The Cruise, part 2

Our itinerary included four stops:  Roatan in the Honduras, Harvest Caye in Belize, Costa Maya in Mexico and Cozumel, Mexico.  We had the first day at sea and each of the four following days we stopped at a port, ending with another at sea day.  Three of the four ports were fairly pasteurized, ports created for the cruising industry.  Beautiful spots that did allow for excursions and sightseeing but nothing quite like the port in Cozumel.  This was at the city centre, you walked off the ship into the real lifestyle of the community.  For those who wanted authentic, then this was their stop.  Lots to see and do.

For those who didn’t care to sightsee, that was me this trip, the ship offered plenty to do onboard.  We even found a bowling alley.  There was something for everyone, movies everyday, live action game shows, dance lessons, yoga lessons, the whole gamut.  So if you were disappointed you had no one to blame but yourself!

For this vacation, I had decided to throw caution to the wind and live a little.  To try and break out of the humdrum that I have become and make my own fun.  I figured what better place to do it than on a ship with strangers you never have to see again!  I had packed my suitcase for just about any eventuality, took way too much stuff, and sadly needed little of it.  Unfortunately getting sick undermined my whole plan.  I think there is at least one lesson here – don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today, life is unpredictable, nothing’s guaranteed, and so on.

Regardless, the sunshine was awesome.  Add some heat to that and it was super awesome.  As we settle into winter weather here in Canada it can be quite overcast and gloomy and the sunshine scarce.  It was a nice treat to spend a week with brilliant sunshine and the warmth of the sun’s rays on my skin.

The Cruise

This was my fourth time cruising.  All three previous cruises had been with Carnival.  The last one had been an unmitigated disaster on Carnival’s behalf and really was off putting.  Rather than let one rather lack lustre cruise line ruin the whole experience, we had decided to try a different cruise line.  We chose Norwegian.

Preferring to cruise out of Miami we were somewhat restricted in our selection, but no matter, we had decided on the Caribbean and selected the ship, the Getaway.  On paper and in brochures it looked lovely.  I was good for one more try at cruising as a vacation mode, having reasoned that Carnival was entry level, Norwegian had to be better.

I was a little concerned initially, Norwegian’s embarkation process was not smooth, it was disorganized.  It turned out that there was an equipment malfunction which made registration of patrons slow.  They weren’t good about communication in this regard, leaving us about ten minutes at the registration desk wondering if our little lady had gone on break.  Once that was sorted out it was upstairs to a waiting area.  Then once our number was called, onto the ship.

It was a pleasant surprise.  The ship is not quite three years old.  It sparkled, the windows were clear, the floors shone.  Clean was the first word to come into my mind.  Carnival’s ships always felt worn and tired without that clean sparkle.  So score one for Norwegian.  We couldn’t go to our cabin yet, so off for a bite to eat.  The buffet was enormous, but to get to it you had to go through a hand sanitizer station.  Mandatory and nice (not that it helped me unfortunately, but it definitely helped everyone else), to go near the food you had to have your hands spritzed. Certain stations were self serve, but others, particularly the ice cream station, were served out by a member of the staff.  No one touched the cones with their bare hands until it was handed to you.  This impressed me.

Then there was the overall layout of the ship – it felt spacious.  There was room between tables in the dining areas and spacious walkways around the ship.  Tons of stuff for kids to do, there was no need for them to be around the adult pool because there were water slides, a kids pool, lots of stuff.  For those not wanting the noise of the main adult pool they offered a quiet retreat one deck above.  I don’t want to sound like a brochure, but I was impressed.

The only problem, and it was annoying, seems to be poor administrative communication from head office.  Here’s how this looked for my group.  My sister had bought two on board credits prior to the cruise.  Two $100USD credits or $200USD.  She had brought her paperwork, she’d purchased the credits well before the cruise date.  They weren’t in her onboard account when she checked in.  We went to the client service desk and were told no problem sometimes it takes a day.  Give it time.  After a couple of days went by it was apparent it wasn’t going to show up.  We went to the service desk armed with the papers.  Apparently during the conversion process, a penny went missing.  Head office advised the ship’s customer service desk that my sister hadn’t bought $200, instead she had bought $199.99, she owed a penny before the funds could be transferred, but they were willing to write it off, and graciously put $200 USD in her onboard account.  Not good.

Second story – again with head office involvement.  My coworker was on the same cruise and it became a bit of a joke as the days passed as to whether or not her room key would be suspended for debts owing.  It had been a schmazel for them as well when registering to board the ship, and the clerk setting them up with their sign and sail cards had neglected to obtain a credit card to put against the account.  No worry they had prepaid everything -gratuities, alcohol package, dining package, stateroom, everything was paid. One would think.  Apparently, while the ship is docked at the port of Miami any alcohol served is subject to another tax that isn’t covered in the alcohol package – about 76 cents per drink.  My coworker had a drink or two.  The tax went on her onboard account, there was no credit card associated with it.  Her room key, which is the sail and sign card would be locked – which meant she couldn’t get into her room.  Anyway by day 3 or 4 I think they had it sorted out.

Would I travel Norwegian again, sure thing.  But I would be prepared to bring copies of every bit of supporting paper with me relating to what I had prepaid for the cruise since their administrative services are not as professional as one would expect. Would I travel Carnival again – not a hope.  The last trip on Carnival left me feeling like I’d been duped out of my money: substandard room, aging ship, poor onboard service, just disappointing.