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About FitchburgWIFamily

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Fitchburg, WI
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    Cruising, Traveling, Reading and herding my children
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  1. Wow. I am taken aback by the comments and the ire raised here. Of all the policy changes to start a wave of "that's the last time I'll ever sail on NCL" this is not the one I would have picked. I get that Haven people pay for a haven: a place to get away from the crowds, the ship within a ship. Apparently, Haven people think there are hoards of people waiting to spend $100.00 per couple per night to crowd them out of that place. Really? Because I am part of the great hoard you fear and I am NOT going to spend that much money getting a meal in a different part of the ship. I honestly expected more Haven guests to welcome the change because I know there are people who have groups split between Haven, Suites and regular cabins. I am more intrigued about being able to stay in the Haven and inviting my friends/relatives/etc. that are not in the Haven a chance to dine with me in the Haven restaurant. This is something I might do it one night out of a 7 or a 10 night cruise. As to the "crowds" that are going to ruin the experience, on any given night, aren't a few of the Haven diners in the specialty restaurants? Aren't some more of them dining in the solitude of their own cabin with their included room service? Some might even be trying the MDRs, or gasp, the buffet! The possibility of a crowd generated by all Haven passengers making the same dining decision on any given night far exceeds the potential of that many non-haven guests coughing up cash to dine in the Haven. There are a lot of people on this thread that have given some pretty pointed references to "those people" being somehow lower class or not as desirable as the Haven guests. I hate to break it to you, but paying more for your cruise doesn't make you any better than paying less for a cruise makes someone else worse.
  2. Sadric: my comments come in two different parts. First: loving your commentary on the Joy. Your descriptions are wonderful, and as a mother of a boy who spends 90% awake time on a sports court on any cruise (other 10% is spend scarfing down food) I thank you for the heads up that the ship has no sports court. I just kind of assumed they all did in this day and age. Second: thank you for sharing your experience in 2017. I can't even imagine. I send you a cyber hug of empathy. Wow. Your words have left an indelible impression. I am so sorry that your family experienced this. I am glad you found the strength to move forward and travel again. I don't know that I would be as strong. Again, wow.
  3. I have been on the Escape and the Gem (will and on the Dawn and the Star and the Jade, but that is neither here nor there). Bars: I love all the extra places to stop and have a drink on the Escape: the wine bar, the out door 5 O'clock somewhere, the huge Atrium and O'Sheeans bars, and my favorite, the Mojito Bar. On the Gem, we drank at the Atrium and O'Sheeans, but the bars were much smaller and a little less social...and I missed the different feeling of the different bars on the Escape. Entertainment: I loved Howlin' at the Moon on the Escape, and missed it on the Gem. But I love the more traditional set up of the entertainment in the main theater on the Gem more than the Escape: same show, twice a night, show up if you feel like when you feel like it. I don't like how on the Escape I had two chances to see a certain show and if that time didn't work for me too bad. Common spaces: I loved the Great Outdoors and relaxing in a sofa and people watching, but the Gem's Spinnaker lounge is a much better choice when the weather is icky. Only downside is when they use the space for Bingo or Line Dancing Lessons it gets a little hard to just read. Dining: not a big difference here except there are a few more choices on the Escape if you want to pay for food. In terms of food included with your fare, it is pretty much the same. On a warm weather cruise, the Great Outdoors beats any equivalent space on the Escape. I don't know if it was time of year/destination, but the late night entertainment scene on my Gem cruise (Canada New England) vs. my Escape cruises (Carribean out of Miami) was much more sedate. I missed my Spice H2O dance parties. However, one of my Escape cruises was much more active that way than the other, so I don't know if that is the ship or the itinerary/crowd/cruise director. Staff: on the Gem, probably because of the smaller size, more staff seemed to know who we were faster. Bar tenders remembering our orders and our names, stewards (not just ours, but the ones we walked by in the hall) remembering my mom and asking about her if she wasn't with us. Misc: the bridge observation lounge on the Gem is a great little free to do thing you should take in that the Escape doesn't have. The Gem has recently been upgraded so that most of the ship feels very modern and has a nice color pallet. Our room (an aft facing suite) had new furniture, but the carpet was still bright green and fuchsia. I was worried about going to the Gem after two cruises on the Escape, but the things Norwegian does well they do well on both ships. It was good enough that our next cruise is on the Gem, too.
  4. Not spending money on goverment owed banks, restaurants, hotels, etc. is a US regulation: we can go and spend money to support the Cuban people, but not to support the Cuban government. As to the converting to Canadian...make sure you do the math. When I convert US to Canadian here, I don't get as good of an exchange rate as I see online in a currency calculator. And when I convert back, I again lose a little money. When tourists exchange money from any currency, they get CUC - Cuban Convertible Peso. Cuba has two currencies, the tourist currency which is $1 CUC to $ 1 USD, and one that only native Cubans use which is CUP and is like...I don't know...25 or so to a dollar. Doesn't matter..you can only use CUC. Everyone from any currency pays a 3% penalty. USD pay an additional 10%. We converted $500.00 (for our tour, tips, our meal, some of our souvenirs, etc.) So: $500.00 USD is worth $500 CUC - 13% for conversion + USD charge = $425 If I had converted to Canadian and back using an exchange rate found on line: $500.00 USD to $676 Canadian $676 Canadian to $499 CUC -3% for conversion = $485 So if I got the best of all exchange rates, it would save my $60.00 on $500.USD. However at the Travelex currency conversion in my hometown bank, for my $500 USD I only get $600 CAD. So I am only getting $430 in CUC...which for the $5.00 in savings is not worth it. Hope this helps.
  5. Instructions for logging in will be in your cabin. You can follow the on screen prompts to use the cash value of your free 250 minutes to an unlimited package, then you don't have to worry about running out of minutes. We use multiple devices and one package: when you log in it tells you someone else is already logged in and you can boot them off. So we can't be in at the same time, but we can all be in at different times. It is slow, especially at peak times. Really early in the morning it isn't too bad. Hope this helps.
  6. Went to Cuba over spring break and absolutely loved it. We booked a private tour in a vintage car and they drove us through Havana to the other side of the island and we snorkeled in the Bay of Pigs, played around in a beautiful Cenote, visited a crocodile farm, and had a wonderful meal in a small restaurant (basically the back porch of someone's house) in a smaller town. The RCI cruise stayed overnight in Havana, so the next day, we just walked off the boat and walked around Old Havana: very easy to do on your own. The food was sooooo good. We were given the choice of entrees served family style, and we had a crab dish, a lobster dish, some fish and some pork. The crab dish was not like anything I have ever had before, and one of the best things I have ever eaten (I didn't even know they had crab or lobster?!?). Remember you can't use your charge cards, and can't spend money in anything government owned or operated (large hotels, more fancy restaurants), larger stores etc. You can spend money on anything individually owned. Exchange rate is the same no matter where you convert your money. We were able to use US dollars both in Old Havana and when we were in the interior with the exact same exchange rate. Cuban people were friendly, welcoming and very helpful. The city was beautiful in a almost side kind of way...like Venice you can feel how vital and grand it once was, but now it is a bit faded and tired. The country side is beautiful too, but the people who farm their own land are using horse and ox pulled tools (like the Amish only not Amish). Government farms have fancy tractors, but privately owned ones are harvesting by hand, and shocking crops like my grandparents did. We bought a few souvenirs, a humidor that looks like the Cuban flag, a great leather purse, a few pictures, etc. All the stuff was reasonably priced and you could deal on it. You can get Cigars anywhere, but they are only legit if you buy them from certain dealers, where they are more expensive. There is a rum "factory" very close to port, so you can go get some samples and grab some Havana rum very easily, also very affordably. One of the families we traveled with went into Old Havana for dinner and had a great dinner, we stayed on the boat, so I can't speak to the Cuban nightlife. However, the family (mom dad and two young kids) had no problems walking around Old Havana at night. Very safe feeling and easy to navigate. I would love to go back to Cuba and spend some serious time, but am worried that it is going to be harder to do. As it was back in March, we could go and stay in an AirBnB, but not in a hotel (government run).
  7. We were there in March. You need your passport and your visa. You wait in a line to go through passport control. At passport control, they staple and stamp a few things and push you through. You go through an airport like security screening. There are currency exchanges (same rate everywhere) for you to convert your money. And you are out. It goes pretty quickly...maybe 15 or 20 minutes depending on lines at each of the steps.
  8. I have a reservation will before final payment with NCL. 184 days out to be exact. I watch the prices to see if they drop pretty regularly. Three times since I originally booked, the price of our suite dropped a little bit. Three times I called and they "adjusted" my price. Since NCL has run the same promos forever, I was able to keep the original booking. Today, I checked on line, saw the price was lower yet again. Now, admittedly, this was a bigger drop: other drops were between 80 and 160 and this one was $460. So, I called the trusty 1-800 number (well, a 1-866 number, but you know what I mean). I got John, explained the situation, and he said " Let me put you on hold and see what I can do to make you happy." I wait a good while, and John comes back and says "I talked to the help desk and here is what we can do, we can offer you $150.00 OBC." I explained again I am before final payment, and they have done price adjustments before, what is preventing them from doing a price adjustment now. "Policy" he says. Something about only being allowed 25% of the difference between passenger 1 & 2's fare now and the fare at booking. I tried to explain that $150 OBC wasn't the same as a $460 dollar price reduction, but he said the OBC was the best they could do. I sigh, and tell John, OK..but since I am in the window where I can cancel without penalty and since there are a lot of rooms in my category available, I will cancel and rebook, which will end up with the same financial result for me but will be more work for both of us. He tells me "Yes, but you would lose your promos" and I said "Yes, but the promos now are exactly the same as they have always been". (<- a subtle jab at the websites constant threat of "ending soon" . I wish.) So I told John if he couldn't price adjust me, I would have to cancel and rebook. "Let's get started John, can you cancel our first reservation." He says "Let me go back to the help desk and consult." He puts me on hold for 5 minutes and we get disconnected. Sigh. But also a little bit of "Good riddance" So I call back the same number on the same day and get Laura. I explain the situation to Laura and she does the price adjustment, and after about 5 minutes of total time spent on the second call, I am booked at the new lower rate and have the confirmation in my in box. I do hope they do record the calls like the robot voice says, because John might need a bit more training. And for all of you out there that don't get the right answer the first time you call...hang up and try again.
  9. You cannot use a credit card in Cuba to my knowledge. We were able to pay for our privately arranged tour and some of the things we bought in small stores in USD. We could not use USDs in anything government run: hotel shops where we bought cigars, the crocodile farm we stopped at, etc. Exchange rate is the same no matter where you go, at the port at the stores, etc. Hope this helps.
  10. Never sailed NCL but had a bunch of posts in an NCL Pearl roll call. Sailed EPIC but never joined a roll call...but is actively participated in roll calls for other sailings on other lines. Didn't give dates so other passengers on same cruise could substantiate. "Since this was our first time on NCL is this normal of the way they do things or was this just an exceptionally bad experience for us?" --- I'm thinking it was just you.
  11. I jumped ship (finally) and sailed RCI after half a dozen NCL cruises. After doing so, I found out there were some things RCI did better than NCL, and some things NCL does better than RCI. However, I decided that all things being equal, I prefer NCL for the ease of their anytime dining and the number of sit down dining venues (I am not a fan of buffets). I know some people make reservations for every night on NCL, and others just go to the buffet on any ship at anytime they are hungry, but for me, I like to decide that day when i am going to eat: based on my time ashore, the shoe that night, the activities in the daily, when and what I ate for lunch, etc. NCL does that better than anyone. And, NCL does all that while making me feel special on board by remembering my name, remembering my drink order, and decorating my mudslides with elaborate chocolate designs. So if I were in your shoes, all things are about equal...I'd pick NCL.
  12. For those of you who are getting confused by all the different answers: One: daylight savings time is not universally observed. So when we are "sprung forward" some of the Caribbean stops are not (now a two hour difference between Miami and say St. Thomas). When we are not observing daylight savings time (fall back), there is only a one hour difference. Mexico observes daylight savings time, Belize and Honduras do not. Two: Ships leaving from FL are leaving from Eastern Timezone which it shares with Cuba, Jamaica the Bahamas and Caymens. Ships leaving from New Orleans are leaving from the Central Timezone which is shares with Mexico and most of Central America (not Panama). And the eastern Carribean: Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Virgin islands, etc. are an hour ahead (depending on daylight savings time) of Miami. So, bottom line is NCL tries to be on local time which may involve a lot of time changes, a few times changes or no time changes depending on the port of departure, destination and time of year.
  13. Wow. My sympathy to all involved, this is a giant cluster. For any of you on the cruise, can you help me understand what NCL said and when? The first few pages of this thread were filled with people saying NCL hadn't told them anything, they found out on Facebook or the roll call. I see screen shots of the NCL posted itinerary, was there ever one posted that missed the France and Belgium stops? Thank you in advance for your answers.
  14. I often cruise with my mother (she will turn 90 just before our next cruise) and my kids (now older teens). Yes, there is plenty to do to keep all entertained...but not a lot that entertains both my kids and my mother. That makes it a little more challenging for me. Mom moves a bit slower than most (using a walker) and she likes her 3 squares a day, so a good chunk of any day is spent getting ready for a meal, getting to a meal, getting a meal, getting back to somewhere else from a meal. I delegate this task: I assign people to eat with gramma so that I am not doing this 3 times a day. One activity we all like is trivia, and a multi-generational team has better luck than a single generation team with most trivia themes. We pick what trivia contests we are doing and tell everyone to meet us at such and such a time at such and such place. Mom is not a sun worshiper, but on the bigger ships she loves the waterfront for a shady place to sit during the day and watch the ocean and people go by. Kids like the pool deck and slides more, so again, delegation: someone with the kids, someone with gramma. So with a little help from my cruising companions (my long suffering husband, my niece, or whoever I dragged along) we make it work.
  15. We sailed on the Escape on a full ship over spring break, our spring break was just earlier than yours. Entourage never turned anyone away, in part because as far as I could tell, most kids "met" at Entourage and then just hung out outside Entourage. One a much earlier voyage (when my kids were splash academy ages) the capacity was by group, not overall. We were behind a family trying to check in their much younger child that was turned away due to capacity, and our slightly older children sailed right in. Hope this helps, and have fun!
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