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14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Four night cruise from Sydney to Moreton Island. This was our second cruise, our first being nine nights to New Caledonia on Carnival Spirit in Feb 2016. Embarkation at the White Bay Container Terminal was fast and efficient. ... Read More
Four night cruise from Sydney to Moreton Island. This was our second cruise, our first being nine nights to New Caledonia on Carnival Spirit in Feb 2016. Embarkation at the White Bay Container Terminal was fast and efficient. Navigating into the carpark beforehand was more of a challenge, but we found our way in eventually (the gps was completely out of its depth). Our balcony room on level nine was roomy enough and adequate for our needs. Our luggage was delivered within a reasonable timeframe. Disembarkation was also very smooth. Dining The Pantry - crowded and stuffy. Quite often long lines for food and usually very difficult to find a place to sit. The layout makes it feel very cramped, and air con seemed to be absent at times which makes it worse. The use of round coffee tables throughout this area also detracts from the experience - low round tables with long, straight bench seats simply don't work. The food itself is of average quality, but it is a good idea how they have staff serve the food rather than self serve as this alleviates hygiene concerns. The Waterfront This is main dining room and we had two breakfasts and two dinners here. The breakfast menu is the same each day and the service was good and the food was hot. The dinner menu changes each day. The service was generally good, the meals were hot on arrival. Food quality and portion sizes were acceptable, though a little small. At our first meal there we ordered mango brûlée for dessert. Yuk. No hint of mango in this dish which consisted of a shallow dish with a thin layer of something like baked custard in it. Salt Grill $49 aud per head - bookings essential. Due to the popularity of this venue we had to accept a 5:30 booking for dinner. Food quality was very good and the service also very good. Flavoursome meals here which contrasted with the tendency towards the bland at the other restaurants. Desserts were also very good. Dragon Lady - modern Asian fusion. Very good service. Food portions were ridiculously small. Main meals would have been considered entrees anywhere else. Desserts were poor. We tried the mango with sticky rice, but again no trace of mango to be found, we also had the chocolate slice which seemed to be made from gelatin and even though it looked like chocolate, it didn't taste like it. Angelo's - Italian restaurant, others in our group had dinner there on the first night and reported that it was terrible and strongly recommended that we avoid it. So we did just that. The dining experience for us on Carnival was better across the board. There was good coffee to be had from a couple of locations -$- ocean bar on 8 and the ice creamery on 11. Entertainment In this area P&O had the edge over Carnival IMO. We really enjoyed the Blue Room with the jazz or blues band each night. Real music played by musicians has always been my preference as opposed to carbon copy cover songs. The acoustic guitar player, Troy, was very good too, playing recognizable covers but well and truly in his own style. The song and dance shows in the large auditorium were not much different to what we had seen on Carnival and are ok if you like that sort of thing. The theme nights were both great, the Gatsby Party on the second night was well attended throughout the various bars on level 8 with maybe half the people making some kind of effort at dressing in theme. Lots of dancing and even some free glasses of champagne being handed around. Would have been nice if the entertainers had dressed in theme too (I am talking about the blues band here.) The White Night party on deck 11 on the third night was great fun too. Pumping music a mixture of DJ and live band worked really well and a fair percentage of those in attendance were in white (to some extent). Steady Eddie was great on the final night. More comedy would not have gone astray. The only time we found ourselves relocating to another bar to escape an act on stage was the final night during the 'staff jam session' in the Blue Room. Not good. The Staff Most staff were attentive and cheerful, but some were decidedly not so. No eye contact and seemingly more intent in returning to other things. This was quite noticeable from day one on this ship. Carnival has a sizable edge over P&O in this area. The Cruise Our cruise started by not starting! Our departure time of 5pm came and went while we sat expectantly on the outside rear deck with cocktails in hand. Eventually an announcement came over from the captain 'on the bridge' that due to a malfunction with the electrical control system out departure would be delayed. Long story short, it took a day and a half to resolve the issue so Moreton Island was dropped from the itinerary and we cruised in the ocean for two days. All passengers were promised a full refund of their cruise fare. I am sure that many, like myself, compensated by drinking more than they may have done otherwise and this may have contributed to the enthusiastic participation and dancing on both party nights! Overall - we really enjoyed our cruise on the Pacific Eden with our group of family and friends. Highlights were the party nights and the onboard live entertainment. The bar areas were all very nice. Downsides were the food which was generally mediocre, and the unforeseen technical issues which unfortunately denied us a full day of travel. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
I wanted to take this cruise to experience the Christmas markets and to view firsthand the Christmas experience along the Rhine River. It was absolutely amazing. The markets are spectacular and the Rhapsody offered so many rich musical ... Read More
I wanted to take this cruise to experience the Christmas markets and to view firsthand the Christmas experience along the Rhine River. It was absolutely amazing. The markets are spectacular and the Rhapsody offered so many rich musical experiences. The service and the leadership on this boat are incredible. From the Captain to the Hotel Manager to the crew itself, the entire focus is on the comfort and enjoyment of the guests, and they are all involved. There is a unique hospitality that surrounds the guests and that is especially apparent in the marvelous food that is served three times a day as well as the numerous special parties and celebrations. The best thing, I guess, for me was that I was able to buy all my Christmas presents on this trip. Of course, I shopped at the Christmas markets, but I also shopped in the ships' gift areas. Frankly, I found a great many things for myself. I plan to take this cruise again this coming Christmas. There are so many guests that take this trip year after year. That would be heaven. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Victory pulled what I had heard of this ship in other reviews: The night before we were contacted via email that our onboard time would be two hours later. Lucky for us, we got late checkout at the hotel and arrived at the appear at the ... Read More
Victory pulled what I had heard of this ship in other reviews: The night before we were contacted via email that our onboard time would be two hours later. Lucky for us, we got late checkout at the hotel and arrived at the appear at the appropriate time. Crowded but still found seats in the terminal. Onboard about 45 minutes later. My friend who sailed on the Victory in 2004 said that except for the cabin refurb (still happening while we were on the ship) nothing had changed in the decor. Part of the 7th floor was cordoned off for refurb which did cause havoc. The turpentine (or something of that ilk)fumes on that floor for the nearby cabins was stifling (I smelled it when I made the mistake one day of crossing the ship on the 7th floor and a breakfast mate on the 8th above it said the work noise was coming through their cabin in a big way). Also, during the required emergency drill, one woman coming from the 7th actually fainted from the fumes right in front of me. Both of us are easy to get along with but we had to sit at two different tables the first two nights with some pretty awful people. Carnival does not have an option to switch tables nightly which is a great way to meet more people. The third/4th nights we begged to get into dine around and succeeded where they sat us by ourselves. We had much better luck with our breakfast dining room mates when they sat us with other passengers. Breakfast in the dining room was great; dinner in the dining room was a hit and miss affair, but the service itself was great (I understand there are 1,100 staffers on the ship, making it a great staff/passenger ratio). When I did check out the buffet, it was plentiful but very crowded after 930AM (Carnival passengers appear to be late risers). All staff were polite who were trained to be (I always find it funny that staff like engineers or white uniformed staff are never trained to say hello). The entertainment was typical, the dancers a bit sloppy and only two singers had to carry all the shows (I'm used to at least 4). They outdid themselves on costumes, sound and lighting though, and had a live band. Carlos the cruise director was quite fun and probably the edgiest cruise director I've ever had on a cruise, unafraid to hurl some gentle insults here and there. The gym is excellent! Re the ports, only 730A-130P in Key West??? Way too short (and we saw about a dozen folks miss the ship as we pulled away--a first for me). Cozumel was much longer, so unless you stayed on board, there's not much to do in Cozumel except shop in the touristy shops at the pier or pay to take an excursion. We did the latter with the Everybody Loves Rays tour where you actually got into a pool of stingrays and even fed them. It was definitely a new experience for me and for the price, I felt it was worth it and the staff was knowledgeable and nice. Plus they split us into groups so the experience wasn't overcrowded. We got a great price on the cruise because of the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas time period, but overall Carnival doesn't attract the crowd that I like to hang with. I'll pay more and stick to Celebrity that seems to meet all my needs better. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
I had an overnight flight to Dubai I found out later that a lot of people on the flight were taking the cruise. I arrived at the airport picked up the case and after clearing customs were met out side in Arrivals by a Royal Caribbean rep. ... Read More
I had an overnight flight to Dubai I found out later that a lot of people on the flight were taking the cruise. I arrived at the airport picked up the case and after clearing customs were met out side in Arrivals by a Royal Caribbean rep. After checking everyone off we boarded the transfer coach to the port. This was an unusual cruise for me as I always travel alone, but this time I was meeting up with a couple of friends and some other people in their party. I met one of my friends at the port and we promptly boarded the ship. I have sailed on Vision before and as much as I loved being on Harmony I was looking forward to sailing on a smaller ship. The ship is quite old but still in great shape at the pool bar I was met with a friendly smiling face it was Kendrick from Ovation of the Seas it was great to see him again. As the morning passed we seemed to meet up with everyone within the next few hours. The time passed quickly and the cabins were ready in the early afternoon, I had a kind steward called Samuel who looked after the cabin. I had my time dining which was a bit hit and miss with the food and service but never mind it did not take anything away from my time on this lovely ship. A group of us did Chops on the second night it did not disappoint the food was amazing as was the service. I had breakfast every day in the main dining room with a section for members to sit at. The service and the food was very enjoyable as were the people I sat with. I also enjoyed the lunch twice on the cruise in the main dining room I do so love the salad they serve there. When we overnighted in Muscat we had an Arab themed party around the pool it was great I have never experienced anything like it. Everyone there seemed to really enjoy the evening and the staff worked so hard thank you to everyone. That really apart from the nation of flags ceremony with the Captain in the atrium was the only other entertainment that I saw. Talking with other people on the ship there seemed to be quite a mixed response regarding the other entertainment available. Service was generally excellent but My Time Dinning was a disappointment I have to say. The staff worked hard but I felt that the food was slow coming I did leave two meals but went to the Windjammer all turned out well. Mangesh Jambhulkar our concierge worked really hard in the lounge and everyone seemed to speak highly of him. Overall the cruise was really good, so good in fact I booked up to go back again in February to go back. I have sailed many times with Royal Caribbean which I enjoy and will continue I hope to do so for many years to come Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was my 13th cruise with Royal and what a disappointment. -Windjammer is disgusting. The tongs that you grab your food with are all greasy and oily. There aren't as many choices as there use to be. The windjammer has no ... Read More
This was my 13th cruise with Royal and what a disappointment. -Windjammer is disgusting. The tongs that you grab your food with are all greasy and oily. There aren't as many choices as there use to be. The windjammer has no change, everyday are the same choices. If you need a refill don't bother waiting for a waiter because they don't come around asking if you need a refill anymore. -Public Restrooms all smelt like urine. I get that its a restroom but the smell was so strong it hits you right when you walk in. The people who clean the bathrooms are in there for 2 minutes. They only wipe down the mirror and leave. -The diamond lounge was packed this week. They ran out of food multiple times and all the diamonds would wait for 30 minutes until they brought more food. There were no seats available right when the lounge opened. People formed a line by the bar get served and take their drink into the viking crown. People already seated in the lounge would wait 40 minutes until they were served a drink. Royal needed to add another bartender. -The toilet in my stateroom had issues. I woke up at 8 one morning walked into my bathroom and the floor was all wet from the toilet overflowing. I then called maintenance and they said they were coming. I waited for them till 830 and they never came. I then go to the gym and come back to my room at 10am and the toilet was never fixed. My stateroom attendant had to fix the issue when it was time for him to make up my room. My stateroom attendant though was excellent. -The dining room didn't serve rack of lamb or filet mignon. Why not? My waiters were great no complainants. -Royal is taking their attention away from service and quality of food. I never had these issues with Royal before. I had to ask myself while I was on the cruise if I was on a carnival ship. It sure felt like it. -I will be cruising with Celebrity for now on until Royal can get their act together. As a diamond the only perk that was good was the complimentary alcholic bevrages from 430-830. Why go back on Royal when I get the complimentary drinks, better service, better food, and more perks with Celebrity. -I've been Loyal to Royal because I love their ships and entertainment. However the service and food has gone down hill since I was on Liberty and Oasis in 2010. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This is my 3rd NCL cruise, 2nd staying in the Studio (cabins made for solo travellers). And I love it! I have cruised other lines before (Princess, RCL, Celebrity, Costa & Holland America) but they do not know how to cater to solos ... Read More
This is my 3rd NCL cruise, 2nd staying in the Studio (cabins made for solo travellers). And I love it! I have cruised other lines before (Princess, RCL, Celebrity, Costa & Holland America) but they do not know how to cater to solos (a few cruises have tried). Even Norwegian Dawn (which does not have Studios because Norwegian’s Epic built in 2010 was the first ship to have cabins for one person) we solos were very well taken care of. Escape is a big ship. Therefore it is noisy especially with loud music. I love the Waterfront (Deck 8) where I “escaped” from the loudness. What a beautiful idea to make good use of deck space known as the Waterfront, has comfortable seating. One side is a bar called “The Cellars” that mostly serves wine or drinks made from wine. The other side is “5’o clock somewhere bar” serving a variety of drinks. The restaurants on this deck have seating for outside dining. As I mentioned I’m a solo traveller so Escape has about 82 rooms designed for us solos. And yes, we are spoiled and it’s high time a cruise line has finally acknowledged those of us who like to travel alone. We have our own lounge area where we meet for drinks at 6:00 and decide who’s going out for dinner. Also we have our own activities director. How neat is that!! Embarkation/Disembarkation As I had to land in Fort Lauderdale, my transfer did not get me to Miami port until 2:30 which was perfect as I missed the line ups. Check-in was a breeze, took my own luggage on board, just stepped on the ship when they announced the rooms were ready, I went to my room dropped off my luggage and high tailed it to the buffet for lunch (had a few of my own snacks on the plane but I was hungry. I miss the old days when they served you food you didn’t have to pay extra!) On the last day I had to line up at 7:15am to disembark, do immigration so I can catch my transfer back to Fort Lauderdale airport. Was OK. Entertainment One night we went for dinner/Motown show in Manhattan Restaurant. Music too loud for my liking but the singing and the band were very good. At the Supper Club we were entertain by 4 lads who were brilliant singers for Oh What a night! featuring Fankie Valli’s hits. The set menu of 3 small appetizers, chicken and dessert was delicious. I went to an 80’s party which was OK. I didn’t stay long because ………. You probably guessed it, loud music. In Headliners, a few of us went to the duelling piano. I enjoyed that. Ports of Call: St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. I just walked around Charlotte Amalie. I’ve been to these ports before. I just wanted to stop somewhere for a beer & use the WIFI. The ship’s WIFI is too expensive and no guarantee of speed. Road Town, Tortola. Had a tour of Tortola some 20 years ago but never explored Road Town. Not much to see but there are few historic buildings to pass by, stopped at a park listening to a local steel band. If you’re into shopping, there is that. Nassau, Bahamas. Our ship did not dock here due to some mechanical problems. I was disappointed as had a taxi tour waiting for me but c’est la vie. I’ve been to Nassau before but the taxi would have taken me outside Nassau where I haven’t visited yet. We were credited U.S.$50. Credit plus $16. I think it was port charges. If it was weather related I wouldn’t say anything but I think we were not compensated enough. Food I ate breakfast and lunch in the main buffet area on deck 16. I had no trouble with the food. What I like at the entrances of the buffet are some sinks you can use soap & water rather than constantly that hand sanitizer which dries out your hands more. For dinner, we ate at Taste a couple of times, Manhattan once. At these restaurants the service was pretty good. Food was good too. One night at the Taste I ordered Chicken Kiev and it was very good. One night three of us decided to go to OSheehan for all you can eat ribs. One small plate of ribs, shrimp & baked potato was enough for me. And it was delicious. I’m glad Norwegian will keep building ships to include those Studio Cabins. Too bad other cruise lines don’t want to follow suit (Costa Cruises has some cabins for solos and HAL’S newest Koningsdam has 12 but there are outside pricey cabins). Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
I choose Holland for the second time it was both priced great and for 10 days the price was awesome.i have only cruised on rccl and holland.i like rccl for their ships food and service.what I don't like that as a single I get creamed ... Read More
I choose Holland for the second time it was both priced great and for 10 days the price was awesome.i have only cruised on rccl and holland.i like rccl for their ships food and service.what I don't like that as a single I get creamed on the fare. I get the double occupancy but on this cruise holland was not double but only 50 percent more,as with my only other holland cruise this kind of pricing us single can appreciate. I will hence with always consider Hal in all future cruise considerations The Rotterdam had just come out of a 50+ day Mediterranean cruise and some of us got an email from Hal to arrive at a later time to board.it sounded like there was going to be a CDC test. I had arrived on time and within 15 minutes was walking into my cabin. What a wonderful painless embarkation.i had an outside cabin on deck 3 with a a fully obstructed view, my cabin was more than ample the bath had a tub my first and a nice sized flat screen tv. My steward name Inchon was very friendly made towel animals every night and had ice in my room day and night,though I never asked for ice. Though I have had very good stewards Inchon was a cut above. The mdr was a very nice room and the food Was very good.though it was very tough to get a seat at 6pm it seemed to get swarmed at the opening each night. I read the menu each morning and it seemed to have some odd choices.i like to have 2 appetizers and an entree no desert,and most days couldn't make it work.i had some nice meals at the lido where I had breakfast every day but one. My only complaint there was the scrambled eggs were very hit or miss.but what I did find was the ny deli where they make a variety of Great pizzas I am from Chicago and we know our pizzas! The dough was light tasted and great crunch.done in a very hot oven more Neapolitan than anything else. With a large list of ingredients there are many options.for me it was the great surprise of this cruise. The shows of which I have not been a great fan of were better than I anticipated Frozen was amazing the magician was one of funniest guys I have seen and his last illusion I have yet to get over no spoilers here you must see amazing. And the library was well stocked I read 4 Preston/Child books love those guys Now the part that still has me scratching my head after the first show would let out you would expect the casino and bar,entertainment areas to fill up but that simply never happened the ocean bar was offering a drink at cost second one for 2 bucks from 9 to 10 and was a lonely spot after 9:30. The piano bar had at its best a dozen people at its peak and the piano man was great smart engaging personable guy who was entertaining. The bar next door with a great bartender had no more than eight of us after 9pm the Rotterdam was a very quiet ship after 9 The itinerary was one that started with 2.5 sea days and there were enough daytime activities to keep it interesting.then 5 ports in a row with a sea day before hitting half moon cay. Until I got the cruise log (a nice touch by Hal) I did not realize we had sailed through near gale winds and 2 days of rough seas I thought it was a bit choppy. The Rotterdam handled nicely Overall it was a great cruise for a great price I am looking forward to my next cruise and Hal will always be in the mix Read Less
14 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
memorable and enjoyable place to vacation. It looked like a poor third world country. We refused to even get off the cart and had it take us right back to where we came from. We ended up walking down to the Hilton and having a few drinks ... Read More
memorable and enjoyable place to vacation. It looked like a poor third world country. We refused to even get off the cart and had it take us right back to where we came from. We ended up walking down to the Hilton and having a few drinks at the outdoor bar until we were able to go back to the ship. The food provided in the “cafeteria” was embarrassing. All everyone kept telling me was how much I would love the food and the variety of items offered. Every time we went to the buffet the food looked like it was frozen, processed and reheated. We ate each meal at the outdoor grill where we could watch it be prepared or in the Prime restaurant. To add insult to injury when we finally made it back and were ready to de-board the next day we were told that we had to go back to the service desk as there was a “hold on our release”. I got upstairs to the service desk and was advised that my card was declined for $86 worth of incurred charges, that even included FUEL for the boat… I can’t even begin to understand how you would have the audacity to charge each passenger for fueling the boat but nonetheless I called my card company and was advised that there was a fraud protection hold that was on my card for a suspicious charge. Come to find out it was the drinks at the Hilton bar in Bimini but because it was in another country they took security measures. I advised the charge was authorized and was told the hold would be released in 24 hours. I relayed this to your customer service representative who then stated that I would be held on the boat until the balance was paid. After I explained to him that that was unlawful imprisonment, I asked to speak with a supervisor. I was first told there was not one available and when I insisted I was asked to wait. In my HOUR LONG wait for a supervisor I overheard dozens of passengers who had issues with credit card authorizations, one young lady had actually been asked to come the night before because they could not read the imprint on her card, she supplied it again on a new authorization form and THEY LOST IT!!!! Needless to say, after listening to complaint after complaint after complaint about charges I never actually saw a supervisor. The same gentleman kept telling me that “she” was on her way and when I started reiterating that I had a flight to catch he understood the importance of them moving expeditiously. However, I never spoke with a supervisor. I was told to wait for another half hour and then asked to sign a promissory note BY THE SAME GENTLEMAN WHO TOLD ME TO WAIT for the remaining balance (which I could have done from the very beginning when I advised they could run the card again in the morning as they had all the necessary information) After an hour and a half of waiting we were released to get off the boat but immediately heard an announcement that the customs area was full and they were asking people not to de-board until they could get caught up. We waited another 30 minutes before we were allowed to proceed off the boat and spent 2 hours in the customs area. Not only did I miss my flight but I missed a second flight home and we were not able to leave Florida until 8pm that evening (from a 10:40am flight). I spent my entire birthday sitting in customs and then sitting in an airport. My fiancée made dinner plans for the family that evening as my flight would have put me home at 2pm and the guest of honor was unable to attend as she was stranded in Florida, though we had family travel from out of state to celebrate with me. I have never been more disgusted with a company in my entire life. The professionalism, the un-organization, the blatant disregard for your passengers time, when offering such a poor experience is mind blowing. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Nothing wrong with the ship, I knew it would be smaller without all the bells and whistles. My room was good could do with tea and coffee making facilities in room, small issue I know but is nice to have a cuppa in the morning without ... Read More
Nothing wrong with the ship, I knew it would be smaller without all the bells and whistles. My room was good could do with tea and coffee making facilities in room, small issue I know but is nice to have a cuppa in the morning without ringing room service. The food was ok dining room menu basic but service good, buffet ok and poolside bergers and chips the best for lunch. But unfortunately the cruise for me was ruined by the crew and entertainment. Most were very unfriendly to the point of being rude, there were some good ones in MDR and Rendezvous Lounge but most didn't laugh or smile and tended to ignore you. The entertainment was average not enough of it and most of what was offered wasn't good, there was one young man that was good but even listening to him everyday was too much. I asked one of the entertainment crew what there was to do between 9 and 10, he said go to the show thats it and otherwise bad luck. Overall very disappointed and will think twice before going with Celebrity again. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
I enjoyed all aspects of my cruise. The food in grand dining room was great. The buffet had huge range, but very hard to keep food hot. Loved the variety. Their home made ice cream was a treat. Sushi on five was a real delight and ... Read More
I enjoyed all aspects of my cruise. The food in grand dining room was great. The buffet had huge range, but very hard to keep food hot. Loved the variety. Their home made ice cream was a treat. Sushi on five was a real delight and my favourite. All staff were awesome. Huge range of nationalities and all so polite and accommodating. I did not have a drinks package and was only asked twice if I would like to purchase one. Entertainment was mostly good. Some entertainers very good and two of them hopeless. Getting on and off the boat at all our ports was well orgainized and very quick. I embarked at 4.15 with no queues. Process took about 3-5 minutes from dropping back off to walking on. Disembarking, at 7.05am, I was in my hotel in Sydney at 7.25am, I would call that extremely quick. Will be looking out for another cruise to do in 2018. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
NCL Pearl - Partial Transit of the Panama Canal - December 8 -> 19, 2016 Wednesday, December 7 - Travel Day Before I start reviewing the cruise, I thought you would like to know a little about the person writing this. This is my ... Read More
NCL Pearl - Partial Transit of the Panama Canal - December 8 -> 19, 2016 Wednesday, December 7 - Travel Day Before I start reviewing the cruise, I thought you would like to know a little about the person writing this. This is my 31st cruise. This will be my third NCL cruise and my first on the Pearl. My other two NCL cruises was an October 2005 cruise on the NCL Star to the Mexican Riviera and the maiden voyage of the NCL Jade, which was a full transit of the Panama Canal. This time I am only doing a partial transit of the Panama Canal. I am platinum on Carnival and Diamond Plus on Royal Caribbean (second highest level on both lines). I also have three cruises on Princess (plus two more booked) and one cruise on the Universe Explorer (that ship no longer exists). There is a little story of how I ended up on this cruises. Originally I was set to go on this cruise in January 2017. The January cruise is similar to this cruise except it was ten nights and I actually liked that itinerary better. But then that cruise was chartered by the Trekkies, so I moved to this cruise. This is an eleven-night cruise and it cost $2,200 less. I am getting an extra night for more than 25 percent less than the cost of the January cruise. So I guess I cannot complain too much. I am in a forward facing suite with a large forward facing balcony that also has a large overhang (which is good in case it rains). So while everyone else is pushing and shoving for a space on the rail (while we are in the Panama Canal), I’ll have my own private forward facing space at the rail and I will not lose it if I have to go to the bathroom or if I get hungry. And it is a suite. NCL does suites better than Carnival or Royal Caribbean (I have not been in a suite on Princess). When I am not going through the Panama Canal, I normally book a balcony cabin. However, I have been in an inside, an ocean view, a balcony (both side facing and rear facing) and suites (once on Carnival, twice on Royal Caribbean and this will be my second time on NCL). This will be my first eleven-night cruise, which means I have now been on a three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen night cruise. So here I am in beautiful downtown LAX. I’m through security, there are two hours until my flight leaves and I’m in the Admiral’s club typing on my computer. Because people wanted more details in the review, I have started creating my review while on the cruise, when things are fresher in my mind. The people also like to see lots of pictures. I hope to satisfy that also. Because of the rude dispatchers and unreliable service, I have given up on taxis for scheduled service. I use taxis for unscheduled service such as the airport to hotel and hotel to ship, but for home to the airport I am using a limo. It is not as expensive as it sounds. I am not paying for parking by driving my own car and using a taxi to go all the way to LAX would cost more than the limo. Going home, I’m going to try Super Shuttle again. I was very happy with their service last time. I was very unhappy with Prime Time’s service last time, so I will not use them again. My other option is the FlyAway Bus. The problem is one can wait awhile for it to show up and sometimes it is full. Thus, it is not a good option for terminals six and seven (American Airlines is in terminal four). Well, enough about me, let’s start the vacation. Once the alarm goes off, I turn on my cell phone and I have a text from the limo company with information on how to contact the drive. I call him and everything is all set. He should be here in fifty minutes. It took him fifty-five minutes. First time ever a limo driver has been late. Then he heads off to a different freeway. I’m not paying by the mile but still, I suggest the freeway behind us would be shorter. He says he is dodging traffic. Even in Los Angeles the traffic is not that bad at 4:45am. I know the route he is taking. The way he is going, he will have to exit the freeway and take a short drive on the surface streets to get to the proper freeway. If he does that I’ll remain silent. Otherwise, we are going to end up on the wrong side of town. The limo is prepaid, so he cannot be trying to run up the meter. He does take the correct exit and then does get on the correct freeway. However, he did not seem too familiar with the route. A new driver? So, what else can I say? This time I have a much better camera that I am going to use and I have a very wide angle lens. In 2008 when I did the full transit I had a good point and shoot camera. Now I have a very good DSLR with very wide lens, so I’m hoping to get better pictures this time. The DSLR is of course a high quality camera and will produce better quality pictures than a point and shoot camera will. In addition, the lens is capable of taking in as much information as four photographs from the point and shoot, thus also creating a better picture then stitching the four point and shoot photographs together. In addition to the DSLR I have a point and shoot camera for off the ship. The DSLR is big and heavy and the point and shoot camera is light and fits in my pocket. I also have a waterproof camera for, wait for it ... taking pictures under water. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Well, I’ve written about as much as I can, given my trip has barely started. So I’m going to put the computer away for now. The next time we chat I should be in Miami. This will be the first time I’ve departed from Miami in a non-Royal Caribbean ship. My full transit cruise did end in Miami, so I have departed from an NCL ship in Miami before. Good evening from beautiful downtown Miami. Nothing exciting happened during the flight, which is a very good thing when discussing flying. I was surprised that the taxi was not a flat rate, since it has been before. But the total ended up less than $34 with tip, which is what I was expecting. I’ll have to check to see if Miami Airport to downtown is still listed as a flat rate on the websites. I’m home now and the flat rate is still listed on the Miami taxi websites. However, with tip, it comes out the same. I’m staying in the Holiday Inn across the street from the Bayside Marketplace. Great location, except the hotel is not tall enough. I may not be able to see the ship from the hotel. I’ve stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel twice before. It is tall enough to see the ships on the other side of the roadway. However, though the Intercontinental is only as short walk to the Bayside Marketplace, the Holiday Inn is literally across the street from the Bayside Marketplace. In addition, being closer to the cruise docks means the taxi fare to the ship will be less. In fact, if I was going to Royal Caribbean, I could walk there, if the roadway had a sidewalk. Due to lack of sleep the night before, I was tired. I went to the Bayside Marketplace and had dinner there. I have a very nice room at the Holiday Inn. When I made the reservation I was offered a discount if I joined some club which was free. Normally I don’t do this because I know they are after my email address. But the discount was significant and they have not spammed me (yet), so I am happy. An added plus is, I also get the best available room. It is a nice room, with separate sitting and sleeping rooms (yes, this is a two room suite) and the sitting room has a wet bar with a mini refrigerator. I am happy. I am also tired, so I’ll be back at you in the morning. Thursday, December 8 - Embarkation Day When I first entered the room, the thermostat was set for 66 degrees. Fine with me. Well, do you know what happens when you have warm moist air and cold glass? You end up with condensation. I woke up at about 5:30am and all the windows were covered with drops of water. I’ll have to wait until the sun comes up before I’ll be able to see outside. Given that, I decide to sleep in. Finally around 10:00am I decide I better get moving if I want to be at the pier by 11:00am (which I do). I shower and dress and head out the door. Normally I do not eat breakfast, and since lunch is free, I decide to skip breakfast today also. The taxi is fifteen dollars but the driver claims he does not accept credit cards. Okay, I’ve got a twenty that is not part of my cruise money. I brought $400 for spending and two-hundred dollars for extra tips (I have pre-paid the standard daily service charge). Fifteen dollars plus twenty percent is eighteen dollars, leaving me with two dollars to bribe the porters with. The tip money is for the concierge and the butler. Because I am in a suite I have a bunch of packages, including pre-paid service charge (tips), a drink package, a dinner package (for the extra cost restaurants, but not for the extra cost items in the free restaurants), 250 minutes of Internet use, and I have onboard credit (or so I thought). The pre-paid tips does not include the butler or the concierge. Given all the packages I have, I am wondering what I’m going to spend the onboard credit on (I ended up spending over $276, so I would have used up the on board credit – if I had any)? In fact, if I was not in a suite, I could go the entire cruise and have a zero onboard bill at the end, if I wanted to. Of course, if I were not in a suite, I would not have all these free packages, so I guess either way, I’m going to end up owing something. At any rate, I’m at the pier at 11:10am and on the ship before 11:30am. One of the suite perks includes priority check in. Other perks includes a special place for breakfast and lunch. I enjoyed this perk with Royal Caribbean, so I am looking forward to it here on NCL. Now normally once I board the ship I go to my cabin and drop off my carry-on luggage. But here we are escorted to the special lounge where we can have our special breakfast and lunch, starting with today’s lunch. I opt for the cheese burger because I want to go out and start taking pictures. I usually take picture first and eat when the cabins become available. But they trapped me this time. Given the delay in picture taking, the rain late in the afternoon, and the early muster drill (3:15pm) I don’t get all the pictures I wanted. However, the next two days are days at sea, so I still have time for more pictures. One thing I did find out, which surprised me, is that there is no water slide. Not a big deal, but I thought all the NCL ships had a water slide (I have since seen an older picture of the NCL Pearl and it used to have a water slide). The little kids (and I do mean little - no one old enough to go to school would be interested) pool area leaves a lot to be desired (even if you just turned three yesterday). However, unique to NCL (as far as I know) is that there is a bowling alley (which rumor has it that it will be removed during the dry dock next year). Being in a suite, NCL mailed me some priority luggage tags. So naturally I am one of the last to get my luggage. My luggage arrived after the muster drill was over. Fortunately my muster station was in the Stardust Theater, so I didn’t have to stand out in the heat, humidity, and rain. This is not a suite perk, there are ten different muster stations in the Stardust Theater, for about nine-hundred passengers (about 35 percent of all the passengers onboard). The muster drill was short and painless, mostly consisting of how to put on a life vest. Many first time cruisers have never done this before, so it is important. I’m still trying to figure out how many people that can afford to fly don’t know how to operate a seatbelt. Because it is raining, the sail-away has been moved to the Spinnaker Lounge. This is where our roll call group decided to meet if it rained. I decided that if half the ship was going to show up, I would wait a while. So I did go, but I didn’t meet everyone since by the time I arrived, most were gone. Not really a big deal, since we are all meeting for a Meet and Greet tomorrow. At the sail-away I ordered my first drink. I got charged full price. I decided to go to guest services and see what I did wrong. The line was long, so I decided to come back later. Turns out they give me a receipt for the full price, but only charge me the local tax. We were not in port, but we were still in US waters, so I got charged eighty cents tax. After the sail-away I went back to my cabin and relaxed until 8:30pm. I had peeked at the menu for one of the free (included) restaurants and it included an eighteen ounce bone in rib eye steak. When I got to the restaurant (Indigo) I was seated right away. I looked over the menu and noticed everything under the classic heading was high end. On Royal Caribbean the classic menu is the everyday menu. On NCL it is the optional extra cost items in the free (apparently not included) restaurant. It also is not covered by the dinner package which I have. No matter, I got it anyway. None of the appetizers looked enticing, so I asked to have the grilled shrimp (which was free) as an appetizer. I skipped the desert. After dinner I met up with one of the people from the roll call that I saw at the sail-away in the guest services line. We had a nice chat, basically discussing why we were at guest services. He had four bottles of an adult beverage and I think was charged twice and they kept his bag. They gave him his bag back after dinner, and he had the receipt to show he paid the corkage fee (fifteen dollars per bottle or sixty dollars for four bottles). Apparently it required a manager to get that cleared up. At the store I found a reasonably priced windbreaker type jacket that I bought. For some reason it was discounted an extra ten percent for me. I think this is another suite perk (turns out to be a Latitudes perk – I’m silver now, this cruise will make me seven points shy of platinum). I’ll find out next time I buy something. Back to the cabin where I unpacked and then worked on this. And now it is almost midnight and I am tired. So it is time to go to sleep. Good night. Friday, December 9 - Day at Sea Good morning from somewhere off the cost of Cuba. I woke up a little before sunrise. However, it was not worth getting up for. Clouds on the horizon and no clouds overhead. Clouds on the horizon means the sun has to rise higher, which means it is brighter, which washes out the colors. Or, it would have washed out the colors if there had been any clouds overhead to create the colors. I have a fancy coffee machine in the cabin. I don’t drink coffee. However, the buttons on the machine are well-lit. So well-lit that this cabin does not need a night light. Speaking of lights, it is going to take me more than two weeks to figure out which switch turns on/off which light. There are switches by the bed, switches by the door, and switches in the dressing area. Each one seems to operate a different light, or does nothing at all. At least I think some of the switches don’t do anything. There are not many children onboard this cruise. Based on my experience, if the cruise takes more than five working days, you don’t see many kids. Personally I like the extra energy the kids add to the cruise. In the Freestyle Daily (the ship’s newspaper) is an offer for a twenty dollar bag of laundry which will be returned on December 17 in the evening (the cruise ends on December 19). So let’s see, we have not been on the ship for 24 hours yet and they are going to take a bag of laundry and not give it back until a day and a half before the end of the cruise. Who has that much laundry in one day and then can go eight days without those clothes? I went for breakfast and discovered the NCL suite breakfast is very similar to the Royal Caribbean breakfast. I had an omelet for breakfast. It was good and this is a very nice perk. Speaking of perks, I wanted this cabin because it has a forward facing balcony. It just happens to be a suite. But it came with a lot of extras. As noted, I have a free beverage package, a free dinner package, pre-paid tips, a special breakfast (7:00am to 9:30am) and lunch (noon to 2:00pm) restaurant exclusive to suite guests, a butler, a concierge, an Espresso machine, a DVD player, and 250 Internet minutes with an Ethernet connection (I don’t have to connect via WI-FI, even though I can). However, the TV is not interactive (another rumor is the TV will become interactive after next year’s dry dock). I have to go to Guest Services to check my account balance. Speaking of changes, it would nice if they removed the “Hope you enjoyed your cruise” message that was playing for people that disembarked yesterday. That is not something I want to see on the first full day of my cruise. At 11:00am we had a Meet and Greet. It was a good turnout. I would guess thirty to forty people. Many of the senior officers, including the captain, were there. We are going to be invited back at the end of the cruise to critique the cruise. I think it is great that NCL is actively seeking comments from passengers on the ship. After the gift exchange we had a cabin crawl. We saw a rear facing regular balcony cabin, a side facing regular balcony cabin, a handicap ocean view cabin and my cabin. My first NCL cruise was on the NCL Star. I had a regular side facing balcony cabin. But I don’t remember it being only four feet deep. I knew people would be impressed with my balcony, which is about eighteen feet deep, including the six feet that are under the overhang. I called my butler to bring over one dozen chocolate covered strawberries. This is an extra cost request (I’ve got to spend my onboard credit on something or I’ll lose it). But, they make it fresh and he was not sure he could get it to the cabin in time. He arrived seconds after everyone left. Oh well, I invited them to come for Panama Canal, I’ll save the strawberries until then (the refrigerator works fine). I was able to demonstrate my walk through closet. I don’t have a walk-in closet, but I do have a walk-through closet. Unfortunately I forgot to show off my his and her safes (yes, I have two safes). What I did not realize is that there are some rear facing cabins that are not suites. I knew the balconies were not as big as mine, but I did not realize that there are rear facing regular balcony cabins. After the cabin crawl I had lunch. It was the same menu as yesterday. Today I had the pasta. Back at the cabin I called the concierge for dinner reservations. 8:30pm at Moderno (the Brazilian restaurant - one of the specialty restaurants). Then I worked on this. Well, it is almost 3:00pm and time to go out and get some day at sea pictures. Be back at you later. Got some day at sea pictures and finished off most of the inside pictures that I wanted. I decided to rest until the early show tonight, featuring a group (four men) that perform all of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons hits. They were good, but there wasn’t as much energy as I like. Between the end of the show and my dinner reservation I stopped by guest services to get a printout of my account. After that I went to Moderno for dinner. They hand you a menu of a dozen different cuts of meat. I picked out the one I wanted and waited. Soon a waiter came to me with a card. A picture of the front end of a cow with a green background on one side and a picture of the other end of the cow with a red background on the other side. After I get my salad from the salad bar and I am ready for the meat, I turn my card green side up and the servers with the meat will come by. They bring all twelve cuts (not all at the same time) and give you a little of each one. You can have seconds if you wish. Well, a little here, a little there, pretty soon you are full. I was full and turned my card back to red. It was good, but it would not be a good place for vegetarians. Back to the cabin where I had an invitation for a party hosted by the captain. Another suite perk. I noted the time and then looked at my account. No surprise charges but no onboard credit either. So I got my printout and went back to guest services. I showed them my printout. They took a copy and sent a note to Miami. They would get back to me when they had an answer. After that it was back to the cabin to upload my pictures, finish this and get some sleep. See ya tomorrow morning. Saturday, December 10 - Day at Sea Woke up with some hope of a good sunrise picture. I even got out of bed and was going to heat up my lens with the blow dryer (so it would not fog up when I took it outside) when I realized there would be no sunrise. There were clouds overhead alright, there were also clouds over the horizon. I don’t believe I saw the sun all day. So I took a ginger tablet as a precaution and went back to bed for a couple of hours. I eventually headed to breakfast and had French toast. I noticed that the water was sloshing around in the pool pretty good and got some video of that. I began to realize that this might not be a day to remember when I noticed an officer speaking to the person in the pool. Sure enough, the person then got out of the pool. I kind of figured that this was a prelude to emptying the pools, and it was. The pools are emptied for two reasons. First of course is safety. As the water in the pool moves up and down, so do the people in the pool. Too much up and down movement and people could get hurt. The second reason is that the water is heavy and it is up high (deck 12). Emptying the pools helps stabilize the ship. After breakfast I finished taking the inside pictures of the ship. I was hoping in the afternoon to get some more day at sea pictures. It was not to be, as the weather got worse. Back at the cabin I uploaded my pictures, choose a few to email back to the rest of the team at work (just to rub it in), resized the pictures for emailing, and composed my cover note. I don’t care how much NCL brags about their fast Internet, it is not as fast as it is for me at home. I don’t want to spend my entire 250 minutes emailing one 24 megapixel photo. So I down size them to about one megapixel. Then I backed everything up. I relaxed for a little while and then had lunch. I went with the French dip because it had bread. Now, not only was the ship rolling, but it was also getting wet (rain). And, the wind had picked up enough that the outside exposed decks were roped off and the barf bags were placed near the elevators. When I got back to the cabin I took another ginger tablet, just in case. Ginger (the tablet, not Maryann’s friend) helps prevent nausea. During the cabin crawl I point out many of the things that are sort of unique to these forward facing cabins, including the big metal plate that can be placed over the window “just in case”. However, I did not know the reason for the rope until my cabin steward came in. He had been instructed to tie up the deck furniture. The deck furniture is tied up so that it cannot blow away. I noticed I had a phone message. It was from guest services regarding my onboard credit. I went down to guest services and was informed that “Miami” said I was not entitled to an onboard credit. Arguing with the guest services agent was not going to do any good and would just get me mad and ruin my vacation. This is more of a principle thing than anything else. So I am not going to allow it to ruin my cruise. I booked this through a travel agent and she is getting a good size commission out of it. I sent an email to my agent and let her take care of it. I called the concierge to make reservation for Teppanyaki. I knew it was popular and thought about making a reservation before I boarded the ship. However, that defeats the whole idea of do what you want when you want. All the good times for the next few days are booked up, so I’m having dinner at 9:00pm tonight. That is okay with me, since I usually eat late. With any plans I had for the afternoon wind and rained out, I decided to just relax until the 6:00 captain’s reception. I’m sure the only reason I was invited is because I’m in a suite. I had my picture taken with the captain and spoke to him briefly. Then I sat down, had a few drinks, a few little snacks, and spoke to a few of the other officers. I listened to the soft music the live band was playing as long as I could, and then headed back to the cabin to work on this. While typing on this the weather report changed from four to seven and half foot waves to seven and a half to twelve foot waves. Some of those big waves can really push the ship around. Also, while I’m working on this I can hear the music from the Stardust Theater show. It is not loud enough to bother me, but it is something I would not have expected. At any rate, it is time for dinner. I’ll see you later. Teppanyaki is a Japanese restaurant where they cook your food in front of you and entertain you at the same time. On land they do both at the same time. Dinner takes about one hour. Here it seems the focus is on entertainment. While the entertainment was pretty good, I was there for dinner. I enjoy the entertainment with dinner. I did not enjoy the part of the show that was performed before, and instead of, cooking dinner. It was a 9:00pm reservation. I didn’t get my first bite of food until 10:00pm (yes, I looked at my watch). However, I felt better when I realized that they had cooked too much fried rice. I like fried rice. I had three bowls of fried rice, along with my chicken and shrimp meal. So I didn’t leave hungry. However, all the extra entertainment added thirty minutes to the length of the meal. So it ended up taking ninety minutes instead of the sixty minutes it takes on land. Now I understand they are trying to have fun, the same as on land. However, the cook entertaining another table was so loud that I could not hear the people next to me talking to me. For the most part I just pointed at what I wanted and could never figure out what the second choice for dessert was or even if there was a second choice. I ate the half of the desert I wanted, tasted the other half and left that half on the plate. Overall a good enjoyable meal, however, I will not be eating there at Teppanyaki again this cruise. Sunday, December 11 - Cartagena Today is our first port of call and the weather has definitely improved. If I had gotten my bearings straight, I would have gotten a really good sunrise photo. After traveling south for a full day we turned left to get to Cartagena. I was not sure which way we were headed and thus wasn’t sure where the sun was. Once I figured it out I had to go top side as the sun was a little behind my view. By then most of the good colors had disappeared. Still, I got an okay sunrise photo. By the time I am ready there is not enough time for a sit down breakfast, so I decide to the go to the buffet, get three slices of watermelon, a banana and two glasses of orange juice. The breakfast of champions. I am on the Scenic Cartagena tour that meets at 9:00am in the Stardust Lounge. We leave Cartagena early (2:00pm) so that we can make it to the Panama Canal nice and early. The tour is only two and a half hours. I am hoping it is similar to the tour I took in 2008, because there is a photo I want to repeat with my better camera. Well the tour was scenic, but not very photogenic. I did not take too many pictures and we didn’t go to the place where I wanted to repeat the 2008 photo. On the plus side I got to see parts of Cartagena I did see last time. The streets near the ocean were covered with water from yesterday’s rain. We did stop in the same shopping area that we stopped in eight years ago. I felt very comfortable there eight years ago and felt even more so this time. I was after souvenirs for seven different people and was very happy with what I found. Originally the price was $118 (and the conversion rate was 3003 to one). However, after I paid that they recomputed it to $83, refunded me the $118 and charged me $83. That kind of honesty is hard to find, even in the US. For those that are interested, it was store number ten. The tour guide was pushing store number three. I spent $14 in store number three on coffee (store number ten also had coffee). I bought four shirts for four young friends of mine (no, they don’t say my friend went to Cartagena and all I got was this lousy t-shirt). I bought a short glass for a friend of mine who collects shot glass (because of me he has a large collection of Caribbean shot glasses). And finally several bags of coffee for my sister and brother in law (I don’t drink coffee). The tour itself was not everything I hoped it would be, but the tour guide was good, so I left her a tip. After the tour I had lunch in the exclusive suite restaurant and had the chicken. Personally I don’t think any place that lets me in is all that “exclusive”. After lunch I took some port day photographs of the pool area. Then back to the cabin and changed so I could go swimming. I was just floating around when the ship’s horn went off (I didn’t know they let the horn get off). Somebody must be late. Still, when we left I didn’t hear any names called, so I guess everyone made it back. Tonight I decided to check out Summer Palace (the free or included restaurant). Am I willing to share? Yes. So am taken to a six top where one other person is sitting. Shortly after than one more person joins us. I decide to go for the pasta from the classic menu. This time there is no extra charge. I used to have this Freestyle down pat. That was eight years ago. Actually I prefer having a set time and place for dinner. However, one has to make certain sacrifices if one wants a forward facing balcony. It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it. After dinner I am tired, which is good, because I want to get a full night’s sleep for tomorrow’s early visit to the Panama Canal. So for now, good night. Monday, December 12 - Panama Canal I’m up in time for everything. We are supposed to arrive at 6:00am and I’m already up, showered, dressed, and I’ve set out some snacks and drinks for the people I invited to share my balcony with me. The first of many surprises came at 6:00am. It was still dark and it looked like there was a lighting storm outside. But no, apparently the captain was allowing passengers to go to the crew area at the bow. People were taking selfies (okay) and people were taking pictures of the land which was at least one mile away (nobody has a flash that powerful). They set up a couple of tents for shade and drink sales (of course). But they suffer from the same problem everyone else has (except for those of us in the twelve forward facing suites). Once they move away from the rail, it could be hours until they get their place back. I have cold water (I ended up having my butler bring me four more bottles of water and a bucket of ice), I have food (and could have ordered more, except my butler brings me edible gifts every day - there is no chance I’ll starve in this cabin), I have easy access to shade, I have easy access to a bathroom, and the best part is, I’ll still be able to get my place at the rail back. This is why I booked this cabin. The Freestyle Daily said there would be Panama Canal t-shirt sale on the pool deck starting at 6:30am. I went up at 6:15am to get a preview and didn’t see a thing. Then I went back to my cabin. I didn’t want to leave at 6:30am because I didn’t know when my guest would arrive. They came at 7:20am and confirmed that they were selling t-shirts on the pool deck. So I left my cabin to my guest and when up to get a couple of Panama Canal t-shirts. They had a blue and gray shirts in my size. I picked up the blue one and looked for my size in some of the other colors. Guess what, the color determined the size. No yellow or red for me, they were all too small. So I went with the blue and gray ($15 for one and $20 for two – or the big special, three for $75). Back to the cabin and I was able to explain a few things about what was about to happen because I’ve done this once. But there are two channels now (not one). Are the new locks operating? None of us knew the answer, but it quickly became apparent that they were. Which way would we going? I said I had never entered from this side before, but looking at the size of the ships ahead of us, I was guessing that to the right was the old locks and to the left was the new locks (I was right). I also noticed that we were a bit behind the posted schedule. That would later snowball into a (much) bigger problem. At any rate, up the locks we went. It is not exactly a thrill ride, but it is interesting. Even more interesting is that one hundred year old technology is being used, and it is still working perfectly today. For example, there are no pumps. All the movement of water is done with gravity. Once we entered Gatun Lake, we moved off to the left and anchored. Then passengers on the excursions were tendered to a meeting place were all would join whatever excursions they were on. It took a long time. I would later find out that about eleven hundred passengers (almost half the passengers) left the ship. Then we went down the locks. Personally I think they should just open the gates and lets the ships slide down, it would only take about thirty seconds compared to the two and one half hours it takes doing it their way. Now here is where the delays became a big problem. We should have been in Colon at 5:00pm. It was 5:30pm when we exited the last lock. The captain said this was out of his control, since they have to follow the schedule the Panama Canal managers give him. We did not get to Colon until just before 7:00pm. Because we were late the captain gave us an extra half hour. We had to be back onboard by 8:00pm. He could only give us an extra half hour because of the high speed run to Puerto Limon. High speed? I checked the speed on the TV, we never went above seventeen knots. For a ship capable of twenty-five knots, I would not consider it high speed unless we were going over twenty knots. Being in a suite I get priority debarkation. I got off at 7:10pm. The sign at the gangway said crew had to be back my 7:00pm and passengers had to be back by 8:00pm. As I walked out I saw the looong line to get back on the ship that the excursion passengers had created. Everyone who left the ship in Gatun Lake was on time, and apparently they were not being told why the ship was not there. So they were not happy campers. I set a time limit of 7:30pm. No matter what I was doing, at 7:30pm I was heading back to the ship. Those of us on the ship understood the situation, but that did not make me any less disappointed about not seeing Colon. I had time to buy two shot glasses and then I headed back to the ship. The problem was simple. Instead of having three hours to embark everyone, they had fifty minutes. To save time they were not using the metal detector or x-ray machine. The five of us (my four balcony guests and myself) had plans to meet at Summer Palace (an included restaurant) at 7:00pm. We decided to throw that out the window and meet for dinner tomorrow night. So I headed to La Cucina, the Italian restaurant. The place was empty. I had a personal sized pizza and some pasta. All good and free, as this was the third of my five free specialty restaurant dinners. After dinner I decided to go back to the cabin and get some sleep. I spent the entire day in the sun and it was time to get some sleep. So until tomorrow, good night. Tuesday, December 13 - Puerto Limon I checked my email this morning and I received the following email reply from my travel agent: No, remember when we switched to the December sailing, we lowered the rate by over $2300 and we lost the on board credit but you got prepaid gratuities, the unlimited beverage package, the 250 minutes of internet and the 5 dinner specialty dining in addition to the lower rate. We discussed that the $2360 savings and amenities were better than the two-hundred dollars ON BOARD CREDIT. I save all my documentation, as does my agent. Then just before the cruise I sort out what I need and what I don’t need. What I should have done when the switch was made was to throw out all the old information and just keep the new information. By keeping the old information and forgetting about the changes (except the lower cost) I confused myself. But no harm done. I did not say anything to anyone that I need to apologize for, nor did I spend any money I now regret. As I said earlier, I did not argue with anyone. I have an agent who I trust and it is her job to iron out any discrepancies. Of course getting a full explanation from my agent rather than a simple, “Miami said you are not entitled to an onboard credit”, was much more customer friendly. NCL knew about this, the change after all was forced on me once the January cruise was chartered out from under me. That said, my agent is not totally correct in what she said. I already had the pre-paid service charges and the Ultimate Dining Package. So what I gained when I last the two-hundred dollars onboard credit was the unlimited beverage package (which does not include water) and the 250 minutes of free Internet time (which I used to ask my agent about the missing onboard credit and to make sure my co-workers know I am having more fun than they are). Of course I also saved over $2,300 dollars, which I would always trade for two-hundred dollars onboard credit, so I really cannot complain. And, I did not spend any of that expected two-hundred dollars credit on anything I would not have purchased anyway, so I have lost nothing and saved over $2,300, which is why I am not complaining. Still, having the onboard credit would have been nice (picture a smiley face here). So, this is my first time to Puerto Limon. Normally for my first visit I find a ship sponsored sightseeing excursion to kind of get an idea of the lay of the land. This time I decided to do something different. I decided I would do a self-guided walking tour. So after breakfast (an omelet) I joined the priority group (suite perk) and started walking around. After walking around for a while I realized I was not seeing much. For some reason there are a lot of placed selling things around the port. At least the shop owners are not aggressive (did you read that Jamaica and Mexico - Americans, which make up about eighty percent of the cruising public, do not like aggressive sales people, even if they are in the United States). On my way back I was approached by a taxi driver offering me a two hour tour for thirty dollars. I’ve never done this before (what happened in Jamaica in 2011 was a miss communication which I will be careful not to allow to happen again). Since walking was not working and I’ve read some good reports about these off the street taxi tours, I said yes. Turned out to be a good deal. I saw things that were not the touristy places and really enjoyed the tour. I not sure the driver caught on to the fact that when he asked if I wanted to take a picture of a place I said no, but when he showed me any wildlife I jumped out the taxi. Funny thing the first time, I could not find my camera. I was sure I had it in my pocket and kept searching. He asked me if it was on my belt. Oops, I forgot, I moved it to my belt so I would have room in my pocket for my hat (it was not sunny when I started out). First we saw a sloth. I have no idea how he found it. It looked like a bird’s nest. Next was a yellow bird. I don’t remember what it was called, I just liked the color. It was not all yellow, it just had a yellow breast. But since all I see where I live are sparrows (all brown) and crows (all black) any two toned bird is an upgrade. It was hot (anything above seventy is hot to me – and it was well above seventy) and muggy. I am comfortable wearing a t-shirt when it is sixty-five. At work my office has the thermostat. Unfortunately it only goes down to sixty-nine. Our newest employee has a heater in his office. The secretary has a heater under her desk. In the Caribbean it is in the eighties year round. The low eighties in the winter and the upper eighties in the summer. However, when you add ninety percent humidity, it feels more like ninety-five degrees. Remember, once it reached one hundred percent humidity, sweating no longer works to cool you down. After the taxi tour I found a shop that had lots of souvenirs. Coffee for my sister and brother-in-law, things for the neighbor’s kids, a mask for both households and shot glasses for my friend (I have enough souvenirs at home). Then back to the ship, a cool shower, a change of clothes, and off to lunch. But first a phone message. New plans for the dinner that didn’t happen yesterday. I left a message for my choice, then off to lunch. By the time I got to the restaurant, I was ready for another shower and change of clothes. I had another cheeseburger. After lunch I went back to the cabin. A new phone message. Everyone agreed to go to Lotus Garden, which is one of the free/included restaurants. It is first come first served, except that suite passengers can call the concierge who can make reservations, which I did for five at 7:00pm. Then I put together my bag of laundry. I packed for nine days, with plans for laundry at the halfway point, just to keep things simple. Since I was flying first class, two bags were free, so I could have easily packed for all thirteen days. I estimated my laundry cost to be thirty dollars. It ended up being $38.25 for six pairs of socks, six underwear and three t-shirts and regular service. The slowest level of laundry service was an offer I saw on the first full day, and I believe everyday so far. “Fill your laundry bag and we will wash, dry and fold all items for only $19.95.” Sounds great, however, there is a catch. “Your items will be returned the evening of Saturday Dec 17.” So, you get your clothing back in time for the last full day. Now seeing this offer on the first full day was a bit odd. Who is going to be able to fill their laundry bag on day two, and then wait a week to get it back? And as long as we are discussing odd things, I used one of the public restrooms. It was either designed by basketball players or designed for basketball players. I don’t know what a six year old would do. I guess in an emergency he could shoot his stream up in an inverted “U”. All I can say is, I hope the six year old has good aim. There are three levels of laundry service. Express service is in by 9:00am out by 6:00pm. Express service carries a fifty percent surcharge. Normal service is in by 9:00am out by 6:00pm the next day. However, if you call your butler, normal service is expedited, but don’t tell anyone, it is not a published suite benefit. Actually I don’t know if that is true or not, however, it has been true for me the two times I have done it. Nonetheless, I had enough clothing for the next three days. With all of that behind me I decided to just rest, even though tomorrow is a day at sea, also known as a day of rest. The five of us balcony buddies met at the Lotus Garden at 7:00pm. There was a line, but I went to the side and mentioned that I had a reservation and we were soon seated. Lotus Garden is a Japanese themed restaurant. I had pot stickers for an appetizer and sweet and sour pork for the main course. After dinner the other four wanted to go to a Broadway show. I figured they were talking about a production show in the Stardust Theater. So I said yes. Oops, this was in the Spinnaker Lounge. Right-away I realized this was not my style. But I decided to be a good sport and go. It didn’t take long before I realized that I would have to come up with an excuse to leave. I figured I would wait until it was half over. However, I got lucky. One of the couples were not enjoying it either, so I didn’t need an excuse to leave, I just followed them out the door. I did thank them for an enjoyable dinner, even if it was all free. And with that I went to my cabin and just decided to watch a little TV and go to sleep. If you like news, there are lots of options. However, all that the news channels were talking about was Trump’s selection for this or that. Apparently not much else is happening in the world. If you don’t like news, there is plenty of soccer (football to the rest of the world). If you don’t like news or soccer, well your options are rather limited. There isn’t even a 24 hour cartoon channel for the kids. And so, until sometime tomorrow (since I get to sleep in) good night. Wednesday, December 14 - Day at Sea Well, we are booking. We are doing about 23 knots, the ship is rolling and it is raining. Other than that, it is looking like a great day. The pools were closed all day, so all I did was take a few pictures, watch a movie on the TV and just rest. Well, I didn’t “just” rest. My butler and room steward are driving me nuts. I can barely relax for ten minutes without the door bell ringing. The butler wants to know what he can do for me. Well, he could just let me rest. He brings me so much food that I don’t need to leave the cabin. I have more than enough food and water without going to any restaurants. All I am missing is nice rest. The room steward wants to know what time I am going to dinner. I use the dial by the door. He knows I use the dial by the door, because he resets it to welcome when he is done. So, if it says welcome, come back later. This is one of the reasons I am not sold on the Freestyle concept. With traditional dining (always eating at the same time) the room steward knows your schedule and doesn’t bother you as much. The other things I like about traditional dining is you have the same wait staff each night and they learn you likes and dislikes. By the third night you don’t have to tell them what you want. Also the dining times always work well with the show schedule. With Freestyle if you want to see the shows, you have to do the scheduling yourself. I’m trying to get away from that when I go on vacation. The dial has four settings, welcome, make up the room, turn down the room and do not disturb. I do not want run outside every time my mood changes, so I don’t use the “Do not disturb” portion of the dial. Besides, my co-workers can confirm that I am already disturbed enough - especially since I am emailing them on my vacation. Since I have 250 minutes of free Internet time, it was either email my co-workers (just to make them jealous) or do a “live from” thread and live from threads require real work and there is no special interest in this itinerary or this ship. I have done live from threads twice before, but both times there was some special interest in the ship. Cagney’s and Teppanyaki seem to be the most popular extra cost restaurants on the ship. Teppanyaki because of its limited seating (forty people) and Cagney’s is a steak house. I wanted to go to Cagney’s today, but there were no available time slots. So I booked it for tomorrow and the next day (to use up my five free extra cost dinners). I’ll likely repeat La Cucina (the Italian restaurant) after I use up my five dinners because it is the least expensive of the extra cost restaurants. So today I’ll go to O’Sheehan’s Bar and Grill. I would describe it as sit down fast food. You can get hot dogs, hamburgers and other sandwiches, like you would at a fast food restaurant, except it is cooked to order and you are seated at a normal restaurant table. Well, there really isn’t much to talk about today, and tomorrow I have an early private excursion with Island Marketing. It is so early, that since the ship moved the clocks back one hour, the excursion leaves thirty minutes before we arrive. I have gone with Victor Bodden the two prior times I came here. He is good, but he doesn’t have a sloth, so I am giving Island Marketing a try this time because they have a sloth. So until tomorrow, good night. Thursday, December 15 - Roatan I am up early and decide to go outside and get some sunrise photographs. Not the greatest sunrise but not bad either. We were sailing away from the sunrise, so I took most of my photographs from the ship’s stern, enabling me to get the ship’s wake in some of the photographs. Yesterday I noted the channel for showing the emergency procedures is now showing how to board a tender. Are we tendering? I’ve been to Roatan twice before and we have docked both times. As we approach I notice another ship is already there. As we get closer I realize it is the NCL Jade. I have not seen the Jade since I debarked from her after my full transit of the Panama Canal in February 2008 (which was the maiden voyage of the Jade. Prior to that the NCL Jade was the Pride of Hawaii. At that time the ship did not have its hull art. It left Miami for Europe where it went into dry dock. The Jade is docked. The pier will only hold one ship. So we have to tender. As noted, I have a private tour that thanks to the change in the ship’s time leaves thirty minutes before we arrive. I am really not that concerned about it. They know when the ship will arrive and I’m sure they will wait. Once off the tender I have to walk outside the pier area (Victor Bodden has a booth inside the pier area). I find Island Marketing (people are holding up signs) and find out that they are waiting for two more people. Given that the ship is tendering and I have priority (which I took advantage of), this could be a long wait. So I check out what is for sale in the little shopping area where the tour guide said she will look for me. I find some items I will purchase when I get back from the tour. It was a long wait and the other two did not show up. So I and two others head off to the West End. The other two just want to go to the beach so I end up with a tour of the island. Then in town we stop by a store that makes its own chocolate. The tour guide wants to know if I would like to go in. Yes. So she stops right next to a no parking sign. I ask her if she is going to park next to this no parking sign. She is embarrassed because she didn’t see the sign. So she goes up the street a bit further, makes a U turn and finds a spot right in front of the store. I go into the store, sample a few products and buy one of the bars for five dollars. Then I give half to the tour guide. We wait and I find out that two more people are going to join us. The tour guide’s boss is bringing them. She keeps looking around the corner. I ask her if she is looking for her boss. Yes she is. So I suggest that she call her boss. She does and it turns out her boss in the town headed our way. The problem is, the street is two lanes wide and when people park on the side, it turns into an alternating one way street. So it takes some time before they catch up to us. With the two new arrivals comfortably seated (this is a brand new looking SUV with over 130,000 miles on it) we head off to the iguana farm. It is the same one I visited in April. The main attraction for me is, the sell they big leaves two for a dollar. The leaves have a long stem and as soon as you put the leaf down to ground level, the iguanas come running. They step on each other and size rules. It is kind of fun, though the iguanas are not cute furry things. Their monkeys and sloth are close by (half a mile) and the other two are from Florida and are not interested in seeing the iguanas. They have iguana in Florida. The tour guide/driver take them to the monkeys and then comes back for me. I spent four or five dollars on food for the iguanas. I also bought four waters to share with the group. The tour guide was grateful for the water. The other two had their own water. No problem, I’ll just bring the water back on the ship with me. The monkeys they like to hop on peoples’ arms, shoulders and head. They will also steal anything in your pockets, so we leave all of our stuff out on a bench. They feed the monkeys sunflower seeds. Next time I’m going to smuggle some grapes off, because I know the monkeys like the grapes. Feeding the monkeys is a little more fun. However, one of the smaller ones was a little fearful of one of the bigger ones, and they let one of the monkeys out of the cage. So there was only one we could feed. Apparently they let each monkey out of the cage for one hour per day. It is interesting that they have no trouble keeping their monkeys. In April Victor Bodden had one monkey that escaped. Now we have two monkeys on the outside, people in the cages with all there belonging sitting on the bench. I was outside and noticed the monkeys were “investigating” the items on the bench. I said, “Hey, you’re not supposed to do that” which drew the owner’s attention. Fortunately just by walking over to the bench the two monkeys dropped their ill-gotten gains and headed for the trees. I picked the items up and just put them back on the beach, since I don’t know which purse the items came out of. The people in the cage will have to sort that out for themselves. After the monkeys it was sloth time. I was the first to volunteer to hold the sloth. Three towed sloths are gentle. Two towed sloths are bigger and aggressive. The sloths don’t move much, and don’t like to be scratched behind the ears (like a dog). They like to be petted on their backs (like a cat). We also got to feed some of the smaller green parrots. They have other animals there that we could did not get to feed, like the bigger multicolored macaws, raccoons and a couple of other animals they have. Then we went to a resort where we could spend some time on the beach. This was actually a protected body of water, more like a pond. There were no rocks and thus no fish. But perfectly safe to play in, even for children. Being a bit hungry, I decided to have a hamburger. Once the tour guide and I were done eating, we returned to the ship. All in all, very enjoyable. There are some things about the Island Marketing tour that I liked better than Victor Bodden and some things I liked better with Victor Bodden. I would recommend either one. Back at the little shopping area I bought something for everyone except me (I have more souvenirs and t-shirts then I need), and then headed back to the ship. I shower and dress before going to Cagney’s Steakhouse tonight. I decide on creamed corn and mac and cheese for the sides, and the rib eye for the main course. All are good. After dinner I am tired, so I head back to the cabin, watch a little TV, and fall asleep. Friday, December 16 - Belize Originally I planned to just stay on the ship. But eventually I decided to go into town. It took about twenty minutes to fill up the tender, which is a big open air commercial tender (not one of the small stuffy ship tenders). Another fifteen minutes to make the five mile run to the town, and about five minutes to exit the tender. All told about forty minutes, and I was not the first one on the tender. The problem here is the reef. The reef is protected and it is too shallow for the deep draft cruise ships. So the ships anchor out in the middle of the Caribbean and the passengers spend somewhere between eighty minutes and one hundred minutes of this port stop traveling between the ship and shore. I walked around until a taxi driver offered me a one hour tour for $25. The nice thing about these taxi tours is that you see parts of the city the tour buses don’t show you, and in my opinion, are more interesting than seeing another church. For some reason the ship tours always seem to include a church. After that I found a few things to buy, including a shirt for yours truly, and took an early tender (before lunch) back to the ship. I showered, changed clothes and had lunch inside the cabin. The butler brought me enough food for lunch, so I munched on two sandwiches (each cut into quarters) and fruit. After that I decided to stay cool, stay in the cabin, rest, and work on this. Then when I realized there was a good sunset developing just outside my cabin, I warmed up my camera and captured some good sunset pictures. Here is a little hack you can use to get a cold camera and lens warm enough to work in warm moist air. Use the blow dryer on it. Just remember, you are trying to get the camera and lens warm, not hot. If the camera and lens are eighty degrees, your pictures will not look like they were taken just as fog was settling in. I was going to have the porterhouse steak tonight, figuring is was “only” 24 ounces. However, it is actually 32 ounces. I didn’t feel like having a two pound steak. So I ordered chicken drumsticks for the appetizer, onion rings and fries for the sides, and the “big” fillet mignon (eight ounces - the small is six ounces). Once again all were good. After dinner I went back to the cabin, worked on this, and eventually went to sleep. Tomorrow is our last port visit and my second of three ship excursions. For some reason we are moving out clocks back to Eastern Time tonight. I don’t know why we are doing this tonight. Costa Maya is on Central Time and the following day is a sea day. It makes more sense to change the time before a sea day rather than before a port stop, especially when that port is on the same time the ship is currently on. Saturday, December 17 - Costa Maya Costa Maya has a large pier. It is large enough to have a shuttle and to dock three ships, including the extra-large Royal Caribbean ships (Oasis class). It also has a very nice port area complete with a swimming pool and of course, plenty of bars, restaurants and stores. I have a 9:50am meeting on the pier, so I’ve got plenty of time to have breakfast and then head out for my shore excursion. It is a Segway tour. I’ve ridden a Segway before and enjoyed it so much I actually thought of buying one. But then I realize it would be a six thousand dollar toy. It is great for riding around town. However, there are some drawbacks. It has no trunk, so its carrying capacity is about the same as a bicycle and given its design, you cannot lock it. Even for just riding around town it has a drawback. You just stand on it. The only difference between riding a Segway and just standing is that you are moving while you are standing on a Segway. You cannot adjust your stance because shifting your weight is one of the methods of controlling the Segway. Still, it is fun to ride on. If you are going somewhere that is five miles away, and you are moving at ten miles per hour (top speed is about twelve miles per hour) you are basically standing still for half an hour each way. Try standing still for half an hour and you will see that this is not all that comfortable. However, if your front door and the mailbox are a quarter mile from each other, and you want to have some fun while you are traveling between the two, this is the way to go. First there is a release. It is no more dangerous than riding a bicycle. Then there is a video on how to control the Segway. Then we get to practice for a while. Finally it is out into the real world. I am not sure of compass directions, but looking at Costa Maya from the ship, we are heading to the lighthouse, beach, and tourists area to the left of the port area. I didn’t buy anything except a taco and Coke for lunch. I did have a backpack with me, but I had my eye on some stuff in the port area. Apparently the way the tour was set up, it would end at this beach area. We would then be given tickets for the taxi ride back to the port. However, we were running ahead of schedule and we were given the option on riding the Segways back to the port. That is what we all (four of us) decided to do, and away back to the port we went. In the port area I bought a couple of shot glasses and four color changing shirts (no coffee). Then it was back to the ship to get my good camera and take some pictures of the ship and the port area. Then back to the ship to shower, change clothes, and rest for dinner. I going back to La Cucina (the Italian restaurant). This will be my sixth specialty restaurant. As this is the least expensive of the specialty restaurants, and I enjoy Italian food, I wanted to save this until I had used up the five free specialty dinners. Back at the cabin I started out working on this. Then my butler showed up with the debarkation instructions for suite guests and the custom forms. The room steward had already left the standard debarkation instructions. Suite passengers are supposed to meet with the concierge at 3:00pm tomorrow for some special debarkation instructions. Suite guests get a priority luggage tag. However, I am on an NCL shore excursion and that has its own instructions and a special shore excursion luggage tag. Before the butler left, I gave him his tip (the butler and concierge are not included in the standard daily service charge). Eventually I decide to watch a little TV and go to sleep. I used to be a little more active, but age and all the free “adult” drinks has caught up with me on this cruise. I also am not a fan of heat or humidity, and especially not heat AND humidity. Sunday, December 18 - Day at Sea I don’t have anything special to do today except pack. I get up late and decided to try out the buffet for breakfast, since I have spent very little time at the buffet this cruise, thanks to the special breakfast and lunch for suite guests. At 11:30am the Meet & Greet participants have been invited back to meet with the department heads to discuss what went right and what went wrong with the cruise. 95 percent had high praise for the cruise and especially the crew. There was very little criticism. I agree, I have no real complaints. I asked why the time was changed before Costa Maya. Tony Rosa, the Hotel Director, explained that the schedule, and the time changes are set by management in the home office. He did agree with me that it would make more sense to change the time the night before the last sea day. I also asked why the Jade got to dock and we had to tender. Everyone got a good laugh out of that. Tony explained that these decisions are made two years in advance when the schedule is approved. After that I took some (sunny) day at sea photographs. Most people were sunning themselves and only a few were swimming. For lunch I had more in cabin snacks and watched (American) football. Then I showed up at the suite debarkation meeting only to give Noemi Yap (the concierge) her tip. She asked if I was going to stay. I told her I had a shore excursion and that the first line in the instructions said, you are on a shore excursion, don’t listen to anything Noemi has to say. She got a big laugh out of that. Back at the cabin I am putting the finishing touches on this, adding the recently taken photographs, backing everything up, watching football and packing. I have a 7:30pm reservation at Lotus Garden, which is one of the free restaurants. Only the concierge can make reservations at this restaurant. I look for something different from the last time I had dinner in the Lotus Garden, but nothing else struck my fancy. So, it was sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and pot stickers again. Back at the cabin I sorted things by weight. I bought a lot of stuff and my smaller luggage is carry-on size. I figured I could put all the heavy things in the smaller case with no problem and I should be okay with what was left over in the larger suitcase. I didn’t look at the weight of the smaller case at the airport, but the bigger one was 47.5 pounds. So it worked out pretty good for me. I made sure I saved some clothing for tomorrow. Last time I forgot to do that and I had to go naked until I reclaimed my luggage in the terminal. Not only was it embarrassing, but five people ended up throwing up and I think a few of the kids may have been scarred for life. So I put my luggage out to be collected and tried to watch the Secret Life of Pets. I guess you have to be pre-teen or the parent of a pre-teen to appreciate this movie. I turned it off about the time the big brown dog showed up and went to sleep. Monday, December 19 - Debarkation day I wake up before the ship enters the channel to the pier. I watch the ship spin on the TV. About 6:00am I get out of bed, shower and dress. Then I turn on the computer so that I can fill out my custom’s form. I keep tract of my purchases on the computer for this very reason. I also get my final onboard bill from the mail slot just outside the door and compare it to the total I have on my computer. They match, so we are good. I also go out on my balcony to watch a couple of Royal Caribbean ships and a couple of Carnival ships come in. At 7:15am I go for my last meal in the suite dining room. At 8:05am I head to the Stardust Theater where the ship excursion passengers meet. About 8:30am we are sent outside to debark. The line is long and does not move for about twenty minutes. I don’t know what the delay was, but I heard the tour guide say that all of a sudden several customs agents showed up. He thinks someone tried to bring in something that is illegal. The bus takes us to Everglades Safari Park. This is the third time I have taken this tour and alligators were in short supply on this airboat tour of the Everglades. We saw a few. But the alligator show more than made up for the lack of wild alligators. This show is different than any other alligator show I’ve seen. No alligator wrestling and no head in the mouth routines. These alligators are almost pet like. They react to their name and walk right up to the guy with their mouth open and not only is he not concerned, the alligators know that he has food and they make no attempt to bite it. It was so impressive that they made a big deal about not trying this on your own and that alligators do not make good pets. We were then delivered to the airport at about 1:30pm. My flight leaves at 4:50pm. So, if all goes well, I’ll see you again on the other side of the country. I hope to proof read this review on the flight. However, it will take time for me to sort through the more than two thousand photographs I took and post the good ones. Had a little scare at security. I went through the priority line. You know, the shorter line with less scanners so that it takes just a long at the non-priority line with more scanners. So I had to remove everything from my pockets, which of course included my wallet. I put my wallet in the web pocket of my computer backpack. When it arrived at the other end of the x-ray machine, there was no wallet in the web pocket of my computer backpack. I tried for two minutes to get someone’s attention. I haven’t been this ignored since I tried to get Taylor Swift’s attention. If I had spotted a terrorist, by the time I got TSA’s attention, the terrorist would have been at 30,000 feet. I was starting to get desperate when I looked down and found my wallet in the web pocket of my computer backpack. I don’t think I ever realized that my computer backpack had two web pockets before today. According to the flight tracker, the tail of the airplane is over El Paso and the nose of the airplane is approaching the border of New Mexico and Arizona. I am flying business class in a 777-300. My first reaction was these seats are really neat and they are. But they have several short comings. There is four across seating and all the seats are in a shell, so that you can recline the seats to full flat without invading anyone else’s space. The seats are all angled at about 45 degrees. The two window seats face the window. The two middle seats are both angled toward the center of the plane. Good luck for couples. The middle seats have half a wall between them. And if you have one child, one of you is going to enter his/her seat from a different isle than your own seat. And those in the same isle, are facing away from each other. Also, I have a window seat in name only. When my (fully padded) seatbelt is buckled, I can’t reach the window. I’m about as close to the window as the person in coach sitting in the seat next to the window seat. There are some good thing of course. These are eight way power seats. The back of the seat move back and down (all one motion) to a lay flat position. The seat moves forward and back and the foot rest moves up for that lay flat position. The entire seat also goes up and down, but only the pilot and co-pilot can control that. There is also an entertainment system with noise cancelling headphones (the noise cancelling works very well. There is a 115 volt power outlet where you can easily reach it. This would be a first class seat in any other domestic jet (in fact, except for the angling of the seats, it is very similar to the first class seat of the 787 I flew in in April. All in all, a very enjoyable seat, as long as you are flying solo. Well, my plan for proof reading this during the flight went out the window when I decided to watch the latest Jason Bourne movie. At any rate, the tail of the plane just passed Phoenix and the noise of the plane is over the Arizona/California border. We are about forty minutes from landing, so I am going to shut down now and look forward to getting home. After we land I pick up my luggage and head over to the Super Shuttle sign. I had to wait about thirty minutes for the Super Shuttle van to pick me up (about the same time I would have to wait for the FlyAway bus). But at least the person there was able to give me this information. That was the problem with Prime Time, I waited one hour with no information on the ETA. I was the only one in the van, so I was the first (and last) person dropped off. All in all a very enjoyable cruise. No complaints. My idea of just walking around didn’t work out too well, but the taxi tours (the first time I have done this) worked out great. Though most of my cruises have been with Royal Caribbean, and I have enjoyed them, Royal Caribbean seems to have forgotten that it is known for its service. I have also cruised with Carnival a lot, but I like to take longer cruises and Carnival has very limited choices that exceed eight nights. Given my experience with NCL, I may start cruising more often with NCL. Still, even though I am comfortable with Freestyle dining, I prefer traditional two seating dining. I have two more cruises booked, both on Princess. But I definitely will be booking another NCL cruise. First of all, I want to go to NCL’s private island, Great Stirrup Island. Also, I am now only seven points away from being Platinum on NCL, which is their top loyalty tier. After that, who knows? More NCL cruises are likely. But there are also three other cruise lines I have not tried yet. I still want to try Celebrity, Holland America, and Costa. And so, as soon as I sort my pictures I’ll post this review. Hopefully some of the readers will get some useful information out of it and hopefully all of the readers will enjoy it. For those that are interested in these things, this review is about 22 and one half pages long (as typed) and contains more than 13,500 words. I took about 2,200 photographs, including over 600 in the Panama Canal. I will post some of the photographs with the review and will provide links to more of the photographs (not all 2,200 photographs) and will provide links to the short videos I also shot (most are about twenty to thirty seconds long). If you want to see the pictures, click on the following link which will take you to the same review, with all the above listed photographs and videos. http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2439655 Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
I chose this cruise because of the price. It was all inclusive and super cheap. I have heard nothing but positive things about Norwegian from friends. I am so glad that I finally got to experience "the cruise". We were ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the price. It was all inclusive and super cheap. I have heard nothing but positive things about Norwegian from friends. I am so glad that I finally got to experience "the cruise". We were offered an upgrade a few days prior to leaving and I am so glad we did! The balcony was so worth it! The ship itself was a little dated, however I know it is going for refurbishment later next year. The drinks and food were great! The prime rib was the best meal all week. The staff was great and friendly and so wonderful. The best stop is the private island of Great Stirrup Cay! Gorgeous beach and water. Lots to do. We did the Stingray City excursion with Stingray City Bahamas at GSC. Best experience of the whole week. Captains Chester and Sammy were great, kind, informative and very funny too. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
We booked this cruise because of it's itinerar, and having never sailed on the Regal. As we usually sail the smaller Princess ships out of the West Coast. Embarkation was efficient, and our 11:00 am. Priority Boarding allowed us to ... Read More
We booked this cruise because of it's itinerar, and having never sailed on the Regal. As we usually sail the smaller Princess ships out of the West Coast. Embarkation was efficient, and our 11:00 am. Priority Boarding allowed us to be on the Regal in time for lunch at Alfredo's Pizzeria. Luggage was deliver to our stateroom by 3:00 pm. Our stateroom attendant. Alex, was very efficient and made sure our special requests were met. Although the Regal carries almost 4000 passengers, it never seemed crowded, as there were many different venues and activities throughout the ship. The MDR staff were generally efficient, although one evening our MDR waiter, Piano, seemed overwhelmed, because both he and his assistant waiter, Darko, were new sailing on the Regal, and not too familiar with the layout of the dining room to pick up the food from the kitchen. We had, as requested, 5:30 pm Traditional dining, table for two, and the early searing allowed plenty of time for us to attend either early or late evening performances in the Princess Theater (at the other end of the ship). Service, variety and quality of food in MDR was generally excellent for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Alfredo's Pizzaria was a good option for enjoying a pizza, salads, or light pasta dishes, throughout the day. There was a good variety of sandwiches, soups, deserts, coffees, teas, at the International Cafe offered 24 hours per day. The Horizon Court Buffet, had quite a bit of variety of American, European, and ethnic foods throughout the day. We noted that many foods offered in regular and "salt free". Certain foods could be cooked to order. The Horizon Court Bistro offered lighter fare. Many cookies and deserts offered "sugar free". Good for passengers with high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes. Many cookies and deserts offered "nut free" for those with nut allergies, and separated on opposite sides of the buffet. The HC never seemed crowded, with plenty of seating, and the service staff were friendly, continually offering juice, coffee, and tea and cleared the tables quickly. We did not try the speciality restaurants, or the Trident Grill for burgers, hot dogs, or fries. The evening entertainment in the Princess Theater was excellent, with big production "Las Vegas" style performances of Bravo, Fireo, Rock and Roll. Other evenings, a stand up comedian, and modern music singer, pianist, guitar performer. The Princess Theater fills up quickly, so allow at least 30 minutes before showtime to get good seats. Ushers were there to discourage "seat hogs", and available to find you seats. Bar service staff were available to take your drink orders. However, there are no folding tables attached to the seats, like other Princess Theaters on the mid size ships (Star, Crown, Golden,) that we've sailed on, to allow setting down your drink. This seemed to be an oversight to the modern design of Regal's Princess Theater. Enrichment programs on this cruise included talks on pirates, and on bushcraft and survival skills. I found both programs to be enjoyable and interesting. We attended only a few trivia game shows, of which there were many. Zumba was offered on sea days. Venue was outside on the Sports Deck. Fitness Center was well used by passengers, days, and evenings. Fitness trainers were helpful and knowledgeable. We did not use the spa or spa services. The public seating areas were plentiful, and we never had a problem finding a quiet place to sit and read a book, or have a conversation. As I have stated, the ship and public areas never seemed crowded. Debarkation was efficient and quick. We chose to debark as "Walk Off" passengers with our luggage. We were off the ship and through customs, in 10 minutes. In summary, we thoroughly enjoyed sailing on the Regal Princess, and we've already booked cruises sailing on her and sister ship, Royal for 2017 and 2018. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
Do this cruise every December, know many of crew and the Casino staff. Previous Star Princess cruises have been enjoyable and consistent in service. But I have noticed the reduction in Dining room staff has caused waiters to seem harried ... Read More
Do this cruise every December, know many of crew and the Casino staff. Previous Star Princess cruises have been enjoyable and consistent in service. But I have noticed the reduction in Dining room staff has caused waiters to seem harried and no time for small talk. Our waiter had 3 tables (24 people), Food has not been up to the standards of the past few years. Little things that count, no butter on table, almost impossible to get waiters attention for more of anything. Service and food in the Crown Grill is excellent, very well presented and the beef and veal are above anything served in the dining rooms. Sabatini's , the Italian restaurant has changed its menu and is no longer well attended. The entertainment seemed to lack the reviews or accolades I've experienced on previous Princess Cruises . Our group rarely stayed for any complete shows. Overall, It seems the new Princess Management is being overly cost conscious while they prepare for the upcoming major changes, "Ocean Medallion Class". Still the best cruise line for the money. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: December 2016
This was my 11th cruise overall but only second cruise on a large ship. I wanted to try out the Studio cabins. The Epic and the Getaway offer these Studios and the associated Studio Lounge. The Getaway cabin was much more comfortable but ... Read More
This was my 11th cruise overall but only second cruise on a large ship. I wanted to try out the Studio cabins. The Epic and the Getaway offer these Studios and the associated Studio Lounge. The Getaway cabin was much more comfortable but the Lounge was deserted most of the time, compared to the Epic where we gathered daily, all day long, to visit, play cards, sign up for meals and shows. The Getaway Lounge was also very small compared to the Epic. There was a person from the cruise staff that organized dinner each night after we met at one of the bars. She did make an effort but it paled compared to the events organized on the Epic. Still she tried. The ship was wonderful, the excursions were wonderful, the food was wonderful, even with the very slow service in the MDRs (why would it take 3 hours for dinner?). What ruined the last day was the most messed up, chaotic, congested and LONG disembarkation I've ever had. It took 2 hrs and 35 minutes from the time I stepped off the elevator at 8:05 until I cleared customs. I was in the Walk Off group and that was an absolute joke. There were people with colored tags, non US passports and much luggage cutting into the line. The line which snaked through both theater lobbies, the restaurant, around the casino and then back again to the doorway we should have been able to just walk out of 50 minutes before. Horrible. Then when we actually got on the gangway and into the terminal, we were held, with no explanation for 35 minutes. This is the US passport holders line. Eventually a group of us were directed to use the elevator because the line was backed up onto the ship, which of course someone else told us didn't work and we weren't sent to the other end of the terminal which turned out to be the NON US Passport holders, where many of us were stuck in lines for another 40 minutes ( I am not exaggerating) while the fingerprinted and photographed every single person. They claimed it was because we'd stopped in Honduras. Seriously? This wasn't a surprise to Customs. It happens quite regularly in Miami, I'd guess. Eventually we flashed our passports and were Finally waived through. By then we'd missed our shuttle to the airport and Thank God the last bus took us even though we weren't on his list. Two and a half hours to disembark, carrying your own luggage. Disgraceful ending to an otherwise wonderful trip. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our first NCL cruise and we didn't choose it; we "crashed" my sister's vacation (she and her husband are awesome to travel with!). We didn't travel with children and we stayed in separate cabins. My sister ... Read More
This was our first NCL cruise and we didn't choose it; we "crashed" my sister's vacation (she and her husband are awesome to travel with!). We didn't travel with children and we stayed in separate cabins. My sister in an ocean-view wheelchair accessible cabin on deck 8 and we were in a forward penthouse cabin on deck 9 (which I can't recommend; see below) Port: We sailed from Tampa and the cruise terminal was easy to navigate. We stayed the night before in the marina area at the Marriott Marina which turned out to be a great idea. The marina area has a beautiful park, lots of restaurants in a small, easily walkable area. We even got to watch the ship come in that morning from our hotel room. The cruise terminal was only half a mile from the marina hotel. Embarkation: We got to the port at 10:00 and there were very few lines. We checked in with no problem and had snacks/coffee until they started boarding at 11:30. That went very easy, although this is the first cruise we've been on where we were not greeted with champagne. Ship: The ship itself is actually not as tacky as it looks in pictures. It's vibrantly colored, that's for sure but it's not as bad as I thought it would be. For a ship that hasn't been updated in over 10 years, it's in great condition. We saw no signs of wear and tear in any areas of the ship. The carpets looked new, not a speck of dust anywhere, etc. There are 3 elevator bays each with 5 elevators so we never really had to wait much (but the ship was not fully booked; it was clear it was "off season"). Aside from having to walk through the Moderno restaurant to get to my sister's cabin, it was a good ship floor plan. I would recommend NOT walking through the casino when going to the Stardust theater on deck 6. The casino is tightly crowded with machines and smoking is allowed. We also found that the directional signs on deck 8 were confusing - each pointed toward the other so we got lost in the maze that is deck 8! A Must "Do": Get the spa package. There are no "adult only" areas by the tiny pool area so if you want a quiet place to relax and not sit in an overcrowded hot tub, get the spa package (prior to cruising, it's $30 cheaper than buying on board). Cabin: We stayed in cabin 9002, a penthouse forward suite. The cabin was nice although the coloring was a bit "loud" for my tastes. (bright greens/purples/reds, etc). The little square table could easily fit 4 and was very useful. The coffee maker was great with very good coffee. The closet is huge and can be accessed from the foyer or the dressing room, which was convenient. Space is not an issue at all: there are so many drawers and cubbies that we didn't even use them all. Large suitcases (25" and 29") slid easily under the bed. We got very tastey snacks every day, not the tasteless canapes other reviews mentioned. We got cheese trays, chocolate strawberries, cookies, fresh fruit, fancy chocolates, fancy hor's devours of shrimp, ham mousse, etc. We gobbled it all up it was so good. We even asked for another cheese tray to host my sister and her husband on our balcony for a "sunset watching" party. It was great! Why I can't recommend this cabin (or any on the 9th floor FWD): Noise. This is the first cruise I've been on where I could hear the main stage show which was 3 decks below us and there was a cabin floor right beneath us. It was like a muffled noise, either. We heard every word they sang and we heard the audience clap. It was so loud and clear, we thought they had accidentally turned on the ship speakers in the hallway during the show. It literally sounded like the show was going on in the hallway outside our door. It made going to bed early after a long day difficult because the late show at 9:30 (shows were about 45-60 minutes). Cabin balcony: Good news: you can land a small plane on that balcony! It came with 2 lounge chairs and a large, long coffee table. We had 2 more lounge chairs brought in for my sister and her husband and you could still do cartwheels with the space. Bad news: you can't use the balcony unless the ship is moving slowly or not at all. It's simply too windy to be out on the balcony - it blows so hard the lounge chairs were tied down at night. There's no balcony light and you have to keep your curtains closed in the evening when the cabin lights are on. So on the sea days, during the day, our balcony was useless (I'm talking hurricane force winds). I tried to read my book on the balcony and pulled the chair close to the door to get out of the wind and I still couldn't keep my paperback book steady. It just wasn't pleasant at all. My tied back hair ripped free and whipped my face as well. Another major issue: our cabin neighbors were idiots that didn't lock down their exterior door at night so the intensive banging of a heavy steel door hitting a steel ship sounded like explosions. The upside: the butlers got them locked down after about a half hour of a complaint. Dining: There is good food on this ship - and there is supremely bad food on this ship. Cagney's is worth the $30/pp. Every bite in that dining room was heaven. We had breakfast & lunch there as suite guests and we found that to be the best perk of suites ever. We found the worst food on the ship at the buffet and in the french restaurant, Le Bistro. My food in both places was so bad I couldn't eat it at all. The best news is that food in the main dining room was fantastic. Everything we ate in there was cooked perfectly (no cooked-to-death chicken or fish). And it didn't take 3 hours to dine, so you could still go to dinner at 6 and make the 7:30 main show with no problem. The Alizar (free) dining room has the same menu as the main dining room but allows shorts in the evening, so that's convenient. I didn't eat breakfast or lunch at the buffet but I walked through during breakfast and it looked very appealing with lots of options. The Blue Lagoon (open 24hrs) is a great place for quick sit-down meals. La Cucina was good food, but I was disappointed in the menu selections (no pasta/cheese/sauce items at all - don't look for lasagna, ravioli, stuffed shells, manicotti, etc.). Le Bistro was a total waste of time and money. Poor service, horrible food (either overly salty or tasteless). We noticed other guests sending their food back, too. We didn't eat at Moderno, Jasmine Garden, or Teppanaki. All in all, I gained 7 pounds with the tastey food from Cagney's and the main dining room. Entertainment: The main shows were fun and they varied quite a bit, they were all different. We didn't attend any of the side-shows late at night in the bars but we caught the karaoke contest and that was so much fun to watch. Don't miss the piano comedian, Barry in the martini bar by the cigar lounge and Le Bistro. Get there at 8 and stay until midnight - he's the ship comedian and he's worth it! He does the same show every night, so no need to go back once you've seen him. The main stage comedy show was mostly clean and mildly funny. If you're a bingo fan, get ready to win tiny amounts of money. The jackpots were little ($90/$120/$150). Some of them got bigger as the week went on, so it pays to skip the first few games and hit the late week ones. Service: I can't say enough how awesome the service on this ship was. Every person working on the ship was polite, courteous and had a smile on their face. Ports: We went to Cozumel, Costa Maya, Roatan, and Harvest Caye. Cozumel: This was our 2nd time in Cozumel. We docked at Puerto Maya port, a much nicer and less crowded port than last time (International),but it's also like a little replica of Cozumel, not like the real thing at the International port. We did the Atlantis submarine excursion which was fun and exciting. Then we ate at Pancho's Backyard, very tastey and not over priced. Costa Maya: We did not go to Mahuahual. It was crowded and "over sold" in my opinion as a great shopping/eating area. If you go to Costa Maya, you simply MUST consider going to the Maya Chan resort for the day. Beautiful beach, lots of beach toys, loungers in the shade, free booze, free food, and the best service ever. They pamper you! $25 massages, floating chair loungers, waiters on kayaks to bring you drinks, snorkeling (not a lot to see, but we saw some fish and a huge red starfish), floating sun dock, kayaks, paddle boards - everything you need to enjoy a day at a small, private beach. It was the highlight of our trip. 25 minute drive from the pier, add a 10-15 minute walk through the pier area to their kiosk outside the pier. Book directly with them to save money, they guarantee you won't miss the ship. Roatan: We took an island tour but quickly realized that their new mega supermarket was the best they had to offer. We spent 3 hours touring the economically depressed country with the occasional view of the water. The last hour was spent at a private beach where we had to pay for lunch ($20). It would have been better to spend the entire 4 hours at the little beach; after lunch we didn't have time to go in the water at all. I've heard there are beautiful beaches in Roatan, but we didn't see them. I would recommend going to one of them instead of taking any kind of historic tour of the island. Harvest Caye: NCL's new made-made island, you simply can't say you've been to Belize because it's just not n Belize. We arrived at 7am and had to be back on the ship by 12:30 - short time there. The beach was terrible; the sand was large-grained and filled with broken shells. It was unpleasant walking on the beach. The pool however was absolutely amazing. It is so large and fun to play in. Lots of shaded lounge chairs, but get there early, they go fast. Drinks and food are not covered by NCL packages, so bring your wallet (or fill up a huge Tervis mug at the Aloha bar and bring muffins from the buffet like we did). All in all, we liked our cruise more than we thought we would considering the reviews we've read. I like Royal Caribbean best having been on Carnival, RC, NCL and Celebrity. I hope this review was helpful! Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The Forward balcony cabin on 10 10018, was away from ALL traffic and far enough away from elevators so no DING. It was close to the elevators, Convient to pool, and casino. And away from all noise in halls and partying. Also great for ... Read More
The Forward balcony cabin on 10 10018, was away from ALL traffic and far enough away from elevators so no DING. It was close to the elevators, Convient to pool, and casino. And away from all noise in halls and partying. Also great for coming into port, and getting to the top Forward in about a minute for pictures and sunrises **** joined the solo sailors every night at 6, we found new friensds to gamble dine, go to the pool, or just talk. ages were 23-90. We did dinner for 16 in aqua one night. We shared bottles of wine from individuals that received due to Platinum status. The new retaurant, Los Lobos was great. It was sunny in every port. Loved all the specialty dining. Bliss lounge had so many different mini events, game shows, cocktail parties, music. The solo group was great. Harvest Caye was a safe amazing relaxing beach and pool day! Loved Tabyana excursion in Honduras, Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
The cruise was great but the excursions were better. We booked through Shoretrips and we had awesome excursion guides. Cardinal was our guide through the cave tours in Belize City and he was excellent and very thorough! Clarence was our ... Read More
The cruise was great but the excursions were better. We booked through Shoretrips and we had awesome excursion guides. Cardinal was our guide through the cave tours in Belize City and he was excellent and very thorough! Clarence was our instructor for the ziplines in Honduras and he was very patient and helpful. I highly recommend Shoretrips for excursion planning. The food on the cruise was awesome and the portion sizes was just right. This was my first Carnival cruise and I enjoyed it. I have done several Royal Caribbean cruises and those are nice as well. Carnival line is more geared toward families but there is fun on board for all ages. I recommend the cruise for anyone but make sure to book excursions because that was the highlight of my trip. One thing on the cruise, watch out for the money spent in the casino and be sure to get the money back from the player bank which was separate from the cash account on board. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Beautiful San Diego,We arrived 1 day early, Dec 3rd, Watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs.There was the evening Christmas Parade. The King's Inn, authentic Mexican food for dinner next door. Embarkation at 1.00pm was very fast ... Read More
Beautiful San Diego,We arrived 1 day early, Dec 3rd, Watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs.There was the evening Christmas Parade. The King's Inn, authentic Mexican food for dinner next door. Embarkation at 1.00pm was very fast and our luggage was in our room within the hour.Correction, my luggage was missing, regardless We headed up to Lido Deck 8 like veteran cruisers for lunch...Asian curry noodles and rice quite authentic. Checked with Security where my bag was held and my small travel iron was confiscated until Ensenada.You can not pack extension cords either. My cabin was Ocean View 3343 mid deck, near the Clock Tower Atrium....which was beautifully Xmas decorated with gingerbread houses, train set.Christmas trees lights.. Cabin was great,, quiet and equidistant both ends of the Amsterdam, La Fontaine Dining room and Queens Lounge..Must mention that my Cabin Stewards Agus and Made were warm, friendly and unobtrusive, kept the cabin very clean and tidy. I look forward to the Towel Art and be surprised every evening. All the ports were excellent, You are in Paradise, The ship excursions were pretty good but We decided to rent a car where We can and explore the islands on our own. HAL ships' ON LOCATION .We had Kainoa who gave us lectures on Hawaiian Culture, History and personal stories of the islands, advice,maps, guidelines to plan your day ashore,the many places to see,and shore excursions. There were the Hula Dancers performances and Hula lessons.Ukulele lessons,Hawaiian Lei making classes ,....A deeper Hawaiian experience. Dec 4th, 5 lovely fun filled sea days,This beautiful ship had fresh flowers everywhere. I read books by Dean Koontz and Jeffrey Archer in The Exploration Cafe Library. Dec 10th, HONOLULU (Oahu). We took the bus transit to Hanauma Bay, for swimming and snorkeling,Not environmentally correct to walk on the coral and rocks,then a long walk on Waikiki Beach, and some shopping for a Ukulele (Better buy on Amazon). i've been to the Pearl Harbor Memorial before .. there wasn't enough time to do more. HILO (Hawaii) Dec 11th..We drove up to Mauna Kea (13 796 ft) At 9200 ft,The Onizuka Center, the road to the summit was blocked off because of frozen ice, so We decided to drive South to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.(original plan was to do this from Kona) Moana Loa was spewing lava before the mist covered everything. Took a walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. At the shoreline of black lava fields, Kilauea was actively erupting lava into the sea, shooting massive plumes of smoke and ashes into the sky that can bee seen from afar. Next day, Dec 12th KONA, There was no car rental shuttle.It's USD28 to get to the car rental and USD28 back so no car rental. We did the Hop On for USD15 each,At the beach stop,James went snorkeling with his Go Pro and I walked the tidal pools and beaches.Saw 5 turtles and lots of yellow fishes..James did the Atlantis submarine (USD85).while I went shopping. 6 packs of Macadamia nut chocs ($24) at Target and Ross is my favorite for bargain hunting, shoes, dresses and fine Italian soap.(Bulgari 100ml parfum $30). Dec 13th NAWILIWILI (Kauai). We drove through Lihue to Waimea Canyon,The Grand Canyon of Hawaii.Don't just stop here, keep on driving to the very end of the road and from here you can see the North shore of the island, the jagged cliffs overlooking the sea.here was where they filmed Jurassic Park. A stop at Wailua Falls, there was a rainbow, before heading back to the ship. Dec 14th LAHAINA (Maui). Make sure your car rental pick-up is at JHM Airport.(not Kahului Airport which is too far from Lahaina) and the last car rental shuttle return to pier is 4.00pm ($20 cab return to Pier at 6.30pm). Drove up to Hakeakala National Park, dormant volcano, elevation 10,024 ft. We were above the clouds !!!! Nature enthusiasts would love the unique flora , silver swords. THE ROAD TO HANA, yes, We decided to do partway of this road, time permitting because We don't know when We'll be back this way again, just to say "We were there.". Narrow winding road through rain forest.Stopped at a fruit stand, On the way back, We went to the beach to watch the surfers.I had a Maui shave ice for $5, don't do that, not natural flavoring, inedible I had to throw away. It's my birthday, the dining room staff sang a Happy Happy song, which also works for anniversaries or anything else (I speak the language) and also a Birthday cake. If they sang in reverse, Am I one year younger You think? The 5 sea days to Ensenada, Mexico Dec20th, a seaside town with a wet fish market, lots of touristsy shops.Had a walk around and back to the ship for TEA., delicious scones with berries preserve and clotted cream.Earl Grey. Dec 21st, San Diego.Last breakfast.Disembark,Took the shuttle to the airport USD10. The HiGH POINT of this wonderful and special cruise was the Scenic Sailing of Kilauea Volcano 10.00pm.I videoed from the ship's bow.The lava flowing into the sea, bright orange red spewing up against the dark night.Lots of steam and smoke. Captain Fred Eversen is cool. The Amsterdam Dancers and Singers and the other entertainers were Super Excellent. The Culinary Art Centre was standing room only, Lots of activities like Trivia and stuff.... Cruise director guys were cool. The food was Excellent and ALL the staff did their best to make this an amazing wonderful cruise. I did not win the $25,000 Bingo, ;( I did not win the Cruise Bingo. ;( Read Less
6 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
The Norwegian Escape is big, bold and beautiful. We enjoyed this cruise immensely Pros: 1. New ship, with more public areas than you can imagine using in 7-nights! 2. Good dining options both free and up-charge. 3. Very ... Read More
The Norwegian Escape is big, bold and beautiful. We enjoyed this cruise immensely Pros: 1. New ship, with more public areas than you can imagine using in 7-nights! 2. Good dining options both free and up-charge. 3. Very friendly and courteous staff. 4. Nightlife for us was great. They had dancing outside in Spice H2O almost everyday, the Skyline bar had dancing as well and was a very fun place to be! The Atrium hosted a Latin Night which was amazing! 5. Kids club was amazing! My daughter would ask to go as much as possible and the staff here were amazing! 6. Embarkation was easy and generally smooth. 7. The ship was fully booked and very busy. With this in mind I never waited more than 5 minutes for a drink. Meals were generally quick as well. I think are longest meal was 2-hours which is O.K. for us as we like to take our time. Generally we could have been finished within 1.5 hours. 8. The ropes course is amazing! 9. The water slides are amazing! 10. We had no issues booking shows on the ship. As mentioned our sailing was very full and we were able to book entertainment directly on the ship and in some cases just before the show! 11. The specialty restaurants are really good! Le Bistro was fantastic and highly recommended. Not Great but just an observation: 1. On busy sailings (like ours) the elevators are very busy and often full. We chose to use the stairs to help burn off the beverages and food so we were O.K. with this! 2. The pool area for adults is too small and becomes crowded on sea days. There are spaces further away where you can find lounge chairs, but they are far from the pool. 3. Leaving the ship on port days felt very disorganized and rather rushed, but there were about 6000 people trying to exit the ship so I do not think this can be faulted to Norwegian.... just everyone's eagerness to start their day in port! 4. Timing of shows does not sync well with the start of dining at night. The restaurants open at 5:30pm and shows start at 7pm. If you want to enjoy diner and not rush you do not have much time. We enjoyed this cruise immensely and will sail again! I have already recommended this ship to many of my friends and hope they have just as much fun as we did! Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
First off, I may not be as experienced as some of the other reviewers and I wouldn't consider myself high maintenance. I personally believe each cruise line has positives and negatives and that you can have a good time based on your ... Read More
First off, I may not be as experienced as some of the other reviewers and I wouldn't consider myself high maintenance. I personally believe each cruise line has positives and negatives and that you can have a good time based on your needs on pretty much anyone but one may be more suiting depending on your personality, party size and history. I am a 37 year old single male who loves to travel. My first cruise was in 2011 and this was my forth. All have been in the Caribbean and 7 days. I have sailed on the Carnival Glory, Carnival Victory, Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas, and The Norwegian Epic. I have sailed from Miami, San Juan, and Port Canaveral. Now onto my review. My cruise sailed out of Port Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas, Ocho Rios Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Port Canaveral is probably the busiest port in the US. There were about 6 different ships that boarded the day we left. Despite the size, I found embarkation to be efficient and I had no issues. In fact, my luggage was even delivered to my room prior to 5pm which was a first in my experience. I had an inside cabin which many may complain about the design. Mainly the toilet being separate from the shower and the sink being separate from both. For me being a solo traveler, It was different but a non issue. Service to the cabins was done well, however this was the first time I was not introduced to the cabin steward. I commend the staff on the ship, great attitude, personality, and service. Especially due to the large capacity of customers which can only lead to even more complaints justifiable and non justifiable. The ship had great activities, a little bit of something for everyone. I enjoyed using the gym, having multiple free and specialty options for dinner, and even a separate "barbershop" for mens grooming services. The cirque dinner theatre show was wonderful and although it had a fee of $47 for premium seating, it was worth it. The clubs, pool parties, bowling, sports bar, howl at the moon and shows like burn the floor, comedy, and a magician provided a nice variety along with the typical art auction and games that you would find on most ships. The all white deck party was a highlight. Although the ship is huge, I chose to use the steps so that I wouldn't have to wait for elevators. Be aware that due to the size of the ship, many activities require reservations. Some can be made online prior to arrival, at the box office, or even on the room tv. I found the food to be good but not great. I didn't dine at the specialty restaurants because there were adequate other options and I was solo and often wanted to eat alone. This ship has solo cabins for others like me that want an affordable trip without needing to have a cabin mate. They also have optional solo guest gatherings in the solo lounge daily. If you like to be active, are mobile, youthful and energetic, I think the Epic could be a good time. Last but not least, the Free at Sea promotion put this cruise over the top for me. I basically only paid gratuities and had a drink package a.k.a. open bar for an entire week. Incredible savings for even a social drinker. I found that I was a little more social than usual thanks to the drink package. Some travelers that prefer smaller ships with more intimate service may not enjoy this . The haven cabins provide a more luxurious experience for those if they care to try it. But for my demographic and preferences, I will definitely do NCL again. I'm already booked for next December. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
the excursion for Dunn's River was fun but was told we are not going to the Blue Hole to swim that was disappointing especially when you paid for it Should have booked Dunns River in Jamaica only NCL said there are ... Read More
the excursion for Dunn's River was fun but was told we are not going to the Blue Hole to swim that was disappointing especially when you paid for it Should have booked Dunns River in Jamaica only NCL said there are times the blue hole is not available to see or swim they were not accommodating I had an early booking at 9:30 am but was not allowed to board until 11"30 am The food was very salty glad I had the beverage package my steward was great LAZE The difference of crew members were not as accommodating as the crew members in Europe My solo friends were disappointed in not having dinners together We made our own dinner plans Wish we had more times in the ports Over all it was a average cruise but it definitely could have been better Thanks for the slot pull that was fun Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
Overall, the cruise was good. The crew was great...always pleasant and helpful. The ship was overall clean, but of course, not spotless. The food was better than when I was on the Ruby Princess when it was in the Caribbean. There were ... Read More
Overall, the cruise was good. The crew was great...always pleasant and helpful. The ship was overall clean, but of course, not spotless. The food was better than when I was on the Ruby Princess when it was in the Caribbean. There were activities and I realize the ship isn't going to give back lots of prize money, but having trivia contests and then the top prize is a key chain or a magnet is a bit insulting. I didn't see a lot of the shipboard entertainment, but I heard it was good. The casino was good, but you still have to buy your drinks there as well as every place else. I realize they can't give drinks away for free otherwise everyone will be down there just for that, but when you have been playing for hours, you shouldn't have to buy a soda. The only sore point for me was the hard sell....on everything. Buy this, buy that....upsell on everything. Okay, I get it...that is how they make their money....but it is constant and persistent. And under no circumstances should you go to the spa or any other optional services if you don't have gobs of money to spend. I went to a free foot analysis and was pressured into buying a product (offer valid only for this hour and you will be back to thank me later...which I wasn't) and told repeatedly that I could get a full refund if I wasn't happy. Impossible. There is no refund once purchased. I complained to Princess Cruise line about being lied to and they passed the buck so I am out big money. I am not a happy customer about that. So enjoy yourself but keep a close hold on your purse strings if you aren't one of the rich Americans that everyone thinks you are. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2016
Destinations and availability. I want to thank the president of the line for giving us Veterans $100 on board credit. The service and food were great. The entertainment was outstanding. Our waiter Arnold and his assistant Joseph gave great ... Read More
Destinations and availability. I want to thank the president of the line for giving us Veterans $100 on board credit. The service and food were great. The entertainment was outstanding. Our waiter Arnold and his assistant Joseph gave great service as well as their manager Adrian who was very attentive to details and did whatever he could to make our experiences in the dining area a truly delightful experience. The facilities were very clean and the activities were wonderful. I cannot say enough of good things for this cruise. I will only sail on Princess lines in the future. I highly reccommend anyone considering a cruise to sail on a Princess line. I cannot wait until my next cruise. Thank you for all those that made this a wonderful vacation. The three ports of call were exciting, including Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. It was especially nice that these ports were decorated for Christmas. Read Less
4 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
There were four of us that traveled on this cruise together, in two separate Aqua Class rooms (S-1). From the moment we stepped aboard the ship, I noticed a difference in both the crew and staff. The employees were genuinely happy! Wow, ... Read More
There were four of us that traveled on this cruise together, in two separate Aqua Class rooms (S-1). From the moment we stepped aboard the ship, I noticed a difference in both the crew and staff. The employees were genuinely happy! Wow, so nice and refreshing to hear of the places around the world that the staff had been hired from. Their stories of their homelands were heart warming and wonderful, and many encouraged us to visit their countries. (A great reason to book a cruise!) Our stateroom attendant was over the top nice, and we made sure to give him something extra as he was very deserving of tips! Our Captain's Club hostess, Melissa, knew all of our names, and was warm, friendly, and tried to solve any situations that might arise within our Captains Club. She really helped make our trip special! Our Captain, Bouzakis was a fun loving man, and made sure his officers were happy and well focused on the passengers on board.along with their own duties at the bridge and other parts of the ship. Our chief engineer, hotel director, staff captain, and food and beverage director were absolute gentlemen! The ship is gorgeous, there is a lawn club up on deck 15, where you can relax, or eat at a specialty restaurant called the lawn club or The Porch! We loved Aqua Class, and eating at Blu was so special. The menu was gourmet, light, and not filled with heavy cream sauces. It was easy to maintain your weight because the course selection and variety of items on the menu, were so nutritious and delicious! Yes, it wasn't diet food, just really good,, HEALTHY FOOD! The wine list is extensive, and having a beverage package is practical for most people on board . The fresh fruits on board were marvelous. I particularly liked Jamaica, as I took the floating bamboo river rafting trip. Our guide put three of us ladies on the raft, and took an extended amount of time to lollygag down the river around 2 hours. We loved it, kicking back, starring up at the tree tops, and just chilling! The island of Labadee, Haiti was really interesting. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, have their own private area with beach, complimentary lunch, water slides, etc. I brought my snorkeling gear, but it was a bit cloudy where we were. I did snorkel earlier in the trip at Cozumel. The water was amazing there, we just hailed a taxi and went to the beach resorts. Great trip, made great friends in Captains Club, and I would definitely recommend this cruise to every adult over 50! One comment I have is that Celebrity has really stepped it up with the nightly shows. They are excellent now! Read Less

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