During the past sixteen years my wife and I have taken some ten cruises and we looked forward to this one with no less excitement than our first. A cruise to us is not only looked at as a tremendous value but also as the ideal vehicle for relaxation and entertainment. I felt it necessary to write my first, and most likely my last, cruise review due primarily to our first "freestyle" cruising experience.
This trip we were taking two of our own children and three of our 18 year old son's high school classmates. Although we chose the Norwegian Majesty pretty much out of default; it was the only ship that would allow us 4 passengers per room during this "Spring Break" week, we proceeded with the booking without hesitation. I must confess we were dissapointed in Carnival's not allowing four passengers per room, but we have been satisfied Norwegian passengers three previous times so our dissapointment was not long lasting. The four boys roomed together and our fourteen year old daughter took and upper berth in the cabin with me and my wife.
The week did not get started very well as Northwest Airlines succeeded in losing two pieces of luggage out of the nine our group checked in at the airport in Minneapolis. As it turns out there was a large number of people flying the 6AM flight for the same purpose we were, and no less than twenty Norwegian Majesty passengers found themselves lacking atleast one of their needed bags upon arrival in San Juan. Frustration became commonplace as we were unable to find any Northwest employee who would claim the title of "in charge" and we spent no less than two hours attempting to file baggage lost claims. Once the claims were finally registered we moved on to the ship a little upset at the fact that our afternoon plans for exploring Old San Juan had been destroyed. But instead we went about the task of arranging our rooms and exploring the ship and much to our surprise our bags arrived at our rooms about an hour after the ship left port.
As mentioned earlier this was our first cruise with Norwegian since their move to "freestyle" and we did see that as a possible advantage with the kids as traveling companions this trip. The freedom of choosing our dining time, location and size of our party was very intriguing since my wife and I still hoped to find time to ourselves in spite of the responsibility to the kids. Our "freestyle" experience prooved to be absolutely fantastic. It allowed for a party of seven (2 nights), party of two or three (1 night each), and even a party of eleven on one night (we met another family of four from our same town on the ship) to dine together very easily and with no more than a five minute wait; on any of the nights for any of the dining rooms. The service in the dining rooms was excellent, something I was watching for having read reviews that the "freestyle" format had created a decline in hospitality. Our servers were as congenial, entertaining and attentive as any other cruise we have taken, and the food (from pizza to main entree) was superb.
The only dissapointment we had was the major entertainment onboard. The dance company was by far the worst we have ever seen but because this factor on our top ten reason's for cruising would fall somewhere in the 15 to 20 range, we were not at all upset at having to find other sources of entertainment for the evening hours.
Our experience paid off in the area of shore excursions, as we dealt with the ship supplied tours only on two occassions (kayaking and scuba diving) and journeyed off on our own using local guides/taxi drivers to get us to pre-researched destinations on three out of the five islands. This has always been our favorite method of exploration at all ports of call and again was ideal as the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with the local "tourguides". Our favorite was the afternoon spent with Felix "the Cat" a 40 year taxi driving veteran on Martinique. There was never a dull moment as he drove us to and educated us on the island's rain forest, the local rum industry, and also the volcano eruption a century ago on his native island.
Once again I state, this is my first and most likely last review as we found this cruise to be everybit as delightful as the others. We will continue to choose cruising to satisfy our travel and relaxation needs and I can guarantee there will be three new families taking there first cruise shortly as our son's classmates each had the time of their life.