The Norwegian Escape is a fantastic ship. With a guest capacity of 4,266 and a crew of 1,733 it is the largest ship we have ever sailed on. There are more than 25 different dining options and over 21 bars and lounges. There is no way you can do it... ...

 

Norwegian Escape Part I and more...




Norwegian Escape Part I

 

The Norwegian Escape is a fantastic ship. With a guest capacity of 4,266 and a crew of 1,733 it is the largest ship we have ever sailed on. There are more than 25 different dining options and over 21 bars and lounges. There is no way you can do it all in 7 days... or that I can fit it all in one blog!  I will try to highlight some of the best and share what we were able to experience.

The main fun starts on Deck 6. All the way forward is the main floor of the Escape Theatre. The entrance is actually on deck 7 and you walk down the stairs towards the stage. There is no balcony or second floor seating.

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On the right hand side is the Supper Club. This is essentially a dinner and a show option. The tables are seated around a stage where they have musical performances. The price for this dinner is around $35 per person.

We did not eat dinner here, but we did participate in the Escape The Big Top which was located in the Supper Club and was free. This is an escape room activity. You have to sign up prior to attending and spots were going quickly. I believe they had 3 times this was offered during the cruise. They place you in teams of 8 and then each team has 1 hour to attempt to solve all the clues and break the riddle. There were only 4 of us so we were with another family of 4.  I had never done anything like this and I was surprised how challenging it was.  I love puzzles and actually figured out 4 of them so I was rather proud of myself.  Our team did not win… but it was fun.

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Towards the middle of the ship you will find the Atrium that holds the guest services and shore excursions desks. There is also a small stage, dance floor and large screen here for entertainment. Many of the game shows and night time music can be found here. We played a couple of Deal or No Deal games. They were really fun. Tickets are $25 a piece. A random member of the audience is chosen to play based off of the game cards. We saw one lady win $1000!  The rest of the audience plays along. As the contestant opens a case, you open that case number on your card. If the amount in their case matches the amount in your case you start to win prizes once you have matched 2 or more. These can include a free instant win game card at Bingo, a free picture, $50, $200, etc. I actually won $50! It is pretty nice because the money is credited right back on your Sign and Sail card. No need to collect anything or stand in line. It’s all digitally done.

Ooh... see those things hanging from ceiling in the picture below.  Those little upside down R2D2 looking thingys are the migraine starters!  lol

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There is lots of seating around the dance floor area and the last Deal or No Deal game was so popular they were bringing out folding chairs so everyone could have a seat. O'Sheehans is on the floor above and is where this picture was taken from.  It overlooks this area so there is additional seating upstairs.

The atrium area also contains a bar area, pastry shop and coffee shop. All items available for an additional purchase.

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As you walk down the hallway towards the back of the ship you are walking through the art gallery. They change the pictures daily. This is a really good space to get their art out there. It isn’t tucked away in some corner like it is on most ships.

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This hallway will lead you to what is almost like a 2nd atrium. It is round and goes up several decks as well. There is a beautiful chandelier that hangs in the center with a gorgeous staircase going up. You would expect this would be the center of the ship and a grand entrance point… but its not. Lol272 578

On one side is the Comedy Club, located behind the stairs which we did not try. There were a few comedy shows, but they always seemed to conflict with something else we were doing. On the other side is Le Bistro, which is a French Specialty Restaurant. The price of dinner here is A la carte. If you are going to spend money on an “extra” dinner… this is definitely one you want to choose. Everything was fantastic!

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I will do a separate blog on the dining options that include menu's... stay tuned for that one.  If you look towards the top of this picture, on the floor above is the casino that wraps around.

Moving towards the aft of the ship are 2 of the main dining rooms, Taste and Savor.  These are complimentary and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is a bar in the center which provides a nice spot to wait for the rest of your party. They serve the same menu that varies each night.  You can make a reservation if you like.  We ate here one night and had a party of 18 so we did make a reservation which is recommended for large parties.  The night there were only 3 of us we just walked up and were seated.  They are both very elegant and include table cloths on the tables :)

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Moving up to Deck 7 forward you will find the actual entrance to the Escape Theatre.  "The Box Office" is located on the right hand side.

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The Box Office is where you will go to make reservations for any of the shows on board (free or not).  This is also where you make reservations for The Escape Room.  We did not partake in any shows on this cruise.  I read the ones that were offered and none really appealed to us.  It is recommended if you want to attend a show that you make a reservation in advance as seating is limited. This kind of greatly defeats Norwegians "Free Style Cruising" marketing plan.  You have to make reservations for shows and dinner ... if you want to make sure you are able to do it .. and usually 90 days in advance to your cruise,  which I find difficult. 

Moving back towards the center of the ship on Deck 7 you will find O'Sheehans.  This is the 24 hour food option on board.  I posted the menu in my beginning blog of this ship.  The food is pretty good and provides a nice range of options.  You do have to wait to be seated, but service is pretty quick (other than embarkation day).  If you want to go to the bar, you can just walk up and take a seat.  On the other side from the main dining here are several games. 

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Darts, Pool, Skee ball, a few arcade games, basketball and bowling.  All of the games are an extra fee where you just slide your card... like the arcade.  Pool was in the $2-3 range.  Bowling was $5 per person.

 

 

I thought $5 a game was kind of high, but it was a lot of fun.  The balls are smaller and don't have finger holes.  The pins are also attached by a string, but the system works pretty well.  There is an option to put the bumpers up if you are playing with small children.

Working our way back past midship on Deck 7 is the casino.  The slot machines start in the hallway as you leave O'Sheehans.  The casino wraps around the 2nd atrium area with the large chandelier and continues back towards the aft.  It is a really large casino with table games on both sides.  It includes 1 poker table with a real dealer. It was extremely smoky in there though.

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I can't believe I don't have a picture showing how large it actually it.  Just this one of the hallway leading OUT of the casino and back towards where the Skyline Bar is located. The hallway leading into the casino looks just like this too.

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This is your typical casino bar.  There were workout classes here in the mornings, typical bar atmosphere in the afternoons, and music and dancing all around in the evenings.

The aft of Deck 7 is home to the Manhattan Room.  This is the 3rd of the Main Dining Rooms. 

 

This one while having the same menu as the 2 downstairs has a dance floor and live music.  We did not realize this when our party of 18 had a reservation one night.  The live music was so loud you could not hear the person next to you talking.  The waiter could also not hear us to take our drink orders. Thankfully they only played for about 10 minutes and their set was over. So... if you want dinner, music and dancing... or simply don't like your table mates, this is the restaurant for you!  If you actually want conversation with your dinner... head downstairs to Taste or Savor.

So we have now covered 2 decks of this massive ship.  I am tired now and going to bed.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

     

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Norwegian Escape... Pre Cruise

Our Norwegian Escape cruise proved to be quite an adventure. We originally booked this cruise for our friend’s wedding. They were due to get married on St. Thomas with a reception to follow on the ship. Literally, one week before we were supposed to leave it was determined the bride and groom would not be going.  Nothing tragic… they are still together.  A medical condition came up and the bride was advised by her physician not to travel. Sooo... off the rest of the entire friends and family went!  18 of us!

Subsequently… this topic of conversation got me kicked out of my first cruise group EVER! It was a group for an upcoming cruise we have and in an effort to start conversation I simply posted what happened, that we were all leaving the next day without the bride and groom and asked if anyone else had any crazy cruise stories to share.  After some fun conversation and funny comments, the admin deleted my post.  When I inquired as to why, she told me I was encouraging drama, therefore breaking the rules of her page and that I was not funny!  ….WELL, I beg to differ, especially on the funny part and when I expressed that to her I got kicked and blocked!  What? That chick is crazy! 

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So I thought… screw this, I will start my own group for this cruise and then stumbled upon one that was already started! It had over 40 members in it.  All cruisers she had previously kicked and blocked for no real reason … I was welcomed with open arms! 

So, I just had to share.  Enough about that and back to our travels….

We headed to DFW airport early and had a nutritious airport breakfast. I was just thankful for the coffee.  We had great seats on the plane.  The first row behind first class so we had plenty of leg room!  I get it.... I am short, but the boys had plenty of leg room too!

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Even though we were cruising out of Miami, we flew into Ft Lauderdale and stayed at the Hilton Beach Resort. We have stayed here before and booked the same room.  2 bedroom suite with a wraparound balcony.  The room is freaking fantastic and it was the same price as booking 2 regular hotel rooms in Miami.  Mark accumulates lots of Hilton points that we cashed in ... so it was a deal we couldn’t turn down! Here is a video I posted to my You Tube channel.  If you ever get a chance... this is a great place to stay!

 

 
 

The next day we called a Lyft driver to take us to the port. Since there were 4 of us and 5 bags we had to request a plus size ride.  The price was $90, but not bad because we made the 40 minute trip in a super roomy and comfortable Lincoln SUV.  Bonus was our driver was crazy knowledgeable about the area and basically gave us a guided tour for free!  Most shuttles from the airport will run you around $15 per person.  We had trouble finding one that would pick us up at this hotel last time we were there so this was much easier and worth the extra $30 in convenience.  I requested the ride and he was parked at the front door before we could even get down the elevators with our bags.  Last time we were here we had to sit and wait for the shuttle that was 20 minutes late.

One downside to Norwegian is even though they do not say so on their website… they will confiscate any fan you try to bring on board.  After having her fan taken and not returned on our last Norwegian cruise in Louisiana, Mom specifically went and purchased a battery operated fan.  It was brand new and still in the box showing it was battery operated.  As we went through the security scanners they took it away from her.  She had to call a manager and argue before they would give it back, but they eventually let her on with it.  That was the only hiccup in the boarding.  Even though we are used to the priority lines, with the staggered check in times we really did not have to wait long at all.

The rest of the wedding party all stayed in Miami so they were boarding as we entered the terminal.  Originally we were given Zone 13 to board, but when they heard we were with a wedding party (nothing was able to be cancelled on such short notice) and that they had already boarded we were ushered right on the ship.  One thing we noticed with Trenton is Norwegian does not offer loyalty rewards to children, so while our cards all changed colors and we were "welcomed back", Trenton was still classified as a first time cruiser.  All cruises taken as a minor will be credited to your account when you take your first cruise after the age of 18.  He wasn’t too fond of this idea, but proudly clipped his Norwegian card to his Carnival lanyard with all his ship pins on it!

Walking on the ship, honestly… wasn’t impressive.  It seems like we were winding through staff corridors only to be deposited out in O’Sheehan’s grill, which is always dark.  We are used to Carnival’s grand entrances and this was kind of … well, here you are.

The ship itself was beautiful and certainly did not disappoint.  We were starving as it was after Noon and we did not eat breakfast so we did a quick walkthrough of a couple of the main decks, found our friends and headed back to O’Sheehan’s for lunch.  This is a restaurant that is complementary to eat at and open 24 hours a day, but you do have to be seated by the hostess.  It was the same menu that was on the Dawn, which did not bother me because I already knew my favorites…. Nacho’s and Thai Chili Chicken Wings.  I can eat my weight in those chicken wings…. Seriously. 

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So now for the bummer of the day... I woke up that morning with a faint headache that wouldn’t go away.  Things might have been salvageable, but O’Sheehan’s overlooks the Atrium one floor below and they had these lights.. kind of like disco lights that circled around and unfortunately where I was sitting it rotated around right in my eyes.  I didn’t realize it at first, but after being there about 20 minutes... the migraine started.  Of course everyone was excited and wanted to go exploring the ship, so after lunch we went outside.  It was hot… and bright.  After 15-20 minutes of walking around outside, up and down the stairs I confessed I was getting really sick.  Of course it was only 1pm and our rooms were not ready until 1:30.  We went back inside and down to the 14th floor where our cabin was and I parked myself in the hallway with my eyes closed and prayed I would not throw up and ruin the carpet.  Thankfully Mark opened the sealed doors, peeked in the hallway, picked me up off the floor and took me to our room.  Here is a quick photo of our connecting balcony room.

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I immediately laid down and was super lucky I had my little eye cover thingy in my carry on from the plane.  My headache medicine was packed in my suitcase so Mark drug up some regular aspirin, I swallowed several and went to bed.  I slept for over 2 hours.  At one point the poor room steward came in to say he had not fully cleaned our room, but Mark pointed to me, explained the situation and apologized.  There is no way in the world I would have made it out in that hallway another 30 minutes. They did have to wake me up for the Muster Drill.... here's the picture my loving husband took of me trying to come back to life.

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I spent the muster drill with my sunglasses on (inside) and my head down on the table.  So yeah… Day 1 was a BUST.

Stay tuned for the ship review... it gets better... I promise! lol

     

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Carnival - Norwegain Cruise Comparison

For the past 12 years my family has only cruised Carnival. Everyone always asked me why we did not try other lines and my answer was always, they have never given me a reason too. Over the past couple of years we have talked about venturing elsewhere, just to see how it was. This Spring Break I found myself with a dilemma. Norwegian was offering a great deal! One we could not turn down.

I searched high and low looking for a good comparison between the 2 lines and did not really find much. So here are the differences I noticed.

 

Booking the cruise:

When I went online to book our cruise the first thing I noticed upon choosing a Balcony room option was I was given the opportunity to choose family connecting balconies. When booking on Carnival I have always had to have a deck plan pulled up and searched for connecting rooms… often times 1 of the 2 connecting rooms are occupied. It was nice that these room were marketed in this manner. It made it super easy.

I also noticed there were a lot more suite options. They had mini suites, suites with just windows and no balcony on up to several balcony suites with 2 and even 3 bedrooms. The newer Carnival ships are offering more options like this, but the majority of the fleet does not. Now… I will say I was booking this cruise over spring break so the prices were inflated. However, for giggles I plugged us into a couple of those rooms. We could have had a 2 bedroom suite (couch makes the 3rd bed) for about $5000 more than what we paid for our 2 balcony rooms. Or we could have booked the Garden Villa 3 bedroom suite that comes with its own hot tub for $20,000 total for the 4 of us. I decided to pass.

It seems like booking suites on Norwegian is more of an experience within itself. Suites come with their own butler and concierge as well as your cabin steward. It is my understanding the butler will bring you snacks and treats throughout the day. If you are craving gummy bears and KitKat bars, they will magically appear. The concierge will book anything you want for you so you do not have to mess with it. You can also eat lunch in any of the specialty dining options for free. So there are many perks that come with what you are paying for.

When it comes to scoring an upgrade on NCL there is not “fairy” that calls. You will receive an email or a message on your account that is like a bidding system. Not everyone receives an offer, but if you get one, you submit the price you are willing to pay and they can either accept or reject your offer.

I did receive an email offering us to upgrade to any number of suites for $750 more per person. I wasn’t up for paying another $3000 more for a suite so I declined. It appears the options that come with the suites are pretty nice because a number of the people from our online cruise group were jumping all over that.

The deal we booked allowed us to choose from 2 of the 4 amenities for booking a balcony. Our choices were Free Ultimate Beverage Package, Free Specialty Dining Package (3 meals), Free Unlimited Internet, or an excursion credit at each port. I believe when you book a suite or above, you are able to take advantage of all 4 of these deals…. So, like I said you are receiving some nice perks for the price.

ONLINE CHECK IN

The online check in was easy. You choose your boarding time just like Carnival. No major changes. The main difference I noticed was you could not set up your “on board account” online. This is only done at the port upon embarkation.

The other thing I noticed was on Carnival, I can add Trenton’s cabin to My Cruises and manage his account, check in, print boarding pass, luggage tags, etc. On NCL I have no access to his booking. I cannot add him to My Cruises because I am not in his cabin. I even tried to create him his own account and their system will not allow a minor to have their own account. Sooo… anything I need to do on his account has to either be done by my Mom or I have to physically call in and have someone do it for me. That’s a hassle.

(More on this dysfunctionality later….)

You cannot bring bottled water on NCL either. I went online to order water and almost had a stroke when I saw the prices. To NCL’s credit, they did lower their water prices about a month before we sailed so I was able to cancel my original order and re-order at the cheaper price. It was still expensive. I will say they only offer 1 liter bottles of water… not the small ones.

For a good comparison: Carnival offers an 8pk of 1 Liter water for $20 ($2.50 per bottle). We purchased the 24 pk of 1 Liter water on NCL for $53.04 ($2.21 per bottle). When you look at it this way it isn’t such a bad deal, it was just a huge shock from paying $4.99 to paying $53!

Another thing I noticed while pre purchasing items for our cruise online was they give you the option to purchase diapers and wipes to have delivered to your room… Not that we have a need for this type of thing, but I can see if you are traveling with young children how this could be a helpful option.

I did not bring any wine on board because we had the free beverage package, but where NCL is drastically different is your “corkage fee” is charged upon embarkation. When you go through security and they check out your wine, the fee is immediately charged to your sign and sail account. No bringing it on board and drinking it for free in your cabin. Fees are determined per bottle size. $15 for a 750 mL bottle and $30 for a 1,500 mL bottle.

THE ROOM

Saying their rooms really aren’t smaller than Carnival’s is kind of like Carnival saying they haven’t changed their type of mattresses. I am calling BS. Our cabin definitely felt smaller on NCL than Carnival. Matter of fact, my entire family went “Whoa it’s so small!” when they walked in. When I looked at the actual square footage it didn’t seem so, but it was. The bathroom is also not very functional. I am not a large person and I found it cramped, so the normal sized people of the world might find it rather claustrophobic. I hit my knee on the towel rank attached to the sink trying to put my shorts on. I hit my elbow on the shower door trying to put my shirt on. Every. Day. I have NO CLUE how Mark managed to get dressed in there… I would pay good money to have seen it though!

When using the toilet area it’s probably best just to back yourself in. There really aren’t many options for turning around in there if you shut the door.

I loved that the balcony doors/wall were full paned glass. It does make the room more open and allows for a much better view. The balcony doors also slide so they will stay open and do not slam. It was so nice not listening to doors slam and shake your entire cabin all cruise.

The bed I thought was a little more comfortable than Carnival. I didn’t fall in a hole all night so that was a plus. There was actually a little pillow top on the mattresses and they did zip together to form the 2 beds into one which reduced the separation that happens on Carnival. One of us is forever crawling out of the hole that forms in the middle.

The couch was also more of a “loveseat” size. There was no coffee table and no real chair. Just a small stool with no back.

The clothes storage was much less. I found myself not having enough drawer space to put all my things away. We only had 1 closet for hanging clothes. I made it work, but not as well as I liked. There were shelves in the closet, but they were not very functional. I also found there was much less counter space. The bathroom had essentially none. Just one small shelf. Anything else you have to store under the sink. The trash can was white and built into the bottom shelf... It initially freaked me out because it looked like one of those inserts that goes in a bedside potty chair.  I'm weird, I know.  But then I couldn't get the potty chair out of my head so I had a hard time putting my things down there.  I didn’t like that. In the cabin itself there were 2 small built in tables. One they have all their magazines and books on with your hairdryer. The other had the coffee pot on it. While I love having the coffee pot in the room, day 1 Trenton tripped over the step up coming in from the balcony, bumped the table and knocked a coffee cup off that broke. So not the best placement. I can see where that might happen often.

We did have an ice bucket that they put ice in every day in the room and did not have to ask for it. It was tucked away on the shelf under the refrigerator… I kid you not, it was 3 days into the cruise before I realized our room steward had been filling it with ice.

We only had 1 room steward and this seems to be the norm. While our steward was very nice, there were many times our room was not serviced. We got off the ship in Cozumel at 9am, came back around 1:30pm and our room still had not been cleaned. It wasn’t a huge deal. It was just a difference we noticed.

FOOD

I would say the food in the Specialty dining areas was better than what is served on Carnival…with the exception of Cagney’s Steakhouse. The food was good, but the overall experience and atmosphere from Carnival’s Steakhouse was better.  

Los Lobos was fantastic. Everything was extremely fresh. We didn’t care too much for the desserts. The flan was a little over cooked for us, but we are flan snobs… lol. The Tres leches cake was good and don’t fall for the avocado coconut ice cream! While the consistency is nice, it really doesn’t taste good! The rest of the food here is Fantastic! Tableside guacamole was fantastic! I would pay to eat here again. I would say it was the best dinner of the entire cruise.

There were 2 main dining rooms. They said 1 had a “dress code” meaning no shorts and collared shirts for men. They did not adhere to this as I saw people in board shorts and tank tops coming in and being seated every night we were there. The other main dining room served the exact same menu, but was supposed to have been a more casual dress. There are no set dining times… everything is basically Your Time Dining. It is recommended you make reservations for the specialty restaurants, especially on the larger ships as they tend to fill up fast.

The first night we ate in the Main Dining Room the menu seemed fine, the other nights Trenton and I couldn’t find anything we really wanted to eat…. Our old standby ended up being Spaghetti Bolognese and salad off their everyday menu. I missed Carnival’s port of call menu options. Getting down to the nitty gritty…there were table cloths each night, in terms of table “presentation” they were just plain table settings (nothing pretty or decorative). There was a bread basket on the table each night, but the bread was never hot.

There was no 24 hour pizza. Your 24 hour food option was O’Sheehan’s and it was pretty darn good. The thai chicken wings were the bomb! They also served burgers, nachos, and fajitas. So a nice option for anytime you were hungry.

Room Service has a $7.95 delivery charge. It doesn’t matter if you order 1 thing or everything on the menu… $7.95. I will say there were not dishes lining the hallways like there are on Carnival… I would imagine it was because no one was ordering room service!

The Garden Café (buffet on Lido) was typical buffet quality. I would not say it was any better or worse than Carnival. Chocolate milk in the morning was hard to come by. It was never sitting out. You had to physically ask someone and they would bring it to you. They were always nice and quick about it. They also had large dispensers for milk by the coffee and juice machines. Those seemed popular. I also found out the hard way the silverware is on the table. I couldn’t find any…. Spotted a worker carrying silverware… asked him for one and not sure what went wrong, but he dropped several rolls (knives and forks went scattering across the floor), I ended up dumping my plate. It really was a mess. I finally cleaned up my stuff, got a new plate, sat down at the table and saw all the silverware in the little basket. Oops. It is a nice addition not to try to carry your plate and juggle a drink and silverware.

CASINO

The casino was nice. It did not seem as “smoky” as Carnival’s, but it could have just been the cruise. Main difference I noticed was it was not free to charge money to your Sign and Sail card. If you put your card in a slot machine and wanted to charge money, there was a 3% fee. When you cash out you also get an actual “ticket” to take the casino cage and cash out. I actually liked this because I had a problem on Carnival once where my winnings did not transfer to my card. I ended up having them pull the records from the machine and they finally agreed to pay me. This ticket thing would prevent that.

The poker table was also a “real” poker table with a “real” dealer. People still complained about the “rake” they take on each hand so that was the same.

On this particular ship all the other table games were not elevated. So not “standing height.” Dealers were sitting in chairs… guests could sit in a real chair too and not have to climb up in the tall ones. Perhaps no one else has an issue, but as a “vertically challenged” person, I appreciated it!

PHOTO GALLERY

The photo set up was sooo much better. Every time someone takes your photo they ask you what cabin you are in and they type it in on their camera. On your sign and sail card you will have a bookcase and folder number. When you go to the photo gallery you go to your bookcase and pull out your folder. Inside you will find all your photos. If you want to purchase one, you go to one of the computers and you have the option to edit and crop photos as you want. No digging through tons of strangers or crowding around wall after wall searching for your pictures. Soooo nice!

SIGN AND SAIL CARD

Also printed on your sign and sail card will be the UBP (Ultimate Beverage Package) or UDP (Ultimate Dining Package) if you purchase them so you don't have to worry about stickers on your cards or how they will know you have an all-inclusive package.

NCL cards do not come with a pre-punched hole. You will have to have them punched on board if you are using that type of lanyard.

TOWELS

Your cabin steward does not exchange your beach towels. You will find some in your cabin when you board, but it is up to you to exchange them on the pool deck for clean ones. When you are returning from excursions there will be someone outside the ship with big buckets of towels where you can exchange for fresh ones. If you leave your dirty beach towel on the floor of your cabin, they will remove it, but not replace it.

HAND SANITATION

Every time you enter the ship or entered the Garden Café, there was a worker standing there with a spray bottle saying “Washy Washy”. They wanted you to hold out your hand and they would squirt some sanitizer for you. Great idea. Some of them make a pretty fun time of their job. “Washy Washy” is catching. I sure wish I had known about this prior to embarkation because when I walked on the ship and some chick tried to spray me, I dodged out of the way and looked at her like she had lost her ever loving mind. Should have a label on that bottle that says “Say No to Noro Virus” or something!

ENTERTAINMENT

As usual, we did not participate in this much. They did have a “white hot party” that seemed to be really popular. We went to the magic show one night and there was basically no seating so we ended up sitting on the stairs off to the side. The last night we went to some acrobatic show. That was actually really cool! I don’t think there was as much “night life” as there is on Carnival, so if that is your thing you might miss it. There were Bingo, Trivia and such games during the day. No actual comedy club, though they did have comedy shows in the main theatre.

SERVICE

I inquired about the number of crew members on NCL compared to Carnival because it seemed like there was a lot less crew. Apparently, they have the same crew to guest ratio, but they are organized differently which was something we noticed.

The amount of crew servicing rooms and in the dining venues was noticeably less. I mentioned earlier there was only 1 cabin steward. The same was in the dining rooms. Many nights we only had 1 waiter. Occasionally someone different would ask for our desert order, but that was rare. I think there are fewer waiter teams due to all the specialty restaurants. They are spread out to cover everything.

It seemed to me the areas where Carnival has teams are the areas where you feel you are really being waited on and tended too. It makes you feel special. I can also say we were RARELY addressed by our names on NCL, something we have grown accustomed to on Carnival. You don’t notice it, until you are missing it.

Now for the dysfunctionality I mentioned earlier. This is what did it in for us. Due to the layout of the port of New Orleans and the parking situation… Mom and Trenton boarded after us, therefore I was not there to give my credit card when Trenton’s sign and sail account was set up, so essentially he didn’t have one. It took us 3 trips to guest services to get this solved. I have no idea why this was so difficult. After the 2nd trip they got Trenton’s card working fine, but shut mine and Mark’s off…. And I mean shut off to the point where we were even declined when ordering our FREE drinks. On my 3rd trip I politely asked to speak to a manager and that request was ignored… I was told to stand in line. When I reached the counter I again politely asked to speak to a manager, and that request was ignored. After listening for 10 minutes to the girl call someone to ask if our credit card was any good and then saying “are you sure?” to whomever was on the phone, I demanded to speak to a manager and that request was ignored. My next course of action reached raising my voice and hitting my hand on the counter saying “Get. Me. A. Manager. Now.” …. And that request was ignored. Dear Lord in Heaven… I had nothing left to do but pray. I rarely get mad and I was reaching the point of no return.

Mark headed over to the shore excursion desk, cut in line and told the poor guy working there he better get a manager over there… NOW. He came running around the corner, ran into the back of guest services and came out with a manager. Good Grief. So finally, they got our account straight. However, we never got a follow up call. Not a “just wanted to make sure everything was taken care of.” Never got an “Our bad… Sorry, we f’ed up back there.” Nothing. Oh… she did say she would make sure she “wrote up the incident and forward it on.” To who? The Tooth Fairy?

Mom’s fan was also confiscated upon embarkation. They refused to give it back even though she showed them it was not a banned item on their website. She was upset, but rolled with the flow. However, on the last day she went to guest services and they told her they did not have her fan. She would get it back AFTER she got off the ship. This sounded strange to her so as we were in line to get off the ship she asked another worker where she was supposed to go to get her fan back and they told her it would be given back AFTER she got off the ship. She then saw the cruise director and asked him and he said again, those are given back in the port. As we had exited the ship and were walking up the gangway back into the port to go to customs we looked back at the ship and on the other side of the line we were in was a table sitting there with everyone’s confiscated fans…. ON THE SHIP. There was no way to turn around and get back on the ship. So yeah…. Between the fewer staff available for your room and dining and the stellar customer service provided at guest services….We had a pretty poor opinion of the service.

To recap…. The ship itself was BEAUTIFUL! Hands down better than any Carnival ship we have ever been on. The photo gallery… awesome. Specialty restaurants are not to be missed. Shows… are probably better. Beds and balcony doors… better.

Main Dining Room food, not as good. Beach towel setup not as convenient. Bathroom should just be scrapped and start over. You will be nickel and dimed everywhere you turn. “Personal connection” not as good. Service not as good.

We have one more NCL cruise planned for this summer. We have a dear friend getting married on St. Thomas so we will be on a wedding cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape.  Hopefully the customer service will be better and turn things around for us.  I know there are things I have forgotten to mention in here.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask below and I will do my best to answer.  I will be composing a blog on the ship itself (Norwegian Dawn) in the near future.

 

Norwegian... stepping out of my comfort zone

So one... I am super sorry.  I haven't written in awhile.  Do you ever overload yourself? It is proven, I work best under pressure.  But seriously, sometimes life happens... and it has lately... a lot.

First, I got a promotion at work a little while ago.  It's nice.  I hope I am doing a good job, Lord knows I am trying, but I found myself going from working only 3 days a week... to working 5.  Everyone is like hey.. but you get off at 3pm each day not 7pm, but I still find myself struggling to go to the grocery store, had to hire someone to help clean my house, and even though I am "off" my email still dings and my phone still buzzes at all hours... day, night, weekend, holiday and vacation.  This was all new for me.  I was used to being off work and just walking away.  There are times Mark has physically taken my phone away and said... "You don't want to respond with that right now.. trust me."

On top of the promotion, I decided to go back to college.  Man... it sucks the second time around, I am not going to lie.  Everyone is young, I feel really old.  I am a perfectionist, so I can't understand half assing your assignments.  I go to work, I pick up Trenton from school, I come home and do homework, try to work out, eat dinner, take a shower, get ready for bed and then Mark says... hey, you haven't wrote a blog in awhile... well, no shit, but I have written 9 papers and turned in 3 research projects. For the record, my professors do NOT understand my humor and are not very tolerant of my grammatical errors. I wanted to write back... "Do you have any idea how many people love my stories and don't care about my grammatical errors?!"  and that is when Mark takes my computer away and says "trust me, you don't want to respond with that right now!"  Why is he always right?

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My little travel agent business has been thriving.  I work really hard to keep all my clients happy and feeling special.  I wish there was more of me to devote to it.  I love helping people have fantastic vacations. 

AND... we entered the new debate of do we move or remodel the house we live in?  We found a house, negotiated a deal, jumped through hoops, drew up a contract and backed out right before we handed over the earnest money.  It was exhausting.  So then we decided to just remodel the home we live in because it is paid off.  No mortgage allows us to cruise more often.  Who needs a huge house anyway?  Why don't we just make our current house into what we want?  The remodel of the kitchen took 6 weeks.  I almost lost what little sanity I had... The rest of the house is still waiting.

Here is the BEFORE:

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And the AFTER:

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Mark not only went back to college to pursue his Master's degree, but took a new job as well.. a scary job.  He was the ONE employee for this division of the company in North America and was tasked with starting the new division here all by himself. As soon as he got acquainted with the leadership team from the other division of this company that was already based in America... they decided they liked him too.  So they are splitting his salary and he is a new project coordinator for them as well.  So I think what it boils down to... atleast what it seems... is the dude has 2 full time jobs somehow.  He is really good at what he does.  I certainly couldn't do it, but it leaves him traveling A LOT.  Which means I handle more stuff at home.... so yeah, I have been slacking in the blog department. 

The good news is... all this overloading we have been doing has just made the "we need to take a cruise" build up more.  So Spring Break was really our only logical opportunity.  I started looking at which cruise would accommodate our dates and I have to tell you ... I got a little miffed.  None of us had 1 single offer from Carnival.  Not a past guest, not a casino, not a thanks for cruising with us 4 times last year... NOTHING.  How could that be?  Hello Carnival... I could be your biggest fan!

Spring Break is a really expensive time to cruise so just for giggles I looked at a couple of other cruise lines in the area.  Much to my surprise... Norwegian was offering a killer deal!  One we could not turn down.

Each cabin was $82 cheaper on NCL than Carnival.  Now that's not much, but the itinerary offered Harvest Caye in Belize and Costa Maya, Mexico.  2 places we have never been before. PLUS.. the NCL fare offered a free Ultimate Beverage Package (if purchased would have cost $1305.08 for 2), a free Specialty Dining Package (if purchased would have cost $162.82 for 2) and $100 OBC... Per cabin.  Sooo.... while the monetary savings was only $164 for 2 cabins... the perks NCL was offering was over $3000.  Hello Norwegian!!

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(I found the picture on the internet).

So, I am a little nervous stepping out of my comfort zone, but I am taking one for the family.  We are all really excited to try a new experience including a new ship and new ports.  I have already noticed several differences in my pre-cruise planning so you can bet I will be passing my new found knowledge on to you guys.  We sail away to Paradise in exactly 7 days!!  Feel free to follow along on our When Ship Happens Page on Facebook.

 

      
 

Carnival Freedom

What is your shortest cruise countdown ever? Ours… just changed to 11 days. We found ourselves in a strange situation where we had NO cruises booked. I am not even sure how that happened, but we had big changes coming up in our family and we were just kind of coasting on auto pilot. When Mark received a job offer he could not turn down and it was certain he would be changing jobs we decided to take a quick get a way because we were not sure when the next available time would come around. So we quickly requested the time off from work, emailed all of Trenton’s teachers on Day 1 of school that he would not be there week 2, and we booked the Carnival Freedom 11 days before it was due to set sail.

Our original itinerary was Key West, Nassau and Freeport Bahamas. However, there was a huge tropical depression that was predicted to turn into a hurricane going right over that area. I was so certain we were not going to those ports I did not book 1 single excursion and did not even attempt to research anything.

We arrived at the port around 10:30 am and breezed through the Priority check-in. One thing I noticed that was different this time was upon boarding the ship…They came to the Captain’s lounge and called Diamond and Platinum. As we were walking up, before you dinged your card for the first time and had your first official cruise photo taken… they were asking for your boarding pass again. I have always crumpled these up and shoved them back in my bag once we had our cards, but the lady was stopping everyone and asking for our boarding passes. We kept showing her our card like we normally do and she said “No, I need to see the Priority on your boarding pass.” So the entire line was stopped digging into their carry-on luggage trying to attempt to unearth this silly piece of paper. When I said “Ma’am, with all due respect, how do we get the silver and white cards if we are not priority?” and she just blankly stared at me with her hand out. So friends…. Be prepared.

👇Still important until you step on the ship 👇 Atleast for 1 Carnival worker.

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So here goes with my review of the Carnival Freedom.

This was our first time on this ship. I will say the décor was not my favorite. I am not sure if it really has a theme… just kind of seemed like a hodge podge of things thrown together. Many of the pictures in the stair wells had animals on them (nature like). The casino was Greek or Roman? Mini golf had big stone heads. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t as pretty and breathtaking as some of the other ships. The ship was very clean and well maintained. 

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We all 3 agreed the service on this ship was the best we have had in a very long time. No trip is ever perfect and we usually have 1 or 2 crew members whom we sing their praises. This ship has several.

We were booked in an Ocean Suite 7258. Our room steward was Brian and he was fantastic! He anticipated our every need and kept us with fresh ice and towels all week long. He also kept up with our laundry status and anticipated when we needed to have it sent out so we were sure to get it back the same day. I mistakenly wrote down 7 pairs of shorts instead of 7 pair of socks on the order form and apparently freaked everyone out for a little while (we were off the ship in Grand Caymen).  We got that sorted out.  They are quite careful with your laundry and very specific to make sure what you say leaves your cabin is what is returned.  The Platinum gift on this cruise was the infamous croc visors. There was a knock at the door one day and there was Brian with a sack in his hands. I am not sure if he had some feedback from cruisers prior to us or he too thought the gift was silly… lol, but he presented the hats and said “I think we have some extra tervis cups… would you like to exchange your hats?” We giggled about the visors and said we didn’t really care. About an hour later he was back with some tervis tumblers. I kept one of the visors though because I was determined to rock that fashion! (I only saw 1 other person wearing a hat the entire cruise. He was probably 70 and it was during the VIFP party). I wanted to wear mine to the Main Dining Room on elegant night, but I decided not to upset the delicate rule following cruisers.

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We had a truly awesome wait staff at Your Time Dining.  I am not sure how we got so lucky, but ChuLee was awesome!  She had my wine and Trenton's Root beer ready for us each night.  Impeccable service always with a smile.  Her jokes were amazing, she loves to dance and if the food was good... she made it :)  

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It could have been because we eat early, but out dinner service time was really good.  We did not wait extreme amounts of time between rounds.  As soon as we were finished with our appetizers they were setting our main course in front of us.  The food was always the correct temperature and fresh. If you cruise on the Freedom any time soon and have Your Time Dining... make a request.  You won't regret it!

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We broke away from ChuLee twice to eat at the Steakhouse. We usually always go once, but the staff and food here was so amazing we went back the last night to say Goodbye!  The last night the "chef's compliment" dish was a salmon corn chowder.  That stuff was so dang good.... I asked to change my order from lobster bisque to a bowl of that salmon chowder and "yes, of course" and it appeared.  Holy crap it was good! It needs to be on the menu Carnival folks if you are listening!  All the staff in the Steakhouse are top notch... but by far our favorite was Mirela and the Manager Jovana.  Two lovely ladies who are very good at what they do and a true pleasure to talk to and get to know.  You will not be disappointed with the service here!

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The first night as we were almost done with our dinner, 3 ladies came in and were seated at the table next to us.  We noticed they all had on Carnival badges so Mark started teasing them.  They were quick to say they had to pay the same price as we did for dinner and that they were there celebrating "something special".  We thought it was great and started talking to them.  All 3 were young and worked in Camp Ocean.  We are firm believers the staff onboard cruise ships work very hard.  I cannot imagine working day in and day out without routine days off and being so far away from your friends and family must be hard.  As Mark paid for our check he quietly asked to pay for their dinner as well and wanted to keep it a secret.  We wished them a good night and left.  A couple of days later there was a knock on our cabin door with a special delivery. 

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A plate of wonderful chocolate covered strawberries, a handwritten thank you card and I don't know how they came up with a picture of T and Mark, but there it all was.  I was speechless!  If your kids are going to Camp Ocean on this cruise, they are in some very good hands.  Miss Mack, Shelby and Dominique truly love what they do and are passionate about making sure the kids have a great time!  Not to mention how thoughtful they were.  We did not expect anything in return, just wanted to let them know their hard work is appreciated and they went to the trouble to track us down and send a Thank You!

Entertainment wise we did not partake in any games or shows.  We did attend one family friendly comedy show which was hilarious!  The rest of the cruise we just relaxed, did homework and enjoyed some quiet family time together.  We did attend the VIFP Party as I stated above because this was Trenton's first 7 day cruise since turning Platinum. He was so surprised and excited to get the "Spring Chicken" award for being the youngest Platinum cruiser on board.  The first thing he said when he sat back down was "This is going on my wall when we get home!"

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The last detail that I was impressed by was the Carnival security team again.  I am not sure how every cruise we have managed to be in line before Trenton as we got off in port... but somehow this time Trenton was first in the line.  When they scanned his card he got a "dong" instead of a ding.  The computer showed no one in his party had excited the ship yet and as a minor... it would not allow him off.  They had to scan Mark's card and then Trenton's for it to allow him off.  So if you are wondering that your kids might run off the ship without you in port one day... not so much!  Way to go Carnival!

      
 
   
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