I love nothing more than going on a cruise. In the extremely busy lives we lead today it is utter bliss for me not to have to think or organise anything for the entire duration of my holiday. On a cruise, I can visit several exotic destinations while only unpacking once, whilst restaurants, entertainment and excursions can be booked beforehand – no more traipsing around looking at restaurant menus and being harassed to come in.
My husband and I are in our thirties and have had three amazing cruises with NCL and are embarking on our fourth this year. At first when I suggested a cruise, he was sceptical, thinking it was more of an “older person thing” and now we are both total cruise addicts!
Hoping to dispel this myth, here is my diary of a typical cruise day, which also just happens to be one of my favourite holiday memories ever, in San Juan, Puerto Rico and on-board the Norwegian Escape.
8 am – Yoga
I don’t think my best intentions count as actually attending this class, too many cocktails the night before!
9 am – Breakfast at Ed Sheerans.
OK, not actually at Ed Sheeran’s house, or with the man in person, but in the Irish Bar O’Sheehans. Open 24/7, one night we wandered in for hot wings at midnight and as one of Ed’s songs was playing, we decided to stick with the name Ed Sheeran’s. This has also caught on as a nickname by a few of the friends we made on-board.
Anyway, it seems to be a well-kept secret for some reason that this is an awesome place to have your breakfast on a Norwegian Ship. Whilst there is the Garden Café Buffet that has every breakfast food known to humanity, I found it a little too crowded and prefer the chilled ambience of Ed Sheeran’s, where we can enjoy excellent table service.
The menu is more limited than the Garden Café but they have the usual fried food, omelettes, French toast, pastries, fruit and a tasty Irish dish known as Corned Beef Hash (although as someone who grew up in Ireland in the 1980s, I can tell you that was known to me as more of a pot luck dinner, rather than breakfast on a grand cruise ship, but hey, it works)! In addition to the scrumptious food, this delightful Irish Bar also serves up three breakfast cocktails – Screwdriver, Bloody Mary and Mimosas. I recommend the Bloody Mary, it will set you up for the day! The cocktails are included on the Norwegian Drinks Package.
Ed Sheeran’s also overlooks the Atrium where there are movies, shows and music all day, so you can be entertained while you eat.
10 am – Rum and Salsa Tour, San Juan
We were meant to dock at Tortola, but as the port had been damaged due to high winds we had to divert to San Juan. Fortunately, we had booked our onshore excursion with NCL directly, a trip to Virgin Gorda and the Baths (sounds like an eighties band but it was actually a stunning range of sea caves) and a full refund was made to our online account. We were then offered a range of local excursions to purchase.
We opted for a Rum and Salsa tour, booked with a tour company called Get Shopped PR, via NCL. This involved a fantastic walking tour of San Juan with our tour guide Clem, who was a feisty character at 80 years of age and still able to walk for miles in the heat! She was very engaging and took us to various historical sites and then to a bar with a private garden, where we got to sample a Piña colada and hear about the origins of rum.
Next on the agenda were Salsa dancing lessons, followed by the opportunity to make Mojitos with some local rum. We were also provided with bottled water to drink, a must in the heat and with all the alcohol! By the time we said cheerio to Clem I had become so fond of her I was practically asking her to adopt me as a granddaughter. And then just to make the rum theme complete, we headed to the huge supermarket across the road from the port where we purchased lots of local rum at seriously amazing prices. The rum was delicious but be warned – it’s super strong and we of course found out the hard way!
When you board the ship with alcohol you have purchased, the crew take it along with your details, wrap it and deliver it to your cabin the evening before you disembark.
2.30 pm – Buffet Lunch
Just slightly tipsy after all the rum, we had a late lunch in the Garden Cafe Buffet. We enjoyed a Cuban sandwich washed down with a couple of Bud Lights. For anyone not familiar, a Cuban sandwich is popular in the Miami/Caribbean area and has a delicious filling of mustard, pork, ham, cheese and dill pickles. One of the great things about doing a shorter tour is that if you can time your lunch to eat on the ship it saves a lot of money and the food on NCL is sensational. The excursions are pricey if you book through NCL, but we do so for the extra convenience of priority disembarkation (skip the big queue) and the guarantee that if your tour is delayed, the ship won’t leave without you (have seen a few “runners” in our time)! Of course, there are also reputable tour companies in every destination if you want to shop around.
3.30 pm – Sun Deck Chill Out
Time for some sunbathing! It can get pretty crowded by the pool so we found an awesome, quieter spot up on the sun deck at the top of the ship and relaxed on our loungers with our books. As I was saying earlier about the runners, we heard a few announcements while we were sunbathing for some guests who hadn’t arrived back on the ship by the all aboard time prior to departure. We then heard a “RUN FOREST RUN!” shout from some guests looking over the side of the ship and right enough, there was a family frantically running to get back onto the ship on time! No thank you, that’s way too much stress for a holiday!
4.30 pm – Eighties Music Quiz
NCL love their themes and today we were reliving the eighties! We took part in an Eighties Music quiz in the Atrium which was so much fun even though we didn’t win.
5 pm – Thriller Dance Class
There is nothing I can say here that will portray just how hilarious this class was and how much we laughed during this process of the poor NCL dance instructor trying to teach a group of all ages and abilities to learn the dance to Michael Jackson’s iconic song. The instructor himself was buckled over laughing a few times. We will still try the dance moves out anytime we hear this song!
7.30 pm: Teppanyaki
After going back to the cabin to freshen up we headed to this restaurant, which is an additional charge of $19.95 per person as part of NCL’s speciality dining range. For anyone who has experienced Teppanyaki before, you will know it is entertainment rolled into dinner as one package, where you are a seated at a table around a very talented chef who “show cooks” Japanese cuisine on a hotplate and can do amazing things with eggs and utensils! Our chef made a roaring dragon out of an omelette!
9 pm – Live Music in the Atrium
We managed to get a seat in the bar at the Atrium where there was a very soulful musician playing songs from Prince and other eighties artists, and also played the guitar and piano. At one point he stood on the piano to finish his set and had the entire audience cheering and singing along, the atmosphere was electric!
10 pm – Outdoor Eighties Party
Spice H20 is NCL’s top deck area for lounging during the day with a big screen and a water feature. Lots of evening music events are held out here as it is a thrilling experience to party under the stars! In true eighties style, the Cruise Director was dressed as Axel Rose and the other staff included Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, George Michael and Prince. Passengers are encouraged to dress up too and Norwegian have some great packing tips for themed nights on their website. We even got a rendition of how the Thriller dance should be performed from these resident experts! We may possibly have been the last ones standing. such was our enjoyment….
12 pm – Nightcap
After all that partying its back to the cabin with a bourbon as a nightcap, while checking out our journey towards the Bahamas on the map on screen in our cabin.
So there you have it, one of my very favourite cruise days ever and memories made to last a lifetime! I am super excited to be back on the Escape this July to cruise the Baltics. I have high hopes of doing a Thriller dance class while sailing to Russia…..