Regions:Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Eastern Seaboard, Caribbean, Bermuda
Good for: Value for Money. Children`s Programs. Singles.
Regions:Caribbean, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Regions:Bahamas, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. Children`s Programs. Families.
Regions:Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean
Good for: Teens. First-time Cruisers. Families.
Good for: Group. Singles. Families.
Good for: Teens. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western, Mexico
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Inland Waterways, West Coast
Good for: Families. Value for Money. Teens.
Good for: Value for Money. Overall Service. Disabled Travelers.
My husband and I traveled to Hawaii this June to set sail on Pride of America. It was our first time in the islands and our first cruise. I had read many reviews of the ship ahead of time, and posted some questions on the message board here, which helped me to get ready for the experience. It was the trip of a lifetime!
We flew from Ohio on June 6 with Delta Airlines (with our second leg, a 9 1/2 hour flight from Atlanta to Honolulu). We arrived in Hawaii after 2 p.m. The flight wasn't too bad. I learned that the perfect seats on a 747 are the first row of two seats behind the threes, in the tail section. I had space beside my window seat that nearly equaled a seat width. We had extra storage under the seat in front of us and I was short enough (5'3) to be able to stand and stretch in the space beside our seat. I needed that, as my legs tend to swell when I fly. It was great.
When we got our luggage, we headed out to wherethe shuttles were. I had read that Roberts Hawaii offers $6 transfers to the pier. We couldn't see their bus, but saw another shuttle marked Waikiki and the driver said they were headed to the pier too. He said it would be $8 apiece. We took it.
Embarkation was smooth and easy. We were on the ship in no time (around 3 p.m.). Our room was ready when we got there. It seemed a little small to me, but my husband exclaimed, "It's huge!" when he saw it. I had been warning him that cabins were small on ships. The bed was two twins put together to form a king. There was a loveseat in the room and a small TV. There was ample storage. We unloaded our suitcases and had a couple of drawers in the closet we left empty. The suitcases easily fit under the bed.
The balcony was heavenly. If I had known better when I booked, I would have tried to get one without a lifeboat under it. We were on the 8th deck and the lifeboats were on the 7th. Actually our balcony was over a metal walkway between two lifeboats, which stuck out even further. It wasn't bad, and didn't obstruct our view, but it was in it, if that makes sense. My husband looked on the bright side of things and said if anything happened, at least we'd have an easy way down!
The bathroom was sufficient in size. The toilet and shower both worked well. There was shower gel and shampoo you could use at the push of a button. Soap was the same way at the sink. I took along my own shampoo in little containers, but my husband used the ship one and liked it. I had read there was no storage space by the sink, but there was enough for all of our little bottles of products. I have a travel bag that I hung on a hook on the door for my makeup, etc., which worked well.
The room had no alarm clock, but we just called for a wakeup call each day and they were always prompt with that. We left the balcony door open all night long, which was a wonderful way to listen to the sound of the waves when we were sailing, and to get some fresh air. One added bonus -- the sea air cleared my sinuses completely that week. Now that I am back home, I sure miss it!
We ran into our cabin steward several times in the hall during the week. She did a great job. She looked tired; they work such long days. But she kept the room clean and turned down our bed for us every night. She made four lovely towel animals for us during the week -- a dog, rabbit, elephant and snake. We delighted in them and tried to keep them as long as we could!
The ship was beautiful. We enjoyed the bright decor. The Mardi Gras Lounge was such a cozy place to be for a show and the Hollywood Theatre was elegant and seated so many. We saw many of the shows. We couldn't get enough of Second City, they were great. We went to their large show and both of their Mardi Gras improv shows and even attended a class to learn about improv with one of the comedians, Jeff Griggs. The magician, John Shyrock, was great too, as was the comedian, Chris Alpine. We went to a special show where the magician showed us how to perform some tricks, which was neat. We also went to the crew farewell show, which was really funny, especially their closing "Fountains" act. And we saw a local Maui band perform poolside one afternoon as well.
The food on the ship was good. We ate dinner two nights at the Aloha Cafe, and once each at the Skyline Main Dining Room, Liberty Main Dining Room, Jefferson's Bistro, Lazy J Steakhouse, and Cadillac Diner. We would have eaten at Little Italy instead of the steakhouse, due to the cover charge, but it was closed the night we planned on going (the night most of the ship was at the luau on Kuaui). Service was awesome at the Bisto, especially, but we had really friendly service at the Lazy J and Skyline as well. The food was delicious at the specialty restaurants, and good in the main dining rooms and buffets. I had read where the main dining rooms could take forever. We had two different experiences there. We were in and out of the Skyline in an hour, with good service, but the Liberty took about two hours and didn't impress us as much, service wise. But I know that can depend on the waiter/waitress at the time. The Cadillac Diner was a quiet, fun little place. I discovered I loved their macaroni and cheese. It's on the children's menu there, but I asked for it as a side with my sandwich. It was delicious! The best desserts I had all week were the chocolate chip cookies and the marshmallows we'd have dipped in chocolate for us from the fountains at the buffet. Yum! The buffet had a lot of food, and although it was packed, we never had too much trouble finding a place to sit. I like that they had antibacterial dispensers as you walked in.
We ate in the buffet for most of our breakfasts, but on the two days we had slightly later excursions, we went to the Skyline restaurant. Service was fast there for breakfast. They have an express menu. The fresh squeezed juice is free there too, but there is a charge at the buffet. However, there is regular OJ at the buffet that is no extra charge, in a dispenser. My favorite buffet breakfast dish was the Belgian waffle quarters. One day I tried to wait for an omelet, but it seemed to be taking too long so I just got other stuff. There was so much good food at the buffet that I didn't need to wait.
The pool was a cool place to hang out. It was a little hard finding some chairs together the one day we laid out, but we managed to on the deck overlooking the pool. We swam in the small adults only pool at the back of the ship one time (at least I thought it was an adults only pool), but another couple was in there with an infant and toddler at the same time. It didn't bother us, but I had read where no one in diapers was supposed to be in the pools. We tried out the hot tub at the back of the ship and it was nice and hot. We took walks on the Promenade deck a few times, and my husband jogged on it one morning. One night we played chess in the almost deserted card room. The room was stocked with lots of games. It was a neat place to get away for awhile. The library was such a cozy place too.
One of the two sailing highlights was the night we sailed by the lava flow on the starboard side. We watched on deck. It was amazing! No pictures turned out for me, though. Then, we got to see the Na Pali Coast from our portside balcony. Breathtaking, is all I can say about it. Pictures can't do it justice.
We took a shore excursion each day. The first day, we went on the Road to Hana tour. It was beautiful and we had ample stops to take pictures. I loved the black sand (lava rock) beach. Gorgeous! Lunch was pretty good, but just like the ship, it seemed all we had to drink on all our excursion lunches was tea and water. The road to the other half of the tour was closed, so we went back the way we had come, which was a little disappointing. I heard those who took the same excursion the next day went all the way around. One lady on our bus got sick, so be warned that if you get motion sickness, do not go on this tour.
The second day in Maui we did the Rainforest and Waterfall Hike. I learned I am not cut out for true hiking, but it wasn't too bad. Just be warned there's some climbing involved on steep and rough terrain, including climbing up tree roots on the side of a steep hill and using a rope to help lower yourself down an embankment. My husband took my backpack a couple of times to help me balance myself better. We loved swinging on the rope into one of the waterfalls we saw that day -- that was worth the hike for me.
In Hilo we took the Volcano and Rainbow Falls Deluxe tour, but the water from Rainbow Falls was diverted to the hydroelectric power plant due to a drought, so we went to a non-profit zoo instead. The zoo was neat, and the botanical gardens were gorgeous. The volcano was neat to see, all the steam coming out. And the walk through Thurston Lava Tube was great as well. The buffet lunch was good, as was the trip to the Macademia Nut Factory, where we bought some nuts for gifts.
We took the Captain Zodiac Rafting, Snorkeling and Dolphin Adventure in Kona. That was a lot of fun. We went really fast on the raft. We saw a lot of spinner dolphins jumping and spinning to entertain us. It was neat getting some good shots of the cruise ship in the background too. The snorkeling was good. The reef was in good shape there. There weren't a lot of fish, but the ones there were pretty colorful. Our favorite was the parrotfish. After the tour we walked around Kona. It's a charming town. We ate fish and chips at Quinn's Restaurant, and we found a neat little Internet place -- Beach Dog Internet Cafe -- where we could surf at a rate of $5 for 30 minutes. We stayed for an hour so I could get caught up on news from home. Crystal, who runs it with her husband, was so sweet. She gave us free ice cream samples while we were there. We bought some coffee in a shop near there as well as to take home. The line for tendering was a little long on the way back to the ship, and the rain didn't help, but there were awnings to cover most of the line.
Kauai was the most majestic of the islands. We went on the Waimea Canyon, Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour the first day there. The canyon was gorgeous. My husband didn't like that we stayed at a tourist trap for as long as we did at the canyon though! But some people like to shop. The riverboat ride was cool. I enjoyed seeing the Fern Grotto, but wish you could still go inside it. (You can't since it was damaged in a storm). There is a partially blind cat that lives at the Fern Grotto; it was resting under a large umbrella there. On the way back, they sang and entertained us on the riverboat and taught us how to do the hula. The buffet lunch that day was our best lunch of the entire trip.
Our second day in Kauai we went on the Heaven and Earth tour. We went on a helicopter ride over most of Kauai. It was fabulous! They seat you in the helicopter based on your weight. When it was over, they offer a DVD of your trip for sale. We bought one. The rest of the trip was by land. We saw a lot of beautiful coastline and ate lunch at a beach. The beaches were nearly deserted. They were gorgeous.
You have to put your suitcases out by midnight the night before the cruise ends. They give you color tags to put on them -- ours was black because we were taking an excursion. If you are leaving on your own, you can choose your time of departure the day before in increments of 15 minutes, and you are assigned a color accordingly. Disembarkation was as easy as going on our regular excursions.
We took the Best of Oahu Grand Finale tour. I loved getting the chance to see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona Memorial. It was such a moving experience. We then went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. On the way there, we stopped for lunch (on us) and somewhere to sample nuts. Everytime we went around a curve we saw a beautiful beach view, and I so wish we could have stopped for a picture. When I go back someday, I will definitely spend more time on Oahu. I felt like I didn't see enough. The Polynesian Cultural Center was really neat. The canoe pageant and Samoan shows were great, as was the luau, which was included in our cost. The food was delicious and everyone got a free fresh orchid lei. My husband and I went to all the villages in the time we had there, and tried to play all the games we could find. We threw spears at a target, swung poi balls, tossed sticks, balanced poles, learned to play a tune on the ukelele, and sampled poi. We also got some fake tattoos. We had a blast.
We got to the airport around 7:30. Our flight was at 9:50. We took a change of clothes and our toothbrushes in our carry-ons. The clean clothes were welcome after a hot day of touring in the sun. We slept little on our red eye flight back.
I loved every minute of our trip. Cruising was so much fun! We were pretty tired by the end of it, but I wouldn't have changed a thing because we wanted to see all we could of the islands while we were there. When we go back someday, we will know what we want to hit again, this way, and what else we'd like to see. I definitely want to return to Hawaii someday, and I'd love to sail on the Pride of America again. It was a terrific experience!
This is my review of the Pride of America from May 30th through June 6th.
Prior to boarding the POA we stayed at the Hyatt in Maui for three days. The hotel was beautiful. We rented a car through Thrifty. The first night we attended the "Drums of the Pacific" Luau at the Hyatt. We had a great time watching all the different performances.
The next day we drove to the top of Haleakala which was amazing. The view from the top is breathtaking. The following day we drove the road to Hana. We stopped at the Garden of Eden, black sand beach and other points along the road. Not recommended if you get carsick easily. The sights along the road were beautiful. We flew back to Honolulu the next morning and rented a car from Thrifty. We went to Pearl Harbor and took a behind the scenes tour on the Battleship Missouri. The ship was awesome. We returned the car and took the Thrifty shuttle to the pier.
We arrived around 1pm and had to wait in line for a bit to go through security and check-in, but we were onthe ship by 2pm.
The ship is beautiful. We tried to put all the negative comments we have read about the ship aside since we were celebrating our honeymoon. While exploring the ship we encountered our first negative experience. We were in the saloon bar and we were approached by a waiter named Garrett. We wanted to order two beers and he proceeded to offer the bucket of beer. I declined, but he continued to push it on us. We reiterated we didn't want a bucket, only two. He was very pushy and then with an attitude he said he needed our ID's. I was surprised because in all my cruises I never needed to carry ID with me, because my ship card was enough. I had my ID on me but my wife didn't and then he said he couldn't serve us. I bet if we had bought the bucket of beer he wouldn't have given us an issue. My wife asked him don't the under 21 people have some sort of indicator on the card showing they are under 21 and he said yes they have a corner clipped out or cut. He then proceeded to say well they don't always clip the card. I told him that wasn't our problem and all he needs to do is scan our cards and he can check our ages, and he didn't know what to say and stormed off with our cards. He finally brought back our two beers and proceeded to lecture us how everyone isn't as nice as him and we should always have our ID with us and how there are over 1400 cameras watching us. We left and never came back to that bar. We didn't let this ruin our vacation though; we just filled out the comment card with a lengthy comment and returned it to the purser's desk.
So after we left the Saloon Bar we made our way to the Lahaina Lounge for a meet and greet with fellow cruise critics. It was great to meet everyone and then we had a surprise appearance and meeting with Captain Buz and the cruise hotel manager.
We ate at the Skyline restaurant the first night and the food was very good. Our waitress Delia was very nice. The first day we just hung out and walked to a beach that was nearby, we should have taken a taxi, but now we learned our lesson. The next day we stopped in Maui and took the Molokini snorkel tour through the ship. It is run through the Pacific Whale Foundation. The tour was very informative and fun. We were able to see the green sea turtles (Honu) and many beautiful fish.
The next day we were in Hilo on the Big Island. We took an excursion through NCL for the Volcanoes National Park tour to see the active volcanoes. The tour was run by Polynesian Adventures and our tour guide, Captain Rob, was terrific. He was funny, knowledgeable and entertaining throughout the entire tour ride. The ride to the park was beautiful. The flowers and plants on all the islands are all breath taking. Volcanoes National Park is like being on a different planet. We made several stops at different vista points and picture spots. Our first stop was at the Caldera. This part of the volcano constantly emits steam and sometimes even toxic gases. Our favorite stop was when we were able to walk on the cooled lava from the 1974 eruption. It was amazing that trees and flowers have started to bloom and grow amongst the destruction of the lava. Our final stop in the park was the lava tube which was pretty cool too. We walked down a path and walked into and through the lava tube to the other side. On the way back to the cruise ship we had extra time so Captain Rob gave us a bonus stop at an orchard farm. There were some beautiful flowers in there. There was even an orchard worth $20,000!!! We didn't even think it was that nice, but apparently it only blooms like once a year or something crazy like that.
That next day we were in Kona on the Big Island. We had to tender there and NCL did a good job organizing the tender process. They gave out numbers in Pink's Champagne Lounge and then called you by numbers to go down and get on the tender. They had several tenders in service and it was quite efficient. Kona was beautiful as well. We did a lot of shopping and went to the little beach next to where the tender docked. It was extremely hot but the water was nice and refreshing. Kona was a good day to relax and get some shopping done.
From Kona we went to Kauai. Kauai is absolutely gorgeous. We rented a car through Thrifty and we had privately booked an ATV tour with Kipu Ranch Tours (www.kiputours.com). We had some time to kill before we had to check in at the ranch so we drove to Poipu. There was a little shopping center so we walked around looking at the shops and we grabbed a drink at Starbucks. We came across Puka Dog (which was featured on the travel channel) they opened at 11am so we waited ten minutes until they opened because we had to try one. We got the Kauai mustard sauce dog and split it. It was pretty big so both of us were satisfied. It was a good hot dog but kind of pricey at almost $7.00, but we figured when else are we going to be able to try this? The ATV tour on Kipu Ranch was amazing. This ranch has been used for several movie scenes such as Indiana Jones, Mighty Joe Young and of course Jurassic Park just to name a few. This is an active cattle ranch owned and operated by the Rice family. Our tour guide Mike and Justin were amazing. They gave a history lesson about the ranch and the island of Kauai and showed us a fantastic four-hour tour. We got to swim in the river that Indiana Jones swung into as well as ending the tour at the beautiful waterfall with this amazing, huge bamboo. Our second day in Kauai we spent at the beach between the Marriott hotel and Duke's beachside bar and grille. The water was a little rough and brisk but all the same great.
The Sushi bar was phenomenal -- $15 a person for all you can eat sushi. And the Asian Fusion restaurant had great food and terrific service. The shows we saw were also fantastic. The shows on the POA aren't Vegas Style shows; however the Hawaiian dances and comedy acts were great. Second City performed three times and we went each time and laughed hysterically each and every time. Also, Chris Alpine performed several times and he too was fantastic and also very, very funny.
Overall we had a great time on the cruise. The service was a bit lacking, most likely because of the crew being all American. It was hit or miss with the waiters and although we had a decent room steward, we heard nightmares about some other stewards. However, we didn't let that get to us. We were there to see Hawaii and that's what we got. That being said, we would probably not take the same Hawaiian cruise on NCL's POA. We had a great time, Hawaii was more beautiful than words could describe, but NCL needs to give more training or something to teach the crew to be more personable and courteous as a whole.
The cruise ship smelled like raw sewage.
The staff was unprepared for passengers upon arrival.
I will never cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line again!
This was our first short, 5-nights, cruise with NCL. We have done three long, 11-nights, cruises with them before on the Wind, the Dawn and the Jewel.
Pre-Cruise Since this was a short vacation and we have been in London many times before, it was my 10th visit there, we decided to stay there for just one night before the cruise. We stayed at Park Plaza Victoria Hotel close to Victoria Station and that was a very nice hotel.
On the day of the cruise we took a National Express bus from Victoria Coach Station at 7.15. A little early but the next bus would get us to Southampton later than we wanted so it was the choice we had!
We came to Southampton 9:25 and had some breakfast at McDonalds before we walked to the terminal, arrived there at 10.30. It was definitely walking distance between the coach station and the terminal but with more luggage we would have taken a cab. (We took a cab after the cruise and paid £5+tip, around $8+tip.)
Embarkation They started the embarkation at 11:05 so we had to wait for a while before we couldcheck in. Since there were no lines everything went very fast. We were the first to get to one of the Latitudes desks where we checked in. The lady at the desk then took us to the concierge, Ruth Hagger, where we got our keys. I didn't see any VIP-check in, maybe because we were so early and there were no lines anyway? Ruth took us to the VIP waiting area where we waited for just a few minutes before we got escorted onto the ship around 11:30. We got our glass of sparkling wine and then we left our luggage in our cabin which was almost ready. When the luggage was left we went to Magnum's for our traditional first glass of Champagne, Taittinger!
Our Cabin We stayed in AE Penthouse 8634 which is located aft. The cabin was definitely big enough for us and there was lots of space for the luggage. We had a bathtub instead of a shower and I think that a shower had been better because I felt too close to the roof every time I took a shower!
There was a nice, but small, dining area which we didn't use because the cruise was so short. On a longer cruise it might be nice to have dinner in the cabin one night and then stay in bed and watch DVD's on the rather large flat screen TV for the rest of the evening!
The balcony was nice and equipped with one sun chair and two other chairs with cushions. We didn't really like the aft view but know that many do like it. The cheapest cabin with suite perks and side view but without a second bedroom, which I won't use and therefore don't want to pay for, is the A4 Courtyard Villa so if I feel like paying for that for our next cruise I might do that, if not I will be back in an aft Penthouse or Romance Suite and I will be happy with that too.
The Restaurants and the Food Since the cruise was short we didn't have time to eat at many of the restaurants. We had all our breakfasts in the concierge lounge (Star Bar-Cagney's) and most of our lunches too, we had lunch at Blue Lagoon once. For dinner we went to Grand Pacific twice, Paniolo twice and Le Bistro.
The breakfast in the concierge lounge was VERY good and one of the best suite perks. They had a buffet for cold items and a very nice menu for hot items. We really liked their omelettes, pancakes and egg Benedictines with lobster.
The lunches there were also excellent and they even had a few dishes from the dinner menu. Those dishes took some time to prepare so we didn't try any of them, we probably will on a longer cruise. They had really nice crab cakes and I can absolutely recommend their fettuccini with mushroom and cheese sauce.
We had lunch in Blue Lagoon on our port day in Dublin because we wanted to get off the ship. We ate fish & chips there and that was very nice, but not like in a real English pub! One bad thing was that we asked if they had any Irish lager, since we were in Ireland and a stout (=Guinness!) isn't the best beverage with fish & chips, and was told, NO. Later we saw that they had Harp, which is an Irish lager.
The dinners in Grand Pacific were also very nice. The lines were very short both times (the second time we went there we had a reservation but there was no line at all so that really wasn't necessary, we made the reservation just to be sure we shouldn't have to stand in a line the last evening on the ship!) and the service was good. The menus in the main restaurants didn't have many dishes that attracted us but one nice main course is enough and all food we ate tasted well.
Le Bistro has great French food, probably not as good as a real French luxurious bistro but then the price is completely different too. The $15 extra charge is NOT too much. I can only think of one bad thing with Le Bistro and that is that they serve Foie Gras and the animals are not well treated when that is produced. I had Moules(?) Anisette (steamed clams), grilled swordfish and crepe Suzette and everything was very good.
Paniolo has great Mexican food, definitely worth the extra $10. Later in the evening the first night we went to Paniolo we sat in the bar outside Paniolo and drank a Marguerita when someone passed the bar with a tray with food which smelled so good so we decided to go to Paniolo the next day too! The second day I had Cheese Quesadillas, Sizzling Fajitas (the great smelling dish) and strawberry ice cream.
The Bars and the Beverages The Star Bar was very nice on the Jade, for some reason it wasn't that nice on the Jewel. Bali Hai is probably very nice on a warm cruise but this time it was a little too cold there in the evenings but we had some drinks there overlooking the pool area and that was nice. Bali Hai is also located on the deck outside Spinnaker Lounge so when the bar inside isn't open yet, it's perfect to buy the drinks at Bali Hai and drink them at Spinnaker. We didn't really liked the "bar city" when we cruised on the Jewel and it's the same on the Jade. It's nice to sit there with a drink but too many people are passing all the time so it's not relaxing at all! Especially the Champagne bar, Magnums, should be separated from the other bars and located in a calmer area.
Paniolos bar was, in our opinion, the best bar on the Jade. They made very nice Margueritas and the staff was very nice too. Since our cabin was located aft on deck 8 it was also very convenient to go there and buy a drink to drink in the cabin, we could have called room service or our butler but the bar was so close so it was easier to go and buy them ourselves.
All drinks we had were well made and tasted good. The drink prices were in my opinion decent, drinks on a cruise ship are never cheap but a drink at a bar in Sweden cost even more so I see no reason to complain on high prices. A Gin & Tonic costs around $6.50 with the gratuity added.
I don't know if they still try to sell souvenir drinks at a high price because I always asked for a regular sized drink when I bought something fancy.
The wine list was okay and for me it seems like the selection of cheaper wines is bigger then it was when we cruised a few years ago. This cruise we drank more Champagne then we have done before and the prices on that were decent too. Champagne always cost much but is always worth much too!
The Rest of the Ship All public areas are "colourful," if I shall say it nice! It was better than the Jewel but I really can't understand why they need so many different colours everywhere. The atrium was very nice, and very red.
On this rather cold cruise the pool area seemed big enough but I guess it was very crowded when the ship cruised around Hawaii. The quiet zone in the front of deck 14 seems like a nice place to spend time on a sunny day at sea in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean but this time it was too cold and too windy there.
We were in the casino for maybe one minute and that was more than enough! In my opinion a casino shall be a luxurious and glamorous place filled with tuxedos and nice dresses but a casino where the most casual dressed, if I shall be nice to them, people sit and smoke and just push a button for hours is just tragic to me. Others don't have to agree but my opinion is that people who think that the casino on a cruise ship is a good place to be in might need help. Note that I wrote "might," I don't say that everyone who likes a cruise ship casino has a problem, but some probably have.
As Penthouse guests we also had the opportunity to see the courtyard area. It was very nice but much smaller than I thought it would be. The private sundeck on deck 15 looked great for a warmer cruise.
The Ports We stopped in Dublin and in Cobh, outside Cork. In Dublin they docked rather far from the central parts of the town but a free shuttle was provided. (I'm sure that the city of Dublin provided the shuttle, NCL should probably have charged for it!)
Since we had been in Dublin before we decided to just walk around by ourselves for awhile. We had lunch at Blue Lagoon before we went to town and there we just had some Guinness before we took the shuttle back to the ship.
The ship docked very central in Cobh. We docked right by the train station so those who wanted to go to Cork could do so by train. We had booked an excursion because we wanted to see some of the Irish countryside. NCL had some interesting excursions in Cobh but unfortunately most of them were in the afternoon and we really prefer to go on an excursion before lunch and be back for lunch instead of leaving after lunch. The best excursion we could find before lunch was to Blarney Castle so we booked that. It was nice and we got to see some Irish countryside so we were happy with it, but it was probably not the most interesting excursion they had.
The Suite Life The best thing with staying in a "suite" (I know it's not really a suite unless the bedroom is in a separate room but everyone calls it a suite so I call it a suite too) isn't the suite itself, it's the perks you get. The suite was very nice and the extra space would have been great on a longer cruise. Since this cruise was so short we didn't have very much luggage. In my opinion the aft view made the suite itself less attractive. The pillow menu in the suite is a great idea and on a longer and warmer cruise I should have ordered a Climarelle: "Stay cool and comfortable with this super-scientific-body-temperature-regulating-pillow"!
The best thing with having a suite was the breakfasts and lunches in the concierge lounge, a very relaxing experience and great food! We walked through the Garden Café once and couldn't believe how much noise there was there, have we really eaten there on previous cruises!? I doubt that we ever can go back to a standard balcony cabin again!
It was also nice to be able to ask the concierge to make dinner reservations but is it really harder to do it yourself? Priority tender tickets must also be a good perk but not needed on this cruise. The butler service can also be nice but how many "normal" persons really need a butler? I liked the treats we got every afternoon and dinner in the suite one night can be great on a longer cruise but for other things than that, I don't really need a butler.
Priority embarkation was also nice but even better was the priority debarkation. We waited in Le Bistro until it was time to go and then we just cut the line and were off the ship in less than a minute, how nice was that!? I understand that people standing in that long line don't appreciate that some people don't have to wait in the line, but we have paid more so why should I be sorry and feel bad for it?
Debarkation and Post-Cruise Debarkation was as I just said -- very quick and easy. After we had left the ship we took a cab to the coach station and waited there for a short while before our bus to Heathrow departed. We came to Heathrow at 12:10 and then we went to terminal 5. Our plane wasn't to depart until 4:50 but since we should fly in Club Europe (British Airways business class within Europe) we could spend all that time in the lounge where they had some excellent wine. Our plane landed in Stockholm at 8:15 and we were back at home just before 11:00.
What Could Have Been Better I don't really like to try to find bad things when the overall experience was so good but I know that even the bad things are important to mention and by doing that, all the good things I have written about the cruise get more credibility.
I have already mentioned our aft view. Yes, it's only my opinion that the aft view isn't as good as a side view and I know that many love the aft view. My question then is: if the aft view is so good, why aren't the Courtyard Villas, Owner Suites and Garden Villas located aft? I think that NCL could have some Penthouses on the side of the ship too so that those who prefer the side view could book one of those. For me it feels wrong that the standard balcony cabins cost much less and have a much better view than the Penthouses!
The coffee maker in our cabin was broke, really not a problem but still something bad! We told our butler and she took it with her, no replacement.
Sometimes there were kids in the adults only hot tubs and no one told them to leave. That wasn't really a problem either but a rule is a rule. Some late evenings there were also lots of teenagers running around on the deck outside the Star Bar and they were very loud. There were more teenagers on this cruise than on our previous cruises (because it was shorter?) and most of the time that was no problem but I can't understand why they have to sit on the stairs? Is there really no other place for them to be in?
According to NCL's brochure we should get a bottle of "Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne on arrival," but we got a bottle of cheap sparkling wine. Not a big problem but still annoying because if I pay for Champagne, I want Champagne! I asked the concierge about it and she said that was changed fleet wide a few months ago. The brochure also mentions a "Daily choice from special hors d'oeuvre menu" and we never had the chance to choose anything. All we got was very good, but it was not up to us to choose what we wanted.
On the last evening of the cruise, just before dinner, the whole bar city was filled with people who participated in a quiz. Couldn't they have chosen another area for that? In my opinion a bar is a place for people who want to have a drink, in this case a pre-dinner drink before the last dinner on a cruise, and the bar city is filled with people not drinking! How good business is that for NCL? It was no problem for us to go up to the Star Bar instead, but what was NCL thinking?
Conclusion This was a really great cruise! Does anyone doubt that I recommend cruising with NCL on the Norwegian Jade?
This was our first cruise on NCL -- it was too good a deal to pass up on this super itinerary.
It took a little getting used to NCL's way of doing things (we have always cruised on Royal Caribbean in the past), but we were impressed with the ship's layout overall, and our stateroom (8th deck ocean view) was well laid out and provided adequate space for a 12-night cruise. We missed not having a chair/loveseat though.
The beds were very comfortable and the bathroom (in particular, the shower) was larger than we've been used to.
The stateroom attendants were very friendly and did a great job.
The ports were absolutely amazing and we were fortunate to have great weather.
The entertainment was some of the very best we've ever seen. The NCL singers and dancers on the ship were outstanding.
The cons were primarily the food and the service, or rather lack thereof, in the Garden Cafe. The food selections seemed to be geared toward Europeans and Asians only. We went to Tango's (the pay extra restaurant) and we were the only people there, so the service was fine. But the fajitas leftlots to be desired.
There are some advantages to freestyle dining especially if in port late, but we found we prefer assigned dining/seating, as it gives you more of an opportunity to make new friends.
We did note that the cruise staff seemed to take the life vest/boat drill on the first day as a joke. We would have hated to have a real evacuation, as cruisers wouldn't be prepared.
The ship appeared to be clean, although we never saw any crew members cleaning around the ship, as we are accustomed to seeing on RCCL.
While we had a wonderful time, we probably won't cruise NCL again.
We sailed the Norwegian Spirit, roundtrip from Boston to King's Wharf, Bermuda.
Roger and I sailed this cruise in a balcony stateroom, with our friend, Dave, in a solo oceanview cabin. This was our first NCL cruise and our first visit to Bermuda, and we thoroughly enjoyed both.
We stayed one night pre-cruise at the Holiday Inn Brookline, and we took the "Green Line" right outside the hotel to the Copley stop, to enjoy a pre-cruise dinner at Legal Seafood, which was wonderful.
The next morning, we grabbed a ride with King's Shuttle to the pier early, and we made arrangements for the same shuttle to pick us up after the cruise. After a short wait, we were one of the first passengers aboard the ship shortly before noon. We loved the warm greeting with a glass of champagne as we boarded the ship. We grabbed a plate from the buffet and settled in at a table to dine al fresco in the aft Raffles bar. We struck up a conversation with another couple at a nearby table, Jo and Bob, who we enjoyed meeting throughout the cruise. We dropped off our laptopsin our room by 1 pm, although the rooms weren't ready to be occupied until 2 pm.
Our next stop was a stop at the spa to book a hair appointment for our Dave, then we were off to make our dinner reservations. We booked Le Bistro for that evening, and we also booked "The Enchanted Dinner" for Tuesday night, which we highly recommend.
The muster drill was quick and painless at 3 pm, and we were sailing away by shortly after 4 pm. We were supposed to meet with some other guests at the aft bar, but it was just the three of us and Jake and Nancy, so we moved on to the Sailaway party. I enjoyed dancing by the Lido pool, while Roger watched the shore get farther and farther away. The weather was a little cool, but we were on vacation!
Our luggage was there when we returned to our room, so we unpacked quickly and dressed for a cocktail hour with our group in the Majaharini's Lounge. Our friend headed to the Singles Social in Champagne Charlie's, but no NCL staffer ever arrived, and he didn't see any other singles, so we headed on to our dinner in Le Bistro.
Got to say -- this is the best $15 per person meal we've ever enjoyed. We all ordered something different, so we could try a lot of things. My escargot appetizer won out over Dave's asparagus and scallops and Roger's scallops. And, everyone agreed my cream of mushroom soup was absolutely the best. But, Dave's tenderloin steak and Roger's rack of lamb were much better than the lobster dish I paid extra for. Our meal ended with a crepe suzette dessert prepared flaming tableside by our server, Horace, and his lovely assistant waiter, Anyu. Ask for them when you make your reservation, as they're absolutely the best. And, we highly recommend eating in one of the specialty restaurants the first couple nights, because you'll get exceptional service while they sit mostly empty. We wrapped up the evening in Henry's Pub, where Carrie Stone entertained us with her songs and guitar stylings.
We had rough seas for the next 24 hours, but everyone seemed to manage them quite well. Breakfast in the Windows dining room was just like any breakfast at sea, so we decided to have lunch in Henry's Pub, where we could choose from wings, fish and chips, and raw oysters on the half shell. We had them all, and they were great. (The oysters were a half dozen for $5 or a dozen for $10.) We met up with friends in Henry's every sea day around lunch time, before dinner, and usually wrapped up our evening there.
Our evening meals in the Windows dining room were just so so -- adequate food and service -- about what you'd expect from a dining room serving a thousand people. Shorts were prohibited in the evening in the Windows dining room, but permitted in the Garden dining room. The Garden dining room was much smaller and filled up quickly each night, probably due to the more relaxed dress code.
Sea days offered opportunities to learn to make sushi and enjoy sake, wine tastings, martini tastings, and beer tasting with food pairings, and margarita mania, so each of us enjoyed one or more of these fun activities. David visited the spa twice, once for a haircut and once for a seaweed massage, both of which he thoroughly enjoyed.
We ended up dining in Le Bistro for two evening meals, had one meal in the Garden dining room when we were dressed more casually to head back into Bermuda for an evening excursion, and all the rest of our meals in the Windows dining room, except for our Tuesday night "Enchanted Dinner."
The Spirit has a unique Art Gallery that's up one small flight of stairs from deck 7 beside one of the entrances to the Casino. Bruce Van der Boon, the concierge, met us at the bottom of the steps to welcome us to our special evening, and we were escorted to our waiting table. We had looked for Carrie Stone to enjoy her music with a pre-cruise drink before dinner, but she wasn't listed anywhere. We were delighted to find she was the live entertainment for our dinner, and our table was right next to where she performed. The candlelit atmosphere surrounded by fabulous art and Carrie singing created the perfect ambience for a wonderful dinner.
We soon learned that our server, Kelton Fox, was roommates with Horace Reed -- our fabulous server from Le Bistro, and the next time we went to the Windows dining room, we asked to be seated at a table in Mr. Fox's area, and we suggest you do the same.
For this evening, we had a choice of appetizers and soups. One salad was offered, and we had a choice of entrees, both of which were surf and turf. Shrimp Cocktail was one of the appetizers, with giant shrimp, not tiny ones like we received in the dining room. We were served champagne when we arrived, with a nice white and red wine served as the meal continued. Many of the ship's officers stopped by our table throughout the evening, including the Hotel Director, the Food and Beverage Manager, and several chefs. At the end of our meal, we were presented with a special dessert -- and all I can say is it was fabulous. The $65 per person price tag included all the wine and champagne as well.
The White Hot Party was that same evening, so we headed back to our staterooms to change into our mostly white attire and headed up to the Galaxy of the Stars to dance the night away. NCL knows how to throw a great party. This was the best party at sea we've ever experienced, and we loved dancing the night away. Thanks to Dave, Jake, and Roger, for keeping the ladies in our group up and dancing all evening.
We enjoyed a "Behind the Scenes" tour, where we saw lots of the ship, plus a preview of Thursday evening's Chocolate Buffet displayed in the Galley. Be sure to take the circular staircase in the Galaxy of the Stars down into a small room where you can watch the activity on the bridge and view where the ship is headed from the Captain's view.
We were lucky enough to catch two performances by the acapello singing group, Home Free, which were leaving the ship with us. Selwyn Wright did a great job entertaining on the piano, and Amadeus offered some great dance music. We enjoyed the Second City Troupe workshop one sea day afternoon, teaching us improv comedy, and Dave was lucky enough to perform with them in one of their evening performances.
We only caught two evening shows -- the magician and the farewell crew talent show. We were having too much fun enjoying our dinners and Carrie Stone the other nights. The Stardust Theatre was arranged to give all the guests a fabulous view of the stage, but the entrance to this theatre brings you into the front of the theatre. We arrived close to show time for our first visit to see the magician, and we saw seats on the front row available, so we slipped into them. The server slipped over to explain these seats were reserved for guests purchasing a minimum of $25 per couple in drinks so we ordered drinks, because they were great seats for a magic show! We had heard about NCL's fountain at the end of the talent show, so we were disappointed that this was not included on this trip.
Our stateroom was small, so we were glad we had a balcony. Our stateroom stewards, Butty (prounounced booty) and Day, kept it perfect, and it seemed they were always outside our room to greet us warmly as we came and went.
We loved Bermuda. When we arrived at around 11 a.m. on Sunday, we bypassed the long lines of people buying bus/ferry passes in the terminal building and got ours in the visitor information center in the town square. We took a bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach, where we relaxed for a while, then followed a beach path to several nearby beaches. We wore ourselves out doing this, and each one looked the same as the next, so we don't recommend this adventure.
That evening we took a ship excursion, the Bermuda Triangle Glass Bottom Boat excursion. It was a great evening cruise, but you definitely need to dress warm, because you're on the water. We had our first (of many) Rum Swizzles on this excursion.
Monday morning Dave headed out for a two-tank scuba dive, and we took the ferry for a walking tour of St. George's. While we know we could have visited all the highlights on a map without a guide, we highly recommend booking a guide, because ours showed us so many things we would have missed without his tour. We began the tour at noon in the town square, with a reenactment of the dunking of a town gossip. Plan to take the 11 am ferry to arrive just in time for this reenactment. And, get in line for the 11 am ferry by 10:30 or you may find there's no room!
After our tour, we enjoyed a mid-afternoon meal on the second-story terrace of George and Dragon located right on the town square, a great outdoor mall where you can people-watch. While we were dining, NCL's Majesty pulled into town! We joined their guests in a .8 mile trek to Tobacco Bay Cove, where we enjoyed a couple hours beach time, before heading back .8 miles to catch the last ferry back to the Dockyard at 6 pm.
We took Dave back to St. George's the next day, so he could enjoy the highlights of St. George's as much as we had. For that trip, we enjoyed lunch and drinks at the Whitehorse Pub & Restaurant. Try their interesting Pink Sand Margarita. The only way I can describe it is "fluffy," -- kind of like a party in your mouth!
And, we saw the announcement about the Epic's new entertainment while at sea. We can't wait to experience Freestyle Entertainment on this grand new ship sometime down the road.
Disembarkation took a really long time. They called for a few people to come to customs and/or settle their bills with the purser over and over again. Finally early disembarkation started at 9:30 am, after they had stood in line for hours. We had picked up tags for the 10:15 disembarkation, because we weren't flying out until the next day, and Dave's flight was at 2:30 pm. We loved waiting in our stateroom and on our balcony leisurely while waiting to disembark. Finally our color tags were called at 10:45, and it was almost 11 am when we reached our luggage. We phoned King's Shuttle, and they met us outside within minutes.
We had one night post-cruise at the Holiday Inn Express Airport at 69 Boston Street. We had intended to tour Boston that day, but we ended up relaxing in our hotel until dinner time. We walked to a neighborhood restaurant recommended by the hotel clerk, 224, and wow, one more great meal -- pumpkin cannelloni and organic pizza. Wonderful!
King's Shuttle picked us up one last time the next morning to take us to the airport. Our flight was non-eventful, until we arrived at our final destination but one piece of our luggage did not. When we filed the claim, they said they had already discovered it left behind in Boston and assured us it would arrive in Little Rock late that day, and they would deliver it the next morning about 7 am. And, they did, so great service American Airlines -- if only it had arrived in the first place!
Closing Thoughts I wasn't sure we'd like Freestyle dining, but we really did. And, we really loved Le Bistro, and we wished we'd visited all the others. We had heard that NCL had an older clientele, but we found all age ranges on the Spirit, with everyone looking to have a good time. And, as I said before, Bravo, NCL -- you know how to throw a fabulous Party at Sea!
We had planned to purchase minutes from our laptop, but we heard the connection was really slow, so we opted to stay offline during this trip. The Freestyle Dailies said you could connect wireless in the Library/Internet Café, and on deck 7 and 8 in the Atrium. Our stateroom was directly below the Library/Internet Café, so we thought we might have wi-fi there, but there was no connection.
My Best TipsPlan all your evening meals in the specialty restaurants. It's worth the small cover charge for a slower pace meal, exceptional service, and fabulous food. Just my opinion! Don't miss Carrie Stone! Book the Enchanted Dinner in the Art Gallery! And, if this is your first visit to St. George's, hire a tour guide. Bring white clothes and get on your feet and dance at the White Hot Party! (You can also buy a cute white t-shirt in the gift shop that has "White Hot Party" printed on the front and wings printed on the back.)
And, you can check out our photos at community webshots Feel free to email me with any questions at email@example.com
Here's link to my review.
This review is going to be more helpful suggestions and comments that a straight review. I am a very experienced traveller, but not a big cruiser. The only other ship I've been on was Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. The Dawn does not have the "wow" factor. The central atrium only goes up a couple of floors and the décor of bright turquoise and coral is rather cheesy looking. The staff, however, is delightful.
On the day of departure try to arrive at the pier around 11:30 a.m. It gets very busy very quickly, and we found no problems getting dropped off curbside at that time. By noon we had established our shipboard account and got our boarding number, so got right on the ship.
You will board at Deck 7. Turn left, and continue along the walkway. After you go through the Blue Lagoon restaurant, turn right and go down the steps into the Venetian. This restaurant serves a very nice sit down lunch. The buffet is a mob scene the first day as no one realizes the Venetian is open!
You will not be able to get into yourcabin until about 2 p.m., so after lunch explore the ship. Your bags will not arrive until as late as 5 p.m., so be sure to have any immediately needed items in your hand baggage.
The Room: Not the greatest furnishings. Other than your bed, all you have is a small square table with 2 hard kitchen type chairs. That's it. There is quite a lot of storage, and there is a good number of wooden hangers provided. The problem is the hanging rail is not very long, and the wooden hangers are thick and heavy so your clothes get crushed together. If you have a number of lightweight tops, bring yourself a few wire hangers for these, and put the extra wooden hangers out of the way so your clothes have more room. There is only 1 outlet in the entire cabin, none in the bathroom (except for a shaver outlet). We brought a multiplug to give us the equivalent of 3 outlets and were glad for it. We also brought a nightlight, which I plugged into the shaver outlet in the bathroom for night time moving around.
Each person gets 1 fluffy, but small bath towel, a handtowel that's little more than a finger tip towel, and a wash cloth. I have long hair and was glad I'd brought my Turbitwist. The bathroom is stocked with liquid product dispensers which have high quality lavender hand soap, shower gel and shampoo. There is no bar soap. I suggest you bring some facewash, also a bath puff as the shower gel does not lather well without one.
Each person has the use of a bathrobe. Also in the room is a 1000w hairdryer with cold shot button. It is VERY heavy & not very powerful. The cabin also has a coffee maker and a small, stocked fridge (steep prices to use the contents). We brought a bottle of wine and put it in the fridge. No one said anything.
The beds have nice, soft, high thread count sheets. The pillows, however, are dense foam, so you may wish to bring a soft travel pillow. The mattress was "OK", nothing to get excited about, but by no means the worst one I've slept on.
There is a small TV in the room with very limited programming: about 6 channels dealing with the cruise ship, CNN, Headline News, Fox News and Cartoon Network. There are also 2 premium movie channels which show more or less the same films as in the cinema.
Restaurants: the Garden Café buffet (Deck 12) is open more or less all day and up till midnight. The food is set up on lines cafeteria style, which is not the prettiest set-up, however it allows for a lot of seating, and we never had a problem finding a table. The advantage is its wide selection and speed of service.
The Venetian serves 3 meals a day, Aqua only dinner. Most passengers have a strong preference for one or other of these restaurants. They both serve the exact same dinner menu, but some people like the open elegance of Venetian, while others like the cool, hip vibe of Aqua. Their menu offers you a choice of 9 appetizers, 9 entrées and 5 dessert choices, most of which change daily. There are also light dining options available. If you are in a balcony cabin or suite, please note that Aqua is also open to only you for breakfast Monday – Saturday. The sign will say "private function", but just go in and give your room number for seating. It took us 3 days to find the little card behind the TV offering this special privilege. It was particularly helpful on Wednesday as the first day in port everyone rushes to eat and get off the ship at the exact same time.
Reservations for the specialty restaurants can be made by phone or by visiting the desk in the Deck 7 atrium, just across from reception. The desk was staffed just about all the time, and we had no problems getting reservations.
The Bistro had very high quality French food (we found out the Food & Beverage Manager is French, which may be why). On the walls are ORIGINAL Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Matisse paintings. Impressions had good (not great) Italian food. Bamboo had "OK" Pan Asian food. Nothing like dining in NYC. I heard mixed comments about the sushi, so did not try that, likewise I did not try the hibachi finding the $25 cover to be exorbitant. Did not try Cagneys.
Bimini Grill is located up the staircase from the Deck 12 pool and fixes burgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken for lunch and afternoon dining. Blue Lagoon is open 24 hours and I really enjoyed their food. The tomato soup with basil cream was delicious, as was the fish & chips. Sprinkles is not a real restaurant, but rather a section of the pool bar where a guy scoops icecream cones. The New York Deli is also not a restaurant but rather a section of the Garden Café on the port side with deli meats and hotdogs available at all times.
The pool area is rather gaudy looking, but there are plenty of sunbathing chairs thanks to a tiered design. If you prefer a quieter environment, walk forward on 12 to the very front of the ship where there is a quiet zone along with another jacuzzi for quiet enjoyment. If you enjoy swimming in a nice warm pool, the small round pool closest to the pool bar is almost as warm as the jacuzzi and is really lovely.
I visited the Fitness Center the first day. There are a variety of cardio machines and weights, but the place gets very busy on days at sea. Yoga, pilates and spin classes are available for an additional fee. They want you to sign up for 3 classes for $30 (plus automatic gratuity) for the 3 days at sea. I signed up for yoga and went to the first class, but unfortunately I had to stop due to a badly pulled muscle from the day before. I got a refund of the 2 unused classes. Quite honestly it wasn't much of a loss: the yoga class was really boring -- we kept doing the same thing over and over.
If you are tempted by the spa, I noticed they ran very good deals during the days in port. These specials extended into the evening hours. The best deal was day 1 in Bermuda where you got 2 hours of pampering for $119! There is a nice lap pool, jacuzzi and sunning area inside the spa. They will try and get you to pay $99 to use it for the week. I later found out you could get a 1 day pass for $20. If the weather is really lousy it might be worth doing this.
Entertainment in the evening ran the gamut, definitely something for all tastes. Check your daily Freestyle newsletter as some days they only run 1 show at 9 p.m. and other days there are two at 7:30 and 9:30. The 7:30 show tends to be more popular. People rush through the buffet to get to the show on time. The 9:30 show always had lots of seats available.
Dave Heenan the comedian did a very funny family friendly show. I understand his late night act in the nightclub is very bawdy, but his regular show was fine. The magician continued a light, comedic banter as he did a number of classic tricks: he was very talented. There is a Second City comedy troupe on board, and if you enjoy SNL type skits, you will love their show. There is also a group of dancers that create musical shows for the other nights. The Bollywood show is definitely the best of these: a combination of dancing and circus type acts. Try to sit at least 8 rows back or you will miss some of the acts.
Bermuda: The ship docks at the farthest NW tip of the island grouping. There are 3 modes of transportation to get where you want to go: taxis (very expensive), ferries and buses. Ferries leave from right next to the ship and go to Hamilton or St. George's. Likewise, buses leave from the same area and take you to beaches and into Hamilton (change in Hamilton for St. George's). Make sure you double check with the driver as some buses go by the middle road and do not pass near the beaches. Buy a pass good for both buses and ferries from the Tourist Information booth right at the end of the dock. You can get 1, 2 and 3 day passes depending on your travel needs.
The Naval Dockyard has the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately when we visited most of the exhibit buildings were closed for renovation. For $8 I felt rather ripped off. There is limited shopping nearby, which is good for last minute purchases on Friday before departure. Check out the new pharmacy which is just past the glassworks/rum cake building. The Clocktower Mall is a lot smaller than it looks, but there are a couple of T-shirt shops as well as island crafts. The Craft Market, by the way, was rather disappointing.
If you want to go for afternoon tea, we went to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. It was elegant and had a Bermuda twist, it was also $34 per person plus gratuity. We later found out that Mrs. T's tea shop is right on the Middle Road bus route.
The Bermuda Underwater Institute is really worth a visit. Interesting exhibits on shipwrecks, local shells, the Titanic and all sorts of other things. Take the Middle Road bus and it drops you right by the door without having to go into Hamilton and changing buses.
If you are a scuba diver, I can highly recommend Blue Water Divers at www.divebermuda.com Their main shop is at Robinson's Marina adjacent to Somerset Bridge, about 15 minute bus ride from the ship. They work with novice through expert divers and have all the equipment you need. I did a 2 tank morning dive and got to visit 3 wrecks! An awesome experience!
I realize I've written a lot here, hopefully some of my suggestions will help you enjoy your cruise even more. That's it for general passengers, read on if you are travelling with a handicapped passenger.
Information for Disabled Passengers: I was travelling on this trip with my mother who uses a wheelchair for long distance walking. Be sure to use the special check in line within the pier in New York. You will get priority boarding. Note to person pushing the wheelchair: the ramp onto the boat in NYC is VERY steep. If you are not in the best of shape, ask for assistance! When you arrive at the Venetian restaurant at the back of deck 7, push the down button for the elevator: there is a handicapped entrance to the restaurant that we had such trouble finding.
Handicapped cabins have enough space for the wheelchair, and a ramp into the bathroom (which you will trip over all week, be careful). The biggest problem we encountered was the door to the room: our last ship had a button you pushed for automatic door opening, this one did not, and the door is stiff and heavy. A disabled person without a caregiver will have problems with it.
Most of the ship is handicapped accessible, just refer to your pink sheet and you shouldn't have any problems. The biggest shock to us was when we arrived in Bermuda: you CANNOT take folding wheelchairs on buses in Bermuda! You are limited to the ferries or taxis. Apparently they have just ordered 12 specialty buses that will take them in the future, but they are not yet available. Ask when you arrive and see if they are in service yet.
Be careful negotiating around the Naval Dockyard. If you are heading to the Maritime Museum, Frog & Onion or Craft Market, take the road farthest to the right or you will end up having to cross a courtyard that is not wheelchair friendly. Also, if you decide to visit the Commissioner's House at the Maritime Museum, be advised the hill up to the house is VERY steep. There is an elevator inside the house: go all the way around to the back and enter the lowest floor. The elevator is in there among the cannon -- it's not easy to find.
We were extremely disappointed in the food. In total this ship has 12 restaurants, eight of which you have to pay for. So after we spent money already on the cruise, we opted for the no charge restaurant "Aqua." We all ordered prime rib and we all wound up sending it back. It was like shoe leather.
I have cruised many times before on Carnival. They also have a restaurant that charges a cover. But Carnival only has one. Here they have 14 restaurants. Also the lunches on both days were hot dogs and hamburgers on the buffet. There was also salad smothered in ceaser dressing.
I will not cruise NCL again. The cabin was also smaller than my bathroom at home. I realize this cruise was less expensive, but never again!
I've got to tell you, I was very impressed with NCL, both before we cruised and during. The Baltic 12 day cruise was awesome with the highlight being the two days in St Petersburg, Russia, particularly with our private tour guide Anya we found through the internet (guidestpetersburgrussia dot com), but more on that later. I will try to categorize our cruise experience by pre-cruise information, arraignments and preparations (telephone & internet) and then the actual resulting experience both on the ship and in the various ports. Hopefully this information will help all future cruisers.
Initially, I checked all the cruise sites and found that NCL had prices lower than the consolidators, which is a change from what I'd found in the past. So, I booked through them on the phone (this turned out to be fortuitous as I will explain). They gave me discounts for being an old guy and also for being retired military. The phone center people that worked with me were very helpful every time I called. They answered all my questions even to the point of quoting NCL guidance so there was no questions on procedures (particularly theprocedures for bringing on our own wine). I even got them to provide a partial wine list and we tried the wines before we left so we already knew what we liked (and the cost).
We don't use the cruise excursions when we cruise, so I booked everything ahead of time thru the internet. I found limited information about port visits from NCL other than their excursion information, but that is understandable. However, Cruise Critic reviews were very helpful in establishing our own excursions. We spent four days in London (6th visit) pre-cruise and stayed near the airport (and tube station) and took the tube into London which worked well and reduced costs for hotels. We had booked a Shakespearian play at the Globe Theater online which was very enjoyable. Otherwise we did the normal tourist stuff in London as there is always something new to see and, of course, the obligatory shopping for the ladies (I usually sit in a Pub nursing a beer during shopping). We had rented a car, actually a mini van, to hold the luggage, (which was cheaper to park at the hotel for 2 of the 4 days than to rent for 2 separate days) and drove to Dover, saw the Castle and dropped the vehicle off. The rental guys then took us to the ship.
We had port side rooms so we'd be able to see the white cliffs while sailing away. Embarkation was the quickest and easiest I have ever experienced. We were apparently amongst the last to get to the ship as there were dozens of check-in folks and just a few guests checking in. So it took about 15 minutes to get into the door and onto the ship for the four of us.
Ports Copenhagen: We walked from the ship into the city which was past the Little Mermaid and was a pleasant 20-30 minute walk. Wandered around down town (shopping of course, which left me in a street side café nursing a beer) toured Rosenberg Palace (location of crown jewels of Denmark), ate lunch outside next to the water in picturesque Nyhaven, and then trekked off to Tivoli which was a ways away. Good thing I had my GPS and had pre-loaded all the sites we would see (except Russia and Estonia) on the maps at all of the ports. Disappointed at Tivoli as it was $25+ per person just to get in and I had not really wanted to do the rides (and spend more dollars) and being limited on time. So I took a picture of us at the entrance and left. Overall it was a beautiful city with a mix of past and present. We had a relaxing day and saw a few sites.
Germany: I had pre-reserved a rental car through SIXT Rental as it was the only company that would rent one to us on a holiday (we arrived on 1 May -- May Day). Instead of paying a cab to take us to the rental car, I paid to have the car delivered to the port and apparently we were the only ones to do so. It turned out to be cheaper to have the car delivered than to take a cab, as we had to drop the car off at the closed rental office and cab back to the ship! As in England, the GPS was priceless getting around Berlin and Germany. We used it walking also. We had watched the news and there had been demonstrations in Berlin for May Day and when we arrived we saw street closures and politzi everywhere, and the GPS became very, very necessary. We initially tried to stay away from where we heard all the noise and cops, but it turned out they had closed off the area around the Brandenburg Gate for a huge street fair and the news media again had blown the minor demonstrations out of proportion just to confuse us. Ate a German lunch next to the Holocaust Memorial, wandered around Tiergraden Park, drove to see the "Wall" (which had cars parked in front of it and was hard to photograph), drove to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial to look around and drove the 2 hours back to the ship and arrived back about 1-1/2 hours before departure.
Tallinn: Beautiful medieval city. We just walked from the port to the old downtown (10 minutes) and wandered the cobble stone streets and took copious pictures. No set itinerary for us, we just wandered in and out of churches, etc. We ate a traditional lunch in the city square, shopped (except me, of course -- beer time), enjoyed the parks and old city walls. Another relaxing day on shore.
St. Petersburg: The highlight of the trip. Met our tour guide at the port facility and the four of us were escorted both days by Anya and our driver Nicholas. You can't get off the ship unless you have a visa or are on an escorted tour private or group. As stated before I had gotten my visas ahead of time thru the internet (handled by Anya) and had them in hand when we went thru Russian immigrations. I got us the private tour and although it was slightly higher, it was well worth the cost. Anya was able to take us to the front of each line at every venue and designed our itinerary especially for us. She even provided Ruble coins when needed to use the restrooms, something we wouldn't have prepared for! There were some last minute changes she emailed to us even after we were on the cruise due to changes at the venues in preparation for the annual celebrations in front of the Hermitage for May Day and the celebration of victory over the Nazi's military parades (I forget what they call it). We "snuck" in a back entrance and thus didn't have to wait in line at the Hermitage for entrance. We toured the city, went to Peterhof, the Hermitage (as mentioned), Yusopov Palace, Church of the Spilled Blood, Saints Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral. St Pete is a marvelous city, all while being continuously provided information (and funny Russian stories) by Anya.
Helsinki: Got on the "hop on, Hop off" bus at the dock and did the tour of the city first and listened to the tour (earphones provided on the bus in 9 languages). Then got on and off at various venues. Saw the White Church, Olympic Stadium with views of the city from the tower, Sibelius Monument and again a traditional meal for lunch. A very cosmopolitan city. The bus got us back to the dock also.
Stockholm: Met a friend from Norway near the Vasa Museum. The ship arrived hours before anything was open so we sat around waiting for our friend for a couple of hours at a café next to a canal. Saw the Vasa, walked a bit and took the "Hop on Hop off" boat tour (English and Swedish guide talks) around the city and went to the changing of the guard. We ate a traditional meal (again) and I did my beer thing while the ladies shopped. Mostly wandered and visited with our friend.
My wife always enjoys the sea days and we had four interspersed into the shore visits, so there was plenty of time to rest between trips, especially since we had four busy days in London before the first sea day on initially starting the cruise. We found the free style cruising more to our liking than traditional dining as we could come and go on the ship to eat as we wanted. The service and crew were exceptional. The food was good but not extraordinary, but then I am used to army food so it was well received for food prepared for 3,000 people (including crew) every meal. I WILL CRUISE NCL AGAIN!