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rsato

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Everything posted by rsato

  1. The first time we cruised in NZ and stopped at Tauranga, we did an excursion that included the Rainbow Springs wildlife park, lunch on a boat on Lake Rotorua, and a stop at Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland. That was a can't miss excursion. On this 2024 trip we went to the glow worm caves - it was a 2.5 hour drive from the ship to the caves, lunch in a nearby town, and a visit to a Kiwi bird shelter (they were asleep). The cave excursion was good, you start by walking into the caves which allows your eyes to get used to the dark. It is a well organized and easily navigated path. Then you get in a canoe like boat and float and see the glow worms. Pictures aren't allowed as it is a burial location. I'm glad we saw the caves but it was a very long day for a relatively short experience.
  2. Interesting experience about "missing the bus" - my wife and I sailed on the Edge in February 2024. At Tauranga, our Viator private tour to the Glow Worm Caves was supposed to leave just after the ship docked. My wife and I headed down and sat in the bar next to the gangway waiting for the OK to leave the ship. The overhead announcement was made and we headed down the gangway briskly with few other people exiting with us. When we got to our tour van, we found that we were the last two guests to arrive. Go figure.
  3. For what its worth, we sailed on the Edge in a Celebrity Suite (February 2024). I wanted to have the rib eye steak special in Blue one night, and asked the staff at Blu if I could eat there. They said they don't take reservations, just show up...may be a little wait if its crowded. My wife and I found no wait at all and I really enjoyed the dinner!
  4. Luminae comment for a first time Celebrity Guest on the Edge. I had the first three dinners in Luminae and liked being able to order both the specials of the evening as well as the “classics.” The poached lobster appetizer with the rib eye steak made a great entree for the first “Chic Night.” I went to Luminae again at 8:30 pm to eat and was told I would have to take a pager and wait so I went to the buffet instead. I never had a wait in many sailings in NCL’s Haven, Princess Club Class Dining or RCL’s Coastal Kitchen. I don’t know if this was exceptional or not, but I thought part of suite dining is not being turned away.
  5. Here are the dailies from our 10 day Reykjavik to Southampton Sailing...
  6. Thanks for the amazing photos during your sailing. Norway, when you are fortunate enough to enjoy good weather, has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was on the July 27 sailing of the Prima from Reykjavik to Southampton, but we didn't stop at Geiranger - our cruise stopped at Olden and we took the NCL organized tour to Birksdal Glacier. This was the most beautiful hike we have ever taken. More pictures and info about our sailing at our travel blog: rayandtraci.blogspot.com
  7. Yes - Diamond perks were a major factor in picking the Hilton Nordica which is located a bit far from the central tourism area. We previously stayed there in a winter visit and was quite satisfied with the experience. The lounge at the Nordica is good, has non-alcoholic beverages all day, and happy hour in the evening. The lounge became quite busy in the evenings. Some of the food served in the evening included a variety of sandwiches, falafels, chicken, pasta, tempura shrimp, soups, and fruit. I thought it was a very good spread. The breakfast buffet (served in the restaurant in the lobby) was also quite good with most of the normal foods travelers expect.
  8. We stayed at the Hilton Nordica in Reykjavik and the taxis were waiting outside the hotel to take us to the cruise port. I don't remember exactly how much the charge was.
  9. The Captain told us that the seas between Iceland and Norway can be fairly rough but on our cruise it was very smooth sailing all the way. Norway also had calm seas. We are sapphire and got to book Price is Right and Donna Summer 25 days in advance, they did not require reservations for any other show. We did not visit the spa.
  10. We enjoyed the Haven restaurant - had 2 lunches and 2 dinners there. The menu is the same every day which is a negative, but the service was good. I liked my steak and lobster dinner and had 2 prime rib dips for lunches. Guests have so many choices on the Prima, you probably want to sample a variety of venues. Our first scheduled port, Isafjordur, has been constructing and dredging so large cruise ships can dock. My understanding from news reports that this has been going on for years. It is fair to criticize NCL for selling the cruise as if it was going to stop at Isafjordur, but they had to cancel so many times due to delays in the construction it wasn't realistic to think we would be visiting. Brugges Belgium was cancelled due to some low tide problems. I didn't do any research to see how predictable that was.
  11. NCL Dailies for the NCL Prima Reykjavik to Southampton July 27, 2023 sailing NCL Prima Dailies.pdf
  12. My wife and I sailed on the July 27 NCL Prima Reykjavik to Southampton voyage. We are experienced cruisers (>20 sailings, with 12 on NCL.) Many of the reviews of the NCL Prima so far have been quite concerning. We resolved to keep an open mind and wanted to share some thoughts about our experiences. On previous cruises, we often ask crew what their favorite places to sail are. The Fjords of Norway was a common answer when considering the natural beauty and scenery. Based on our previous cruise experience, NCL has always been a good fit for us and the opportunity to sail the fjords on their newest ship led to our decision to book. Embarkation: Reykjavik is a wonderful place to visit, we previously experienced a winter trip to see the unforgettable Northern Lights along with other tours including the Golden Circle. In the summer, the temperature in the 50s made everything so much more pleasant although the 11pm sunset and 4 am sunrise were hard to get used to. We tried to do summer friendly activities so walking in a Lava Cave, taking a boat to see the Puffins, and ferrying to Videy Island were things we found enjoyable. We stayed at the Reykjavik Hilton which is a fine hotel but perhaps not the best location for tourists since it is not very near to the city center but with the Reykjavik City Pass you can take public transportation which was very easy to navigate (using Google Maps). We got more than our cost of the passes just riding public buses. After 3 days of sightseeing, we took a short taxi ride to the cruise port and started our voyage. Luggage drop off at Reykjavik cruise terminal is just placed in front of a door - I assume security is not an issue as there was minimal supervision and a large number of bags awaiting placement on the ship. Passengers enter a security check, then head to the check in counters. For a 6 pm departure, we arrived at the port at 1 pm and found modest lines. No one seemed to check or care about our reservation time. There are separate lines for Haven guests, but the general check in lines were not very long. After check in, there were no delays boarding the ship. Ship: At first glance the ship is quite beautiful, stylish, and entertaining. Going beneath the surface, there are significant problems that many have reported. I started writing this review on a lounger at the back of the ship as it left port and was showered with soot particles. This is a serious problem that has been reported by many other passengers. Overall maintenance also was concerning with many outdoor lounger cushions appearing dirty and stained. Inside the main dining room Hudson’s, the very stylish decor was marred by dirt embedded in the chairs. The mini golf course was still broken (but free to use). I didn’t think the layout of the ship was significantly harder to navigate than other large NCL ships. A big problem is many of the public gathering areas have too few seats in an attempt to enhance style. Difficulties finding seats in the atrium and buffet are commonly encountered, and Syd Norman’s is woefully short of seats. The weather was quite cold in our Northern European journey (40s as we sailed near the arctic circle) so few people spent time lounging on decks or in the pools, but other than in the most popular venues, I didn’t find the ship to be overly crowded despite a near capacity sailing. There are plenty of loungers of many varieties (chairs, round cushions, swings, sofas) in public areas but the pools are quite small and again seem more designed to look good than to accommodate the number of passengers. The 8th floor Ocean Boulevard has some interesting art sculptures as well as glass sea walks so you can watch the water below your feet, a complete lap around is about 0.4 miles. I did manage to find time (and decent temperature/weather) to enjoy the Wave water slide which I thought was a little too tame compared with other NCL ships. The Rush dry slide isn’t very good for adults - I had to manually push myself thru the last portion of the slide as has been reported by others. The 3 level race track was quite fun, and quite popular not only with kids but many adults which is probably why NCL keeps building them. Crew/Service: In general, I found the crew members quite friendly and helpful. Of course, some are more helpful than others but most greeted you cheerfully and tried to make your vacation more enjoyable. The negative reviews given to the Prima must be filtering out to NCL as we were constantly asked how we were doing by managers at every venue (even the hotel manager Zafer in one restaurant.) Honestly, I respect the experiences of the many critical reviewers but as a whole I did not think our Prima experience was below the expectations we had from our multiple NCL sailings including the large ships Encore and Bliss. Our cabin steward and butler were always friendly and worked hard to take care of us. I would make a comment about the laundry - NCL warns people about color bleeding and I had a white tech running shirt that became grey in the laundry. Be careful about getting any light colored items laundered! Haven/Cabins: I thought the best perk of the Haven was the 2 aft private elevators which go from floors 6-16. It is a bit awkward to navigate to the spa/gym on deck 16 as you have to walk through hallways full of cabins to go from the aft Haven to reach the spa/gym which is at the front of the ship. The aesthetics of our 2-Bedroom Haven cabin were nice, but the design wasn’t as functional as other NCL ships, mainly Bliss/Encore. The bathrooms were woefully inadequate in shelves and drawers - I urge people to bring a hanging shoe holder with suction cup hooks to fasten it to the shower door as a workaround (easily available on Amazon). Also recommend having extra suction cup hooks as towel holders as there are no towel racks or space to place towels on the counter. There are only two drawers (one is very shallow) in the bathroom and shelves on only one side of the sink. Our bed had one under-bed storage drawer on each side and that was the extent of drawer space for clothes. The closet didn’t have much shelving either. Very little hanging space allowed full length dresses to hang (most space was half height) I don’t know if it was the change from German to Italian builders or perhaps COVID related problems that led to some pretty significant design problems. Our sofa had cushions which lost their fastening Velcro making me wonder about the durability of some of the furnishings. The bedside tables had chipped paint. The stateroom door often would not shut on its own leaving the door ajar. Double check to make sure your door is shut when entering and leaving! The curtains (light and blackout) were motorized but they seemed awfully fragile. Large flat screen TVs had a decent selection of movies for free. Temperature control was somewhat unreliable with the living area cold and bedroom hot despite thermostat adjustments - perhaps a climate control problem exacerbated due to the cold weather in Northern Europe. The temperature problem seemed to resolve as we encountered warmer temperatures. Other passengers have found serious problems with noise in their cabin - our cabin, #15916 was below the Haven dining room and on occasion you could hear movement of tables above but, other than that, nothing constant or disruptive. Our balcony was great, larger than ones found on the Bliss/Encore having both a 4 seat dining table and two comfortable cushioned chairs. Gym: This is the first ship we sailed on that did not have a dedicated running track, and we knew it before we booked. You can walk around the whole ship on deck 8, but between the narrow openings between deck dividers and the glass sea walk, running is not advisable. The gym is a good size, it may get full at peak hours but I did not have any problems getting a treadmill in the 7-9 am time frame. Adequate free weights, limited weight machines, bikes and elliptical trainers were available. The gym tended to be more popular later in the mornings especially on sea days. Dining: The Indulge food hall is a great addition to the NCL fleet, maybe their best idea ever! The only criticism is the difficulty finding a place to eat during peak times. With so many people enjoying the wide variety of food available from the various food venues, the place gets packed quickly. It would have been much more useful to have communal hall seating (like a school cafeteria) so a maximum number of people could be served. Expecting to find a seat in Indulge on a full ship at 12:30 on a sea day is unrealistic. We found counter seating at NUDL after boarding the ship on embarkation day, then had dinner on subsequent days by eating somewhat late (after the first theater show). We also had several lunches at Indulge on port days without any seating problems - and appreciated the very fast service. Indulge Tip: you can send messages to the food venues about special requests - for example “substitute romaine lettuce instead of spinach in salad” by typing special requests on the “name” line while ordering. Being able to order tagliatelle pasta and Pad Thai from NUDL, a modified Caesar from Garden, and a barbeque platter from Q is great! I really liked the barbecue chicken from Q but the brisket was a little tough. Plus, the complimentary dessert cart and scooped ice cream is the perfect way to finish off a meal! Cocos offers premium desserts for an added fee, but I saw no reason to pay with the wide range of free desserts available. On our first sea day, we ate at the specialty restaurant Palomar and I liked my shrimp appetizer/New York steak entree/Purée Potatoes and chocolate mousse dessert. The steak was cooked as requested and well seasoned. My wife’s Dover sole/rice pilaf was good. On our second sea day, we decided to have lunch at the Local - I had a salad and fettuccine pasta followed by the hot fudge sundae, and my wife had a chicken salad sandwich followed by carrot cake. The Local serves great comfort food without an additional charge - its biggest problem is the relatively small capacity compared to the large number of people wanting to enjoy their food on a sea day. They did issue pagers so we waited a short time in the bar, where we found out you can just order anything off the local menu in the bar - but the pager signaled our table was ready so we ate at the restaurant. In Alesund, we had lunch at the buffet as many venues were closed and we wanted something quick before our excursion - the buffet is much smaller than most other buffets in both in food choices and seating. Cold weather also limited seating choices although radiant heaters were set up near the outdoor seating. In addition, since the adjacent Food Republic is only open for dinner, it was used for additional buffet seating at lunch. After our adventures in Alesund, we decided to have dinner at the main dining room Hudson’s - I enjoyed a fried chicken meal and my wife had a very good Hake fish dish, both some of our favorite meals on the ship. We also enjoyed a lunch in Hudson’s on the last sea day and had good chicken soup and a tuna melt. After our glacier hike in Olden, we had dinner at Cagney’s where I had a lobster bisque/rib eye steak/mushrooms/potato au gratin/apple pie dinner while my wife had wedge salad/trout/zucchini/chocolate cake. We routinely have at least one meal at Cagney’s on our NCL cruises and found this one to be up to par. The apple pie was very good! After our Bergen day, we had dinner at Onda - I had a seafood pasta dish and my wife had the branzino, with both of us satisfied with the meals. After a long Amsterdam day, we went to Food Republic and had a great dinner. With the dining package, passengers get 4 items each - we thought the black cod, California rolls, and Ramen with pork belly were great. The Korean chicken was OK, and the Rum Cake was so-so (we went to the buffet afterwards for more dessert). My wife and I ended up having 2 lunches and 2 dinners at the Haven Restaurant which were, as usual, well prepared with good service. Entertainment: Starting with the best (and worst) of the Prima is Syd Norman’s. Much of the criticism revolves around the venue. The 8 person musical act is excellent, one of the best that I have seen on any ship. 4 great singers are backed by extremely talented musicians. They tend to focus on more classic rock especially late 60s to early 80s, and do a very popular show where they play Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album in its entirety. The problem is Syd Norman’s seats so few people. On the first sail away show I lined up 45 minutes early and got one of the last seats. For their Rock Show, I lined up 60 minutes early and again got the same seat. Keep in mind I was attending solo so clearly this is a big problem to watch the band. I walked in halfway thru the 80s prom night show (which is only done once on the last night) and was able to stand and watch the band. Post-Covid, NCL has cut back on its entertainment and only one Broadway show remains - Donna Summer. It was performed on the last two nights of the cruise with 2 showings each night. While I’m not a big fan of many traditional cruise ship activities like trivia contests, arts/crafts, educational seminars, bingo, or gaming tournaments, they were readily available on the Prima. Originally scheduled to be an 8 port / 2 sea day cruise, the change to 6 ports certainly added to the demand for activities. I felt NCL did a good job entertaining guests especially given the port changes. Headline shows included 2 shows by magician and mentalist Basilio Tabacchi. His magic doesn’t have the pizazz of other illusionists, but he was entertaining and the mentalist trick with the cards was really good. Headliner vocalist Shane Hampsheir performed 2 shows as well doing Rat Pack oldies and Michael Buble songs in one, and a second show that mixed other oldies with Buble hits. On one night, the theater show ‘Ocean Fest’ was a rock concert with the musicians from Syd Norman’s and vocalists from other musical acts on the ship. Both vintage Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol to current artists like Adele and The Weeknd were covered. Neither my wife nor I are big Price is Right fans, but honestly we were quite entertained by the event. Yeah, the chance to win a new Corvette is very slim, but a Tumi suitcase, $200 in cash, and Beats Headphones were prizes won during our session. It was obviously a very popular attraction - get your tickets on NCL’s website in advance! One special feature of the Prima Theater is the ability to retract the seats on the main floor and turn the venue into a nightclub late at night - something that was quite popular, especially nights such as NCL’s white party. The Prima had several other musical acts playing regularly such as Duo Rika and Familiar Strangers but I didn’t have the time to enjoy their music. We watched the Donna Summer Broadway show on the final night. I saw and enjoyed it on Broadway in New York and felt the NCL production was very good - although backing music was pre-recorded. The singers performing Summer’s music were excellent. NCL has been criticized for cutbacks especially on production shows which is true, but they did have headliner shows every night which were on par with the quality of acts on most other ships we have sailed on. Disembarkation: Leaving the ship at Southampton was easy. For whatever reason, passports were checked in person by British authorities on the last sea day (before Amsterdam). On departure day, you simply walked off the ship after your luggage tag color was called. In the Haven we could have been first off, but since we had to wait to start our private tour, we walked off with the orange tag group and encountered no line. As one would expect with 4,000 passengers, the port was congested but we had no problem finding our tour guide and hopped in his van. Ports: We had excursions planned in Isafjordur, Iceland and Bruges, Belgium so the loss of these two ports was disappointing. However, we booked this voyage primarily to see Norway, and feel quite blessed to have such outstanding weather. The natural beauty of Norway was highlighted on this cruise. To summarize we took the NCL tour Jewels of the North in Akureyri, the Viator tour Alesund: Ultimate Sightseeing, NCL tour Briksdahl Glacier Hike in Olden, explored Bergen on our own, and took the “Best Rated Walking Tour in Amsterdam” operated by FreeDam Tours with Viator. We disembarked the ship and were transported to the Heathrow Airport with a private tour offered by Ian W at toursbylocals.com stopping at Oxford and Blenheim Palace along the way. Conclusions: Overall, I enjoyed the Prima and was very satisfied with our cruise. First, the weather was outstanding at all the ports with only a brief 10 minute shower in Amsterdam. We cruise to experience amazing destinations and even with the 2 port cancellations, were very happy with the itinerary. I thought the soot problem with the Prima was the biggest negative (you can avoid by staying away from aft loungers). Indulge is a great place for a wide variety of foods in one sitting. Yes, crowds fill the place so you have to adjust your schedule around it (late lunches, dinner after the headliner show). Syd Norman’s music and the Donna Summer show continued NCL’s tradition of premium entertainment.
  13. My wife and I sailed on the NCL Encore Oct 3 2021. In our 7 sailings to Alaska, I found glacier viewing to be very "hit or miss". The worse viewing was in July on Encore, second worse was Disney in August. Our Encore sailing had absolutely gorgeous views with brilliant sunshine and no wind BUT it is was in the low 30s. I actually enjoyed the glacier from the deck hot tub. In the ports, a lot of businesses were closed but it was just after cruising restarted post pandemic. We usually hike up Mount Roberts in Juneau, but had to turn back early due to icing of the trail despite the sunshine. I didn't stay up to watch, but somebody posted amazing photos of the Northern Lights taken at 2 am from the ship - but I understand the captain wouldn't want to wake up everyone with an announcement. The less crowded ships and much lower prices are all big benefits in traveling late in the season. This past September we sailed on the Discovery Princess' last voyage of the season - the weather going up to Alaska was rainy and overcast (so forget about hanging out at the pool) but we didn't have a drop of drain at any of the ports, and the overcast viewing of the glaciers was quite nice.
  14. I have to admit, I take cookies and candy from the Haven lounges and put them in ziplock bags to carry onshore during excursions. We have been on cruises where our butler brings us plates full of cookies and peanut M&Ms when they know we like them so I don't think we are breaking any NCL rules. I'm sorry of some people don't approve.
  15. I'm not the biggest Princess fan, but if you feel the portion size is too small just order two. On several dinners I ordered more than one entree. I asked our waiter what was the record for lobster tail consumption and he told me he got one particularly hungry diner 10 lobsters. Small portion size only makes sense and I for one, like being able to sample things without wasting a large serving of food.
  16. We sailed on the Discovery Princess last cruise of the season which left us at Vancouver. We took the Quick Shuttle from Canada Place to Seattle. It stops at several places in Seattle. www.quickcoach.com
  17. I had a lobster thermador for the first time on the Crown Princess and thought that was the best dish I ever had on the seas. I was excited to order it at Le Bistro on the NCL Encore and was disappointed.
  18. I know Princess doesn't cruise to Alaska in October, but I would add an observation - the glacier viewing weather is highly variable despite the calendar. We have been on 6 Alaska cruises July - October, and by far the best glacier viewing was during our October cruise. Brilliant sunshine, no wind, very close up views - and we were on the NCL Encore, a mega ship....but it was cold. Juneau and Skagway were great (but chilly), Ketchikan was rainy and we didn't get off the ship.
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