This was my first cruise with NCL and I was not disappointed in the least. I was a little hesitant about traveling alone, though I have done it previously. I had a great time and I would definitely have no trepidation about being a solo traveler in the future with NCL.
This ship had so many activities to do, you will never get bored. If you just want to chill, you can do that as well. You can be as busy or not as you desire. There were a ton of bars on the ship, so if you have the Ultimate Beverage Package (UBP), you will not be waiting a long time for your drinks. Most drinks are below the threshold, so you can get just about any drink you desire with the package. If you want premium alcohol, that will be surcharge. Also, cappuccino and espresso are not included in the UBP, but Irish coffee and Bailey's and coffee are. :-)
All in all, my first experience with NCL was a very positive experience and I highly recommend them. I am looking forward to booking my next NCL cruise.
5 out of 5
The embarkation process with NCL was very easy and painless. I was sailing as a Casino at Sea guest and there was a special line for those guests so as not to wait in the general embarkation line. The representative who assisted me was quick, thorough, and courteous. Entering the ship via group number was very organized. The groups were not too large and the wait time for my group (Group 8) was not long at all. I arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:45 and believe I was on the ship by noon. Very quick and efficient process overall.
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
I did not experience any of the specialty dining venues, but the main dining rooms and the buffet areas had great food. I know with buffets, it can be difficult, but more variety would have been good throughout the week. It seemed that the same food was on the buffet every day. It would have been nice to have a better variety throughout the week so as not to get too bored with the food.
I ate at each of the main dining rooms and found the food to be excellent. The only thing I did not particularly enjoy was the scallop appetizer the last evening. I found the scallops to be very small. Perhaps I missed it, if it was offered, but it would have been nice to have a surf and turf night that included lobster and filet. I ate at the Manhattan Room three times and each time was very enjoyable, relaxing, and excellent service. One night at Savor, the waiter was not as attentive as I would expect. I had to ask about ordering a cocktail after waiting a period of time. Plus the time waiting on my dinner and dessert was longer than expected. Usually, I could get in and out within an hour, but this evening, it took an extra long time. I must have been there for 1 1/2 hours easily
The Manhattan Room
5 out of 5
I ate here three times for dinner while on the cruise. It was a fabulous place to eat. The only item I did not like that I ordered was the scallop appetizer. I felt the scallops were very small. But all other evenings and other dishes were absolutely exquisite! The staff also was very attentive and the service was impeccable!
O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill
4 out of 5
I ate here a few times during the cruise for dinner and also breakfast. The food was good. I wish there was a bit more variety for entrée choices. The burger was very good. I had an omelet one morning for breakfast and that was also very good.
On Sunday (1/22), I sat at the bar during both of the football playoff games. That was a fun atmosphere to be in and the bartenders, though very busy, were attentive and quick with the drinks after ordering.
4 out of 5
I enjoyed the water slides. The inner tube was really fun! So as the chute drop one (not sure what that is called). I was a little nervous about going in that one, but was a lot of fun! I wanted to go on the zip line and walk the plank, but the last day (it was an at sea day) was too windy. I will do those on my next cruise though! I took a video of the water slide while going down, but it will not let me upload videos.
5 out of 5
I used the hot tub on one of the adult only sundecks. The day I used the hot tub was a port day so most of the passengers were off the ship. It was nice there wasn't too many people in the hot tub or on the sundeck.
I did find that later in the cruise, there were more and more kids (elementary aged children) on the adult only sun deck running around. I was hoping this (adults only) would be enforced a little better. There are times when you just want to get away from the kids and have some downtime. There are other hot tubs on the ship that the kids were allowed to go.
5 out of 5
I am rating the spa more than the fitness center. I took advantage of the thermal spa one port day. It was a exceptional experience, though there were a few people that came in and were noisy when they were in quiet areas. It helped me relax and the heated beds were unbelievable! I tried all of the pools, salt room, snow room, sauna, etc. I would recommend to purchase the weekly pass online prior to your cruise. It is much cheaper. Otherwise, decide on a port day you would like to try this out. It truly does help de-stress you and is a great break from the craziness that can sometimes be present on a cruise with kids, teens, and even younger adults who are partying a little too much.
3 out of 5
I tried to use this in the morning to get some exercise in before starting the day and to counteract some of the eating. LOL It would have been nice to have this located on one of the sun decks that didn't have a restaurant on it so that you could walk/jog uninterrupted.
4 out of 5
I am a non-smoker and it seems they closed the non-smoking pit very early in the evening. We were forced to play in the smoking area most evenings, which I was not exactly thrilled with. I played with two dealers that were exceptionally fun: Mariah, and George. They both helped to make the evenings fun while mostly losing our money at the tables (hahaha).
I would like to suggest that a Spanish 21 table be added to the casino. It seemed the Let It Ride table was not used widely during the cruise, and perhaps a different flavor of blackjack would be more popular on the cruises. I do enjoy playing that game at the casino at home.
5 out of 5
I went to the Brat Pack show in the Escape Theater. It was so good! Loved the songs, the dancers and everything. The cast put on an awesome show and it was also interactive. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is going on this ship/cruise. Highly, highly recommended!
I did not have children on the ship.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
The service and staff on the ship was impeccable! My cabin steward, Andrian, was excellent. He kept the cabin looking great and always had the towels cleaned up from the bathroom floor even when I didn't have the 'Make up Room' sign illuminated. The staff throughout the ship was excellent from the bar staff, wait staff, casino staff ... on and on.
CruiseNext staff: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Please listen to their talks regarding your CruiseNext deposit options. It's a great way to save money in the future and on the ship! You can use the onboard credit you receive to help pay for your deposit. Or they offered a 'double up' option where they gave us twice the number of deposits instead of giving an onboard credit.
5 out of 5
I think the layout and use of space was very well done on this ship. There is a lot of utilized space and not a lot of wasted space. Good when you are a traveler. I like the fact that the elevators were located on both ends of the ship and none in the middle (atrium) of the ship. I find that when there are elevators in the middle of the ship, it tends to be a more congested area. Typically there are a lot of public areas in the middle of the ship already, so the addition of elevators can make it harder to get to those areas. The public areas were, overall, very clean. There were many times I saw different crew members clean up dishes left on tables even if that wasn't their primary job. That shows teamwork across the ship crew. There were many more oceanview and balcony cabins on this ship which seems to be the more popular cabins to appeal to more people.
Cabin / Stateroom
4 out of 5
When I booked the cruise the travel agent told me this was a favorite cabin from a lot of her guests because they could look out the window and see where the ship was heading, from the captain's eyes. While I agree that this cabin location could have that ability on the higher decks, that was really not the case on the 9th deck. I would imagine you could see the sea and such from decks 10 and above.
One other caution I would advise, is when the ship pulls into port, you can hear them drop the anchor from this room. If you are a light sleeper and want to sleep in, I would advise bringing earplugs so it does not bother you. I was not bothered too much by it. I was up most mornings shortly after docking. But I could see how it could be a nuisance to some.
There was very good use of all the space in the cabin. Very little (if any) wasted space. There was lots of storage space and closet space. I was traveling alone, but there is more than enough space for two (or more) guests in the cabin.
If you want to find a quiet place to read, watch as you sail, or have coffee in the morning, go out to the waterfront area of the ship. There is plenty of comfortable couches and chairs and is mostly quiet. It's a nice area to get away for some 'me time' if you are with a group, or just want to sit and enjoy the sites as you sail or are docked at a port.
I stayed just a little south in South Beach the night before. There was a lot of great things to do, and wonderful places to eat! I walked all over South Beach the day prior to the cruise. I also visited the beach and watched some of the ships sail from the port. It was a wonderfully relaxing day. My hotel was a block from the beach which was very nice to have such easy access to it.
I was pleasantly surprised with this port. I was not enthused about going to Jamaica since I had originally picked a cruise without that port on the itinerary. But where we shopped there was not a lot of vendors walking up to you asking to braid your hair (as has happened on previous cruises). I found it clean, well maintained and a nice place. I did some shopping at Diamonds International and picked up some Tanzanite earrings and an Ammolite pendant.
I have always loved this island. I took a tour that included a stop at the turtle farm, which I really loved! We also visited Hell and I sent a few postcards home from there. It was a fun excursion even though the bus driver left me at the turtle farm stop. He said he did a head count on his bus, but that obviously was not true, if I was still there. I was able to get back to the port without incident. I also stopped at one of the shops, Milano, and purchased an Alex and Ani bracelet with a turtle on it to commemorate my visit to the island. The island is safe to walk around by yourself. I never felt unsafe while walking the streets.
I did visit this port for a short time. I purchased a couple small items. One vendor asked for a tip for the information he gave me when I purchased my items, which I thought was a little odd. But I guess being a poor country, they want all the extra money they can get from travelers. I was disappointed that Hard Rock Café had moved off the port area. I was looking forward to getting a pin from there as a small souvenir from Costa Maya. I was told by a local that Hard Rock moved further into town.
Because of the high winds (gale force) expected on the day we were scheduled for Nassau, the ship detoured to Cozemel instead.
5 out of 5
I left my cabin around 8 in the morning after eating breakfast at the buffet. I wanted to let my cabin steward be able to clean the cabin as soon as possible for the oncoming guests. I hung out near O'Sheehan's bar and grill until my tag color was called to disembark off the ship. My group was called earlier than stated on the paperwork I received in my cabin, but I felt that gave us more time to retrieve our luggage before the shuttle left for the airport, so I was appreciative of that fact.
The process was relatively painless. I did have an issue when retrieving my luggage that one bag was not with the red tag area, but was located with the purple tags. My luggage is purple which is perhaps why it was not placed in the correct area.
Giselle was the NCL representative that assisted me finding my bag and getting me through customs quickly so I would not miss my transfer bus to the airport. She was very helpful and I would like to commend her and her ability to help me find my lost luggage in a quick manner.
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