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FitchburgWIFamily

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About FitchburgWIFamily

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

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    Fitchburg, WI
  • Interests
    Cruising, Traveling, Reading and herding my children
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    NCL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Caribbean

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  1. We were there in March. You need your passport and your visa. You wait in a line to go through passport control. At passport control, they staple and stamp a few things and push you through. You go through an airport like security screening. There are currency exchanges (same rate everywhere) for you to convert your money. And you are out. It goes pretty quickly...maybe 15 or 20 minutes depending on lines at each of the steps.
  2. I have a reservation will before final payment with NCL. 184 days out to be exact. I watch the prices to see if they drop pretty regularly. Three times since I originally booked, the price of our suite dropped a little bit. Three times I called and they "adjusted" my price. Since NCL has run the same promos forever, I was able to keep the original booking. Today, I checked on line, saw the price was lower yet again. Now, admittedly, this was a bigger drop: other drops were between 80 and 160 and this one was $460. So, I called the trusty 1-800 number (well, a 1-866 number, but you know what I mean). I got John, explained the situation, and he said " Let me put you on hold and see what I can do to make you happy." I wait a good while, and John comes back and says "I talked to the help desk and here is what we can do, we can offer you $150.00 OBC." I explained again I am before final payment, and they have done price adjustments before, what is preventing them from doing a price adjustment now. "Policy" he says. Something about only being allowed 25% of the difference between passenger 1 & 2's fare now and the fare at booking. I tried to explain that $150 OBC wasn't the same as a $460 dollar price reduction, but he said the OBC was the best they could do. I sigh, and tell John, OK..but since I am in the window where I can cancel without penalty and since there are a lot of rooms in my category available, I will cancel and rebook, which will end up with the same financial result for me but will be more work for both of us. He tells me "Yes, but you would lose your promos" and I said "Yes, but the promos now are exactly the same as they have always been". (<- a subtle jab at the websites constant threat of "ending soon" . I wish.) So I told John if he couldn't price adjust me, I would have to cancel and rebook. "Let's get started John, can you cancel our first reservation." He says "Let me go back to the help desk and consult." He puts me on hold for 5 minutes and we get disconnected. Sigh. But also a little bit of "Good riddance" So I call back the same number on the same day and get Laura. I explain the situation to Laura and she does the price adjustment, and after about 5 minutes of total time spent on the second call, I am booked at the new lower rate and have the confirmation in my in box. I do hope they do record the calls like the robot voice says, because John might need a bit more training. And for all of you out there that don't get the right answer the first time you call...hang up and try again.
  3. You cannot use a credit card in Cuba to my knowledge. We were able to pay for our privately arranged tour and some of the things we bought in small stores in USD. We could not use USDs in anything government run: hotel shops where we bought cigars, the crocodile farm we stopped at, etc. Exchange rate is the same no matter where you go, at the port at the stores, etc. Hope this helps.
  4. Never sailed NCL but had a bunch of posts in an NCL Pearl roll call. Sailed EPIC but never joined a roll call...but is actively participated in roll calls for other sailings on other lines. Didn't give dates so other passengers on same cruise could substantiate. "Since this was our first time on NCL is this normal of the way they do things or was this just an exceptionally bad experience for us?" --- I'm thinking it was just you.
  5. I jumped ship (finally) and sailed RCI after half a dozen NCL cruises. After doing so, I found out there were some things RCI did better than NCL, and some things NCL does better than RCI. However, I decided that all things being equal, I prefer NCL for the ease of their anytime dining and the number of sit down dining venues (I am not a fan of buffets). I know some people make reservations for every night on NCL, and others just go to the buffet on any ship at anytime they are hungry, but for me, I like to decide that day when i am going to eat: based on my time ashore, the shoe that night, the activities in the daily, when and what I ate for lunch, etc. NCL does that better than anyone. And, NCL does all that while making me feel special on board by remembering my name, remembering my drink order, and decorating my mudslides with elaborate chocolate designs. So if I were in your shoes, all things are about equal...I'd pick NCL.
  6. For those of you who are getting confused by all the different answers: One: daylight savings time is not universally observed. So when we are "sprung forward" some of the Caribbean stops are not (now a two hour difference between Miami and say St. Thomas). When we are not observing daylight savings time (fall back), there is only a one hour difference. Mexico observes daylight savings time, Belize and Honduras do not. Two: Ships leaving from FL are leaving from Eastern Timezone which it shares with Cuba, Jamaica the Bahamas and Caymens. Ships leaving from New Orleans are leaving from the Central Timezone which is shares with Mexico and most of Central America (not Panama). And the eastern Carribean: Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Virgin islands, etc. are an hour ahead (depending on daylight savings time) of Miami. So, bottom line is NCL tries to be on local time which may involve a lot of time changes, a few times changes or no time changes depending on the port of departure, destination and time of year.
  7. Wow. My sympathy to all involved, this is a giant cluster. For any of you on the cruise, can you help me understand what NCL said and when? The first few pages of this thread were filled with people saying NCL hadn't told them anything, they found out on Facebook or the roll call. I see screen shots of the NCL posted itinerary, was there ever one posted that missed the France and Belgium stops? Thank you in advance for your answers.
  8. I often cruise with my mother (she will turn 90 just before our next cruise) and my kids (now older teens). Yes, there is plenty to do to keep all entertained...but not a lot that entertains both my kids and my mother. That makes it a little more challenging for me. Mom moves a bit slower than most (using a walker) and she likes her 3 squares a day, so a good chunk of any day is spent getting ready for a meal, getting to a meal, getting a meal, getting back to somewhere else from a meal. I delegate this task: I assign people to eat with gramma so that I am not doing this 3 times a day. One activity we all like is trivia, and a multi-generational team has better luck than a single generation team with most trivia themes. We pick what trivia contests we are doing and tell everyone to meet us at such and such a time at such and such place. Mom is not a sun worshiper, but on the bigger ships she loves the waterfront for a shady place to sit during the day and watch the ocean and people go by. Kids like the pool deck and slides more, so again, delegation: someone with the kids, someone with gramma. So with a little help from my cruising companions (my long suffering husband, my niece, or whoever I dragged along) we make it work.
  9. We sailed on the Escape on a full ship over spring break, our spring break was just earlier than yours. Entourage never turned anyone away, in part because as far as I could tell, most kids "met" at Entourage and then just hung out outside Entourage. One a much earlier voyage (when my kids were splash academy ages) the capacity was by group, not overall. We were behind a family trying to check in their much younger child that was turned away due to capacity, and our slightly older children sailed right in. Hope this helps, and have fun!
  10. I was on a 10-day cruise and the bag of laundry special was offered two times: 3rd day in (too soon) and 7th day in (laundry may not come back until the last day...too late to wear, but good if you don't like to pack dirty clothes). This was a few years ago, so maybe they have a better system now on longer cruises.
  11. What can I say: the sun, the cocktails, the walking during the shore excursion, the cocktails, all that food and the cocktails may have handicapped my late night game.
  12. Hey everyone, thank you for your comments and feedback. I do think we will try Royal again...I just find it interesting everyone is bashing the ship, when head to head, most of the ship categories went to Royal like the Pool deck and Common spaces. For those of you who have sailed on larger newer RC ships, how many complimentary sit down dinner options are there? I am just not a fan of the buffet and like that on the NCL ships I have been on (Jewel Class, Dawn Class, Escape) there have been multiple options for a sit down meal. On Majesty, the only sit down option we had was the main dining room. On the newer larger ships, what are the dining options for the buffet averse crowd?
  13. (posting here and on the NCL board) About us: My husband, myself and my 18 yo son and 16 yo daughter were cruising with two other families of 4 (their children are all younger). This is my 9th cruise, my husband’s 5th and my children’s 4th. Almost all of our cruising experience has been on NCL, this was our first time on Royal Caribbean. One of the families we traveled with was on their 3rd cruise (previously on Disney and Carnival) and the other family was on their first cruise. We did a 5 day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on the Majesty of the Seas with stops at Key West and Cuba. Below I try to give a head to head comparison based on my experiences between the two lines. Assume any typos are signs of creativity and any grammatical errors are indicative of regional dialect. Embarkation: Pretty even, but I’ll give a slight edge to Norwegian for the following reasons: NCL has better options for boarding day lunch. The buffet was the only option on Majesty and it was hard to find a table for 4 let alone a place where more than 4 of us could eat. It is just not relaxing for me to fight for my food on the first day of my cruise. And, NCL staff does a better job of greeting you on board. Cruise Directors staff are dancing and welcoming you as you walk on board a Norwegian ship. The only people who were in the lobby when we got on the Majesty were the people at the tables trying to sell you stuff (spa, drink packages, etc.) No one said “Welcome Aboard” on Majesty. Ship Pool side: I’d give the advantage to Royal on the Pool Deck experience: we were always able to find a few chairs, the music was played at a tolerable volume and the two bars at either end of the pool were able to keep up. I miss Norwegian’s pool side food though. Only pool side food we found on Majesty was the Soft Serve machine which was well (very well) used by the kids in our group. Our stash of bags poolside on embarkation day: we look like we are there for a month and this is just the carry on stuff. Common Spaces: I’d give the advantage to Royal again: .Schooners, Bolero and Spectrum when not used for events were all excellent places to meet up, talk, play a card game, and enjoy a view. There was never a time we could not find a place to meet and hang out together. There was also another bar all the way up and forward, but the few times we tried it, it was being used for private events, and it was too far out of the way to bother with again. NCL common spaces are a little harder to come by: the jewel class ships have the Spinnaker (equivalent to Spectrum), but on the Dawn class ships, that space has been repurposed for suites. One the newest big NCL ships, they have the wonderful waterfront, but it is hard to reliably find a place for a large group to get together as there is a lot of people trying to use the same space. Entertainment: We caught two of the shows by the production cast on Royal, and here I have to give the points to Norwegian: the production casts are larger and the shows have more variety on NCL. On Majesty, there was a disco themed show and a not disco themed show. But the shows were very very similar. Other entertainment around the ship: here I think I might give points to Royal…the quality of the entertainment was very similar, but the volume was better. NCL seems to amp everything up a little too much, so it is hard to talk over. Turns out we can lose at trivia just as well on Royal as we do on Norwegian. If they would only score me on the correct answers I crossed out. Other than Trivia, we did not partake in too many other activities. Dining: I have to give it to Norwegian on the dining. On Royal, I had braised ribs, a pork shank, and a lamb something all in the main dining room and all were very very good. , I give the point to Norwegian for convenience and variety. On NCL, the main dining menu has 5 or 6 entrees that are the same each night and 5 or 6 that alternate, for a total of 10 or 12. On Majesty, there were 6 entrees to choose from. Also, our table was in the back of the dining room, and there were no restrooms in the main dining room. I would have to walk the length of the dining room and up a deck to use the bathroom if I needed to use it during the course of our dinner. But the biggest difference between the two is on convenience, on Norwegian, on every ship I have been on, there are at least 4 different sit down restaurants available at no extra charge every night. Two of them have the same menu, the other two (one Asian, on pub style food) are different. All of them will seat me when I am ready at any time. We only dined in the main dining room 3 of the 5 nights, and on two of those nights there was parade of staff dance number. Kind of fun. Kind of awkward if you were ready to leave the dining room and you needed to wait for the aisles to free up. We used the main dining room on Majesty for breakfast one day: this was better than the breakfast on NCL because the amply supplied buffet (similar the suite breakfast on NCL). And I used the main dining room on Majesty one day for lunch: we were there when it opened, at 11:30. It was 1:10 before they brought me my dessert. Everyone around me was served their dessert before I was. I think the issue was the woman (a stranger) that was seated at my table with me got the salad bar (which was an excellent salad bar) for her entire meal. She didn’t want dessert. I think the waiter was waiting for her to be done before he brought me my dessert, even though I had finished my (very good) sandwich 30 minutes earlier. My two teens: mischief and surly: Teens: My 16 year old went to the teen club, met some friends, and practically deserted us for the rest of the cruise. My 18 year old used the sports court a lot and met up with some friends there, but the one activity we could find on the dailies for 18-21 year olds never really materialized. It was schedule for the sport court, but no one showed up. My 16 year old would rate this cruise as one of her bests, because she had so much fun with her friends, and they could always find a hot tub that didn’t have a bunch of 50-year-olds in it already. Her posse of 16-year-olds made good use of Sorento’s pizza and sang Karoke in Spectrum. My 18-year-old would not rate this very high: he likes the night scene, and this ship had a much older demographic at the night venues then he is used to. He did enjoy watching the basketball tournament on the huge screen poolside and the sports offered on smaller screens in other venues. It was the first cruise ever where my daughter had more fun than her older brother. Unlike NCL, we did not have to sign my daughter up for teen club…she just went on her own. So for teens, it is a tie between NCL and Royal based on my family’s experience. Bars and drink package: (or: Everything tastes better out of a pineapple) I will hands down give the points to Royal on this: including water bottles probably costs them pennies but was a huge advantage over Norwegian. The drink cups for sodas also came in handy. I could also get cans of soda from some bars. Oh, and Royal is Coke, Norwegian in Pepsi, so I was happy and husband was sad. But, one thing we found weird, the majority of times, even though we had the drink package, they still made us sign for each drink. I think this is an attempt to get an additional tip on top of the tips we paid on the beverage package, but we tip in cash ($1/drink) and the paper was just an inconvenience. I purchased the package from Royal for a total (with whatever they add to the listed price) of 306.80 per person for my husband and myself. This is for a 5 day cruise. We drank, between us, approximately 75 drinks. Even if they were all priced as the cocktail of the day price (which most of them were higher) I came out $100.00 ahead. I can come out ahead on NCL’s drink package when it is bundled as “free” with the cabin fare, but I cannot drink enough to make it worth paying for outright. NCL makes a better mudslide: only one mudslide I had on Royal had the chocolate syrup mud, whereas the Norwegian bar tenders are artisans with the syrup. More than once on Royal we had cases of wait staff bringing us the wrong drink…but they were always good about bringing us the correct one. On Majesty, we had one excellent bar waiter (Oka in Schooners) who memorized us and our drink order right away. Other than Oka though, the staff didn’t really seem to remember us from day to day. On all our NCL sailings, there are multiple bar tenders and wait staff who greet us by name, remember our order, etc. We purchased a pineapple drink (about 10.00 with the beverage package) because everything tastes better in a pineapple. Once you buy the pineapple you can refill with whatever you want for free on the beverage package. Because everything (except a mudslike) tastes better in a pineapple. Cabin: This is a tough one, because Majesty is an old ship, and it is not fair to compare her to a newer ship. So I can’t say Royal is worse than NCL because our Cabin was small. The bathroom was the smallest bathroom I have ever had on a ship, and Royal has not made minor modifications that would make it better. They could easily have added more shelves for storage, racks for the hand towels and wash clothes, and get rid of the inset waste basket in the counter that just takes up counter space. However…our cabin was not set up the way we had asked for when we boarded and there was food in it from the previous sailing. Our friends cabins shower temperature did not adjust. While we had nice new mattresses, the third family we were sharing with did not and the beds were extremely uncomfortable. So, based on all of that, I have to give an edge to Norwegian on cabins. Staff: I have to give the point to NCL here, too. On Majesty, Tanya the Cruise director and her staff were excellent. And with the exception of our steward on the first day, all of the staff were pretty good on Majesty. So it is not that there is anything wrong with Royal. It is just that they were not as friendly as the staff on NCL. Stewards did not great us as we walked down the hall. Senior Staff (Bar Manager, Hotel Manager, etc.) were not “present” in their venues dropping off their cards and asking how things were going. The dining staff in the main dining room on Royal, because you have the assigned table are more friendly and personable than they are on NCL, but if you eat breakfast or lunch and aren’t at your table, you don’t get that “happy to serve you” vibe. Issue handling: (Cracker Gate) Our cabin was “ready” at 1:00. We had an ocean view stateroom on deck 4. We had asked for the beds to be split apart, as we knew we needed both berths down. When we went down to see our room, the beds were combined as one. I found our steward, introduced ourselves, asked him to split them and we headed out to the buffet to catch a bite to eat before muster. When we came back after muster, our luggage had arrived, and now there were 4 suitcases in our teeny tiny room. I needed to move some stuff out of the closet to make room for our things (the life jackets need to be stowed under a bed and the two bunk ladders took up the space for hanging items. I also couldn’t stow our suitcases under the bed until the beds were in the correct position. But for some reason, the steward had not separated the lower beds into two twins yet. <sigh> I called and asked for our steward, and after about a half hour, he came. I again asked for the beds to be split. You would have to see how the room is configured, but when you split the two twin beds, you need to stagger them so they both will go against the wall, as there is a built in nightstand at the end one wall for when the beds are combined as one. He did split the beds, but did not stagger them. Then, he started to make up the upper beds, which I did not need made up. I told him that we didn’t need those made up yet, but he just agreed with me and kept doing it. So we waited in the hall outside our room for close to a ½ hour while he did our turn down at about 5:00 in the afternoon. When he was done, and we went in, I had to have my husband move the one bed against the wall so we had a place wider than 10 inches to walk between the two beds. We had also pointed out to him that there was food in our room left from a previous sailing: one was a package of opened crackers on top of a light fixture above one of the upper bunks (that one I can see being missed) the other was a another package of crackers and crumbs on the window ledge. Which means that during switch over, no one opened the drapes or wiped down the surface that is the shelf under the window. Our steward did throw away the crackers but left the pile of crumbs on the window ledge!!!!!!!! I was just done with our useless steward, I wanted to get unpacked and on with my day, so I just took a picture and cleaned off the surface myself. I think part of the issue here was that his English was not as good as I am used to in customer-facing staff..that might explain the confusion with the beds. But there is no excuse for leaving food in a room from a previous sailing. The next morning, I waited in line to talk to Guest Services to ask to talk to someone about our less than stellar steward. Guest Services apologized sincerely, and told me a supervisor would meet me in my room to discuss. My room is very close to guest services, and my husband and son were still in my room. I got there maybe 60 seconds after leaving guest services. I waited for about 45 minutes, but no one came to my room. I went back out, got in line at Guest Services again, and he was shocked no one had come. He called the supervisor again, and she said she had gone to our room but no one was there. Either she did that in the 10 minutes it took me to get my turn at Guest Services again (meaning she left me waiting 35 minutes before she came to see me) or she lied. Anyway, she did finally come after my second trip to Guest Services, apologized again, and assigned us a new steward. This steward did clean our room (it looked much better when he was done, so I am not sure the first steward even vacuumed). And she volunteered to take a little useless glass table out of the room to give us more room. The next night, between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm we got a call. Both my husband and I were already in bed, but my husband got up and answered the phone. There was a delivery of something from housekeeping did we want it now? Em…no? The next day, when we got back on the boat from Havana, there was a bottle of champagne on ice and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, so I assume that was from housekeeping as an apology. So, I lost almost 2 hours to this debacle. My husband and I had to do work that we never should have had to do. I did get an apology and a treat. For now, I’ll rate it a neutral and assume it was an aberration. If I ever had a similar issue on a Royal ship, it would be my last Royal ship ever. Shore visits: NCL edges out Royal again. Almost everything is exactly the same, but NCL has two things that tip it in their favor: the towel swap at the gangway: I love being able to drop off my wet towels and not worry about them again. And NCL does a better job of greeting you back on board: whether it is with senior officers handing out glasses of cold water, staff doing a dance off to greet you back on board, or the lovely eucalyptus-scented hand clothes, NCL makes you feel special getting back on board. However, we bought rum on both Key West and on Cuba, and had it in our bags that we scanned. Royal never asked us to go check it in. I asked at Key West if I should, and they said I should…but if I hadn’t asked that rum would have been in my room doing whatever it is smuggled rum does on board. One thing that is different is that on NCL, when you check purchased alcohol in at the gangway, they deliver it to your room the last night, so you can put it in your checked bags. On Royal, when you check alcohol in, you pick it up after 6:30 am on disembarkation day. A little less convenient…so when we brought 3 bottles of Rum on board in Cuba, we didn’t even mention it and they let us take them right to our cabin. Disembarkation: Royal gets the point here. They assigned us a departure time (ours was between 9:30 and 9:50 I think) if you want to have your luggage taken off (we did not, based on the late departure) or let you walk off based on deck. Lots of people paid no attention to the “by deck” but the line moved pretty quickly once it moved, and we were able to walk from our state room, into line, around the line and off the boat in about 10 minutes at about 8:20 in the morning. I don’t know what NCL does wrong here, but it is almost always a cluster of a long nonmoving line to get off the boat. In total: Royal and NCL offer very similar products. NCL edges out Royal on the people side and on the convenience side, Royal edges out NCL in a couple of categories. Sailing on Royal did not convince me to abandon NCL. But it did convince me I could sail on Royal (on a newer ship with bigger bathrooms) again.
  14. (posting here and on the Royal Caribbean board) About us: My husband, myself and my 18 yo son and 16 yo daughter were cruising with two other families of 4 (their children are all younger). This is my 9th cruise, my husband’s 5th and my children’s 4th. Almost all of our cruising experience has been on NCL, this was our first time on Royal Caribbean. One of the families we traveled with was on their 3rd cruise (previously on Disney and Carnival) and the other family was on their first cruise. We did a 5 day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on the Majesty of the Seas with stops at Key West and Cuba. Below I try to give a head to head comparison based on my experiences between the two lines. Assume any typos are signs of creativity and any grammatical errors are indicative of regional dialect. Embarkation: Pretty even, but I’ll give a slight edge to Norwegian for the following reasons: NCL has better options for boarding day lunch. The buffet was the only option on Majesty and it was hard to find a table for 4 let alone a place where more than 4 of us could eat. It is just not relaxing for me to fight for my food on the first day of my cruise. And, NCL staff does a better job of greeting you on board. Cruise Directors staff are dancing and welcoming you as you walk on board a Norwegian ship. The only people who were in the lobby when we got on the Majesty were the people at the tables trying to sell you stuff (spa, drink packages, etc.) No one said “Welcome Aboard” on Majesty. Ship Pool side: I’d give the advantage to Royal on the Pool Deck experience: we were always able to find a few chairs, the music was played at a tolerable volume and the two bars at either end of the pool were able to keep up. I miss Norwegian’s pool side food though. Only pool side food we found on Majesty was the Soft Serve machine which was well (very well) used by the kids in our group. Our stash of bags poolside on embarkation day: we look like we are there for a month and this is just the carry on stuff. Common Spaces: I’d give the advantage to Royal again: .Schooners, Bolero and Spectrum when not used for events were all excellent places to meet up, talk, play a card game, and enjoy a view. There was never a time we could not find a place to meet and hang out together. There was also another bar all the way up and forward, but the few times we tried it, it was being used for private events, and it was too far out of the way to bother with again. NCL common spaces are a little harder to come by: the jewel class ships have the Spinnaker (equivalent to Spectrum), but on the Dawn class ships, that space has been repurposed for suites. One the newest big NCL ships, they have the wonderful waterfront, but it is hard to reliably find a place for a large group to get together as there is a lot of people trying to use the same space. Entertainment: We caught two of the shows by the production cast on Royal, and here I have to give the points to Norwegian: the production casts are larger and the shows have more variety on NCL. On Majesty, there was a disco themed show and a not disco themed show. But the shows were very very similar. Other entertainment around the ship: here I think I might give points to Royal…the quality of the entertainment was very similar, but the volume was better. NCL seems to amp everything up a little too much, so it is hard to talk over. Turns out we can lose at trivia just as well on Royal as we do on Norwegian. If they would only score me on the correct answers I crossed out. Other than Trivia, we did not partake in too many other activities. Dining: I have to give it to Norwegian on the dining. On Royal, I had braised ribs, a pork shank, and a lamb something all in the main dining room and all were very very good. , I give the point to Norwegian for convenience and variety. On NCL, the main dining menu has 5 or 6 entrees that are the same each night and 5 or 6 that alternate, for a total of 10 or 12. On Majesty, there were 6 entrees to choose from. Also, our table was in the back of the dining room, and there were no restrooms in the main dining room. I would have to walk the length of the dining room and up a deck to use the bathroom if I needed to use it during the course of our dinner. But the biggest difference between the two is on convenience, on Norwegian, on every ship I have been on, there are at least 4 different sit down restaurants available at no extra charge every night. Two of them have the same menu, the other two (one Asian, on pub style food) are different. All of them will seat me when I am ready at any time. We only dined in the main dining room 3 of the 5 nights, and on two of those nights there was parade of staff dance number. Kind of fun. Kind of awkward if you were ready to leave the dining room and you needed to wait for the aisles to free up. We used the main dining room on Majesty for breakfast one day: this was better than the breakfast on NCL because the amply supplied buffet (similar the suite breakfast on NCL). And I used the main dining room on Majesty one day for lunch: we were there when it opened, at 11:30. It was 1:10 before they brought me my dessert. Everyone around me was served their dessert before I was. I think the issue was the woman (a stranger) that was seated at my table with me got the salad bar (which was an excellent salad bar) for her entire meal. She didn’t want dessert. I think the waiter was waiting for her to be done before he brought me my dessert, even though I had finished my (very good) sandwich 30 minutes earlier. My two teens: mischief and surly: Teens: My 16 year old went to the teen club, met some friends, and practically deserted us for the rest of the cruise. My 18 year old used the sports court a lot and met up with some friends there, but the one activity we could find on the dailies for 18-21 year olds never really materialized. It was schedule for the sport court, but no one showed up. My 16 year old would rate this cruise as one of her bests, because she had so much fun with her friends, and they could always find a hot tub that didn’t have a bunch of 50-year-olds in it already. Her posse of 16-year-olds made good use of Sorento’s pizza and sang Karoke in Spectrum. My 18-year-old would not rate this very high: he likes the night scene, and this ship had a much older demographic at the night venues then he is used to. He did enjoy watching the basketball tournament on the huge screen poolside and the sports offered on smaller screens in other venues. It was the first cruise ever where my daughter had more fun than her older brother. Unlike NCL, we did not have to sign my daughter up for teen club…she just went on her own. So for teens, it is a tie between NCL and Royal based on my family’s experience. Bars and drink package: (or: Everything tastes better out of a pineapple) I will hands down give the points to Royal on this: including water bottles probably costs them pennies but was a huge advantage over Norwegian. The drink cups for sodas also came in handy. I could also get cans of soda from some bars. Oh, and Royal is Coke, Norwegian in Pepsi, so I was happy and husband was sad. But, one thing we found weird, the majority of times, even though we had the drink package, they still made us sign for each drink. I think this is an attempt to get an additional tip on top of the tips we paid on the beverage package, but we tip in cash ($1/drink) and the paper was just an inconvenience. I purchased the package from Royal for a total (with whatever they add to the listed price) of 306.80 per person for my husband and myself. This is for a 5 day cruise. We drank, between us, approximately 75 drinks. Even if they were all priced as the cocktail of the day price (which most of them were higher) I came out $100.00 ahead. I can come out ahead on NCL’s drink package when it is bundled as “free” with the cabin fare, but I cannot drink enough to make it worth paying for outright. NCL makes a better mudslide: only one mudslide I had on Royal had the chocolate syrup mud, whereas the Norwegian bar tenders are artisans with the syrup. More than once on Royal we had cases of wait staff bringing us the wrong drink…but they were always good about bringing us the correct one. On Majesty, we had one excellent bar waiter (Oka in Schooners) who memorized us and our drink order right away. Other than Oka though, the staff didn’t really seem to remember us from day to day. On all our NCL sailings, there are multiple bar tenders and wait staff who greet us by name, remember our order, etc. We purchased a pineapple drink (about 10.00 with the beverage package) because everything tastes better in a pineapple. Once you buy the pineapple you can refill with whatever you want for free on the beverage package. Because everything (except a mudslike) tastes better in a pineapple. Cabin: This is a tough one, because Majesty is an old ship, and it is not fair to compare her to a newer ship. So I can’t say Royal is worse than NCL because our Cabin was small. The bathroom was the smallest bathroom I have ever had on a ship, and Royal has not made minor modifications that would make it better. They could easily have added more shelves for storage, racks for the hand towels and wash clothes, and get rid of the inset waste basket in the counter that just takes up counter space. However…our cabin was not set up the way we had asked for when we boarded and there was food in it from the previous sailing. Our friends cabins shower temperature did not adjust. While we had nice new mattresses, the third family we were sharing with did not and the beds were extremely uncomfortable. So, based on all of that, I have to give an edge to Norwegian on cabins. Staff: I have to give the point to NCL here, too. On Majesty, Tanya the Cruise director and her staff were excellent. And with the exception of our steward on the first day, all of the staff were pretty good on Majesty. So it is not that there is anything wrong with Royal. It is just that they were not as friendly as the staff on NCL. Stewards did not great us as we walked down the hall. Senior Staff (Bar Manager, Hotel Manager, etc.) were not “present” in their venues dropping off their cards and asking how things were going. The dining staff in the main dining room on Royal, because you have the assigned table are more friendly and personable than they are on NCL, but if you eat breakfast or lunch and aren’t at your table, you don’t get that “happy to serve you” vibe. Issue handling: (Cracker Gate) Our cabin was “ready” at 1:00. We had an ocean view stateroom on deck 4. We had asked for the beds to be split apart, as we knew we needed both berths down. When we went down to see our room, the beds were combined as one. I found our steward, introduced ourselves, asked him to split them and we headed out to the buffet to catch a bite to eat before muster. When we came back after muster, our luggage had arrived, and now there were 4 suitcases in our teeny tiny room. I needed to move some stuff out of the closet to make room for our things (the life jackets need to be stowed under a bed and the two bunk ladders took up the space for hanging items. I also couldn’t stow our suitcases under the bed until the beds were in the correct position. But for some reason, the steward had not separated the lower beds into two twins yet. <sigh> I called and asked for our steward, and after about a half hour, he came. I again asked for the beds to be split. You would have to see how the room is configured, but when you split the two twin beds, you need to stagger them so they both will go against the wall, as there is a built in nightstand at the end one wall for when the beds are combined as one. He did split the beds, but did not stagger them. Then, he started to make up the upper beds, which I did not need made up. I told him that we didn’t need those made up yet, but he just agreed with me and kept doing it. So we waited in the hall outside our room for close to a ½ hour while he did our turn down at about 5:00 in the afternoon. When he was done, and we went in, I had to have my husband move the one bed against the wall so we had a place wider than 10 inches to walk between the two beds. We had also pointed out to him that there was food in our room left from a previous sailing: one was a package of opened crackers on top of a light fixture above one of the upper bunks (that one I can see being missed) the other was a another package of crackers and crumbs on the window ledge. Which means that during switch over, no one opened the drapes or wiped down the surface that is the shelf under the window. Our steward did throw away the crackers but left the pile of crumbs on the window ledge!!!!!!!! I was just done with our useless steward, I wanted to get unpacked and on with my day, so I just took a picture and cleaned off the surface myself. I think part of the issue here was that his English was not as good as I am used to in customer-facing staff..that might explain the confusion with the beds. But there is no excuse for leaving food in a room from a previous sailing. The next morning, I waited in line to talk to Guest Services to ask to talk to someone about our less than stellar steward. Guest Services apologized sincerely, and told me a supervisor would meet me in my room to discuss. My room is very close to guest services, and my husband and son were still in my room. I got there maybe 60 seconds after leaving guest services. I waited for about 45 minutes, but no one came to my room. I went back out, got in line at Guest Services again, and he was shocked no one had come. He called the supervisor again, and she said she had gone to our room but no one was there. Either she did that in the 10 minutes it took me to get my turn at Guest Services again (meaning she left me waiting 35 minutes before she came to see me) or she lied. Anyway, she did finally come after my second trip to Guest Services, apologized again, and assigned us a new steward. This steward did clean our room (it looked much better when he was done, so I am not sure the first steward even vacuumed). And she volunteered to take a little useless glass table out of the room to give us more room. The next night, between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm we got a call. Both my husband and I were already in bed, but my husband got up and answered the phone. There was a delivery of something from housekeeping did we want it now? Em…no? The next day, when we got back on the boat from Havana, there was a bottle of champagne on ice and a plate of chocolate covered strawberries, so I assume that was from housekeeping as an apology. So, I lost almost 2 hours to this debacle. My husband and I had to do work that we never should have had to do. I did get an apology and a treat. For now, I’ll rate it a neutral and assume it was an aberration. If I ever had a similar issue on a Royal ship, it would be my last Royal ship ever. Shore visits: NCL edges out Royal again. Almost everything is exactly the same, but NCL has two things that tip it in their favor: the towel swap at the gangway: I love being able to drop off my wet towels and not worry about them again. And NCL does a better job of greeting you back on board: whether it is with senior officers handing out glasses of cold water, staff doing a dance off to greet you back on board, or the lovely eucalyptus-scented hand clothes, NCL makes you feel special getting back on board. However, we bought rum on both Key West and on Cuba, and had it in our bags that we scanned. Royal never asked us to go check it in. I asked at Key West if I should, and they said I should…but if I hadn’t asked that rum would have been in my room doing whatever it is smuggled rum does on board. One thing that is different is that on NCL, when you check purchased alcohol in at the gangway, they deliver it to your room the last night, so you can put it in your checked bags. On Royal, when you check alcohol in, you pick it up after 6:30 am on disembarkation day. A little less convenient…so when we brought 3 bottles of Rum on board in Cuba, we didn’t even mention it and they let us take them right to our cabin. Disembarkation: Royal gets the point here. They assigned us a departure time (ours was between 9:30 and 9:50 I think) if you want to have your luggage taken off (we did not, based on the late departure) or let you walk off based on deck. Lots of people paid no attention to the “by deck” but the line moved pretty quickly once it moved, and we were able to walk from our state room, into line, around the line and off the boat in about 10 minutes at about 8:20 in the morning. I don’t know what NCL does wrong here, but it is almost always a cluster of a long nonmoving line to get off the boat. In total: Royal and NCL offer very similar products. NCL edges out Royal on the people side and on the convenience side, Royal edges out NCL in a couple of categories. Sailing on Royal did not convince me to abandon NCL. But it did convince me I could sail on Royal (on a newer ship with bigger bathrooms) again.
  15. You can exchange back to US without penalty at the terminal. You can exchange to CAD or EURO to try to avoid the 10% fee, but we found that the exchange rate to convert to CAD or EURO here in the states wasn't worth it. The exchange rate for CUCs is 1 to 1 USD. But there is the 13% penalty. So if you convert $100 you'll get 87 CUC. Everyone gives you the exact same rate, the terminal, banks, exchange houses, and individuals. Most individuals in Cuba will take USD...they will just charge you the same 13%. So if something is $25.00 CUC, you can pay with 29.00 USD. Organizations (like the crocodile farm we stopped at) cannot take USD. Hope this helps.
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