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josephmz

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Everything posted by josephmz

  1. So we are booked for next February out of San Juan. I notice that the ship doesn't leave until 7:00 p.m. I assume this is to accommodate the same-day fliers. I am planning for Friday or possibly Thursday to San Juan. How early do they start boarding process? Wondering about lunch in the steakhouse. Is it open for lunch for this cruise? How does one go about getting a reservation or can you just show up?
  2. A little off topic and not cruise related. DW and I took Amtrak from D.C. to San Francisco a couple of years ago. As we travelled out of Denver through the Rockies we were riding along the Colorado River. There were a lot of rafters out. An announcement was made: "If anyone had a problem with the human form, we might want to avert our eyes. Sure enough someone on one of the rafts stood up and mooned the train.
  3. On the Pearl a few years ago. We were on the upper deck overlooking the pool. DW spotted a woman with the cover they place on the foot of the bed for luggage wrapped around her bathing suit. Not seen but experienced: I was in the cigar lounge on the Dawn. Struck up a conversation with an older woman who chain-smoked and had a never empty wineglass. Her husband made one appearance early then disappeared. As we talked she would reach out and touch my knee periodically. She made a point of telling me she had a bottle of very fine Port in her stateroom. When I Went back to my cabin, I told DW that I just met someone who wanted me to be her third husband. On the last night I was once again in the cigar lounge and she was there. She told me she had seen me in the spa and Cagney's several times without my wife. I told her that my wife had always been in attendance. She then said "I've had my eyes on you." Gulp!!
  4. I suspect that once this mess is over you won't be able to find a Corona beer on any cruise line.
  5. Actually, our first Royal Cruise was out of there. It was a biz group trip on Adventure. We later did a 9 day repo thru Bermuda ending up in Norfolk.
  6. NCL only opens a percentage for early booking. It didn’t seem to me they were turning folks away when we went. Plenty of seats.
  7. PORTS: Our first stop was Key West. We had been there twice before, once by car and once by ship. The first time, over 50 years ago, we drove down from Miami. It was a pretty sleepy place. Big change! I had booked the Old Town Trolley passes directly. The 1-1/2 hour narrated circuit makes 13 stops. There's one every 30 minutes, so you can get off and re-board later. Good way to see the island. We toured Mel Fisher's treasure museum. Shopped for the Grands. We asked a shopkeeper for a recommendation for a relatively non-touristy restaurant. She suggested El Meson du Pepe, a Cuban place a couple of blocks away. We had a nice lunch. The Cuban sandwich was great. We ate on the covered porch complete with the free-roaming chickens. No kidding! This was our fourth time in Grand Cayman, once for a hotel stay. We had previously been to Hell and back, driven around the island in a rental jeep, swam with the stingrays and visited the turtle farm. We opted to walk around town. Shopped some more for the Grands. Looked in the multitude of jewelry stores and wound up at Jimmy Buffett's where we were able to check e -mails for free while snacking on a humongous pile of nachos washed down with a couple beers. Word of warning: I would not suggest renting and driving around the island. Beside remembering to drive in the other lane, traffic has mushroomed since we did it years ago. In Cozumel we docked at the International. We had tied up downtown on previous trips I booked a beach day through Resorts for a Day website. You pay $20.00 upfront with balance due at the resort. The Allegro Resort was beautiful. The have a large kid's play area and a waterpark, two large pools and of course the beach. The only problem was when we arrived there weren't two lounge chairs together anywhere. Around 1:00 things cleared out somewhat and we situated at one of the pools. Drinks and lunch buffet were included. The buffet was excellent with many options. The taxi cost $20.00 each way. They charge $12.00 for use of the internet. It was not working the day we visited. We went back to port around 3:30. The mall at the port is huge. DW found her obligatory piece of silver jewelry. Hit Jimmy Bufett's for internet. I had booked Maya Chan online for Costa Maya. You pay deposit upfront and then they bill you the balance about 30 days ahead. Wednesday night things got pretty bumpy. We got up and packed for the day and headed to Windjammer for breakfast. While eating the Captain announced that we wouldn't port due to wind and high seas. He checked about Belize but couldn't get in there either. One good thing there were plenty of seats in the Windjammer that morning. There were also "barf bags" on each staircase. The pools and hot tubs were closed for the day. DW filmed the white caps in the pool. Friday was still pretty bouncy, but they did reopen the pools. By the way Maya Chan refunded my money that Friday. The biggest downer of the trip was getting off. We placed our three bags outside the door with the #4 tag affixed. After breakfast we headed to the theatre on Deck 5. After a while they called Group 4. We conga lined out of the theatre, through the casino, down the atrium steps, around the atrium, through the MDR and finally out the door. Upon arriving at the luggage area we could only find two bags on the #4 table. We checked the adjoining tables and the lost tag area. The port staff were very nice but didn't have an answer. I figured someone had picked up the wrong bag. We waited as other carts were unloaded. Finally, DW began scouting out the higher numbered tables. After most of an hour, I heard her yell "I found it". It was mixed it with luggage tagged 15 or 16. So what did I miss by not sailing NCL? We didn't get our nice loyalty perks. We missed not having a wider variety of dining options. I missed not having a cigar lounge. I missed having some money after leaving the casino, but that happens every cruise. Would I sail royal Caribbean again? In a heartbeat!! In fact, I'm already looking at a cruise out of San Juan next February. Thank for following!
  8. ME AGAIN: DINING: We typically enjoy our first lunch in the MDR, a little peace and quiet after a hectic morning. Unfortunately it was not open. We headed for the Windjammer. It looked like Black Friday at Macy's. Took several turns to finally find a table. Now, I do like the way Windjammer is laid out. The circular layout is very nice and the individual food stations usually create short lines that are less institutional. We ate every breakfast but two there and had lunch three times. Thought it was a nice touch in having roaming crew taking and refilling beverage orders. Thought the food quality and selection were good. For our three specialty dinners, we booked Chops twice and Giovanni's once. I would have preferred the other way around, but my steak-eating sidekick prevailed. One of the reasons we enjoy NCL is the choice of least five different venues plus O'Sheehan's, the 24-hour included place. Since we are not into the sushi thing, we only had the two choices. On the first trip to Chops, I had the bone-in ribeye. I was not impressed. The second time around I chose the New York strip which was excellent. We had dined at Giovanni's on our previous Royal cruises, and I personally think it is one of the best shipboard experiences out there. Despite the New Yorker and Jerseyite opinion that NCL's La Cucina is faux Italian comparable to Olive Garden, we have always had excellent meals there. That being said, Giovanni's takes the prize. I love lamb, but for some reason about the only time I eat is when cruising. Giovanni's rack of lamb did not disappoint. In both places the service and leisurely pace of the meal were great. They even brought me cheesecake and sang Happy Birthday without any prompting. How do they do that? One of the big attractions with NCL is the freestyle dining where we could always get a table for two with lilt or no waiting. Now, I don't consider myself a snob, but I never liked being stuck at a big table listening to someone discuss their last surgery, their former wife or their lousy kids. This trip we had the best of both worlds. We had a table for two in the same balcony area with the same waiter, Ike, and his assistant, Ladylyn, every night. They were delightful. By second time they knew what we wanted to drink. Now my wife has sworn off desserts. What with going on a cruise, her timing was questionable. The first night she asked Ike about some fresh fruit. She doesn't like melon, so she requested mixed berries. Ike promptly obliged and told her he had placed a standing order. Since we alternated nights with the specialties, he would bring her two servings. CABIN: We had only cruised in outside cabin once on the Dawn. That cabin was a little claustrophobic, narrow and short with a very small bathroom. I was a little apprehensive as it was located on Deck 2 (2036), one deck above the oars. I was amazed when we entered. It was a good two feet wider and much deeper than expected. The bathroom was a very nice size. The forward elevators were directly across from the door. Port disembarking was a breeze since we only had tow walk down one light of stairs and didn't have to fight the elevator crowd. My only surprise was that there was no refrigerator. Didn't really need it, so it didn't really matter. The room steward, Sandovan, was excellent. We are low maintenance and didn't make many requests. I see I lot of pre-cruise posts fretting over CPAPS. Not to worry, he promptly supplied a jug of water and the needed extension cord. Ports to follow.
  9. A LITTLE HISTORY TO START: We began our cruising career several years ago. Our first few cruises were with Royal before taking one with NCL. We liked the product, so we stayed with them. We are a couple in our 70s from Virginia and have cruised pretty much at least once a year. We are Platinum (3rd tier) with NCL. I began looking at trips last spring and found a Rhapsody sailing leaving Tampa on Feb. 1 to Western Caribbean. I priced an outside cabin (they pick) with $125.00 OBC and trip insurance that was considerable less than basically the same trip as NCL without the insurance. Considering the fixed income thing, it was very attractive. I did think the $500 non-refundable deposit was over the top. This would actually be our fourth cruise to the area, but we enjoy the shipboard experience almost as much as the ports. We do enjoy relaxed sea days. We are also fans of the smaller ships although I think their days are numbered due to economies of scale. Interesting story about insurance. We have never purchased it previously. We are both in reasonably good health, but bad things can happen to good people, so I added it. A few days before sailing DW began pressing me for details that I couldn't answer. I didn't remember ever seeing confirmation and scrolled through my e-mail log to no avail. I checked the Royal website and couldn't find where I had purchase it. We finally called and got the carrier's number. Yes, we did have insurance and they sent us a link to find the terms. The value was brought home to me while in Key West. I was out on the Deck 5 promenade late on Sunday afternoon. I watched as a crew member rolled an elderly woman off the ship in a wheelchair. She was covered with a blanket. Two other people followed pulling three suitcases. They walked a block off the end of the pier and stopped at the corner. In a few minutes a white van drove up and took them away. Hope they had insurance. BOOKING: It may be my unfamiliarity, but I found the Royal website "clunky" to navigate. I had to memorize my reservation number because they kept asking for it. I used the OBC to purchase the 3-night dining plan. The net price difference was about what I would have paid NCL in service charge for their "included" plan. I found it frustrating not to be able to book dining ahead of time. I don't really see the value of having a courtesy reservation without knowing where it is at. DW finally called Customer Service and got our MDR nights scheduled. She asked about the specialties, and the agent said she could handle that. Then she apologized and said she couldn't make them because we had a package. If we had purchased individually, we could have reserved the times ahead. At 30 days out, I placed modest bids on a balcony and junior suite. I got my refusal the day before the cruise. I pretty much figured it was a no go a couple weeks before. Tried a mock booking and the cruise was not even listed, and Expedia was only showing inside cabins. We talked with a couple two doors down from us. They had a balcony booked and paid for. At some point Royal called to tell them there had been a booking snafu. They said they got a refund and an outside cabin plus a nice OBC. EMBARKATION: We flew from Raleigh to Tampa on Southwest non-stop with no baggage fees on Friday evening. Found the hotel shuttle location at the airport difficult to find. The next morning at 11:45 we took a $20.00 shuttle to the port. I had read a lot of complaints about the Port of Tampa, but we waltzed right through the Platinum line (more about that later) and were on the ship in no time. Cabins would be ready about 1:00. Big mystery: When I printed out our boarding passes, I noticed mine showed Gold status. DW was Platinum. Now we have been married almost 51 years and I don't recall her disappearing for weeks at a time. So how did she reach Platinum? We immediately headed to one of the specialty restaurant to confirm our three nights. Why can't this be handled online pre-cruise. MORE TO FOLLOW
  10. Will be there on February 6. Can't wait. Unfortunately it won't be on NCL.
  11. Did this same excursion a couple of years ago. Wore shorts. It was hot and humid. Didn't have any bug problem. You are on a clear walking path the whole way. At the time I did comment that OHSA would have a fit about some of steps, railings, etc. One of the best excursions we've ever done.
  12. All of my recent cruises have been with NCL, and I guess I have been a cheerleader. I sailed a few times on RCCIL early on. I have booked RCCL out of Tampa next month. The price with insurance, but with no extras was better. I'll let you know how that goes later. But, the interesting thing is people complain about the same things over there that they do on here.
  13. As has been said, it all depends on what you are looking for from a cruise. Obviously, Dawn does not have all the "bells and whistles" that the huge ships do, but it also doesn't have all the crowds. Dawn has all the core NCL specialties. Never had a problem getting table, but we book in advance of cruise. Never had to wait more than 15 minutes for MDR table. Don't know if you are considering suite class (not mini), but the prices are considerably less than the big boys. We have stayed in basic big room suite and a DOS on her sister ship. The space and amenities were fantastic.
  14. I'm a buck a bag guy. As has been already said, once it's on the cart the amount of the tip has nothing to do with how soon you will get your luggage. I really dislike having to run the gauntlet of luggage in the waiting area. Yes, take your meds and valuable in a small carry-on, but leave everything else outside.
  15. The only thing funnier than this is the ones about stupid questions cruisers ask.
  16. Saw "After Midnight" on Escape last year. Thought it was fantastic. True, it doesn't have a plot, but it is a musical revue. I'm a big fan of 30s and 40s jazz, so the Duke Ellington music was right up my alley, It is meant as a re-creation of Harlem's Cotton Club from that era. The musicianship, singing and dancing is awesome. People leaving early missed the female solo toward the end which was chilling.
  17. I find the RCCL site to be extremely "clunky" compared to NCL. I realize it may be just my lack of familiarity, but it is really difficult to navigate. I've had my reservation number tattooed on my arm, because every time I go to do anything you have to enter it.
  18. It's always nice when the kid's pay!
  19. We had one of the angled spa balconies. Asked for and received a lounger that fit perfectly.
  20. On a partial transit on the Pearl a few years ago the showed a film about the Canal they day before. There was also expert narration during the transit.
  21. Unless you are carrying the Crown Jewels, I would drop it with the porters. I always love stumbling over everyone's luggage in the already overcrowded waiting area. By the way, if you are in a suite your luggage will probably arrive quite early.
  22. Like the ad says: "Don't Leave Home Without It" We love the spas. Usually hit it at least twice a day. For the most part they are not overcrowded. I'm sorry but I am a talker. Like to chat with fellow hot tub patrons. Last cruise on Escape I guess we were a little loud. An officer came by to remind us it was a quiet area. Do think it's a little ridiculous to allow folks to bring drinks in.
  23. Once heard a woman giving a crew member in the theatre a total ration about going to her assigned muster station. She couldn't understand why she had to walk down the steps toward the stage to her station. And no, she appeared to be healthy. She just didn't want to do it.
  24. I have sailed both lines, but haven't done RCI for some years. I have a cruise out of Tampa on Rhapsody in February. Have done Mariner & Adventure and a much smaller ship out of San Juan (name escapes me). It was a 10 night repo to Norfolk. Have done Escape & Epic big ships and Dawn, Pearl and Star (smaller). I like the smaller ships, but I think they will go away at some point due to economy of scale. I guess you could call me and NCL loyalist, but the price of the next one was too good to pass up. The bathroom thing on Epic didn't really bother us. After 50 years of marriage, there aren't too many secrets. I didn't care for the ship layout. It was several days before we discovered the outside (limited) promenade. So what are the plusses for NCL? Refundable deposits($50 vs. $500). Booking dining in advance. More specialty restaurants to choose from. The included 3-night dining and drink package. Yes you pay gratuities, but it's still reasonable. The thermal spas. And finally, freestyle dining. Not snobbish, but don't like being locked into a set dining time with someone talking about their recent surgery or last divorce. We are doing Anytime in Feb. Will report how that goes.
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