Awoken to the rattling of the VOIP/PoE phone across the desk, and combined with the time change of minus one hour, Kayla and I were able to rouse ourselves in enough time for a full service breakfast at Savor. She selected the Eggs Benedict, and I chose the eggs to order (over easy) with a side of link sausage. It was a fairly standard breakfast offering, but nothing to complain about.
The title of this section comes from a TripAdvisor review (filter by 3 star/Average) in which the reviewer is unimpressed with the Chacchoben Mayan ruins, declaring them “a pile of rocks”. I mean, points for calling it like you see it, but they’re historic rocks – what exactly were you expecting?
The docking process this morning seemed unreasonably lengthy and loud, but I’m only an amateur and any loud noises in the morning have been a subject of contention since a very early age.
Before disembarking, we went to the buffet and acquired some food. I’m not typically a breakfast person, but made a good attempt as it wasn’t clear when lunch would be offered on our tour. One noticeable omission from the morning buffet was bananas, which I’d figured would be a standard and highly available breakfast item, but none were to be seen. Of course, I didn’t actually ask anybody, so this could just be chalked up to early-morning grogginess.
Keep in mind that in general, you can’t take food off the ship into the ports lest ye incur the wrath of vessel security and foreign customs officers, so that “apple to go” better be down to the core and ready to be pitched by the time you’re on the lower decks.
The downside of being at the extreme front end of the ship was apparent in the early hours of Monday, when we were jolted awake overnight several times with cabinets rattling and above-average movement of the ship. Both of us woke up at 5am and tried to get back to sleep, then later awoke at 9am to different kinds of noises: a high-pitched, whistling, wind sound from the front door, accompanied by low-pitched, repetitive bass from the cabin next to us.
It turns out that when your cabin is directly at the end of a long hall, the design of the passageway causes an effect not dissimilar to that of a wind tunnel. Kayla, who has less tolerance for soothing ocean sounds than I do, gave the cabin door a mighty hipcheck to silence the noise.
Unfortunately, this action only remedied half of the problem – I was still very conscious of the bass line emanating from the next cabin over. Eventually I was irritated enough to get up and on with my day, while my wife was able to ignore the low frequency and fall back asleep. Upon exiting the cabin, the stateroom beside us had its door slightly ajar, leaking the cacophony of noise into the hall as well.
I’m really not sure what to do in these circumstances – it didn’t feel worth a complaint, and I think the price difference between the rooms (Haven vs. oceanview) might make the staff more reluctant to enforce any sort of noise bylaw. In any event, I don’t recall similar morning music happening for the rest of the cruise, so the problem didn’t come up again.
I ambled up to the buffet and encumbered my plate with pork, waffles and potato products. Very shortly after I sat down, a server came over and offered coffee right at the table, which was a nice perk.
After checking out of the Residence Inn, we caught an Uber to PortMiami for $21US and went through the entrance at Terminal B, which was being used to board all the odd-numbered passenger decks (eg: 5, 9, 11, 13 and 15) – Terminal C had the even-numbered floors.
The ride to the port was 27 minutes, and it took us about another fifteen minutes to get through security and half-way through the check-in line on the main floor – so I’d estimate we spent about half an hour total waiting before getting on the ship.
Despite our experience with NEXUS cards being the key to avoiding confusion in Port Canaveral, the port agent in Miami wanted nothing to do with them and didn’t even flip past the picture page on our passports. I guess the next approach will be to offer both passport and NEXUS, and see what the agent prefers for identification and immigration purposes.
We were issued ship keycards with the appropriate indicators for our dining and beverage packages, which I would suggest is a key thing to verify before leaving the check-in desk. Later on in the day, a few folks at the bar in front of us were missing the package codes, and told that they’d have to go wait in line at Guest Relations to get a sticker.
Thanks for joining as I discuss our long-promised, often-delayed February trip on a ship! We make it to Miami, the Western Caribbean and back again to the extremely odd weather of Southwestern Ontario.
(If this was YouTube, you might imagine the above introduction set to obnoxious dubstep and prefaced with “It’s ya boy!”)
As previously mentioned in my December 2017 NCL Epic review, we partook in the Norwegian CruiseNext Ultimate program, bought some deposits and used one of them on the February 18 sailing of the Getaway to coincide with Kayla’s week off.
To avoid burying the lede even further, of our four total cruises with Norwegian, this was probably the best experience we’ve had so far. Everything lined up very well; the Getaway offered everything we like in a ship; and we had a great time before, during, and after the cruise.
Neither our first trip on the Norwegian Epic nor subsequent one on the Breakaway in December 2016 scared us off of cruising, so here are some ramblings about the NCL Epic sailing an Eastern Western Caribbean itinerary in December 2017.
Eastern… no, wait, Western
Due to the hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that absolutely crushed Eastern Caribbean regions in September 2017, nearly every itinerary featuring these destinations was adjusted, regardless of cruise line. As we were only a few days away from the 90-day deadline where one can cancel for a full refund, I was closely monitoring the situation. There wasn’t any coherent news regarding NCL’s plans, mainly because their Miami headquarters was also in a state of disarray around that time.
Cruises sailing to these places in September were definitely being cancelled, cut short, or adjusted, but my theory was that by mid-December, the various Virgin Islands would be up and running again. Maybe the entire region would be worse for wear, but at least the touristy areas where ships drop off several thousand passengers would be up and running. Frankly, the best thing a tourist can do in one of these situations is to continue to visit, and spend hard-earned (or easily-earned) currency with the locals. So it was with that theory in mind that I decided not to adjust our plans.
Unfortunately a swift recovery wasn’t the case. Once NCL got things somewhat settled, they made rumblings about a possible itinerary adjustment 88 days prior to the cruise date, which was just enough time to incur a 25% penalty to switch. The replacement itinerary was officially announced at exactly 75 days out (coinciding with a 50% cancel/change fee.) Not being a common idiot, I knew that we were likely to end up at Falmouth and Grand Cayman as replacement ports, but really didn’t want another $300 in airfare changes or to have to sort out transportation from Orlando/Port Canaveral to a different port. So, we stuck with the Epic and the revised route.
Oh, what’s that you say? Shouldn’t the cruise line have to dosomething – I mean, they’ve changed two-thirds of the ports on your vacation – harrumph harrumph? I direct you to NCL’s guest ticket contract that basically says they don’t even have to put you on a ship (6b), and they don’t have to stick to the itinerary (6c). Also in the same section, you release NCL from any loss/damage/injury due to piracy, among other egregious things, so don’t expect compensation for any Captain Phillips experience.
This has been sitting in my drafts folder since mid-2015, so the information in it re: UBP charges, menu contents, etc. are all outdated at this point, but I think it’s still a good representation of how our first cruise went. Suffice it to say, I need to be more timely with these – we’ve since gone on a Bahamas cruise on the NCL Breakaway in December 2016, and have a different Caribbean cruise planned on the Epic during December 2017. So even if there are some negatives here, clearly we’ve gone back so it can’t be that bad.
I’ll try and note in the article where things have changed.
In Which We Decide To Cruise
In 2015, Kayla and I got tired of the snow and wind and ridiculously cold temperatures in Southwestern Ontario, and decided to get away to a warmer climate. We’d been to BlueBay Villas Doradas in the Dominican Republic to do the all-inclusive resort trip with a few friends last year and while we liked it, we wanted to try something new before falling back to the same thing. We’d also discussed various Sunwing-promoted destinations flying directly out of YKF to Mexico, but the available resorts in our price range were either too new to have a decent amount of feedback, or had recently begun “focusing on a new concept.”
Then the idea of taking a cruise came up and we started looking. A few years ago in a hotel room in Prague, I’d seen a documentary that was pretty much an expose of the entire cruise ship industry. I managed to locate it after returning – it’s CNBC’s “Cruise Inc: Big Money on the High Seas” (2009). It went over a cruise on the Norwegian Pearl, describing how passengers are basically just walking ATMs and that the cruise line is constantly running the numbers on every aspect of shipboard operations. The conclusion was that on the last sea day, the operator broke even for the cruise, in no small part to making up $21K in alcohol sales. Being shaken up and down for cash constantly didn’t really appeal to me.