Tag Archives: Cruising

Complaints: The right way and the wrong way to deal with problems while cruising

26 Jul

I’ve been cruising 2-3 times a year for many years now. I can honestly say I have never found a single thing to complain about. Maybe I’m very easy going? Or maybe it’s because there’s not been anything worth ruining my cruise over? Well, that’s not true. One time the chicken piccata served in the  main dining room was too eggy. Oh, and once the room steward forgot to give us the extra pillow I had requested when I booked the cruise.

If you browse through the Cruise Critic Forum or Facebook Pages for the major cruise lines, you’ll see plenty of people complain. Honestly, most of what they complain about is petty, and I’m fairly certain a fair share of them are miserable in their everyday life that are not happy unless they have something to rant about.

Every once in awhile something legit does come up. So what should you do when it happens to you?

If it’s in your cabin

  • The right way is to go to your room steward first. Is there a stain on the bedspread? Is ice missing from your bucket? Was the minibar not replenished? Not enough hangars? Politely ask your room steward to get you whatever it is that is missing or needs replacing.
  • The wrong way is to keep quiet until it becomes urgent and then get upset and withhold his gratuity because you don’t have a fresh towel the instant you need one.

If it’s in the dining room

  • The right way is to tell your waiter. If you don’t like how something tastes, send it back and get something else.
  • The wrong way is to sit there and stew about it (pun intended) then rant about it in your online review. If you don’t let someone know something is wrong, then how can they fix it? The waiter is not going to read your review so the only way he will know something is wrong is if you speak up when it actually happens.

If it’s about your bill

  • The right way is to keep track of your on board spending daily, and if you notice something out of whack go to the customer service desk immediately. Politely ask for them to review the bill and credit your account if it is truly a mistake. A common reason people get upset about their bill is that they forget there is a daily service charge (currently $12 per day per passenger on NCL) or they used their debit card (instead of a credit card) and now there is a hold on their checking account that takes several weeks to clear.
  • The wrong way is to wait until the last day and demand a full refund of your cruise. You will end up in a long line (making you even more upset) and you will not end up getting what you want. It’s simply not realistic to get a full refund.

Don’t nitpick – It’s not worth ruining your cruise by getting upset over something minor. Most complaints are about someone smoking on the balcony next to them, unruly kids, or the buffet line is long at breakfast. If you find yourself getting annoyed with something, stop and think whether it’s worth being upset about. You’re on vacation. RELAX! You cannot control other people, but you can control yourself and how you respond to the situation. Sure, it’s annoying if the cigarette smoke from your neighbor’s balcony is wafting into your space, but if smoke is going to bother you that much then look for a cruise bans smoking on the balcony. It’s also silly to get worked up if there are kids in the hot tub or playing games with the elevators. They have parents that are supposed to be watching them. It’s not the crew’s fault if parents do not do their job. If being around children upsets you so much that is will ruin your vacation then please find an adults-only cruise.

Could it be your own fault? – Did you get lazy about washing your hands and then find yourself sick a couple days later? Did you neglect to pack sunscreen and then get angry when it costs $20 a for a tiny bottle in the gift shop? Did you fail to keep track of time while at port and then missed the ship because you were late? Did you forget to put your phone in airplane mode and get zapped with a $500 phone bill? You are the one responsible. Don’t take it out on the crew because of your own mistakes or write a bad review because you were negligent.

Be Prepared – While I truly hope nothing tragic ever happens while you’re on your cruise, the reality is that accidents and illness can happen while on vacation. Be prepare by reading every word of your cruise contract (remember that long thing we are supposed to scroll through before clicking “I agree?”). Know your rights and what your responsibilities are. Also, please, PLEASE get Travel Insurance and a Passport. That way if you fall down the stairs, crash the rental scooter, miss the ship, or get sick you will not be left stranded or stuck with enormous medical bills.

Don’t use a debit card –  It’s important to use a CREDIT card and NOT a debit card. I’m being redundant, but I feel it’s worth repeating . Most cruises put an automatic hold on of a several hundred dollars on your card. It may take a few weeks for this to clear. Unless you are very wealthy, don’t want to mess with the funds in your checking account. Also, a credit card offers better protection against fraud. You can also appeal the charges with the credit card company if you truly feel you have been wronged. Debit cards rarely give you that option.

Wishing you a very enjoyable, safe, and healthy cruise!

Norwegian Dawn – Boston to Bermuda July 12, 2013

26 Jul

My husband and I had a fabulous time on the July 12, 2013 Boston-Bermuda Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. We enjoyed it so much that we booked the same date and same cabin again for next year.

This is an abridged version, for more detailed info please see my past reviews for “July 2012” and “July 2011

About Us
This was our 5th year in a row going sailing on NCL from Boston-Bermuda. The first two times were on the Norwegian Spirit and the past three were on the Dawn. I’ve sailed 6 times with NCL, 3 times with Carnival, once with Celebrity and once with Renaissance (now Oceania). I’m a fan of NCL, but I truly enjoyed every cruise line that I’ve sailed on and am look forward to one day sailing on all of them.

Embarkation
Arrived a bit later than usual at 11:00 (instead of our usual 10-10:30), and boarded immediately after going through security (lines were long) and checking in. We walked around the ship for a bit then went up to the buffet to have lunch. It was crowded. Next time we’ll go to the Bimini Bar instead. At 1:30 the rooms were ready and at 2:30 our luggage arrived.

Stateroom
We had a balcony room near the aft staircase on the portside #10696. This was the same room we had for the last two years, and we reserved it again this year because we like it. It’s exactly the same as we remembered – clean, modest, comfortable, and quiet with a beautiful view of the sunrise in the morning on the way to Bermuda and a spectacular view of the sunset as we sail back home. 

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Norwegian Dawn Stateroom 10696

Main Dining Room – The Venetian
Delightful 5 out of 5. We ate there on most nights. I also had breakfast there just about every morning. I love their french toast. My husband never wakes up in time for breakfast, but that’s fine with me.

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Thai Chicken in Venetian

Poolside Drinks
Less than stellar. 2 out of 5 stars. The service was wonderful, but the quality of the drinks was a disappointment. They were expensive – mixed drinks around $10 or so, but the serving size was small and they were very watered down. I think this is because NCL now offers an Ultimate Beverage Package that includes unlimited alcoholic drinks. However, we don’t drink enough to make that worthwhile. If you’re not careful they will sneak in a “Souvenir Cup” for an additional charge. Beer is about $6 or $7, but you can get a bucket of 5 and get the 6th one free. I had bought a couple bottles of wine for the room on the NCL website. They had them ready on embarkation with a corkscrew and glasses. That was perfect. I enjoy a glass out on the balcony watching the sun set.

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Wine Ordered for Room

 

Poolside Entertainment
The Caribbean-style band was great as usual. We also enjoyed the Poolside BBQ every sea day (weather permitting). There is nothing better than the fresh sea air and the smell of a real charcoal BBQ. We caught a glimpse of a couple the funny games – Hairy Chest and Booty Shaking contests. They were ridiculous yet funny at the same time. I’d caution conservative people to stay away from the Booty Shaking contest. It could be offensive to some.

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Poolside BBQ

 

Latitudes Party
It was held on Saturday afternoon. It’s invitation only for past cruisers. It featured unlimited house chardonnay, merlot, rum punch, beer, or champagne. They had raffles for prizes.

White Hot Party
Was on Wednesday night. It’s nice to see everyone out and about, but there were way too many children and teens there. They decorate the lounge all in white, there’s ice sculptures, loud music and cups that light up. We didn’t stay long because of all the kids.

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White Hot Party

Bermuda
There are not enough words to describe the beauty of Bermuda.  We never get sick of it. The weather is perfect, the people are friendly, the beaches are breathtaking. We did our usual thing – got bus/ferry passes, went to Horseshoe Bay, got into St. George as well as Hamilton, and visited with our friends at The Bone Fish and with our favorite artist, Lisa Rego, at the Clocktower Mall in the Dockyard. Three days just isn’t enough, but it’s nice knowing that we still have a couple days left of fun on the ship to enjoy before arriving back in Boston.

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Norwegian Dawn at port in Bermuda

I recommend getting to Horseshoe Bay on Sunday. For more detailed info on what to do and when, please see the my 2011 post. On Monday, get to St. George and Hamilton during the day then to The Bone Fish Grill at night for dinner and dancing. If you are into serious partying reggae-style then go to Snorkle Park after midnight on Monday. On Tuesday, I recommend exploring the Dockard –  shopping at the Clocktower Mall, lunch at Cafe Amici, and farewell drinks at The Frog and Onion.

Cruising – Hidden Costs and Things That Cost Extra

25 Jul

New cruisers are often surprised by things that cost extra. I’d like to call attention to a few things that are NOT included:

  • Taxes, Port Charges, and Fuel Supplement – These are in addition to your room charge and depend on the the destination and length of your cruise.
  • Service Charge – NCL currently charges $12/day per person. It will be automatically added to your bill at the end of the cruise. If you are in a suite, your butler and concierge will also cost extra.
  • Certain Drinks – Soda, bottled water, specialty coffees, and alcohol.
  • Specialty Restaurants – There are plenty of free restaurants, but there are also some that charge a premium like Teppanyaki, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and Moderno Brazilian Steakhouse. These are optional. You will not starve if you choose not to go to them. Here is the list of the Norwegian Dawn’s Specialty Restaurants. Here is the list of free restaurants on the Dawn.
  • Shore Excursions – Anything you do while off the ship in Bermuda will cost you extra. For examples of what to do while you’re in Bermuda check out my post “Cruising to Bermuda on the NCL Dawn from Boston.” It includes an sample itinerary for your 3 days on the island.
  • Photographs – It is free to get your picture taken (in fact there will be a photographer ready to snap your photo just about every day), but if you want to buy the picture you will have to pay for it.
  • Parking – There is no free parking in Boston. There is a parking garage across from the port that is reasonably priced. Here is Massport’s parking info at Cruiseport Boston.
  • Transportation to and from the airport or hotel
  • Internet – NCL’s current internet rates are listed on their website. Bermuda also has island-wide wifi hotspots. You can get more info on TBI’s website. You can buy a TBI internet package once you get to the Dockyard at Island Outfitters which is next to my favorite restaurant The Bone Fish Bar and Grill (which is NOT related to the chain restaurant found in the USA).
  • Laundry
  • Late Night Room Service
  • Casino
  • Spa Services

Things to Bring on a Cruise You May Not Think Of

25 Jul

Cruise ships are amazing. They have everything you can think of to keep you well fed and entertained 24/7, but there are some simple things I’ve discovered that cruise ships often don’t have. Maybe the fancy suites have these things, but the rooms for the common folk do not. Also included are some other things you might find helpful to bring along. Here is the list:

  • Alarm Clock – I haven’t seen one yet on the dozen cruises I’ve been on. Don’t rely on your cell phone to tell the time. If it’s in airplane mode (which I recommend you do unless you want a whopping surprise bill with roaming charges), your clock will not update. Bermuda is one hour ahead of Boston. While we are on the subject of time, bring a watch as well and be sure it’s set to SHIP time. You will need to keep a close eye on the time while on the island if you plan to take the ferry and, most importantly, so that you’re back on the ship before it leaves on the last day. Again, you cannot count on your cell phone having the ship’s time. It doesn’t matter what the actual time is, it only matter’s what the ship’s time is.
  • Bar of Soap – NCL, for some reason, only has liquid bodywash in the bathroom. If you like that sort of thing, then great. You’re all set, but my husband and I like an old fashioned bar of soap.
  • Conditioner – They have shampoo on board, but not conditioner. So, ladies, bring it with you.
  • Electrical Outlets – These are in short supply. You’ll find one, maybe two if you’re lucky, and they are never where you want them. If you have a lot of electronic devices or use a CPAP to sleep, be sure to bring a power strip and an extension cord with you.
  • Dollar Bills – If you get room service, it’s nice to tip them. Of course, it’s optional, but the crew on the Dawn is so fantastic that most of us want to give them a little extra. There is nothing like having a nice pot of coffee delivered to your room first thing in the morning.
  • Sweater – Believe it or not, you get cold at night. The indoor venues are all air conditioned so I often find I need an extra layer in the theater or the dining room, At night, while sailing, it gets breezy out on the deck. You’ll be glad you have one along.
  • Bottled Water and Diet Coke – Most cruisers find the ship’s purified tap water to be just fine, but if you’re a bottled water fanatic, or loyal to particular type of soda, you will want to bring a case of your own stuff. NCL currently serves Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, and Gingerale, so if you can’t live without your Diet Coke, be sure to bring a case with you. Soda also isn’t free on board. You can get free water, juice, milk, coffee and tea, but soda and adult beverages cost extra. Bottled water is also expensive on board. Save yourself some money and bring your own. You can check the case with your baggage – just put a luggage tag on it and hand it to the porter.
  • Refrigerator – I think most rooms on the Dawn have a refrigerator, but if you need one to store medicine or breast milk, double check before you go.
  • Wheelchair – If you have trouble walking, bring a wheelchair. The ships is huge and things are scattered from one end to the other. The theater is at the front of the ship, the restaurants are in the middle, the spa is in the back, and your room may fall anywhere in between.
  • Motion Sickness Relief – Every so often, the sea can get rough. The North Atlantic is unpredictable. Even the most seasoned cruisers can get seasick when that happens. Don’t get stuck. Ask your doctor if you can get a prescription for the Transderm-Scop patch. There are also over-the-counter pills like Dramamine, but they can make you drowsy (even the non-drowsy ones). I like the patches best, but they are prescription only and not everyone can take them if they have certain medical problems. Some people swear by all natural things like wrist bands, green apples, and ginger. I personally have never gotten relief from these, but everyone is different. Just don’t leave it to chance. If you know gingerale always works for you then that’s perfect, but if you’ve never been on rough seas, bring some medicine just in case it isn’t enough.
  • First Aid Kit – Have some bandaids, pain reliever, cold remedies, and aloe along with you. Sure they have all these things in the gift shop, but it’s expensive.
  • Wrinkle Release Spray – Cruise ships do not allow you to bring an iron on board (it’s a fire hazard). The laundry service will press them for you for a pretty penny. Most things do just fine with the wrinkle release spray. You’ll be glad you have it along.

I think that about sums it up. Let me know if you think of anything else.

Carnival Cruise Review – Boston to Canada, July 7-12, 2012

23 Feb

Although this is a Boston to Bermuda Cruise Blog, I think it’s relevant to post this review of a cruise from Boston to Canada. A lot of readers are from the New England area, and I’d like to promote Cruiseport Boston as much as I can because it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to cruise so close to home. One of the other cruises you can take out of Boston (during 2012 and 2013)  is a Carnival Cruise to Canada. It is my hope that Carnival and NCL will continue to make Boston a home port, but only time will tell. Here is my review:

PREFACE:
What a pleasant surprise! I had low expectations for this cruise. This was a last minute getaway for me, and since I live less than an hour from Boston, I figured it was worth a chance. Over the years, I’ve heard about Carnival’s party ship atmosphere and was prepared to be surrounded by unruly 20-somethings and disinterested staff. I am happy to report my first Carnival Cruise was fun, relaxing, elegant, and unassuming all at the same time.  It will be my first of many more Carnival cruises.

ABOUT ME:
I’m a woman in my 30’s and this is my 7th cruise, but my first on Carnival. For this cruise I travelled with my dad, but we each had our own interior cabin. I’ve been on 4 NCL cruises, 1 Celebrity, and 1 Renaissance (now Oceania) cruise.

EMBARKATION:  5 out of 5 Stars
Cruiseport Boston is very organized and hassle-free. We arrived at 10:05AM and were on the ship having lunch an hour later. For more details please read the “DAY 1” section below. Noteworthy – we received an email warning us not to arrive until 1:30PM, but I went early anyway.

STATEROOM: 5 out of 5 Stars
I had room 7247 an interior room that was in the forward section of the ship. The rooms were ready promptly at 1:30PM. Impeccably clean, and everything looks brand new. Nicest standard interior room I’ve seen yet (not including the Studio Rooms on the Epic). My Steward, Rodel, cheerfully introduced himself and would have a warm smile and sincere greeting every time I saw him throughout the cruise. At 3PM, I noticed that the luggage had arrived. It may have gotten there even earlier, but I was not in the room at the time. The bed was firm, but comfortable and the shower had an endless supply of hot water with good water pressure. There were even samples of shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste in a bowl on the sink.

FOOD: 5 out of 5 Stars
Outstanding! The best food out of all my past cruises. I ate dinner strictly in the main dining room. The service, the quality, and the presentation were excellent. There was a small snafu with my seating arrangement that I felt could have been handled better by one member of the crew, Andrea. My father and I signed up for the “Your Time Dining.” However, only he got it, and somehow I was assigned to the late seating. I went to speak to the dining staff to ask if I could be switched to “Your Time” so my father and I could dine together. The answer was no. So I asked, “Well perhaps I can be my father’s guest and sit with him because he will be alone at a table for two?” The woman, Andrea, said very abruptly and sternly, “No, the ship is sold out.  He will have to sit alone and you have to eat when and where you are told.” But two hours later, when dinner time came, I showed up with my father at his “Your Time Dining” and no one stopped me from sitting with him.

OVERALL SHIP APPEARANCE: 4 out of 5 Stars
The lobby area feels closed in. It is dark and small. Although, it still is enjoyable. It is distinctly different than any other ship I’ve been on, and that adds to its charm. Getting to the Platinum main dining room and to the Internet Cafe can be challenging as there is only limited Aft access on the mid/lower levels. Ask the crew or bring a map and within a day you’ll be all set. The Serenity Adults Only deck is worth its weight in gold. The hammocks are Heaven on Earth. There are only 4 so try to get there very early or during dinner hours if you want to enjoy them without fighting over them.

ENTERTAINMENT: 3 out of 5 Stars
Carnival fell short in the entertainment area. Of course, this is subjective.  The theatre was beautiful, but the Broadway-type shows were ordinary. The costuming was PG13 – a bit risque for a family show. The only show that was better than average was the Illusionist. He was very good. The poolside enterainment was disappointing. There was a Caribbean duo (signer and keyboarist) that played occasionally. They seemed rather disinterested and did not engage the crowd. There was no poolside DJ.

DETAILED DAY-BY-DAY REVIEW:

DAY 1 – July 7, 2012 – Embarkation Day
We arrived to Cruiseport Boston at 10:05 arrived at pier, and there were several porters standing by to take luggage. I noticed that there were other passengers getting off the ship. It appeared to be an equal number of people arriving as there were passengers departing from the previous cruise.

10:15 returned from parking car in lot. Shuttled by bus. Unloaded a bus full of departing passengers. However was the only one on the bus going by go pier.

10:30 Completed security scan and check in. Very friendly and cheerful employees stationed along the way. Check in was very quick. Issued key card then were ushered over to sit down and wait. We were assigned to Zone 2. We were told that VIP, special needs, and Zone 1 would go first. There were about 50 people in the waiting area. Peggy was overseeing things and kept reminding us all to have card ready for boarding. She was very cheerful and kept us up to date.

11AM – Boarding begins. VIP and special needs were first. Then zone 1 and 2 followed a minute or so afterward

11:05AM – On board and running around the ship, and had lunch from the buffet on Deck 9.

Muster drill – Hot and crowded. This was the least pleasant of all the muster drills I’ve been on. It was out on the deck and everyone was squished together. It also took a lot longer than the musters I’m used to. Thankfully no life jackets were required..

Dinner – Chicken a la grecque, cream of tomato soup, and warm chocolate melting cake. By far THE best dinner on a cruise that I have ever had. The service, the presentation, the taste – all were impeccable.

Second Impression – This has the potential to be one of the best cruises I’ve ever been on. With the exception of that one woman.

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Day 2 – Sea Day
7AM – Shower was great. Good water pressure, nice and hot. Went up to Serenity Deck relaxed in hammock. It was a wonderful meditative experience.

Breakfast 8AM – It was open seating in the Platinum Dining Room, and we were seated with 4 other people. At first I was annoyed. I’ve never liked the idea of sitting with strangers, but they turned out to be nice company. Carnival may turn me into a traditional cruiser after all. We’ll see. If all of a sudden I start enjoying formal night then they have succeeded. Food review – cheese omelet and corn beef hash. Delicious. Service was slow. Took 15 minutes for food to arrive.

Chair Hogs – Carnival is not immune. At 7AM chairs were already reserved. However, there were still plenty of unoccupied chairs at 9:30.

Day 2 Lunch – Open seating Platinum. Fair bordering on poor. Steak cooked rare and waiter never came back to check on us. Mixed field greens salad was iceberg lettuce and pale tomatoes. One of our soups arrived 5 minutes after the other’s.

Food and Wine Pairing Event – At the Emerald Restaurant. Nice to spend an hour there. Sample steak and salmon – DELISH! Very informative. $15.

Day 2 – High Tea. Not bad. Not great. Bigelow bagged tea. Vanilla scones, chocolate torte, chocolate fruit with glaze, lemon cake, and chocolate scone. The High Tea I went on during my last Celebrity cruise put this one on Carnival to shame. However, there was a cover charge for the one on Celebrity, so it should be better.

Cruise Critic Meet and Greet – informal no officers came and no refreshments were served. It lasted 30 minutes. We didn’t really hit it off, and I never ended up seeing those people again.

Elegant Night – not as strict as I thought. Some people were in tuxedos and evening gowns, but most were country club casual – sundress and heels for the ladies, and for the men a nice shirt and tie. Dinner was Maine lobster tail, shrimp, and mashed potatoes. Delicious. Service was very good but not as outstanding as the night before.

Show 8:15 – Rated PG13 due to thongs. Should say g-string. Don’t understand why the dancers had to have bare bottoms. Why not bikini bottoms? Also very loud. It was a patriotic, American-themed show.

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Day 3 – Saint Johns
Breakfast – omelet and corn beef. Delicious. Excellent service – quick and waiter was cheerful and funny

Reminds me of Duluth, MN – hills, old shipping city, delightfully friendly residents, proud of their city although it is a bit dilapidated and depressed. However, it has a charm of its own.

Excursion Top 10 – Exceeded expectation. Disembarkation was quick and we received the warmest and most sincere welcome out of any port I’ve ever been to. Roses and lapel pins with NO expectation to tip – jars or baskets were not present. Tradition goes back to 1989 when first cruise ship arrived because Boston-Bermuda was diverted at the last minute, and mayor wanted a grand welcoming. Now the port welcomes 77 ships this year. Guide – Doreen (retired elementary teacher) and the Driver was John. We stopped at:

  1. Reversing Falls – Beautiful to look at and fascinating how they change direction everyday with the tide.
  2. Saint Johns City Market – A fun, indoor market. It’s like a small Quincy Market in Boston.
  3. Dome-Fortress-Lookout tower
  4. Garden with wooden sculptures
  5. St. Martin Sea Caves
  6. St. Martin Covered Bridges and fishing village
  7. Watched the tide changes
  8. Learned how to do a Moose Call
  9. Museum
  10. Reversing rapids again

Lunch – while on excursion. A bit of a fiasco. There were 100’s of people there. 3 bus loads plus 2 dozen cars and unknown number of taxis.  Stood in line for 10 minutes. Ordered 2 fish and chips for $11 – great price. Waited 20 minutes for it to arrive. We only had 40 minutes and that included seeing the caves. Luckily we were the 1st in line. This stop was extended by 10 minutes. However the next stop was shortened and we were late for the bus, lol. Food was the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Been to England twice and I live in New England with Legal Seafood less than an hour away as well as the Cape and the Coast of Maine, so I am a bit snobby about my fish and chips. So, yeah, it means a LOT when I say it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Dinner – Delicious. 5 out of 5 stars. Penne with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and calamari with tomato cream sauce.

Show – Justin Illusion – excellent. Goth-type illusion and dance show.

Late Night Room Service – 45 min wait but was really only 20. Grilled cheese 4 out of 5 stars.

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Day 4 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Excursion – 10 Best
Overall – It was excellent and the sites were wonderful.

  1. Public Gardens – pretty
  2. Drive around city – Cunard House, Universities, hospitals, churches
  3. Citadel – Witnessed the cannon fire at noon. Boy was it LOUD!!
  4. Waterfront – Charming. Typical Northern Atlantic seaport. Shops inside historic buildings filled with all the lobster-themed, salt water taffy, and maple sugar souvenirs.
  5. Bridge
  6. Site of the Halifax Explosion – a deadly maritime explosion
  7. Fairview Cemetery – One of the Titanic burial grounds. Nicely maintained memorial to the dead. The Nova Scotians are very dedicated to preserving the victims’ memories.
  8. Peggy’s Cove – Absolutely stunning. Words cannot adequately describe the beautiful of the tiny seaside village. Lighthouse, expansive rocks to climb on, cute shops, friendly locals.
  9. Plane crash site – Swissair Flight 111
  10. Acadia Shop – Maple syrup gifts. Nice is you’re not from the North East. If you are from MA, NH, VT, ME then save your money for something else. Nice, clean bathrooms, though.

Dinner – very good as I’ve come to expect. Seafood again and Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

Movie by the Pool – every night they play a movie on the giant screen by the pool. They have plenty of warm blankets and freshly popped popcorn. There is a movie at 8 and another at 10. What a great way to end the night.

Helicopter – Tonight something unusual happened. At about 7:55PM ship time, right as the sun began to set, a helicopter began circling the starboard side of the ship then went around aft and back up the portside of the ship. We had left port about 2 hours earlier and the shoreline was just barely visible in the horizon. There was another ship off in the distance, but other than that we were alone in the water. I also noticed that the ship slowed down signifantly and two security guards were patrolling the outisde decks. This continued on for 45 minutes until it was pitch black darkness. The other passengers didn’t seem to notice. A few kids ran over to the railing to wave, a few adults stopped to take a photo, but only about 2 of us stayed to watch what was going on. During this 45 minute period where the sun was setting the helicopter would come down low and hover above a spot for a minute then go back up and begin circling again.

During this time to cruise director, Josh, came over the intercom to make his usual cheerful evening announcements, and the crew and passengers carried on as if the helicopter and its search-grid flying pattern did not exist.

I worry that they were looking for someone in the water. I did not notice any rescue boats in the water, but then again I did not explore the stern or the port side very thoroughly. I spent most of the time observing from the starboard side.

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Day 5 – Sea Day
Weather was cold in the morning, and the chair hogs present anyway. I took a chair that was empty. A woman nearby said it was for someone else that is coming so I said, “Fine I’ll use it until then.”  She was angry about it, but oh well. Guess what? No one ever arrived and about 15 minutes later, she left. We enjoyed a relaxing day at sea and prepared to go home the next day.

Final Dinner – It was wonderful, but an alarming thing happened right in the middle of dessert. All of a sudden the lights went out and the crew took out flashlights from their pockets. A bunch of us gasped, one woman burst into tears, and I was ready to grab a life vest. Keep in mind this was not too long after the Costa Concordia accident. However… The waiters and waitresses began to dance and sing and use their flashlights as spotlights. It was their farewell to us, only most of us had never been on a Carnival cruise so we didn’t know that was going to happen.

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Disembarkation
We had an early breakfast then got ready to go. Was easy and quick. We walked off with our luggage when our floor was called.

Norwegian Dawn – Boston to Bermuda July 13-20, 2012

23 Feb

Norwegian Dawn – Boston to Bermuda July 13-20, 2012

SUMMARY
Another perfect cruise.

Embarkation
Arrived at 10:45, but boarding did not start until 11:30. No line for security or to check in, but as time went on the waiting area became quite crowded. Even though we had to wait 45 mins I am still glad we got there early.  As soon as our zone was called we were on board right away and walked around the ship for a bit then went up to the Bimini Bar to have lunch. At 12:30 the rooms were ready and at 2:30 our luggage arrived.

Stateroom
We had a balcony room near the aft staircase on the portside #10696. This was the same room we had last year, and we reserved it again this year because we like it. It’s exactly the same as we remembered – clean, modest, comfortable, and quiet with a beautiful view of the sunrise in the morning on the way to Bermuda and a spectacular view of the sunset as we sail back home. Our room was missing some things (robes, pen, paper, ashtray on the balcony, ice in the ice bucket, an extra roll of toilet paper, and the mini bar had some things missing from it). Nothing major, but it is noteworthy. I left a note for the steward the following day and everything was taken care of.

Specialty Restaurant – Teppanyaki
Outstanding 5 out of 5. I feel this rating is particularly significant because my husband does not like Japanese hibachi, but he thoroughly enjoyed himself at Teppanyaki, and he cannot wait to go back. Everything was perfect – the service, the show the cook performed, the quality of the food, and the value. My husband is a big eater and he left stuffed. The cook offered 2nd and 3rd serving of rice for those who like to splurge.

Specialty Restaurant – Moderno Brazilian Steak House
Outstanding 5 out of 5. We went here on our last night, and what a perfect way to spend the last night of a perfect cruise. The food was delicious and the service was impeccable. It was definitely worth the cover charge.

Main Dining Room – The Venetian
Delightful 5 out of 5. We ate there on most nights. Our favorite meal was on the 2nd night. My husband had Caribbean steak and I had the thai chicken and shrimp. I also had breakfast there just about every morning. I love their french toast. My husband never wakes up in time for breakfast, but that’s fine with me.

Poolside Drinks
Less than stellar. 2 out of 5 stars. The service was wonderful, but the quality of the drinks was a disappointment. They were expensive – mixed drinks ranged from $6.50 – $9.50, but the serving size was small and they were very watered down. If you’re not careful they will sneak in a “Souvenir Cup” for an additional $2.75. Beer is $4.95-$6.95, but you can get a bucket of 5 and get the 6th one free.

Poolside Entertainment
Joy the Caribbean-style band. Very good, relaxing music. The best part is the Poolside BBQ every sea day (weather permitting). There is nothing better than the fresh sea air and the smell of a real charcoal BBQ. The DJ really got the crowd going, too.

Latitudes Party
It was held on the way back from Bermuda on Wednesday. It’s invitation only for past cruisers. It featured unlimited house chardonnay, merlot, rum punch, beer, or champagne. They had raffles for dinner for 2 at any specialty restaurant, admission to blackjack tournament, vintage coaster set, and a t-shirt..

White Hot Party
Was on Wednesday night. I always enjoy it even though it’s mostly a younger crowd. They decorate the lounge all in white, there’s ice sculptures, loud music and cups that light up.

Bermuda
There are not enough words to describe the beauty of Bermuda. It weather was perfect, the people are friendly, the beaches are breathtaking. We did our usual thing – got bus/ferry passes, went to Horseshoe Bay and Tobacco Bay, and visited with our friends at The Bone Fish and with our favorite artist, Lisa Rego. Three days just isn’t enough, but it’s nice knowing that we still have a couple days left of fun on the ship to enjoy before arriving back in Boston.

Additional Info
I have more info in my review from our cruise in 2011.

Pre-cruise Check List: Getting the most out of your cruise

20 Feb

Before You Book Your Cruise:

  • Travel Insurance – Research Travel Insurance and find the plan the suits your needs. I always chose on with a “cancel for any reason” benefit. I work for a school and travel during Spring Break. However, sometimes weather is bad during the winter and there’s always the chance that Spring Break may get cut short to make up for too many snow days. It gives me piece of mind to know that I can always cancel if I need to without losing my entire investment. Read some more reasons why you need Travel Insurance
  • Know Your Destination – Take the time to learn all you can about your destination. Are there off peak times? Is there a rainy season? What areas should you avoid? Are there activities that interest you? I heard one woman complain about every port on her cruise to the Bahamas – she thought the beaches were too sunny and there was nothing else to do. There’s no need for that kind of disappointment. Had she done her research she would have
  • Research Your Cabin – Look at the ship’s deck plan to find rooms that are in a good location (avoid ones below a night club or cabins in the front of the ship if you are prone to seasickness). I also research the actual stateroom to see if there have been any complaints about it. Sometimes there are idiosyncrasies about certain rooms that do not show up on the deck plan map such as a pole in the middle of the room or an obstructed view or are within earshot of a very squeaky cruise passage door.
  • Get a Passport – Even if though US Citizens technically do not need one for a closed-circuit Bermuda cruise, don’t take any chances. If an emergency happens you cannot fly home without one. Learn some common Passport Myths.
  • Ask About Accommodations – If you have a condition that requires special accommodations, make sure you find out whether or not the cruise line will be able to meet those needs BEFORE you book. Do you need a refrigerator to store your insulin? Do you need a wheelchair accessible room? Do you need oxygen or CPAP? Do you have a child with special needs that will be enrolling in the kids club?

Immediately After Booking:

  • Start Your Countdown! – The anticipation for an upcoming cruise is one of the best parts.
  • Get Social – Go on the Cruise Critic Discussion Board and find your sailing’s Roll Call. Find your Cruise Line’s Facebook Page and ask questions. There’s often a great community of past cruisers that are more than happy to share their wisdom with you.
  • Plan Excursions – Start narrowing down which excursions you want to go on. There’s lots of info on CruiseCritic.com. Make the most of it.

Getting Accounts Ready Before You Leave:

  • Credit Card – Place a travel notification on your account, and be sure that you keep a copy of your account number and international customer service numbers in case your card is lost or stolen. Important Note: Do NOT use a debit card for your on board expenses. The ship will most likely put a hold worth several hundred dollars on your checking account and it may take weeks for it to clear. More info on Credit Cards can be found here
  • Cell Phone – Call your provider and make sure your phone will work and that you know the fine print about using your phone at sea and in a foreign land. Costs can add up quickly. More info on Cell Phones can be found here.
  • Put a Hold On – Your Mail and newspaper. Maybe even your daily email subscriptions – this way you aren’t inundated with 500 messages when you return. It also makes spotting important ones easier. The ship’s Internet is very slow and expensive. The less time you have to spend sorting through messages the better.

Call Your Doctor:

  • Immunizations – Find out if there any required or optional immunizations that could protect you while you are traveling.
  • Get Copies of Your Prescriptions – It is important to bring the actual prescription with the doctor’s signature. You may need it in an emergency and/or if the legitimacy of the medication is called into question. Also, be sure to bring your medicine in it’s original packaging so that authorities don’t have to guess what it is. Be sure to have more than enough in case your trip gets extended either by choice or by circumstance (bad weather, engine fire, or other mishap).
  • Get a Doctor’s Note – Ask your doctor for written documentation if you have a medical condition that may acquire special accommodation. Here’s a cautionary tale: While on a cruise with traditional dining (aka – fixed time, fixed table), I was waiting in line to switch my assigned time. There was an elderly couple in front of me that was given two different dinner seatings. One had the early seating and the other had the late seating. The maitre d’ refused to allow them to switch their seating assignments because the ship was sailing full and there was no room to switch around. Well, the man could not feed himself, and he was diabetic and needed the early seating. Thankfully, the wife brought a note from the doctor, and the problem was resolved quickly. But this maitre d’ was not going to budge an inch without it. Can you imagine how awful that would have been for this couple?
  • Be Aware of Controlled Substances – Some medication that is legal in the USA may not be legal in the country you are traveling to. Bermuda does not allow medical marijuana, and they have very strict punishment for anyone bringing it onto the island. In fact, the ship may have it’s own rules as well. Be sure to figure this out before you end up in jail.
  • Ask About Seasickness Medicine – There are wonderful medications for available for seasickness – some are prescription only and some are over-the-counter. Please discuss this with your doctor to find the right remedy for you.

Taking Care of Your Home:

  • Use Facebook Wisely – As exciting as it is, it’s never a good idea to post too much information about your travel plans. Thieves are tricky and can piece together info to figure out when you’re gone. 
  • Snow Removal – If you’re traveling during the winter, be sure you have something in place so that  your driveway can be plowed.
  • Pets , Kids & Family At Home – Be sure you have everything your petsitter and/or babysitter could need. Make them aware that you will not be reachable at times. Discuss ahead of time how often you will check in and how you will – email, phone call, text? Have an emergency back up plan just in case you need to cut your trip short or if your cruise is delayed because of whether or other unforeseen circumstances. What did all those people on the Carnival Triumph do for all those days they were stuck at sea with no means of communication with family back home? Be sure you have a plan.
  • Security – Keep your home safe by having a house sitter, alarm system, lights on timers, and/or a big dog. 🙂

Cell Phones, Credit Cards, and Bermuda’s Currency

18 Feb

When you travel to Bermuda (or to any other country) there are somethings you need to prepare for ahead of time. It is important to know ahead of time how to minimize the cost of using your cell phone, avoiding the embarrassment of having your credit card declined, and being stuck with lots of foreign money.

Cell Phones/Smart Phones

It is not free to use your phone even though you still have a signal. About an hour after your ship leaves the port, you will be “roaming.” This means your usual phone plan and your data plan no longer apply. However, your carrier might not be forthcoming with this knowledge. I’ve heard horror stories of people returning from the trip of their lifetime only to discover they have a $500 cell phone bill!

Important things to know about your phone:

  • Call your cell phone provider before you leave on your trip. Tell them that you will be traveling out of the country on a cruise ship and ask them to spell out any roaming charges or hidden costs for making calls, sending texts, or using the Internet.
  • Make sure your phone will actually work in a foreign country. Unless  you have a GSM carrier (like. ATT and TMobile) phone, it probably won’t be functional outside of the USA. Verizon, Sprint and Metro PCS phones are usually not GSM. They are CDMA and the USA is the only place that uses that frequency.
  • Remember that calls/texts and data are two different things. Data is handled separately from calls/text (SMS/MMS), and data roaming charges are very costly even if you never use your phone! I recommend learning how to put your phone in “Airplane Mode” before you board the ship.
  • Learn more at: Independent Traveler’s International Cell Phone Guide and their tips for traveling with a Smart Phone. CNET also has some advice for travelers with cell phones.

Credit Cards

It’s important to call your credit card provider and let them know you need a travel notification placed on your account. If you forget to do this, your card may be declined. Also, be wary of debit cards. If lost or stolen, you may lose the money in your checking account instantly, and it may take weeks to resolve the issue. Also, most cruises put an automatic hold on of a several hundred dollars on your card. It may take a few weeks for this to clear. Unless you are very wealthy, don’t want to mess with the funds in your checking account. Also, a credit card offers better protection against fraud. You can also appeal the charges with the credit card company if you truly feel you have been wronged. Debit cards rarely give you that option. I always bring two credit cards, and store them in separate locations, in case something happens to one then I have the other to fall back on. Don’t forget to jot down your credit card number and international customer service number in the rare instance you need to call them.

Bermuda’s Currency

At the time I am writing this, the US Dollar and the Bermudian Dollar are equal. You can pay for souvenirs or meals using US Dollars while on the island. However, you may be given Bermudian Dollars as change. I recommend using small bills that way you don’t get stuck with a lot of Bermudian Dollars at the end of your stay. It will cost money to exchange these back to US Dollars when you return home.

Luggage: To carry on or not to carry on?

18 Feb

I was reading through posts on the Norwegian Cruise Line Facebook Page and came across a sad story. In a nutshell, the woman was getting married on the ship and her mother’s luggage was lost. In the luggage was the mother-of-the-bride dress. The poor mother was stuck buying clothing from the gift shop and was so embarrassed she did not want to be in any of her daughter’s wedding photos. This is tragic, but completely preventable.

Never allow anything of importance out of your sight! I don’t mean to make it sound like losing luggage is a common occurrence  In fact, I think it’s fairly rare, but if you cannot live without it for the duration of your cruise, then please carry it onto the ship yourself. The same goes when traveling by plane as well. Also, keep in mind that your luggage may not be delivered to your stateroom until later in the evening. Be sure to include anything you need to get ready for dinner.

This is what I carry on with me:

  • 2 changes of clothing (including one dress)
  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Sunscreen – bring lots because it’s expensive on the ship
  • Swimsuit – so you can hit the pool as soon as you’re onboard
  • Medicine – all prescription and over-the-counter meds
  • My camera gear – various lenses, spare battery and charger
  • Electronics – cell phone, tablet, and their chargers
  • Toiletries – makeup, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. I also always bring a bar of soap since often times there is only liquid bodywash provided by the cruise line.

Lost luggage is another reason to be sure you have good travel insurance. It won’t help you when you’re in the midst of it, but at least when you get home you can file a claim to recoup some of the money you spent rebuilding your wardrobe.

Feel free to share what you cannot live without and put in your carry on!

Cruising During Hurricane Season

3 Aug

Caribbean hurricane season runs from May-November. This means if you’re going to be cruising to Bermuda, the Bahamas, or any part of the Caribbean during these months that your travel plans could be affected by severe weather.

It can sometimes be a hassle or a disappointment, but your safety is the Captain’s #1 priority, and any changes he/she makes are to keep you out of danger. If you are prepared, have good travel insurance, and keep an open mind then you will still have the trip of a lifetime in spite of the weather.

Sailing Around the Storm
My first cruise to Bermuda was during a hurricane, and I was a basket case worrying that the cruise would be canceled or our beach excursion would be ruined by rain. This is what happened – the Captain diverted us way out to sea so we could sail around the storm. We were late getting to Bermuda and missed Day 1 (of 3), but when we arrived the storm was over and the sky was blue.

Change of Itinerary
I’ve heard of cruise lines reversing the itinerary. For example, if you were going to go to Costa Maya-Roatan-Cozumel they may flip it to Cozumel-Roatan-Costa Maya instead. Sometimes they will go to a different port if it’s available. One time a cruise ship couldn’t get to Bermuda safely so the Captain sailed north and went to Canada instead. In fact, that is how Saint John, New Brunswick first became a cruise ship destination (incidentally I always pack a some warm outfits just in case this happens again). Bermuda-bound ships have also been rerouted to the Bahamas. Also, the Captain may cancel a port of call completely and make it a sea day instead. It’s disappointing when that happens, but your safety is their biggest priority. Usually no compensation is given when ports are cancelled, but they should refund your port fees and taxes. Seems unfair, but that’s just how it is. Read your contract carefully and know what is refundable and what isn’t so that you’re not disappointed. Many things you’d expect to receive compensation for are excluded. Unlike a retail store, you won’t get your money back if you’re disappointed.

Seasickness
The seas on my cruise were rough, and even the most hardy folks can get sick when sailing around a hurricane. I’m a roller coaster thrill ride fanatic, but even I get a little nauseated when the boat is rocking. There are lots of remedies out there from green apples and ginger to wrist bands and pills. If you are truly seasick don’t leave it to chance. Prevention is the best bet. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you. I always bring prescription patches with me just in case the water is rough. There are lots of great medications available by prescription or over-the-counter, but they all have side effects or limitations. Your primary care provider is the best person to advise you on what’s best for you.

Pack Extra Just In Case
Always bring extra medicine and clothing in case you cannot return home on the day you expected. Ships have been known to extend the cruise of an extra day or two because severe weather prevents them from reaching the home port. While it sounds like a dream come true to me to have a 7-day cruise turn into 8 or 9 days, it can be devastating if you don’t have enough medicine or supplies with you.

Back Up Plan
It’s also a good idea to have a back up plan in place in case you are late coming home. What will you do if you can’t make it into to work? Who will take care of the dog or the kids for that extra time? If the storm is also affecting your hometown will someone be able to board up the windows, put the patio furniture inside, etc.?

Travel Insurance
I’ve written an entire thread on this and could write a dozen more. This is an important topic that many people seem to ignore so I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you cannot afford to lose the money you’ve spent on the cruise, then please always get travel insurance. Do your research and make sure you get insurance that covers the things relevant to you (i.e. trip delay, lost luggage, medical problems, cancel for any reason, work related events, etc.). Cruise lines generally will not give you your money back for expenses that occur as a result of weather. This is why you need insurance if losing that money, or incurring additional expenses, will be a hardship for you.

Hurricanes have been known to result in delayed departures that require a hotel stay. Imagine if you’re sailing out of New York, and after you’ve hopped on the plane, you find out the ship will be leaving a day later – how much is a hotel going to cost you at the last minute in NYC? The cruise line could even decide to sail a day early and you need to rearrange your flight – can you afford to the fees associated with changing your flight? You could miss the ship if it suddenly needs to leave the port an hour early because of a storm – can you afford to pay for a hotel and flight to the next port (or back home)?

The cruise line is not obligated to help you in any way if these things happen. The usual exceptions would be if you booked your flight through them and the flight gets delayed.  Or you were on a ship-sponsored excursion and the ship left before you got back. But if you booked your own flight, or were off doing your own thing on the island, then the cruise line probably won’t be willing to reimburse you for the unexpected expenses that were incurred as a result.

Sometimes, very rarely, a cruise line will have a change of heart when many passengers are affected by the same issue. However, don’t count on this. The lack of monetary compensation is an industry standard so no matter which company you sail with this will most likely be the case. You’ll probably find it buried deep within the fine print of your contract. Read more the importance of travel insurance and how Hurricane Irene affected travelers in 2011.

In Conclusion
If you find your cruise is affected by the weather try to keep a positive attitude. You are still on a luxurious ship with crew that is there to cater to your every need. Make the best of it and take advantage of the indoor activities the ship has. You’ve got gourmet restaurants, professional entertainment, casinos, night clubs, health club, spa, scrapbook classes, wine tastings, and whatever other activities your cruise has on board to help you pass the time. You’re still on vacation, so enjoy it!

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