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deefer

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  1. As far as my favorite speciality restaurant - probably La Cucina - but that’s because I love pasta and rarely have it. Really the food here is probably at the level of Olive Garden. My husband’s favorite is Cagney’s. Better than the Outback steak house but not quite at the level of a top steak house. Since you have enough .... try them all! Le Bistro has the BEST mushroom soup. If you go there - you must try it. On this cruise the lights were really bright which dampened the ambiance. Maybe because the cruisers were a little older and couldn’t see the menu? To add variety you could also use one of your SPD meals at the Ginza Restaurant. For a $7.50pp upcharge you can order sushi and rolls. We did that one night to change things up. We really enjoyed it. The day you board the lunch is served in Cagney’s, but after that the suite breakfast & lunch is served at Moderno’s. French pressed coffee at breakfast And here’s a photo of a section of the breakfast buffet that you can sample before ordering from the menu We went to thermal spa everyday - did not take any photos of it. In the coed area there is a small lap pool, a hot tub, a small thalasso (sp?) therapy pool, & heated stone loungers. In each of the changing areas there is a dry & steam sauna. Many times we were the only people in the thermal spa. Never crowded. We really enjoy the thermal suite and always buy the pass - if you purchase it online before you cruise you save about $20pp. We rarely drink alcohol so did not frequent any of the bars .... sorry no input here. We really enjoyed our vacation ..... I wish you one at least as enjoyable as ours!
  2. Day 7 - Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Visited a coffee plantation Full cost of the excursion with NCL is $79.10 pp. With our platinum discount and $100 credit our final cost was $21.10pp. Photo of the port from our balcony You walk through a nice little market on the way to the bus. The bus ride to the coffee plantation took about 90 minutes. Our tour guide was awesome. Talked almost the whole time - very interesting. Learned a lot about the people, the history, the politics etc. Time went very quickly because of her. Some of the scenery along the way Still some rebuilding needed after that large volcanic eruption last year This is the path one of the lava flows left We arrive at a family owned coffee plantation and start the tour. Although the day is really hot - coffee beans like to grow in shade - so the trees they plant to shade the coffee plants also keep us cool! The tour teaches about how the plants are planted & grow How the beans are harvested And the processing involved to get the beans ready for market It made me really appreciate how much work goes into me being able to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning! After the tour coffee & cookies are provided. Coffee and some hand made goods are available for purchase. We bought coffee to enjoy at home - $8 per pound. Back to the ship we walked around the market - and bought this bag for our dog sitter ..... it’s really well made - paid $23 USD. I noticed free WiFi available at one of the cafes in this market - we have free data on our cellphones so did not use it, but my guess was you would need to purchase something to be able to use the WiFi. I believe I saw beer for $1. Significantly cheaper than what you would pay for WiFi on the ship! Overall a very enjoyable day.
  3. Day 5 - Acapulco Mexico The ship docked at this port - our NCL tour was meeting time was not until 1145am, you could walk off the ship at 8am so we decided to walk off early and do some exploring on our own. When you first walk off the ship you walk through this area..... If you haven’t prebooked a tour (either with NCL or on your own) you will find official taxi/tour operators offering things to do. We decided to try a local outdoor market. The cost was $30 USD return and the taxi/tour operator escorted us the whole time. I forgot to get a business card of the company - but you will see them wearing badges in this area. The market Here you can see locals making goods There were mass produced souvenirs available for purchase, but also hand made equivalents. The souvenirs that we purchase are things that we can use in our every day life that do not look like a souvenir ....i.e. don’t have “Acapulco” prominently painted on it somewhere On this stop for $15 we bought a hand painted spoon rest Got back in plenty of time to make our NCL excursion. Full cost of this NCL excursion was $55 pp. With our 10% discount & $100 credit, Our final cost was FREE. Can’t beat that. I did not research any private tours as I knew there is no way there cost would be cheaper than free! Tour started with a short drive to the Famous Cliff Divers - on route the tour operator explained the history of the cliff divers, who they are etc. The tour cost includes all entry fees - and at the bathroom stop after the cliff divers (in a store) there is free water, soda or beer. It was VERY HOT out .... I would recommend bringing extra water for the time you are in the fort. Cliff Divers Some of the scenery on the way to the divers The best viewing for the cliff divers is on the lower deck. You have to be able to walk up and down 100 steps. We walked down to the lowest viewing area but I’m sure the views from the upper levels was fine. The cliff divers start on our side of the viewing area They climb down, swim across and then climb up the other side Then they dive .... there were about 8 divers in total, sometimes diving 2 at a time, doing flips from various places on the cliff Then we went to the Fort of SanDiego - this is a model of the fort A very nice guided tour explaining it’s history and how people lived The ship docks right across the street from this fort - this is a photo from the top of the fort And that was our day in Acapulco.... next wil be Guatemala!
  4. Toilet Flushing Issues The toilets on all floors for the back of the ship would not flush from 2am the day we arrived in Cabo - and were not fixed until around 6p after we left. Apparently someone flushed a big piece metal down the toilet and it clogged everything up for many many cabins. We were fine ..... but many people were livid. It was a long walk to find a functioning toilet from the aft - there were a lot of older cruisers with walkers etc. This would have been a challenge for them. When they say only flush toilet paper .... please follow their requests!
  5. Day 3 - Cabo San Lucas: Tender Port Who knew you could ride a camel in North America! There was a weight restriction of 265 lbs. The original cost of this excursion with NCL $139pp. With our 10% platinum discount and then the $100 shore excursion credit per port (remember we had that extra $50 per port with the distinctive voyages package) our final cost was $75.10pp. If you were to book this excursion independently cost was $109pp. Because we were in a suite - our instruction was to meet at Gatsby’s 10 mins before the scheduled meeting time and then we were escorted to the front of the line for the tender. I suppose waiting in comfortable chairs in Gatsby’s is nicer than sitting in a crowded theatre and there is no waiting in a hall on deck 4 to get on a tender but really there is no real need for priority disembarkation when you have booked a NCL excursion. We were off right away but waited about 30mins on shore for the rest of the group to show up. Tendering to shore took about 10 mins. This is a photo of the front of the tender The shoreline as we were approaching The water was quite choppy per announcements made when on board but despite that the ride was quite smooth. A little crowded when we got off, a carnival ship was there as well There are people with NCL logos directing you where to go - looks for the signs with your excursion. Our was tucked in on the left side which made it a little harder to find - most signs for tours are in the middle. The excursion itself There were about 40 people but we were broken into 3 groups. The tour consists of: 1. A Nature walk with explanation of the local vegetation 2. A Camel interaction - Petting/kissing/feeding 3. Riding a camel 4. Lunch - with tequila tasting & how tortillas are made Our group started with the nature walk This is a photo of our guide teaching us stuff about what we are looking at. Notice his head wear - you will be wearing one of these when you ride your camel. It’s a very clever way of hiding your helmet! We did the camel interaction next. You are free to take photos on your own for most of the time but not when you are one on one with the camel. This is the camel that kisses you on the cheek & you can feed - or if you want (which I did) you can put the piece of apple in your mouth and he will take it from your mouth - basically getting a kiss on the lips! It was really cool - soft lips and no bad breath! (At least on his part!) At the end of the day you can review the photos the company took - they also had a drone that took a video of your camel ride. We only wanted 4 photos - they wanted to charge us $64 - we have quite few photos of us on the camels so passed. Camel Ride was next. When you ride the camels there are 3-4 camels tethered together in a line. 2 riders per camel - you can see the saddle in this photo. You do the camel walk on the beach - about 20-25 minutes. Then the buffet lunch ..... Beer, sweetened fruit drinks (with a shot of tequila if desired), water all included. Then there was a demonstration of how tortillas are made from scratch And a information shared about the different types of tequila with tasting! Then it was back on the bus to be taken back to the ship. I forgot to time how long the ride on the bus was from the ship to the location of the camels. We were busy laughing and chatting with fellow cruisers - the bus held about 16 people so made it easy too chat. I would guess 20-25 minutes. On return we just went back to the ship - did not notice any markets or anything at the port but my guess is they are there. Overall a very enjoyable day. Would recommend this excursion - just crunch the numbers and see if its cheaper to do it on your own.
  6. We Just got off the Star this past Saturday. The internet manager was giving a $60 credit towards the unlimited plan for each free 250 minute plan you had. We had 2 of them (one through the free perks and one from the distinctive voyage package that was available at the time we booked). Having said that while on the cruise I browsed on cruise critic and noticed that on another thread someone had just got off the Jade (or maybe the Jewel, cannot recall) and they got $125 credit for their 250 minutes. It seems that each ship does it’s own thing!
  7. Sea Days (Day 2, 4, 6, 10, 12 & 13) There were 6 days at Sea - we have never been on a cruise with so many sea days and thought we would be bored, but we found the days relaxing - we had a Thermal Spa pass that we used ever day. Cost for the entire cruise for this pass for the 2 off us was $498 - saved $40 by purchasing on line ahead of time. Gym I went to the gym about every other day - never a wait for a treadmill. They have many different types of workouts on the treadmill screen. I like to do run/walk workouts on the treadmill normally using my peloton app. Not having purchased the unlimited WiFi could not use it so was pleasantly surprised that I could program the treadmill for this kind of workout. This is the main screen on the treadmill If you pick “exercises” in the lower left corner it will bring you to..... Then pick “cross training”..... and put in your time and level ... and you are off. At level 7 the slowest walk was around 3.1 & the fastest run was around 5.5. There were also several weight machines, free weights, different types of exercise bikes, stair climbers and ellipticals. TV/Movies On every sea day there was a Movie playing at 330p in the Stardust Theatre. We did not go to any of these but did watch a couple of movies we had not seen before in our room and ordered popcorn from the Butler. This is the first cruise where we we able to get popcorn.... not sure if this is something new fleet wide or only available on the star. You can get a Movie Schedule from guest services. The front page tells you what channels are available And here’s a sample of the Movies page Lectures about the Panama Canal Every Sea Day before Day 11 (that was the Panama Canal Day) a lecture at 930a was offered in the Stardust Theatre. These were the topics: Day 2 - The Panama Canal: How it Works Day 4 - Why Panama? Why not Nicaragua? Day 6 - Panama Canal: How it was built Day 10 - Panama under American Occupation I found the information very good, the presentation was a little on the flat side but went to all the lectures and would recommend them. Don’t worry if you miss a lecture - they play on a loop on Channel 33. They are still available to watch even after you have gone through the Canal. WiFi Issues The WiFi was not working at all on 2 Sea Days - Day 10 & 13. Some kind of problem with the Satellite which also meant you could not make ship to shore phone calls. I’m guessing those who had purchased the unlimited plan received refunds - but that’s a speculation on my part. Canvas by U To help fill time on one of the Sea Days we tried this Canvas by U - the cost is $35pp - lasts about one hour. I have absolutely NO artistic ability.... have NEVER painted anything before (including a wall) .....so was quite proud of my “country scene” ....not sure what I’m going to this with “art” but I did drag it back home! Food We really tried not to gain weight on this cruise so mainly “low carbed it” on this cruise. Except for La Cucina and the day we went for Sushi it was easy to do. I won’t go into detail on the food but if you have any specific questions please feel free to ask. We had good service and all the food was good to excellent. We did also go to Cagney’s, Moderno’s, Le Bistro, OSheehans & the Main Dining Room once. The Buffet a few times for lunch. We had suite breakfast every day & suite lunch a few times. PS - only gained one pound! Casino The Casino opens almost immediately after leaving a port and open all day on sea days ...... it was even open during the Panama Canal Crossing - we do hang out too much in the Casino on Sea Days. It was never really full - very nice staff. We did not go to the Casino during the Panama Canal Crossing but the staff said it was very empty (not at all surprised). If you do choose to go to the Casino always put in your room key in the slot machine - this tracks your gambling - if play long enough you can get discounts or even comped cruises. Spa Had a manicure at the Spa. They do a fantastic job.... So that’s how we filled our Sea Days ....... please feel free to ask questions! Thats it for today ..... next up will be the reviews of the NCL excursions!
  8. That Mac n cheese looks horrific! Our meals at Cagney’s on our 12 or so NCL cruises have been good to excellent but I don’t blame you one bit for never going back after your last experience. For those who have never been to Cagney’s this is what the Mac n cheese should look like....
  9. The Cabin-#9732 Aft Penthouse Suite Let me start by saying there were lots of outlets but all except two were European outlets. This North American outlet was located to the side of the vanity. Another was in the bathroom. The rest were all European - if coming from North America bring your converters! We were on the Star in 2016 and do not recall this being an issue....maybe this change happened with it’s recent dry dock/refurbishment? We brought a multi-plug and our butler, Loy, was able to find us a converter so we were able to make it work. Some room photo pics.... Lots of storage/cupboard space So if you have settled on an aft suite the next decision you have to make is which floor. The 10th floor has the largest balconies but the end cabins on the 8th & 9th floor have wrap around balconies which will give you a side view when going through the canal. We wanted the wrap around balcony. I had done some research and some posters noted noise from the Bliss lounge would linger into the cabins on the 8th floor. So that’s how we settled on the 9th floor. The only slight disadvantage of this floor is at times part of of your side view is obstructed by the structure that is used for washing windows. Here is the balcony with no obstruction in the 3rd photo which shows the small wrap around part of the balcony And here is the window apparatus parked, where it stayed for most of the cruise. During the Panama Canal Transit it did move to the other side for the 2nd half of the transit which was a nice surprise. I took the above photo from a closer angle so it looks a little more obstuctive than it actually is. If I were to do it again I would have taken the 8th floor. I can usually sleep through anything so I really don’t think the noise (if there was any) would have bothered us. Having said that, we loved our cabin and the side balcony! The fresh flowers looked nice until about day 10. We’ve stayed is suites before an I think this is the nicest arrangement we ever had. We phoned the pre cruise concierge ahead of time and asked for distilled water (for CPAP) and that the fridge was emptied. Water was there, fridge not emptied. Again not a big deal, emptied in 2 seconds by the room steward - Resley. Waiting in our room were all our shore excursion tickets. We booked them by phone ahead of time but did not pay for them until on board. The “full charge” of the excursions all appeared on our onboard account on day one. Then on the days we took the excursion the $100 credit appeared on the on board account. Muster Our muster station was 2 floors down in the main Dining Room. It was in English and in German. There must have been quite a bit of Germans on board as the first lunch menu we got in Cagney’s was also in German. Okay, I think that’s enough for today. To be continued...... please feel free to ask questions! Will do my best to answer. I’ve decided it’s much easier doing a live review vs trying to use my memory ...... I’m sure I’ve missed something already!!
  10. WiFi Since I touched on this in my last post I want to expand. On our cruise to Asia last year we upgraded to the unlimited plan and received $125 credit towards the cost (for the free 250min we got as a perk). I was expecting this x2 on this cruise as we had that extra 250mins as part of the distinctive voyage package. As mentioned earlier was disappointed when told by the concierge that NCL no longer gives a credit for these free minutes. It took me a few days to double check with the internet manager as the line was always sooooo long. Once we connected, he said that you can upgrade to the unlimited but you only get $60 credit for each free 250mins. As we had free data on our cellphones when in all the ports, to kill time while waiting on the bus I would sometimes checkout cruise critic and low and behold there was a thread about WiFi .....someone on the Jade in the last week or so got $125 credit towards the unlimited plan. So the takeaway for this post is there seems to be no consistency in between ships. Check when on board. As far as speed, except for 2 sea days when the WiFi did not work at all, the speed was pretty good for ship WiFi. At the end of the day the free minutes we got was enough for us. The free phone calls was more than enough to check on our parents so did not need WiFi for FaceTime.
  11. Boarding We arrive at Pier 93 and hand off our luggage to the porter We then walk into a large room (I was not allowed to take a photo) where we fill out the NCL health questionnaire Then we go up the escalator and on the right side we see check in for floors 5-9 ....and on the left side is check in for floors 10-14 We are on the 9th floor but are directed to the shorter line for those on floors 10-14 where we check in and then are escorted to the suite lounge where we get our keys and meet Suzanna the concierge. I am not sure if we should have gone straight to the lounge area for suite check in but we really didn’t care and the line was really short. In the lounge area I ask Suzanna if she could take care of upgrading us to the unlimited WiFi giving us credit for the 2 x 250mins free wifi we already have. She informs us this is no longer done (she is incorrect but I didn’t figure it out until day 5). So my plans for doing a live review while on board are finished. Our 500 mins plus the 60 minutes we get for being platinum is enough for us but not enough for a live review. I am disappointed with this news because will not be able to use my peloton app on board for my workouts and because of that forget to snap a photo of the lounge area. We are then escorted to Cagney’s for lunch.
  12. Introduction Just my husband and I on this cruise - mid 50’s - generally healthy and active. When we booked this cruise over a year ago an added “distinctive voyage package” was given to this cruise. This gave us an extra $50 per port excursion credit - so a total $100 off per port -this made the NCL excursions the cheapest. So we decided to give them a try. I will review each excursion in detail at a later time but to summarize I don’t think I would ever book an NCL excursion in a port that I really wanted to explore. They are just too large - sometimes 40 people- and you waste time waiting for others. For this cruise the Panama Canal was the highlight & we looked at the other ports as “fillers” so the NCL excursions worked out fine at their discounted rate. The distinctive voyage package also gave us an extra 250 minutes of WiFi and 120 minutes of free ship to shore phone calls. We booked an Aft penthouse suite - the perks we picked were the speciality dining package (gave us 4 meals each), the 250 minutes of free WiFi & the other $50 shore excursion credit. We do not drink enough alcohol to justify the added service charge so passed on the UBP. Arriving in Los Angeles Renting a Car We flew from NY to LAX on 3/28 - rented a car at enterprise - pickup in LAX - return at San Pedro (very close to the cruise port). Booked this online ahead of time for total cost $175. A few other car companies do this too, at the time we booked enterprise was the cheapest. We booked an economy car but we were given a Ford Edge (a small SUV). **Tip: if you rent a car, once you have picked it up go on line and register it with tollroads.com - you cannot do it after you have gone through a toll. You will avoid and “admin fee” by the rental company. It is a cashless toll system. The toll roads were confusing to us - not sure what the charges were, when we actually went through a toll - not as obvious as the NY toll system. At the end of the day we were charged another $19.50 for tolls/fees - my guess is the admin fee was at least $10. Dropping off the car in San Pedro was easy - drop off is in the back. Enterprise has a shuttle to the cruise port. We arrived around 11am - there were about 10 people waiting for the shuttle already - we got in line - waited about 40 minutes then gave up and walked around the corner to a hotel (can’t recall which chain) paid $20 dollars total and took their shuttle. I’m not sure why there as such a long wait for the enterprise shuttle - the cruise port was only about a mile away. We hadn’t eaten since early breakfast so were a little hungry and wanted to get to the pier before 1pm when they stop serving lunch. Activities in LA The day we arrived we visited with some family - on the 2nd day we went to Universal Studios Hollywood. We paid for the VIP tour, original price was $349pp - we saved a tiny bit of money by booking through the AAA site - it was either 10% or $10 off pp - can’t remember. I went to the AAA site and at this time the discount is not offered- maybe because when we went it was a little “off season”. We really enjoyed our day at universal - the private tour gets you front of line for all the rides and includes a nice breakfast & lunch. Plus you are escorted around the park by a guide until 430p - you are on your own to explore after that. There were a total of 8 in our group. PreCruise Hotel Our criteria for picking a hotel was that we wanted to have free parking, close to Universal Studios and reasonably priced. Our research landed us with the Burbank Airport Inn (Best Western). It had good reviews. The hotel was great in terms of the room/lobby - very clean, probably a 3.5 star hotel. Covered parking - seemed secure, but in a sketchy looking neighborhood, homeless people just a 2-3 blocks away. Despite the name of the hotel - it is not in Burbank, but in North Hollywood. As we just needed a place to sleep it was perfect for our needs - but if you wanted to walk around at night I would not stay here. Total cost for 2 nights $298. I’m sorry I thought I took photos of the hotel but cannot find them! The drive from our Hotel to San Pedro took us 45 minutes. It was a Saturday, very little traffic.
  13. Star Panama Canal - March 30/19 Originally booked a Aft Penthouse Suite. Put in bids in poor range on both the Owners Suite ($305pp) & Deluxe Owners Suite ($650pp). All suites were sold out when bidding opened so not surprised when did not get the upgrade. The ship seemed close to sold out on the website in all categories but we did meet a couple who won their upgrade bid from an inside to a balcony. Did not ask them what their winning bid was.
  14. Double checked with the internet manager and you are able to upgrade but only are giving $60 towards the unlimited plan for each free 250 minute that you may have. Last year on the Jewel we got $125. Curious, Did you get a $125 credit on the Jade at the end of January? I really think different ships do their own thing which makes it a challenge when trying to make a decision like harv2015!
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