brought a telescoping fishing rod and small tackle box. Fishing is a great way to meet folks and relieve boredom. Set goal: fish somewhere at every port-of-call. Caught a permit in Puerto Limon and catfish in Old Belize River. My days and nights were spent walking around the ship, checking out the prices for men's watches, looking at the people in the casino, leisurely lunches and for-fee dinners, looking at the people around the pool, just missing the towel folding demonstrations, shooting tons of video and stills, meeting some new cruise friends for dinner every other night, others for night drinks and deep conversation. Yeah, I checked out the library and the Card Room, where the REAL action was happening. Forget those "players" and their Texas Hold Em games in the casino compared to the stakes I saw at some of the Card Room games. No pit boss. Another goal: to avoid putting the "one pound per day" rule into effect. I managed to lose six pounds in 12 days. I ate my fill of beef--at the Moderno Churrascaria, Cagney's Steakhouse and Le Bistro, not to mention the decent prime rib and steaks in the Summer Palace MDR. The lamb was also delicious. The seafood I tried--at Lotus Garden and Summer Palace was insipid and poorly presented--the shrimp and the cod. In fact, the shrimp ceviche was so flavorless it was more like shrimp cocktail. I could NOT believe the Hot and Sour Soup--lacked anything hot and no citrus tang. Ugh! On the other hand, the Indian dishes at the Garden Buffet were uniformly excellent, including the butter chicken, biryani rice and tandoori chicken salad. Yet, the asparagus with Hollandaise sauce was a completely disaster, all congealed and solid. Everything with chocolate was delicious!
The usual culinary hits and misses were expected and delivered. The service was impeccable in every way, to the credit of the restaurant manager. Ronnie Cruz, our waiter, was very funny and quick-witted, made us smile through every course of every meal. Shore Excursions were very well-handled for the most part. Despite poor weather in two ports (Roatan and Belize City) nobody fell overboard getting on and off the tender. The highlights for me was the Pura Video Chocolate Tour and Chacchoben--most impressive Mayan ruin. The excursion around Gatun and onto Colon was FANTASTIC! Got some amazing monkey photos and actually saw my ship passing through Gatun Lock! Awesome! Loved Cartagena, and Puerto Limon.
"With my 13 year-old kid. "
This ship and New Orleans have some similarities. Both are old. Both show signs of their age. Both know how to party. Both can rip off the unwary. Both can deliver a memorable culinary experience.
Our vacation in New Orleans included this short cruise because my daughter wanted to go on a ship with a water slide. No other cruise line sails out of New Orleans this time of year. Our hotel, which she chose, doesn’t have a pool. Elation fit our budget and schedule perfectly and delivered a memorable experience. Our cabin was exceptional, a corner in the very transom of the ship with a view overlooking the wake. Some vibration but it didn’t bother us at all. The storage locker forces you to step over the bed to get to the porthole. My kid loved to curl up in the recess and close the curtain. Cabin service was superb and although the grout in the shower floor was darkly stained I personally witnessed some guy scrubbing it with some noxious liquid and wire brush so I know it was clean. The antique CRT television was so bad the letters and graphics on the screen were hard to read but we weren’t there much to watch it. The cabins are pinkish and look dated but are comfortable and functional with ample storage. As others said, bring a power strip—serious outlet shortage in these cabins and we brought several devices that needed charging.
Having been on Fascination, a sister, and other Carnival ships, I knew about Joe Farcus and his concepts of interior design and architecture so seeing life-size robots with gears for a heart, fanciful depictions of Renaissance Verona and splashy use of neon and LED lighting were no surprise. This ship uses wood-tone laminate to keep public areas looking warm, particularly in the atrium. My favorite was the Mark Twain Library, with gorgeous model paddle-wheelers and sumptuous seating for reading, games or computing. One thing Carnival’s interiors do well—force you out of your usual visual mindset and get you to forget you’re on a ship.
There is plenty of open deck space and a sufficient stock of lounge chairs to keep everyone happily sunning. The Serenity Deck, aft, is adults-only and provides a nice respite from the noise and hubbub around the main pool. You will not, however, be able to escape the boorish ignoramus who is unaware of lounge-chair protocol no matter where you go so be prepared.
Sailaway deck party was the usual to be found on most ships, what made this unusual for us was the difference sailing out of this port when our only previous experience was sailing out of South Florida. We COULD NOT BELIEVE how long it took to reach the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. This was almost like two cruises in one: a Mississippi River cruise coupled with an ocean cruise to Cozumel. We had fun ship-spotting and checking out the oil rigs.
Entertainment on board seemed to please that crowd. Although I didn’t particularly enjoy either comedian (walked out, actually) and the stage show was cheap and cheesy (recorded music, no set changes, basic choreography) I was most impressed by the magician who performed for us both at dinner in the MDR and at Chef’s Table. The card trick involving his tie was a jaw-dropper as well as the hand-rubbing floral fragrance trick. Karaoke is divided between “family” and “adult.” We sang at both. Everything else you expect from hairy-chests and belly-flops and muffin-tops and bingo and champagne art auctions are there in abundance.
My kid was so busy with the instant BFFs she made at Circle C (the “camp” for 12-14 year-olds) I only saw her at dinner and occasionally when I walked through the buffet restaurant to get to the Serenity Deck. No one (except maybe Disney) takes care of kids better than Carnival. I recommend the Bottomless Bubbles or you’ll get nickel-and-dimed to death on drinks. At the end of the cruise I asked her how she liked the waterslide. She had such a great time she only used it once.
Dining in the MDR was fine. I always said Carnival’s food was glorified cafeteria, salty to sell drinks but served with style to overcome shortcomings in quality. I have to admit they’ve upped their game. It’s a pleasure to eat my words. The escargot was deliciously unchanged, meats were served at the right temperature and doneness (rare to medium-rare for me), and the lobster tails were small (expected), tender, moist, not at all stringy. Chocolate desserts were flavorful and rich as always, better than Royal Caribbean’s by a mile. The Baked Alaska was a bit of a disappointment, a slab sliced onto a plate. Breakfast in the morning was a highlight—I’m an Eggs Benedict addict. Smoked salmon was uniformly good, the bagels adequate. Plentiful fruit and cheese available. I honestly can’t say anything about the Lido Deck buffet restaurant because I didn’t try it, nor did I sample the Deli, Mongolian Wok or pizza. You know they’re there. I know they’re there. Big lines. Not for me. I’m convinced that’s where most people who get sick on ships pick up the bug—waiting in line to get food.
Big splurge was for the Chef’s Table. This was the experience that made me realize how hard Carnival is willing to work for my buck. A seven-course meal with unlimited champagne, drinks, a private reception, a galley tour, a private banquet in the ship’s most beautiful public room, free group 8
X 10 photo by ship's photographer, a custom menu of dishes prepared in ways no one else aboard will ever see or taste, entertainment between courses provided by the ship’s magician, a team of professionals led by the Executive Chef preparing, saucing, finishing and garnishing the courses in front of your eyes. Dishes ranged from “Crab Stack with Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker Tangerine and Passion Caviar” to “Wagyu Bone Marrow Souffle with Scallion and Garlic Panisse and a Gremolata Crisp.” The sea bass dish had “Lobster Foam.” Seriously.
I can honestly say this little cruise aboard this now-little ship was about as good as it gets on this line. The harder Carnival tries to keep me, the better they do at it.
Let me begin by staying that this was a chartered cruise, part of the "Grammy At Sea" series promoted by Sixthman. The theme for this cruise was "Women of Rock" and included performances by Indigo Girls, Heart and Emmylou Harris. I saw them around the ship. I booked this cruise because the price my NCL sales rep gave me made it impossible to refuse. AND this ship NEVER makes midweek 4-night Bahamas runs out of Miami. I had more fun as a solo male than I ever had on any cruise I've taken on any line before. Honestly. I went from being a bit leery to having a truly superb time. I sang the praises of my NCL sales rep who never told me this was a charter, in every relevant conversation about how I wound up on that ship at that time. Entertainment, music in particular, was everywhere! On this cruise a lot of the guests were also members of the bands that were playing for the people who paid for the onboard concert series. Naturally this made for a truly fun four days and some folks lit up the karaoke stage. The comic, Rex Haven, was pretty funny, much of his humor centered on the “battle of the sexes” theme accompanied by an interesting projected slide show. Although claimed to be full, the ship was not crowded. There were no lines to get food, something I abhor. The Summer Palace was almost empty every time I ate there which was every dinner and one lunch. The food I was served was good to very good, some dishes were notable like the shrimp and the churrasco salad, others were inedible like the pork patty. I discovered that the best food on the ship is actually the Indian cooking, like the chole masala, found in the main buffet. I never understood why the cream cheese is portion-control-served on thin slices of cucumber. Weird. I was given a wheelchair-accessible inside cabin and it was perfect for me. Huge well-planned bathroom, comfortable bed, with separate vanity, mini-fridge, flat-screen TV, it was larger than the equivalent cabin on Carnival. Somewhat isolated, exceedingly quiet yet easy access to restaurants, clubs, elevators. I did use wheelchair assistance to get all the way forward and aft from stateroom to spa, and it was always prompt (except once) and cheerfully provided. One thing that distinguishes lines (and ships) from each other is what I call the “Jack Factor,” named after my friend Jack who can never hear his name spoken by the crew enough times. (As in, “Yes, Mr. Jack” and “Right away, Captain Jack.”) I was impressed with the service I received from every crew member with whom I came in contact, and their name-recognition abilities. I am always praising Carnival for the memory training their crew and staff receive--which is impressive as a guest. On this ship, at this time, on this cruise I can honestly say I was surprised at the number of times I was referred to by name by everyone from assistant waiters to the ship's doctor. I give this cruise line (and ship) a high “Jack Factor.” The exceptionally well-equipped spa with thermal pool, whirlpools and even a Japanese plunge pool, where I spent four hours a day rehabbing my surgically-repaired ankle, is staffed with some of the finest professionals at sea. I am grateful for the help they provided. The improvement in my walking is visible. The only negative, and it was kind of a fluke, was the distance from the ship to the car and taxi pickup point at disembarkation. For me it wasn't as bad since I had a wheelchair ride to that point. If I'd had to walk it would have been miserable.
After being on Victory's sister ship, Destiny, I knew what to expect. Carnival's style isn't exactly mine (being 60 and somewhat sedate) but my 11 year-old daughter LOVES water slides so the Celebrity cruise that also matched our available Spring Break dates was eliminated from contention. The ship's layout is identical to Destiny/Sunshine despite a completely different ("Seven Seas") interior design theme. Crowds gather at the usual places at the usual times and can be avoided with a bit of planning. Sure she's a bit old, and a bit worn, but so am I and we're both in pretty good shape altogether. Carnival's waiters, bartenders and the staff who have contact with guests are all trained in memorizing guests' names and it makes a difference. Nobody beats Carnival at the friendliness game. Ate nearly all meals in the MDR because of my allergy to lines. I did sample the pre-sail lunch buffet because, thanks to paying extra for the "Faster to the Fun" program, no one else was aboard yet. The roast beef was actually rare, the way I like it! Eggplant caponata was a delicious surprise. Went to a comedy show (Percy Somebody...forgot his last name) and didn't laugh much. Went to the singing-dancing revue in the main theater and was quite entertained. Joined the old fart singalong in the Piano Bar and had a good time. Glad my kid was accepted into the Circle C group for 12+ because she made two friends immediately and had a superb time on the ship. Both ports of call were familiar territory and we were happy booking shore excursions without Carnival's help (Mini-submarine, parasailing, Mr. Sancho's Beach Club). All in all, a good ship, better food than Royal and a nice getaway. Carnival still gives the best bang for the buck. (Next I gotta try Holland-America and Celebrity)
Intent was a quick getaway between the end of my 10 year-old daughter's school and the beginning of summer camp. Former colleague and her group had booked this ship this date--when she quoted the price she paid I had to do it. Got my friend, brother, sister-in-law and nephew to come along. All were first-time cruisers, two over 60 years old. Norwegian delivered a memorable cruise experience for all of us. For me, it was the first cruise I've been on without a problem of some sort. Everything worked. The cabin was well-situated and exactly what was expected despite the ship's age. Bed was firm, comfortable. Great service from our cabin steward. Extras I'd ordered to celebrate a birthday were delivered promptly. Restaurant service was impeccable. Food in MDR was good, unspectacular, nicely presented. Steak came as ordered instead of overcooked. Lobsters on first night were fine as were all other meals. Buffet was adequate, decent selection, breakfast was fine. Birthday dinner at Le Bistro was excellent, notably the rack of lamb and creme brulee. When the Captain came to the table and sang "Happy Birthday" to my sister-in-law she was delighted. It was polite and kind. When he told a story about a boy who was cured of autism by swimming with wild dolphins to my daughter it was sweet AND smart. Which shore excursion do you think she wanted? The crazy Hawaiian theme with the art, color schemes, decor and room names is kind of weird for a ship out of Miami that touches the Caribbean, but it's fun and eye-catching. The White Hot Party was moved into the night club due to inclement weather but it was surprisingly fun even for this old man. Karaoke in the upstairs sports bar was more inviting and less intimidating than on other ships.
Visit to Great Stirrup was sensational. We loved the water slide, the waverunner tour and snorkeling. Barbecue buffet was plentiful, fresh and offered some delicious salads with tropical ingredients. THAT was a surprise. Lack of natural shade trees is commercially solved--the cruise line accepts your money to rent this canvas wraparound chaise lounge enclosure. Nassau visit was short, we went on our own to Ft. Fincastle, Queen's Staircase, Ardastra Gardens (Marching Flamingos!), Straw Market. Had time for a late leisurely lunch at Arawak Cay Fish Fry's most celebrated restaurant, Frankie Gone Bananas. Last night at sea all of us adults won a couple of bucks in the casino (amazing!). My daughter found happiness between the video arcade, pools and hot tubs I was content to relax on surprisingly uncrowded decks, play ping pong, drink and dance.
My 10 year-old daughter chose this cruise because she wanted to eat real tacos in Mexico. We were limited to a 4 or 5 day because of another trip a day later. So, we booked this ship to Cozumel along with a cooking class and visits to a market and chocolate factory. She loved that.
As for the Liberty, she loved the movie characters aboard, decorating cupcakes, getting a "tattoo," the H20 Zone, air hockey in the extensive arcade, the buffet arrangement at Windjammers, gagaball with other kids her age in the youth program, pizza at Sorrento's, cocoa at Starbuck's (which she called "latte" to sound sophisticated), fries and a shake at Johnny Rocket's, both the well-produced ice show and the quite spectacular main show, a lot of the offerings at the Windjammer, the lobster and service in the MDR.
I loved...the overall concept and design of the ship itself. The art (mostly) except that which was being auctioned. The cleanliness and attention to detail exhibited by the crew. The method used by the Front Desk Manager to deal with a justifiably irate passenger (me) who was sending a negative vibe throughout the entire line waiting for help at Guest Relations. The way she hustled me away from everyone else and into a private office to deal with me was brilliant. Cozumel.
Could not believe it took five trips to Deck Five to resolve issues with my card in the lock. Could not believe they wanted almost $5.00 for a little can of Clamato juice. Could not believe how much food I left on my plate(s) in search of something above mediocre. (Won't go into it but I'll never order the Eggs Benedict again.) Could not believe the $30.00 extra charge for lobster. Could not get in sync with the highly-regulated available hours to Flow-Ride and rock climb so we missed them. Could not believe the investment in an interactive television system that didn't work. Could not believe the cruise line does nothing to mitigate the suffering of those disembarking at the end of the cruise unless you're in a wheelchair. Could not believe two of the three detailed requests I'd made and confirmed concerning my stateroom were forgotten.
Wife ( now ex) and I took this cruise as a 4-day getaway as our daughter was nearly two and quite independent. I remember the casino was loud, garish and smoky which made me feel decadent. The Main Dining Rooms (Imagination, Sensation) served up decent escargot, lobster, steaks, the occasional inspired salad, okay desserts. Inspired? Hardly. Glorified institutional--like a convention caterer. But the bars--oh the bars! The interior of this ship is so over-the-top exotic disco-inspired it's funny. Elephants guarding a nightclub? Seriously? Plenty of places to drink all around the ship which is GOOD. Prices at that time were CHEAP. Not a huge pool and lounge chairs filled up quickly. Lots of activities for the fun-seeking types. Fortunately we have friends in Nassau who greeted us and showed us a great time around various places away from Nassau town. Had a delicious lunch--conch fritters, conch salad, fish, rice and peas, at a shack over on Arawak Cay that was exceptional--and cheaper than anything equivalent in town. Went for a swim at a place called "Love Beach" that is a challenge to find, on the way out toward Lyford Cay. Had another meal at Britely's on the way back to the ship. The place was in a bit of a dicey part of town but clean, well-run and the food was amazing! All in all Carnival Fascination delivered what was expected--and no more.
Escargots a la Carnival
"Oceanic / Big Red Boat, one of the most beautiful ships afloat"
Genius. A cruise line partnership with Walt Disney, a quick drive from The Mouse to the Caribbean. Brilliant. And...why not renovate a gorgeous old ocean liner, fix her up for short cruises in the hot and humid tropics? That's what Premier did with The Big Red Boat concept and it worked. It worked so well that Disney got into the business full time and expanded into building its own fleet of amazing and innovative ships. Yet those of us who cruised on this Big Red Boat, the Oceanic, got a taste of what real ocean liners were all about before the age of the behemoths began. Lots of open deck space on this one, beautiful pool area, good although unspectacular food, courteous but not excessively familiar service, plenty for the kids to do and stay out of mom an dad's way.
commented on the roll call for Feb 27, 2017 cruise on Carnival Victory - "HEY PEOPLE, if you want to meet some peo..."
commented on the roll call for Feb 27, 2017 cruise on Carnival Victory - "lisam8121 I'm sure they have a couple of..."
commented on the roll call for Feb 27, 2017 cruise on Carnival Victory - "I just found out--the hard way--that thi..."
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MrChocoholic was the first to comment on PhilaEsq's picture - "Nice photo of an ugly ship. ".