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brilliantseas

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About brilliantseas

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    Carnival
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    Western Caribbean

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  1. I found Norwegian Escape to be a more upscale ship overall than the older Joe Farcus designed Carnival ships, however I believe that the newer ships, including the Breeze and the Vista Class, are roughly equal to the Escape. In terms of the buffet, I guess it depends on what you group into that category. NCL has more-or-less one continuous buffet with standard buffet fare, while Carnival supplements the basic buffet options with unique concepts such as Guy's and Blue Iguana. I think NCL is sorely lacking in that category. I can't compare MDR as I never visited on NCL; all of my dinners were either in the specialty restaurants, the buffet, or O'Sheehan's. I agree that the fore-fee specialty restaurants were very good, in general. Would I spend $28 (dining package rate) or $60+ to eat in Cagney's again? Probably not. But I would certainly pay that to go back to Teppanyaki and La Cucina. I have two CruiseNext certificates and will certainly be back on NCL, however my next four cruises are currently booked on Carnival thanks to the great pricing that was available in mid-March. I've noticed that NCLs prices feel artificially inflated with all of the future cruise credits floating out there right now. I'm waiting for those prices to come down so that I can book another NCL sailing, with the primary goal of getting back to Harvest Caye, which is my new favorite private cruise port, but more on that later...
  2. One venue that I never took the time to explore is the Supper Club. This is an upcharge experience that requires an advance reservation. The Supper Club hosts multiple dinner shows throughout the week. On the day that I stopped by for a picture, they were preparing for a piano tunes dinner show, featuring the music of Billy Joel and Elton John. I believe that the cost of these shows is around $30 per person? It should be noted that it is a banquet-style fixed menu venue. Here is the menu that was served during the piano tunes show. Certainly not a venue for picky eaters.
  3. JUST AVERAGE: CAGNEY'S STEAKHOUSE Last, but not least (except it might be my least favorite), Cagney's Steakhouse. Take this opinion with an asterisk because I don't actually eat beef, so it was more about the general experience for me. I had an 8:15 reservation for Cagney's, and arrived right on time. Unfortunately, the restaurant was running behind, and this was the only restaurant other than Teppanyaki where I had to wait to be seated. I was surprised to find that the restaurant does not have a pager system to accommodate this, and there were several other parties waiting as well; they were actually spilling over into the Moderno waiting area and into the elevator lobby outside. The hostesses were just wandering through the crowd looking for guests. It was an inefficient system that seemed to slow down seating. Thankfully, I was able to hang close to the podium and only waited about 10 minutes to be seated. Service also seemed to be a bit overwhelmed as it took longer than I would have expected to be greeted and for a drink order to be taken. From the time I was seated until I received my bread and glass of wine was at least 15 minutes. It was by far the slowest service of any restaurant on the entire cruise. If you use a dining package at Cagney's, you are eligible for an appetizer, a soup or salad, and an entree with two sides. It should be noted that select items on the Cagney's menu carry an upcharge when using the dining package. For my appetizer, I selected the item that I was most looking forward to trying at Cagney's, the lump crab cake. This was one of the items that carries an upcharge - in this case $5, when using the dining package. Although small in size, it was quite flavorful; one of my favorite appetizers of the entire cruise. I should also note that my server somehow waived the $5 upcharge, so it ended up not costing me anything beyond the cost of the dining package. For my soup or salad course, I selected the lobster bisque. As I may have stated earlier, I enjoy a wide variety of seafood. Unfortunately, the lobster bisque was a bit of a letdown. Yes, it was creamy, and yes it did have bits of lobster in it. Unfortunately, I found it lacking overall, and only ate about 2/3 of the small bowl. For my entree, I selected the grilled fisherman's platter, which includes shrimp, scallops, calamari, crab cake, and branzino. The plate includes two each of shrimp, seared sea scallops, and a few pieces of calamari, a tiny crab cake (about 1/3 the size of the appetizer portion) as well as a small filet of branzino. This entree is also available fried, however I wanted to avoid the Long John Silver experience. A quick squeeze of grilled lemon over the fish and I was satisfied with the grilled version of this entree. Of all of the items on the plate, the crab cake and the scallops were my favorites, with the branzino actually being my least favorite. The calamari preparation was also interesting, being served in a long section which was scored to prevent it from curling as it was grilled. It was cooked perfectly and was not overly chewy. My entree was accompanied by the server's recommended side items, parmesan truffle fries and mac and cheese. The fries were just average and could be considered underwhelming given the hype. The mac and cheese was better, and was easily finished with my seafood plate. Overall, service was slower than expected and left me running late for a comedy show, so I opted to ask for dessert to go, with the plan of dropping it in my room before heading to the comedy club. I tried the raspberry creme brulee. The server did his best to get it out to the table promptly, along with the check and a fresh silverware roll to take back to my room. Creme brulee is one of my favorite desserts, and something that I order almost every time it is available on the menu. Unfortunately, the Cagney's version was a letdown, lacking the bruleed sugar crust on top. Instead, I was left with a bowl of custard that was generally lacking in flavor, topped with a single fresh raspberry. Would I dine at Cagney's again on my next Norwegian Cruise Line sailing? The answer is maybe. In terms of value for dining credit, it was better than Food Republic, but the slow service means dedicating the better portion of an evening for a meal that was just average. Was it better than a meal in the main dining room? Without a doubt. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos of my meal at Cagney's, so you'll just have to take my word for it. How does it compare to the steakhouses on other cruise lines? I would say that the food and the overall experience is very similar to that found in the steakhouses on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Disney Cruise Line does not have a comparable steakhouse option. Palo serves a Northern Italian inspired menu, while Remy is a 6-course French fine-dining experience priced well north of any of the other cruise line's dining experiences, aside from the Chef's Table experience on Carnival. NCL is the only one of the three that prices their steakhouse on an a la carte basis, with Carnival charging $38 per adult at their steakhouse, and Chops Steakhouse on Royal Caribbean charging $35-39, depending on the ship. Had I not been using a dining package, my meal at Cagney's would have run north of $60, comparable to my other meals at La Cucina and Bayamo. With the dining credit, my actual cost was $28 + gratuity, however I should have been charged $5 additional for the crab cake appetizer.
  4. LUNCHTIME OPTION: FOOD REPUBLIC Running out of time to use my dining package credits after skipping a dinner due to illness, I decided to try Food Republic for lunch on our last sea day. Food Republic is one of the specialty dining options that is open for limited lunch hours, until around 1:30 in the afternoon. I visited around 1:00 and found the restaurant to be about 1/2 full. Unfortunately, the service here was less than stellar, as the team seemed to have already checked out. Upon being seated, a tablet was positioned in front of me to display the menu. Food Republic has a wide variety of options, leaning heavily to the Asian influence, with most being designed as shareable. Think of it as an Asian-influenced tapas restaurant. You'll definitely need more than one item to make a full meal, but this location would also be a great choice for an early evening snack or some sushi if you have a 9:00 dinner reservation elsewhere and want a light bite before visiting The District Brew House next door. The failure in service started when the hostess explained that the dining package was good for any four items on the menu and told me to browse the tablet, but failed to put the tablet in dining package mode. The server took my drink order but never asked if I was using the dining package, and it was clear that the hostess had not communicated to him that I was using the dining package. He was quick to drop off my drink order, but never came back to the table. I built my order and went to submit, only to find that it needed me to swipe my room card. It was displaying a cash due total, so I wanted to verify that it would charge the dining package before swiping the card. Unfortunately, my server was nowhere to be found, and I ended up waiting several minutes before being able to flag someone down to ask. They were able to locate my server, and he came over and apologized that my tablet was not put into dining package mode and I'd have to start over with my order. Problem solved, but only after an unnecessary delay. Most of the menu items run between $10 and $15, and the dining package allows for any four food items for a single package credit, representing a value of $40 to $60 per person. If I were dining a la carte, I would have been satisfied with 2-3 items for lunch, but since I had a dining package credit, I opted to use all four items to sample more of the menu. The menu is quite extensive and ranges from sushi to meat skewers, and soup to noodle bowls. I ended up trying a California Roll, a spring roll with artificial crab, the teriyaki chicken skewers, and a bowl of the Tom Kha Gai soup, which is a coconut broth soup with chicken. First to the table was the California Roll, which is filled with a shredded artificial crab salad, cucumber, and avocado. The roll was a good size at eight pieces for $11. It was good quality and I would order it again. Next up was the spring roll. This featured a rice paper wrap filled with lump pieces of artificial crab, cucumber, carrot, rice, and what I believe was mango, served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. At four pieces for $10, it was not a good value when compared to the California Roll. The presentation was appetizing, but the flavor fell short. The ingredients were bland and simple, aside from the mango, and were clearly relying on the sauce to give it some flavor. Unfortunately, the dipping sauce also underwhelmed, and I was left disappointed. I would not order this item again. The third item, the Tom Kha Gai soup, was also the most expensive, at $15. This creamy Thai coconut-based soup is full of chicken and mushrooms and topped with large pieces of bok choy. It was delivered to the table too hot to eat, and took a while to consume. It is both sweet and very rich due to the coconut, and I was only about to finish about 2/3 of the bowl. I would have appreciated a smaller portion at a lower price, but overall it deserves high marks. The final item delivered to my table were my teriyaki chicken skewers. At two skewers for $10, the value may be somewhat lacking, but certainly no worse than the spring rolls. The chicken skewers took longer to prepare than the other items, and were delivered after I had already finished both the California Roll and the spring rolls, and was already into the bowl of soup. The chicken on the skewers is thigh meat, which is similar to traditional teriyaki skewers that I've had elsewhere. The meat was a bit tough, but flavorful. I found it interesting that the teriyaki glaze was closer to the consistency of a BBQ sauce than a teriyaki sauce. It was served with a lime wedge, and a quick squeeze provided some acid to benefit the sweet and salty sauce. It was a flavorful dish, but I would have been disappointed with the portion size if I were paying a la carte. Food Republic has a fair selection of bottled beers, although it shares a kitchen and pantry area with The District, and it appears as if the servers are willing to get you anything that they may have in stock over there. Food Republic does not have its own bar. I chose two of the Big Wave Golden Ale from Kona Brewing Co., which was cold and refreshing. Had I been paying a la carte, the meal would have totaled $46 plus an additional $18 for the two beers; a pricey lunch when you consider the other options available on the ship. My six-meal dining package averaged out to $28 per meal, plus gratuity, which was more reasonable, given the quality of the items on the menu. The pricing of the alcoholic beverages on the ship left me wishing that I had selected the open bar as my Free at Sea option, even given the $20 per day service charge that is added to the "free" option. I found most drinks to be priced about $2 higher than the comparable options on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. I definitely drank less on Norwegian as a result of the higher pricing.
  5. I must have missed the casino buffet, but that is a great idea to keep people playing. I stuck to the automated roulette wheel for the most part. I'll keep an eye out for it next time I cruise Norwegian. I purchased two CruiseNext certificates on this sailing (clearly I didn't hate it...) and am looking forward to booking another NCL cruise in between the four Carnival sailings I just booked. I'm just waiting for the rates to drop as they seem to have gone sky-high with all of the 125% FCC they issued due to March/April cancellations. Regarding the bowl of soup at the buffet, I believe they close at 9:30? Can someone else confirm?
  6. Limited Selections: O'Sheehan's Let's pause and talk about O'Sheehan's for a minute. For those who are unfamiliar, O'Sheehan's is the 24-hour pub on Norwegian Escape. It serves breakfast during selected hours and pub fare the rest of the day and night. It is the only 24-hour dining option on the Escape, aside from room service. Dining at O'Sheehan's is a seated service dining location. During peak times, they will seat and serve the bar rail overlooking the atrium screen and dance floor below. During off-peak hours, they only serve in the pub area, and the bar rail overlooking the atrium is open for guests to view the ongoing activities or movies shown on the large atrium screen below. I opted to try O'Sheehan's during an evening movie (some Liam Neeson thriller), but unfortunately I was not able to be served at the bar rail, so I had dinner in the pub area and then moved to the bar rail after my meal to watch the remainder of the movie. Service in O'Sheehan's was prompt despite the fact that they seemed to be experiencing an evening rush after the MDRs were closed. The menu here is somewhat limited, and I wish that it had a few healthier options. Appetizers include chicken wings (bone-in only), nachos, or spinach and artichoke dip. Entree selections include fish and chips, a reuben sandwich, burgers, hot dogs, a salad, and dessert options including apple pie or brownie cheesecake. I would have appreciated a cold sandwich option such as a turkey or ham, or an entree salad with chicken. I opted to start with the nachos as my appetizer and the fish and chips for an entree. I skipped dessert as I'd had plenty of sweets already on the cruise. The nachos consisted on a small bowl of corn tortilla chips, topped with a skimpy portion of liquid nacho cheese, some bacon crumbles, pickled jalapeno slices, and a drizzle of sour cream. I would have appreciated more nacho cheese, and perhaps the option of either chicken or beef as a topping. Thankfully the plentiful jalapeno slices helped to make up for the lack of nacho cheese, but overall it was mediocre at best. The fish and chips were better, and the portion size was just right for a light meal, if you can call a plate that consists of entirely deep fried items and mayonnaise a light meal. The fish was cooked properly and served hot. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fries were also hot, although I would have preferred a higher quality french fry. Service was excellent and both items came out quickly. Would I return again? Probably not, unless I'm in a situation where nothing else is open on the ship. The fish was good, but very heavy and not something that I would normally order if I were not on the ship. Unfortunately, there are no other options aside from room service. Garden Cafe closes early and the ship is lacking a late night pizza option, such as those found on Carnival (24-hours) or Royal Caribbean (open until 3am).
  7. I think that you'll find the same thing across all three cruise lines - the newer ships tend to be more upscale in design and finish, regardless of whether you choose NCL, Carnival, or RCCL. I would attribute the term "luxury" to be as much about service as it is the design and finish, and I think that you'll find all three offer a level of service that is roughly equal. You can pay extra for specialty restaurants, spa services, or exclusive areas such as The Haven, which will have a higher level of service, but in general, all three are roughly equal. They are mass market cruise lines. If you're looking for a more premium experience, look to Holland America, Celebrity, or Princess.
  8. JUST AVERAGE: BAYAMO by Ocean Blue As a seafood lover, Bayamo was at the top of my list to try onboard Norwegian Escape. Nothing like it exists in the Carnival fleet, so it would be an entirely new experience for me. With a six meal dining package, I actually made two reservations for Bayamo pre-cruise via the NCL website, fully anticipating that I would want to try multiple dishes during the cruise. Unfortunately, my actual experience was a slight let-down, at least when compared to the other specialty restaurants onboard the Escape. Like La Cucina, I opted to dine al fresco on the promenade patio to enjoy the sound of the ship cutting through the water. The meal at Bayamo starts with complimentary mascarpone bread. These tiny pull-apart rolls have a very light yeast roll type texture and were a great way to start the meal. Following the bread service, I selected the seared sea scallops and braised pork belly as my appetizer. This would be the best course of my meal at Bayamo. The scallops had a perfect texture - not overcooked or rubbery, and the seared pork belly reminded me of a similar dish that I had at JiJi Asian Kitchen onboard Carnival Horizon last year. I believe the topping was the same peach mango chutney that was served on the side with my fish entree. For my entree, I selected the sea bass. If you are using the dining package, your entree includes the choice of two side dishes. If you are dining a la carte, I believe the side dishes are priced individually. My sea bass was cooked properly, but was lacking in flavor. A squeeze of the grilled lemon helped, but I found the peach mango chutney to be too sweet to accompany the fish. I also found it to be a bit greasy from the oil in the pan. For my side dishes, I selected charred brussel sprouts and the same mushroom risotto that I enjoyed previously at La Cucina. At Bayamo (and Cagney's Steakhouse), the sides are each served in their own tiny stainless steel pan. Both were delicious, although the brussel sprouts could have been hotter. For dessert, I selected the key lime meringue tart. I found it to be a well balanced dessert, with the slight sweetness of the meringue balancing out the tartness of the lime custard. I would say that it was about average for a cruise ship dessert - a dessert that I easily finished, but not something that I'd go out of my way to order again. Service again was very good, and I had a nice conversation with another solo guest at a table near me. The patio was less than 1/3 full on the third evening of the cruise. At least in my experience, this was an easy reservation to get. If you have a dining plan and want to give Bayamo a try, it is certainly worth a dining package credit, but with an a la carte price of over $60 for this meal, I would not recommend it without the dining package.
  9. Best of the Best - La Cucina La Cucina was tied with Teppanyaki for my favorite meal onboard Norwegian Escape, and was a surprise stand-out. I always enjoy Italian food, but have had mixed experiences with Italian specialty restaurants on other cruise lines. In this instance, La Cucina is a clear winner. This was my first al fresco dining experience of the cruise, and I thoroughly enjoyed dining under the stars while listening to the ship cut through the water below. The wind could easily be an issue, but on this particular evening it was only a minor inconvenience - blowing over the wine list that the server had placed upright on the table as I was seated. With the dining package, you are able to order an appetizer, a soup or salad, a pizza, an entree, and a dessert. For larger parties, they specify a certain number of pizzas based upon the number of people at the table. As a party of one, knowing that I couldn't possibly eat that much food, I opted to pass on the pizza all together. For my salad course, I chose a mixed greens salad with candied walnuts and bleu cheese crumbles. It wasn't anything special in terms of ingredients or presentation, but it was delicious. For my appetizer, I chose the mushroom risotto. It should be noted that La Cucina shares a kitchen space with Bayamo, and the risotto is the same as the mushroom risotto that is served as a side dish at Bayamo. I'm not complaining about this as it was my favorite side item of the entire cruise. For my entree, I selected the Shrimp fra Diavolo. This is another item that used to feature lobster, but has been value engineered to substitute shrimp instead of lobster as a cost savings. I won't complain too much about the change as the shrimp were still plentiful and very large in size - the same shrimp that are used at Teppanyaki. For dessert, how can you not opt for a tiramisu when it is on the menu at an Italian restaurant. This meal would have cost approximately $60 plus beverage and gratuity had I not been on the dining package, so it was well worth the use of a credit. As I said earlier, it ties Teppanyaki for my favorite meal of the cruise, and the service was superb. It will be at the top of my list to revisit on my next Norwegian cruise. How does it compare to Italian specialty restaurants on other cruise lines? There is no comparison between La Cucina on NCL and Cucina del Capitano on Carnival. La Cucina is an upscale specialty restaurant with a menu that almost warrants the a la carte pricing. It is certainly a value for the $28 per meal average cost of my 6 meal dining package. Carnival's Cucina del Capitano, on the other hand, disappoints even at the approachable price of $15 per person. The menu at Cucina del Capitano feels like it came right out of Olive Garden, with the atmosphere of a Spaghetti Warehouse. Cucina del Capitano is a "one and done" concept for me; I likely won't be back. I have not tried Royal Caribbean's Italian concept, so I can not make an accurate comparison. For as much as La Cucina stood out when compared against Carnival's Cucina del Capitano, it still falls short of Disney Cruise Line's Palo in terms of both presentation and atmosphere. While I would equate La Cucina to a local upscale Italian restaurant, Palo takes it up another level, almost into the category of fine dining. It is a "dress up" occasion. The unique presentation of the antipasto, with the server bringing a cart to the table, hand-cutting prosciutto, and offering a description of each item as it is placed on the plate in front of you is enough to set it apart, but the entire meal really shined. At $40 per person for dinner, Palo is also a better value relative to the a la carte pricing at La Cucina on NCL. Overall, La Cucina is still a winner and is tied for the top position on my "best of the best" specialty dining list on Norwegian Escape.
  10. I booked September 19, 2020 Carnival Sunshine out of Charleston a week and a half ago for an unbelievable price of about $60 per person, per night for a spa balcony cabin (along with three other cruises for 2020-2022). I checked today to see if there have been any price drops and found that the Sunshine sailing had increased by about 40% since I booked! I'm thankful that I got in when I did! Now awaiting drops on my January 2021 Vista sailing (and some reasonable prices from NCL so that I can use my CruiseNext certificates!).
  11. Specialty dining is one area where the Norwegian Escape really shines above the rest. NCL dedicates a significant amount of space to specialty dining venues; more than I've seen on any other cruise line, and for the most part, I found the premium that I paid to be very much worth the extra money that I spent. I should preface that last statement with a disclaimer that I purchased the six meal package for $168 on the NCL website prior to my trip. I questioned whether that may have been too many meals, but I was satisfied with my decision. Based upon the menu prices in some of the venues, I would highly recommend the bundled package as opposed to paying a la carte. Best of the Best - Teppanyaki Teppanyaki was one of my top two restaurants onboard the ship, and arguably the best value for someone who is paying cash. Teppanyaki charges a flat $39 cover that includes soup, a "salad", fried rice, entree or combination, and dessert, as well as the "show". I enjoyed it so much that I canceled my Le Bistro reservation and opted to return to Teppanyaki on the last evening of the cruise. The entire Teppanyaki experience takes between 1.5 and 2 hours. Each grill seats 12 people, and your experience starts once all parties are seated. This is one venue where it is very important to be prompt for your reservation or you delay others at your table. I also noted that "reservations" are a loose term when applied to Teppanyaki as I arrived on the first night of the cruise for an 8:15 reservation to be told by the manager that they did not have enough bookings to fill a table for 8:15, so I'd have to come back at 9:00, because "it's more fun with a full table". Indeed, it is more fun with a large group, but the 45 minute delay threw off my entertainment plans for the evening. Once everyone is seated, drink orders and entree orders will be taken. There is no need to select a soup or salad as everyone receives the same option. Entree options are defined as either "classics" or "combinations", although both categories fall into the same price category - there are no upcharges at this restaurant. Menu courtesy Eat Sleep Cruise as I forgot to take a photo of the menu. Note that the lobster options on the menu had been substituted with shrimp on my January Escape sailing. Shortly after your order is taken, a bowl of miso soup is presented, to be quickly followed by a seaweed salad with ginger dressing. Strangely, NCL's version of a "seaweed salad" is different than anything that I've experienced in another hibachi restaurant, as theirs is about 80% coleslaw / cabbage salad with 20% seaweed on top. It wasn't bad, just not what I expected. The miso soup was a standard miso soup. After soup and salad, your hibachi chef arrives at the table and immediately begins the entertainment by preparing your grilled vegetables and fried rice. In the instance of Norwegian's Teppanyaki, the grilled vegetables are zucchini, carrot, and onion. Each guest will receive about three hefty slices of each, as well as a bowl of fried rice. Extra fried rice is available for those who request it. After the rice and vegetables have been served, the chef proceeds with preparing the entrees. In both experiences, they started with the chicken and then quickly followed with the seafood options. Steak is cooked after the chicken and seafood has been served. Those who ordered the combinations that include udon will have their noodles served with the protein. Kids meals were served around the time the salads were cleared, and clearly came from another kitchen. I saw mac and cheese and a personal pizza being served to the two children at the table. They enjoyed the entertainment, but not the food. I enjoyed the shrimp and scallop combination and opted for it on both visits. I noticed that there are no apparent portion controls as the number of shrimp and scallops served varied each visit and the guest who ordered the seafood combination of shrimp, scallops, and calamari received the same number of shrimp and scallops as I did, but with the addition of calamari. As I ended up with the last seating of the night on both visits, the chef also made his own dinner, and one one evening, the manager's dinner, intermingled with our proteins. I quickly picked up on the fact that they all enjoy shrimp for dinner. The proteins are served with two sauces; a yellow colored "Yum Yum" sauce with a touch of mustard, and a soy sauce. I enjoyed both with my seafood. After the entrees, the chef will quickly clean the grill and say goodnight, and your server will come back around for a second round of drinks as well as dessert orders. The options were a green tea cake with green tea ice cream or a fruit plate. I tried the green tea cake on the first visit. While the ice cream was interesting, I found the cake to be dry. Both have an earthy taste that will be familiar to anyone who have tried matcha in the past. I opted to pass on dessert on my second visit. I've also experienced Teppanyaki on the new Carnival Horizon. The difference between the two is drastic. You can tell that Teppanyaki has been a staple on Norwegian ships for some time, as they have a large room with at least eight grills and appear to seat one table every 15 minutes. In contrast, Carnival Horizon's Teppanyaki restaurant is a tiny glass booth with two grills and two seatings per evening - a much harder reservation to get. In terms of food quality, both were similar, with NCL getting the nod for the large shrimp and generous quantities, while Carnival had a cute bento box dessert that easily topped the green tea cake. The chefs onboard Norwegian Escape also appeared to have more experience, although one was losing his voice and wasn't quite as entertaining as the others. On Carnival Horizon, I had a brand new hibachi chef who was just learning the ropes, although the table next to us had a chef who was quite entertaining. Overall, I would give NCL the nod on having the better Teppanyaki experience, although I would book a Teppanyaki reservation on either cruise line in the future.
  12. Let's talk about the Studio Lounge, a feature that is unique to Norwegian Cruise Line and one that I was very excited to experience on this sailing. In fact, I paid a $100 premium for a studio stateroom over a standard inside stateroom on this sailing. Would I do it again? Probably not. At least not for a premium over an inside cabin on the same deck. I should clarify that I am the type that is willing to pay a few extra dollars per day to have a cabin in a preferable location, typically sandwiched between two other passenger cabins but very close to the upper decks, but I would not pay a substantial premium for a studio stateroom for the purpose of having access to the Studio Lounge. On this sailing, I was on deck 12. The lounge is on deck 11, and is accessed by a dedicated stairwell within the studios area. Studio cabins are also located on deck 11 and deck 10. Over the course of a 7-night cruise, I probably visited the Studio Lounge a dozen times. Most of these visits were in the evening, typically on my way back to my cabin for the evening, although I also checked in multiple times in the afternoon. Only once did I see anyone else in the lounge. The lounge itself is large, with space to easily accommodate 20+ people at maximum capacity. The decor and colored LED lighting carries over from the rest of the Studios area, with lots of blue and purple. The furniture is modern and white. One side of the room features a counter with self-service wine machines (priced $20+ per glass) as well as complimentary cookies (two varieties per day) and a sweet bread or pound cake selection. The beverage area always had a pitcher of orange juice as well as a self-service espresso machine for lattes or cappuccinos. Sadly, the lounge seems like a big waste of space given the lack of use. The lounge has a bookcase with board games for use, but I never saw anyone using them. The cookie tray was evidence that others were coming and going for snacks, but only once did I encounter another person in the lounge. It is definitely an under-utilized space. The closest experience I can compare it to on another cruise line is the Family Harbor Lounge on my recent Carnival Horizon sailing. Both are dedicated key-card access spaces with limited snack and beverage offerings, with the Family Harbor Lounge also offering a limited breakfast buffet during the mornings. On Horizon, I often encountered multiple children in the lounge, frequently accompanied by parents grabbing a coffee or ice cream cone. On Norwegian Escape, the demographic of solo adult travelers and the lack of a bar or other entertainment meant that this was nothing more than a snack or coffee stop for most. I found it convenient for coffee, but wouldn't pay an extra $100 for the privilege.
  13. Word in the media is that Mexican officials have cleared Meraviglia guests to enjoy a port day in Cozumel today. Business as usual...
  14. Update to put minds at ease onboard MSC Meraviglia. From the State Secretary of Health in Quintana Roo. Translated from Spanish. Update | Meraviglia case 9:30 p.m. Laboratory tests performed on two passengers on the Cozumel cruise confirmed Influenza. This is a common viral disease throughout Mexico. Health actions confirm the strength of the epidemiological surveillance system. Alejandra Aguirre @AleAguirreC_ https://twitter.com/AleAguirreC_/status/1233223029699883011
  15. ...has anyone priced NCL Pearl 3/8 sailing today? Take a look and tell me they aren't pricing to fill in the short term. I've seen two drops this week on that sailing. The bottom has fallen out on March sailings for certain cruise lines, especially NCL and to a lesser extent Carnival. Surprisingly, I have not seen any significant drop from Princess, which has been extensively featured in the media.
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