by Mark Van Raam
was my first cruise as a passenger. I
have been to sea many times since I work at a shipyard.
This was definitely a great ship and a great crew.
Our group of 17 was mostly around 50 years old. We had two Ďseniorsí
who were hard to keep up with. One couple
got married on the Saturday we departed.
started hunting information on the web months before.
Iím so glad I found Cruise Diva. I learned a lot from just reading
othersí experiences, as well as the time line and hot tips. I sent out over 15
e-mails of tips and excursions to my group. If
it had been up to me, this would have not been the itinerary I would have picked
out. It would have been my loss.
The ports this ship stops in were great and not to be missed.
What can I say, this is great ship. I
never met one grumpy crew member. Everyone
was friendly and seemed to be happy serving us. Several
of our servers were outstanding. Our
cabin stewards, Cecil and Lenor were excellent. Anna
Marie Malalta in East Meets West and Mario in Il Addagio were outstanding.
Janice, the fitness instructor was really good, too.
groupís staterooms were all over the ship, some with balconies and some with
inside staterooms. One of our group
specifically wanted an inside stateroom, low in the ship because they were
worried about getting sea sick. My
brother was aft on deck 10. They felt vibrations most of the trip.
I donít think anything was wrong, just normal movements of a ship in a
seaway. My cabin was low and all the way forward on deck 4.
We never felt anything, except when maneuvering in port when the bow
thrusters were running. My point is, no
matter where your cabin is, you are always going to feel some small vibration or
movement. You are on a ship, not in a
walking track on deck 6 was great, and I did a couple of miles during our two
sea days. I also took two Spinning
classes for which there is a $5 charge. Since
I commute to work by bike, I wanted to keep up and not feel out of shape after
the cruise. This was a great workout.
I could justify to my self having a bacon sandwich and omelet for
breakfast. NCL has a program that gives
you a free tee shirt if you get a card punched, after you participate a number
of the exercise programs.
used the pools and hot tubs and never found them too crowed.
The hot tubs werenít too hot and were a great place to spend half an
hour relaxing. My one true complaint was
that some of the other passengers were inconsiderate in hogging the towels
around the pool the last day at sea. Do
you really need 3 towels? NCL needs to
enforce the rule that after 30 minutes unattended, the deck chairs are cleared.
couple of things I would change: Announcements were minimal, but I would cut off
the announcements of ĎHemmi, your art auctioneerĒ lauding the next great
sale. The port talks were more sales
pitches for certain stores. That can be
part of it, but put the good stuff, like currency, taxi arrangements, and
attractions, at the start.
shipís internet cafť was good to keep in touch with the kids.
We used it 3 or 4 times and the total was about $20.
I recommend against the package deals, unless you really need to be on
the internet for many minutes. Set up a
free Yahoo or Hotmail account before you leave and use it on the ship.
lounges were good. We spent time in the
observation lounge, sports bar, and Las Ramblas.
All were good. Watched a 49erís game Sunday in the sports bar.
Free munchies and hot dogs. The
bucket of beer for $15 (for 5 beers) is the best deal.
You can save what you donít drink in your cabin refrig for another
time. Las Rambles had free munchies also.
I never had a bad meal. East Meets
West was the best of the bunch. Pacific
Heights and Il Adagio were great We
ate in the Main dining room twice. Both
times were excellent and the staff was great everywhere.
We ate in the Garden Buffet one night when we didnít feel like
changing. I donít agree with some
reviews. The food there was good.
If you didnít like one thing there were plenty of other choices.
We ate breakfast in the Buffet or just outside every morning where we
gathered to plan what we were doing or where to meet.
On Sunday we had lunch at the outdoor barbeque one deck above the pools.
Chicken, sausage, and ribs, baked potato, baked beans, and a cold corn
dish were featured. There were plenty of
choices on where and what to eat.
in our group used room service every morning for coffee.
There was an added bonus of a call right before they came to your cabin.
You left a card on you door the night before.
There was also a pot to heat water for instant or tea in every room.
Each room also had a small refrigerator. We
stopped on our way from the airport and bought a couple of 12 packs of Diet
Pepsi, both because we like it better than Coke and to help cut down on costs.
My brother likes wine with his dinner and brought some bottles from home
and paid the $10 corkage fee. Another of
our group has his wine confiscated upon boarding.
A talk with the Hotel director the next day returned the wine.
Chocoholic BuffetóIt was just OK. Looked
better than it tasted. I wouldnít stay
up that late for it again.
Do not miss the Ďsamplerí of all the entertainers the first night.
The comic, Milt Abel was great I caught his late act in the Observation
Lounge later in the week. He was really
good. Twice As Nice was fantastic and not
to be missed. We tried to go to all of
their shows. Jane Powell was very nice
and well worth all of her praises. One
night we watched the ĎNot So Newly Wedí Game.
Funny. Circ Pan was OK. The
dancers obviously put in much effort and were very good, but the story (Peter
Pan) and costumes were disjointed. The
deck parties near the poolótoo late at night (Hey, Iím usually asleep by
10:45) and too lame.
We booked our own. In Grand Cayman
we used Captain Marvinís (captainmarvins.com)
and it was wonderful. Two stops at coral
and stingray city. Not to be missed. It
was a hit with everyone in our group. It
is only two blocks from where the tender docks. What a beautiful area.
We stopped there on what in the US, is Veteranís Day. Most of the
stores were closed for the equivalent British holiday.
Roatan, it was a toss up between Paya Bay and Fosterís.
We went to Fosters. What a great
place. For $35 we got picked up and dropped off, lunch (anything on the menu,
including lobster) and a fantastic beach. The owner met us showed us all the
rooms and made us feel at home. Roatan is
indeed poor, but much lies beyond where the ship docks.
Donít miss this port.
Belize, I went cave tubing with Reggie. I
canít say enough about the trip through the caves, Reggie and his wife, or
where we stopped for lunch. All were
terrific (Iím running out of superlatives). My
pictures donít do the place justice. JBís
famous watering hole was a great place. For
$5 we got a typical Belize meal of chicken, rice, coleslaw, plantains, and beer.
Thanks, Reggie. Regtour.com.
My wife and others in our group went to Cay Cauker.
From the pictures and description, it was a great place to spend the day.
The area around the tender area looked interesting (outside of the gated
area) and safe. I wished I had had more
time, but you canít do everything.
Cozumel we spent half the day at Playa Azul. A
small, family beach, off the beaten path. The
locals said it was their favorite as well as some of the crew on the ship.
Good cheap food and drinks. Watersports
are available here (parasailing and jet skis). $7 cab ride.
Check out it out at cancunmap.com.
We went back to the ship to shower and change and headed back out.
We had trouble calling home from the phones on the pier.
We walked a couple of blocks to the left as we got off the pier and found
a phone/internet store. 95 cents/min to
call home. The rest of the strip, I could
have missed. Shopping in tourist traps is
not my thing.
BOTTOM LINE: A great vacation and I would definitely sail this ship
and line again. Freestyle is a great
concept. The port mix was great.
I would give it a rating of 4.9 out of 5.
Photo Courtesy of Norwegian
Cruise Line Reviews