until our next cruise!
The tickets are bought, the room picked and the countdown has begun on this our second cruise. We are cruising with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, RCCL, on its transatlantic eastbound cruise from Ft. Lauderdale Florida to Barcelona Spain. It is a 14 night cruise with 8 of those nights being spent crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Its stops in Europe include, Tenerife, Canary Islands; Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Malaga, Spain; with disembarkation in Barcelona, Spain.
Our first foray into cruising began this past March when we took the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Sun for a 7 night cruise on the Western Caribbean.
We embarked the ship at the Port of Miami and set sail for a number of exotic locations including Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan and Great Stirrup Cay (a private island owned by the cruise line). It was quite neat to be on a floating hotel. We had a room with a private balcony and absolutely loved that! There is nothing to compare to the sounds of waves crashing against the ship while you rest, or simply smelling the air and sea while you cruise from destination to destination while setting on your private balcony, it was quite intoxicating, and addictive enough that we can’t wait to do it again.
NCL is a “freestyle” cruise line, which basically means that you eat what you want, when you want, where you want and you don’t have to dress up like you’re at a wedding. While they do have restaurants with a dress code, I personally don’t go on holidays to have to get dressed up, I have no problem eating whenever the need presented itself and loved that I could.
- Loved the freestyle concept.
- Food was good, basic staples were the same day after day, but enough new stuff to keep you interested. We ate at the buffet most of the time, no problem getting a seat.
- Loved the private balcony, don’t think I could cruise without one.
- Staff was pleasant and plentiful.
- Ship excursions were good, well organized but expensive.
- Rooms were decent sized and clean. Shower could be bigger, but I guess that is how they get you to pay for the Suites… 🙂
- Expensive. Not the actual cruise, but everything else. I don’t drink but if I did, I would be wild, 5 beers for $25USD, that was the special, $12 for a mixed drink, $4 for a bottle of water, albeit it was a 1/2 litre size. A game of Bingo cost anywhere from $50 – $80, and could last as little as 5 minutes, because it is for only 1 card.
- Forced Tipping. I believe that tips should be optional, given for good service, the better the service the better the tip. The policy on ship is that you are automatically charged a per diem amount which is added to your onboard account. This, while absurd, might be more palatable if it was for everyone, but it doesn’t include your maid service, that you tip extra. Of course, they will reverse it if you ask, but you have to go to the front desk and request it in person, talk about intimidating. Oh, and by the way, this tidbit is disclosed to you at your disembarkation meeting, usually the night before you get off the ship, so if you tipped while you went along, too bad for you.
- Poor selection of cigars in the cigar lounge.
- They really need to implement a sign up system for ping pong tables, basket ball courts and batting cages. Some people have no class and will stay in their all day long.
- I would never go on a cruise during Spring Break again! Too many drunk college kids for me… It was impossible to get into the pool as it was always full of loud kids who try too damn hard to impress the young ladies on board, but only succeed in making complete fools of themselves.
- Cozumel. Not a place you bring a child. If it wasn’t for the submarine trip we had paid for, I would have returned to the ship. It’s every bit as bad as you see on TV and then some. The people are rude, bossy and in your face from the moment you disembark the ship to when you get back on. Stay away! Couldn’t imagine being there at night.
- Getting from the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami Cruise port is an exercise in futility. The cruise lines should really consider charging a couple bucks more for the tickets and providing transfers. They should take a page from the Disney play book on this. Disney makes it painless getting to and from the airport.
In summary, the cruise was great, the warm weather was wonderful and getting away the day before 15″ of snow fell is superb. I enjoyed cruising with NCL, Norwegian Cruise Lines, in spite of my comments above, it just would have been better to know those things going in.
I cannot wait until April 16th to do it all again!