Second Mate

Joined: 12/20/2013
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About HappyTwosome


HappyTwosome's Past Cruises


November 2017 - Insignia to Cuba

Five Days in Cuba

We really enjoyed the in-depth look into Cuba. It filled in a lot of gaps in our knowledge in spite of the propaganda. We appreciated the smaller crowds and excellent service provided on the Imsignia.

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February 2017 - Oosterdam to Caribbean - Western

Well organized

The activities for the week were available online at no charge from time of embarkation, as were menus, accounts, and more.  It made it easy to make plans and look forward to appealing events and programs.  The service onboard was excellent and the ports offered lots of options that were clearly explained by the ship's staff.  


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November 2015 - Westerdam to Caribbean - Eastern

Smooth Sailing

This was one of our best cruises out of many.  The service, food, activities and entertainment met or exceeded our expectations and I didn't hear anyone on board complaining much about anything.  The best part of cruising for us are the ports, and this seven-day Caribbean cruise had four days ashore to keep us busy. We had a lot of fun driving the dune buggy on Grand Turk; and Half Moon Cay has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world for swimming, floating and sunning.  In San Juan and St. Thomas it was easy to pick up two-hour sightseeing tours upon disembarkation with qualified guides and safe, comfortable vehicles at about half the price of the on-board shore excursions.  We have learned that for short general tours this is the best way to go.  You can evaluate your guide's communication skills and give a quick inspection of the tour vehicle before you select them.  And they don't collect your money until the end.  We paid between $20 and $25 cash each plus an optional tip.  (For tours involving adventure or for those that travel a long distance from the ship, we usually book through the ship's shore excursion desk for our safety and to be sure we make it back in time for sail away.)

Our cabin 5048 was located port side near the forward elevators and stairs.  We discovered that from our cabin the quickest way to access the aft dining rooms, Lido buffet or pools, and the gangway is to walk back through our corridor to the mid-ship scenic elevators.  Perhaps because you have to turn your head to notice them, the scenic elevators are not used that much by the passengers so we hardly ever had to wait for a ride.  A port balcony is great if Puerto Rico is on your itinerary because you sail right past the famous El Morro castle and Old San Juan while the cruise director offers live commentary on the loudspeaker.

This sailing proved to us again that November is a great time for cruising.  The ship wasn't sold out, making it easy to get a table in the dining room as well as chairs around the pool or in the showroom.  And, of course, the price is right!

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Coral Princess

January 2015 - Coral Princess to Panama Canal, Central America

A Teacher gives Grades

Our cabin # 710 was interesting.  It was on a high deck, far aft, across from the guest laundry room, not too far from the stairs and elevator, and had no covering over the balcony.  I thought I wouldn't like the roofless balcony, but I ended up enjoying the full vista of the sky and sea both day and night and I spent a lot more time out there than on other cruises.  Issues arose right away, however.  The high, aft location created a constant engine vibration in the cabin.  I got used to the rock and rolling pretty quickly and it didn't affect my sleep, but my husband was bothered by it throughout the cruise and he spent far less time in the cabin than I did.  A worse problem developed as we traveled south.  The roofless balcony doors had no protection from the direct sun.  Even with the drapes pulled shut during the day, the A/C was unable to compensate.  It was ten degrees hotter during the day than at night.  The laundry room location was an asset.  It was not at all noisy in spite of the foot traffic and it was extremely convenient on those days I used the laundry.  CABIN GRADE: B-     The many interesting and educational activities on sea days that were directly related to the ports of call earned high marks.   We felt really connected and prepared whenever we disembarked to shore.  Princess excels in this area compared to other cruise lines.   ACTIVITIES: A+.  We were surprised, however, to see the same exact entertainment shows (same costumes, same sets, same everything) as on an Island Princess cruise we took a couple of years ago.  We still enjoyed the shows, but were surprised nonetheless.  ENTERTAINMENT: B;   FOOD: A- ;   RESTAURANT SERVICE: A+ (mainly because they were liberal in allowing guests to wear nice but casual clothing on formal nights).    OVERALL CRUISE: A  (The pros outweighed the cons and we had a very good time.) 

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Norwegian Sun

December 2014 - Norwegian Sun to Caribbean - Western

A Great Ship, but Beware of 6a

We've enjoyed eight cruises in the past 23 months and this was one of the best.  The ship was well-appointed; the food was varied and tasty; the service was attentive, friendly, and professional; the shows were entertaining; the shore excursions offered something for everyone; and the on-board activities were good enough.  What made this cruise stand out, however, was the fact that it was only 2/3 full.  When you don't have to wait for a table, scrounge for a deck chair, or hustle for a seat in the showroom, everything seems much rosier.  Unfortunately, you can't control how crowded the ship is unless you have the flexibility, as we did, to book your sailing during the slow season.  Believe me, it was terrific!  And we saved money too.

We discovered a surprising thing that I'll advise you about.  We were assigned to a cabin on Deck 6a (different from Deck 6), which can be accessed ONLY via a fight of stairs from Deck 7.  No elevator.  So to leave the deck you go up a flight and to return you go down a flight.  I'll repeat--no elevator.  We have no mobility issues, but there were passengers using canes and walkers who were assigned to this deck.  The rooms on Deck 6a are: 6010-6024, 6101-6109, and 6211-6311.

We took NCL shore excursions in Roatan and Belize, but opted to find our own tours in Costa Maya and Cozumel.  It was easy to pick up an excellent tour in Costa Maya and we chose to hire a taxi for a customized 3-hour island tour in Cozumel.  Both were very professional and reasonably priced and they were helpful and attentive to a disabled member of our party. 

We really love NCL's Freestyle Cruising model.  On dress-up night there were guests wearing gowns and tuxes mixed in with folks in shorts and sandals.  Everyone was respectful of each other's preferences and tastes.  No one felt out of place.  It was a great week.



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Norwegian Breakaway

September 2014 - Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda

Floating Resort

After many cruises on several other lines, this is our first experience on an NCL ship with their Freestyle Cruising. 

WE LOVED: 1) choosing from many restaurants each day; 2) not being forced to share a table with other passengers; 3) deciding for ourselves whether to dress up or down; 4) the adult sundeck; 5) quality entertainment; 6) easy-to-make reservations for dinners and shows; 7) engaging programs for toddlers to teenagers that kept them out of the way of adult passengers like us; 8) beautiful décor throughout the ship; 9) good food and good service; 10) and reasonably-priced wifi.

WE DIDN'T LIKE: 1) the fact that there was not enough information given about Bermuda, other than the shore excursions they want to sell you; 2) debarkation was a disorganized nightmare with no recognition of the color-coded time announcements.  No one checked, so you could leave whenever you wanted and all 4,600 people funneled through one exit door; 3) the "no steal" clothes hangers with pins that fell right through the metal hooks attached to the closet rod. What an inconvenience!

OUR ADVICE: 1) Bring your own Bermuda travel info or be prepared to research it yourself online while onboard; 2) On debarkation day, carry your own luggage off the ship if possible.  One way or the other, be prepared for the mother-of-all-bottlenecks; 3) If you have a choice, avoid sailing in the high season of July and August.  In late September the ship was not full and reservations still went fast.  Make your dinner & show reservations early in the cruise using the digital boards located all over the ship so you don't lose out; 4) Take advantage of the taxis located on the pier in Bermuda.  They are reasonable, have knowledgeable drivers, will tailor tours to your tastes, and you don't need to worry about returning late to the ship since you're docked for three days; 5) BYO clothes hangers; 6) Enjoy the Breakaway and beautiful Bermuda!

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Brilliance of the Seas

February 2014 - Brilliance of the Seas to Caribbean - Western

Beautiful ship and great service

The ship was elegant, the food was excellent, and the staff was friendly and accommodating.  We wish it was easier to get a table for two in the main My Time dining room.  We never knew the schedule for the evening entertainment until the night before.  By then there were no reservations available for tables during prime time.  We were told that most tables were reserved before the ship ever left port.  Well, that kind of defeats the purpose of My Time dining. 

We liked the Solarium pool, which was quiet and adult-oriented, as opposed to the outdoor pool.  Although the ship was filled to capacity, we always seemed to be able to find a seat at the pool or in the buffet area. 

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Carnival Paradise

December 2013 - Carnival Paradise to Caribbean - Western

Exceeded our Expectations

POSITIVES: A good value; easy to get a table for two in the dining room; a HUGE variety of shore excursions were offered because our ship's passengers were combined with those from other Carnival ships in port at the same time; reasonably priced shore excursions; casual atmosphere and dress code; friendly and personal service from the staff; easy to get a chair on the Serenity deck; excellent programs for children--they seemed happy and entertained and were not in the way of adults like us who were traveling as a couple; the passenger list included a wide range of ages and everyone seemed to find something to interest them on board.

NEGATIVES: Not enough information was offered on ports (history, points of interest, etc) other than shopping and paid shore excursions; ocean-view rooms almost always had condensation on the window exteriors so you couldn't see out clearly.  And we were directed to keep our curtains drawn all day to block the sun to keep the A/C working effectively.  So why pay extra for an ocean view?  Next time we will save money by taking an interior cabin;

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HappyTwosome's Tips

HAVANA, CUBA - The evening stroll through old Havana was wonderful. You’ll need a cruise that stays overnight in Havana, however, to book this excursion. The tour around the city in a vintage car was interesting and a lot of fun. We booked this tour in advance through our Cruises Only and we loved it.
Nassau, Bahamas - Very commercialized like a lot of other Caribbean cruise destinations. But fun anyway.
CIENFUEGOS, CUBA - It was interesting and enlightening to see how the Cubans really live.
Insignia Insignia - 1) Book a specialty restaurant for the first night of the cruise. It’s easy to get the table of your choice at the time of your choice. And you won’t be tired of eating yet! 2) The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille was fun to read on board. Some of protagonist’s experiences will parallel yours and you’ll recognize the specific locations in Havana.
Grand Turk Island - There's not much to see here, so choose an adventure excursion or go to the beach rather than sightseeing.
San Juan, Puerto Rico - If you are over 62 and have a U.S. National Park Senior Pass, bring it with you. You can use it at the fort for free admission.
Westerdam Westerdam - The Vista Lounge showroom was so consistently uncomfortably cold that some passengers wore winter coats. The cruise director averted complaints by making jokes about it being a roost for penguins. Be prepared by bringing a warm wrap that goes with your evening clothes.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Dunns Falls and the mountain view are very nice, but they are mostly man-made attractions.
Cartagena, Colombia - After your excursion, visit the little zoo, cafe (wifi) and gift shop inside the gated port area.
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - The excursions are really interesting, but there is nothing to do or see in Limon on your own.
Colon, Panama - Except for the wifi cafe and some shops near the ship, Colon is dirty and dangerous
Coral Princess Coral Princess - FREE WIFI was easy to find near the dock in all the ports. Just ask your waiter or any crew member to point you in the right direction.
Tampa, Florida - If you have time, go to the Clearwater Aquarium, home of Winter from the film "A Dolphin's Tale".
Cozumel, Mexico - The beach clubs are reasonable and clean with lots to do.
Norwegian Sun Norwegian Sun - Avoid deck 6a if you don't wish to climb stairs.
New York, New York - New York is amazing. Lucky for us that we live nearby! Even dragging luggage, it was easy to walk to the ship from the Port Authority bus terminal.
Norwegian Breakaway Norwegian Breakaway - The Garden Café has seating and the same food service on both starboard and port sides. But one side was always far less crowded than the other. Take a look around before you choose a table or wait in line.
Brilliance of the Seas Brilliance of the Seas - There were no intellectual type activities, such as photo or tech classes or lectures on the ports. Belly flop contests were more the style.
Carnival Paradise Carnival Paradise - On "Elegant Night" most guys wore slacks and a sport shirt (no tie) in the dining room. Only a minority wore tie and jacket. Another minority wore shorts, even though long pants were requested. Apparently anything goes, so do what makes you happy.

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received a helpful vote on their Coral Princess cruise review - A Teacher gives Grades

received a helpful vote on their Norwegian Sun cruise review - A Great Ship, but Beware of 6a

received a helpful vote on their Insignia cruise review - Five Days in Cuba

received a helpful vote on their Insignia cruise review - Five Days in Cuba

received a helpful vote on their Westerdam cruise review - Smooth Sailing

received a helpful vote on their Norwegian Breakaway cruise review - Floating Resort

received a helpful vote on their Insignia cruise review - Five Days in Cuba

received a helpful vote on their Oosterdam cruise review - Well organized

received a helpful vote on their Oosterdam cruise review - Well organized

received a helpful vote on their Brilliance of the Seas cruise review - Beautiful ship and great service