Saturday, June 10, 2017

Carnival Vista Vs. Norwegian Escape Comparison

This year was an exciting year for us, because we went on two cruises this year!  At the end February we went on Carnival Vista (CV) and now at the end of May we've gone on the Norwegian Escape (NE).  Both of these ships are the newest/best ships on both Carnival and Norwegian so I thought that it might be interesting to compare the two ships since we've gone on both.  Now, please remember that these are just my experiences and thoughts of the cruise lines and I'm only rating things that Cody and I find important on ships.  With that said... let the comparison begin!!

Embarkation Process


As far the embarkation process goes... I'd have to say that Carnival Vista wins.  We got through security very quickly with Carnival Vista, and it was very clearly marked as to where we would be going to get on the ship.  As you can see above, the Norwegian Escape did not have any signs or indications on where to line up.  It made us feel pretty stressed out since we felt rushed to get on the ship for Vibe passes.  CV 1 vs. NE 0

Room Availability


When we travel, we only pack what will go in our carry on bags, and we keep those carry on bags with us when we enter into the cruise ship so that we have our stuff right away.  So, we have a vested interest in our rooms being ready quickly so that we can drop our stuff off.  On Vista our room was ready right when we got on the ship, whereas we saw a note on a locked door on the Escape telling us that our room wasn't ready (and it wasn't for a few hours).  So...  CV 2 vs. NE 0

Exclusive Area:  Havana Vs. Vibe


Again, Carnival Vista wins!  In my opinion, I preferred the Havana area on Vista vs. the Vibe on the Escape.  First of all, the Havana area was a bigger area.  It had a pool, two hot tubs, and the shaded seats in the water were wonderful. I think that the Havana area is my FAVORITE area on any cruise ship that we've been on.  Even better, access to the Havana area is tied to buying a Havana room, so if you want access to that area you just book a cruise during a time when a Havana room is available.


 I don't want to take away from the Vibe area though.  The service in the Vibe area is unlike service that I have ever experienced on a cruise ship.  The waiting staff is so good at getting to know you and making sure that you are taken care of that it's great.  However, if you are not a VIP on Norwegian or have a way of getting onto the ship before the general public... good luck at getting one of 70 limited passes for this area.  Obviously Cody and I proved that it is possible to get these passes, but waking up at 7am, rushing to the port, and then running like crazy to get the passes is not a good way to start your vacation.  Even worse, is doing all of that but still missing out because the passes to sell out in two minutes.  There were a lot of disappointed/angry people that weren't able to get the Vibe passes during our cruise.  I am predicting that someone is going to get hurt on a Norwegian cruise because people are running to get these passes.  I think the Vibe area would be better if rooms were sold as a "Vibe room category" just like the Havana area is sold on Vista.  Now I know some nay-sayers might say, "Well Norwegian does have an exclusive area that you can buy a room type for... the Haven."  And to that I say... Yes you are correct.  However, for a week in the Vibe area it only costs $200 extra per couple. Haven rooms start between $3,500 up to $7,500 per person, so I'm not going to call that comparable to the Havana area on Carnival Vista which is around that $200 extra price point.  CV 3 vs. NE 0

Drinking Package


I would say that an area that Norwegian definitely stands out from other lines is that they include the all you can drink package with your cruise (if you pick that promotion).  This really gives cruising a different feel because you don't have to worry about money as much.  Also, Norwegian has a really good variety of bars that have different types of drinks at them.  We found the drinks to be much more tasty and convenient to get on Norwegian than Carnival.  We did end up spending around $900 on the drinking package on Carnival so that we "wouldn't have to worry about spending money."  Well, that actually had the opposite effect, because my worry shifted to worrying about drinking enough to get my money's worth.  And I would say that in the end, we felt like we did not get our money's worth for what we ended up drinking.  We drank way more on Norwegian than we did on Carnival.  CV 3 vs. NE 1

Lunch Options


I feel compelled to break up the food category into multiple categories, because in some areas I felt Carnival was stronger in and others I liked Norwegian better.  So for lunch... Vista wins!  Carnival has teamed up with Guy Fieri and his two lunch areas on the ship are the BOMB!  We loved the Burger Joint and Pig and Anchor.  Vista also had a chinese and Italian restaurant that served lunch portions for free too.  We often didn't eat lunch on Norwegian because there weren't any exciting lunch venue places like there were on Vista.  CV 4 vs. NE1

Dinner Options


However, for dinner options... I have to say that the Escape wins, and I think this is another area where Norwegian stands out.  You can eat at any type of restaurant you could want on the Escape for dinner... hibachi, italian, french, brazilian, steak house, seafood and etc...  The range of dinner options on the Escape is outstanding and they all have high quality food in them too.  There were so many options that we weren't able to go to all the places that we wanted during the 7 day cruise.  I also like that their specialty dining options are reasonably priced.  Another big difference between the Escape and Vista is that on the Escape you can walk right up the restaurant and get your seating assignment.  On the Vista you have to go up to the floor above the dining room to get your seating assignment, which seems like a really bizarre set up to me. I have no idea why Carnival decided to do that.  CV 4 vs. NE2

Dessert



The dessert options have to go to Carnival Vista!  Carnival's signature dessert, the chocolate melt cake, is legendary!  Not only that but Vista also has a whole buffet section dedicated to desserts in their buffet area, and they have a really good ice cream place called Cherry on Top where you can make ice combinations kind of like Cold Stone.  They also had a milkshake spot where you could order regular and alcoholic milkshakes.  Sorry Norwegian... you're just not competing on the dessert level.  CV 5 vs. NE 2

Cruise ship Apps


It's the digital age, so obviously both cruise lines have an app that you can hook up on your phone and use for free on the ship.  Both apps show you your onboard balance and activities that were upcoming on the ship.  I would that Carnival's app was a little better than Norwegian's because it also showed you pictures that were taken of you by their photographers, and it also had a feature that allowed you to mark upcoming activities as a favorite, and then you could sort your day by your favorite activities.  This made it very easy to see when the activities you were interested in were coming up on Vista.  Norwegian's app did not have this feature, and I found myself wishing for it while we were on the cruise.  CV 6 vs. NE 2

Appearance of the ship


I honestly usually think that most cruise ships look pretty similar to each other... but I have to say I absolutely loved the Escape's chandelier.  It caught my attention from the moment that we walked onto the ship.  It was truly the centerpiece of the ship and it was beautiful... especially at night when it changed colors.  Vista's had a digital column that just didn't compare to this at all.  CV 5 vs. NE 3

Theater Seating on the ship


You might think that it's odd that I'm rating the theater seating on the ship, but I feel compelled to do this, because the Carnival Vista has the WORST theater setup I've ever seen.  You walk in and all of the chairs are right on top of each other.  There were chairs that were fixed in their position, and then there were ones that could move.  It's almost like they decided "Oh we have quite a bit of room in-between these aisles, let's bring in some extra chairs and set them down to get an extra row of seating."  which caused there to be no room in-between the rows of seats.  The theater also didn't have stadium (or raised platform) seating, so if someone tall was in front of you... forget about being able to see.  You can't tell in this picture, but they also have large/gigantic support beams that block your view in the theater.  No matter where we sat in the Vista theater, I had a hard time viewing the show we were watching because people or support beams were blocking my view.  The chairs also have these awkward little tables on them, presumably to put a drink on (but I feel like any drink could easily fall off that little table).  The Norwegian's Escape theater was like a breath of fresh air after having been on Vista, because it was set up like a large movie theater which was absolutely refreshing after being on Vista. All I have to say about the construction of the Vista theater is why?!?!?  I'm thinking that they must have wanted it to not feel like a theater... but... that's what it is... so I don't know what they were going for.  CV 5 vs. NE 4

Theater Show Entertainment


 I think that the Escape wins in the theater entertainment department as well.  They have very high quality productions almost every night.  And not only do they have one large theater venue (that actually works as a theater) they have another smaller area called the Supper Club that puts on very good shows as well.  I also think that the Escape's entertainment was more consistently good than Vista's.  We went to a juggler on Vista who I honestly think would have been X'd on American's Got Talent.  And the juggler that we saw on the Escape had won the gold medal in the world juggling competition (Yes apparently there is a competition for everything in Vegas haha).  CV 5 vs. NE 5

Comedy Club


I have to say that Vista wins in the comedian department.  Carnival changes comedians every 3 days on their ship, so literally almost every night you can go to a different comedy show if you'd like to.  Norwegian keeps the same comedians on their ship the whole cruise, and you can only go to their shows one time during the cruise.  CV 7 vs. NE 5

Photography


Welcome to the future of cruise photography!!  Instead of printing out every picture they take of you and putting it into a binder for you to review (yes I'm calling you out Norwegian Escape) the Carnival Vista has huge digital screens that you can type your room number on and pull up all of your pictures.  You can also view all of our pictures on their Carnival Hub app.  I thought that this was brilliant, and I bet that this is a style that all cruise ships will adopt in the future.  CV 8 vs. NE 5

Piano Bar


Norwegian Escape wins the Piano Bar competition hands down.  Howl at the Moon is outstanding and is so much fun to be at, and it has a very different atmosphere than the piano bar on Vista.  Howl at the Moon has two pianos and 3 different performers.  In addition to the piano's they have a drum set and two guitars.  They have a light production and a video taping them while they perform.  Every hour the performers rotate out and get a 30 minute break.  Also they interact with each so well.  They back each other up, joke around, and if one person doesn't know a song they can throw it over to have the other person sing the song. Whereas, on Vista there was one girl on a piano that sang 6 days a week for 6 hours straight.  I don't care how entertaining that one person is on Carnival... they can't compete with Howl at the Moon.  CV8 vs. NE 6

The Crew


Now I don't have anything negative to say about Carnival's crew... but I just don't have anything to say that really stands out to me either.  However, on the Escape there were several crew members that knew our name and even bartenders that knew our drinks.  The crew on the Escape also seemed to have a lot of energy and seemed to have a lot of pride in their work.  I also liked that at the finale show that Norwegian called up the room stewards, bartenders, waiters, and etc... to be recognized for their hard work throughout the cruise.  CV 8 vs. NE 7

Loyalty Program


These cruises were our 3rd and 4th cruises that we've been on and they were our second cruises on each cruise line.  I didn't feel that we got any recognition on Vista for being a repeat guest.  Whereas, on the Escape we got a bottle of champagne, strawberries, and promotions for future cruises.  And after talking with different people in the Vibe, I believe that Norwegian has the best loyalty program out of any of the cruise lines, and I think that Norwegian takes care of it's loyal customers really well.  CV 8 vs. NE 8

Exiting from the Ship

 One thing that annoyed me on Carnival Vista is that their ports are not convenient for their passengers.  They specifically herded us through gift shops and made the walks off of the ship more congested and slower.  Norwegian did not drop us off at one port where we had to walk through a gift shop to enter through the port.  They also had carts that were shuttling passengers to and from ports that had longer piers.  CV 8 vs. NE 9

Returning onto the Ship


Norwegian knows how to treat their guests!  When you come back onto their ships they always have drinks and cold wash clothes to help refresh you.  At one port they were also passing out popsicles to everyone.  Another time, they had balloons set up and the crew was dancing to songs and welcoming you back onto the ship.  I can't remember Vista ever doing anything like that.  CV 8 vs. NE 10


Carnival Vista won 8/18 of my categories: 

Embarkation Process, Room Availability, Exclusive Areas, Lunch Options, Dessert Options, Cruise ship App, Comedy Club, and Photography.


The Norwegian Escape won 10/18 of my categories: 

Drinking Package, Dinner Options, Theater Seating, Theater shows, Piano Bar, The Crew, Loyalty Program, Exiting from the ship, and Returning onto the ship.

 I do feel that some of the categories that Norwegian won like the drinking package, dinner, and entertainment options were really big hitters.  After having been on both ships, I think that we enjoyed our time on the Escape more than on Vista.  The Escape had high quality entertainment that changed frequently enough that we never got bored at night on the ship (like we were on Vista).  Similarly with the food options, we got to try a bunch of different places to eat but it never felt like we were going to the same place over and over again (like it did on Vista).  In the future I think that we will be sailing with Norwegian over Carnival.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Norwegian Escape Anniversary Cruise 2017

Cody and I went on our second cruise this year from May 27th to June 3rd.  Our first cruise was on Carnival's new ship Vista, and this cruise was on Norwegian's largest ship, the Escape!  In this post I am going to describe our trip on the Escape and then in a separate post, I'll break down my comparison of the two ships and what we liked the most about each one. Now I will say, that the start of our cruise on Norwegian was looking to be on the disappointing side, but quickly turned to amazing!!

Night Before Cruise


Just like our last cruise, we decided to fly down to Miami the night before our cruise.  This time we stayed in a much nicer hotel (for a cheaper price too!!!  Maybe it was the time of the year???)  We ended up staying at the Intercontinental at Doral Miami.  We've stayed at Intercontinental's on previous cruises in Miami as well, and we have never been disappointed with them.


As a bonus the Intercontinental was within walking distance to Miller's Alehouse!  That meant zingers for us!!  Yay!!  

Day 1


Cody and I had submitted a bid for Norwegian's "Upgrade Advantage" program where you can bid against other people to try to "win" an upgraded room.  We were hoping to get a Haven room on our cruise (which is a room that is a suite and includes priority boarding, access to a private pool/sun deck, and an exclusive restaurant on the ship).  We put what we thought was a pretty competitive bid in, and we really thought that we would get the room... but two days before our cruise we got the message that our bids were denied.  So we decided that we wanted to try to get Vibe passes instead!!!  We easily got Vibe passes two years ago on our honeymoon.  The Vibe area isn't something that Norwegian advertises, but I think that the word is starting to get out about it (probably because of blogs like mine!!).  They only sell 70 passes for $100 a person for the week, and the passes are a first come first serve.  But the Vibe area is SO worth it!  You never have to search for a chair there, and they are padded and comfortable.  They have staff that come and continuously bring you drinks, when you come in they bring you a pitcher of water, they pass out cookies and fruit, and cold towels... honestly it's wonderful in there, so we REALLY wanted to get the passes!  We woke up at 7am the day of our cruise and got to the port.  We got boarding group 2 (which is good because they let group 1 and 2 on at the same time), so we were the first ones that were going to get onto the ship.


Norwegian had the most bizarre entry area!  No signs anywhere!  Which is extremely frustrating when you are in a rush to get onto the ship to try to get Vibe passes.  We kept asking crew members that were walking around and they were very vague about where to line up.


Here is the entrance area.  Well... we didn't really know where to go so we waited for other people to line up and then we got behind them.  We were probably 20th or so in line.  Of course, the ship let's all of the Haven, big casino spenders, and Platinum members onto the ship first.  So after all of those people got on, then they let groups 1 and 2 onto the ship.  (Embarkation point goes to Carnival who had a super organized terminal.  No questions on where to go/line up there.)


So we get onto the ship and we MAD DASH from the 8th floor, where we came onto the ship, to the Headliners location where they sell the passes on the 6th floor.  So we are rushing trying to get the passes (MOVE old people!!!), and we are carrying our luggage down the stairs, and we get there and a guy yells up to his friend behind us that they are out of passes!!!  There was a poor guest services guy standing there getting yelled at by everyone because they were out of passes.  I think that they sold out of passes within two minutes.  We were SO disappointed!  So we asked the guest service guy if there was anything that we could do, and he said that he could put us on a waiting list, and he said that we would be the first ones on it.  Now, I have worked in guest services before... so I won't lie, I thought this was just something he was doing to try to appease us so that we'd go away and stop complaining.  I even had to call him out on it... I was like... Does this actually ever happen?  Who would give up their Vibe passes?  He was like, "Oh yeah, it's possible.  It happens all the time.  You'll know by tomorrow."  I was skeptical, but we had nothing to lose so we put our names on the list, but I had pretty low hope about getting the passes.



We decided to try to get to our room, but there was a locked door with a sign saying that they were working on staterooms still  (Point goes to Carnival.  On Vista our room was ready right when we got onto the ship, and we were able to drop our stuff off right away).  On Norwegian, we had to wait a couple hours before our room was ready.




Since our rooms weren't available we decided to go to the Sugarcane Mojito Bar!  This was our favorite spot on our last Norwegian cruise and it did not disappoint this time!  The bartender (Erwin) was super nice and entertaining.  He had a trick where he threw the napkin to you, which I thought was cool!!  When we got to the mojito bar it actually wasn't even fully open yet, but Erwin said that he'd get us drinks anyway!  That is probably the turning point to when we started our upswing away from disappointment to the start of our amazing trip!


After our Mojitos we grabbed lunch and walked around a bit, and then our room was ready.  We originally planned to go on this cruise last Christmas, but because of my new job we had to delay it to Memorial day weekend.  However, the prices for an inside room over Christmas was the same price as a mini-suite this time of year.  So booya!!  Mini-suite it was for us!!


In all honestly, the room itself was almost exactly the same was our aft balcony on our last Norwegian cruise... with one exception... 


We had a legit bathroom!  Complete with double sinks...


And an actual shower vs. the normal tiny cruise ship showers that you typically get.


I remember saying on our Carnival cruise that it didn't matter that we didn't have a balcony because we wouldn't be in the room to use it much... but yeah... that's not really true.  We weren't constantly out on our balcony but we did enjoy some time out there.  Especially before dinner or in the morning it was nice to hang out there.  I would definitely want a balcony on future cruises.


We started doing some exploring around the ship and we were trying to figure out where our "home" was going to be on the ship for the duration of our cruise.  I won't lie... at first I was a little sad.  We had put our bid in for the Haven area 80 days before our cruise, and we had our hopes up for the 78 days until we found out that our bid had been denied, that we might be able to be in that area.  Then we had hoped it would be the Vibe.  Without having access to either area, I was a little upset, but I was trying to make the best of it.  We decided to check out the main pool. We've never spent anytime at the main pool before on a cruise (because it's usually super crowded) but we after the muster drill, we avoided waiting for the elevators and we took the stairs up (10 flights of stairs!) to the main pool.  Because we took the stairs we actually got there in time to get a seat on the edge of the pool for the sail away party.


I have no idea why we've never gone to a sail away party before!?!?  It was a blast!!  Here we are starting our vacation!!  Woohoo!!


 Cody was smart and wore his bathing suit, so he hopped into the pool.



This was our cruise director, Tyler Gray ( yes... we heard a few 50 shades jokes during the cruise), he was FANTASTIC!  He was absolutely full of energy and he was pretty funny.  I swear this guy was everywhere, and he had to work crazy hours!!


You can literally see the sweat dripping off this guy! 





After our tour of going to the 5' O Clock Somewhere Bar, the Margaritaville Bar, the Mojito Bar, and several drinks at the Pool Bar... (Point to Norwegian, their bars are amazing!  They have such a variety and the drinks are so good.  We bought the drinking package on Carnival and could barely get in the minimum of 5 drinks a day to make it worth it, but we drank like fish on Norwegian where the drink package was included for free in our cruise!  Go figure!)... we made our way back to our room to get ready for dinner.  And to our excitement we had a voicemail waiting for us.  Cody listened to the message and it was the guest service's guy telling us that they had Vibe passes for us!!!  We whooped and cheered and stumbled/flew down the steps to get our passes.  Talk about a vacation changing call!



We reserved dinner at Cagney's Steakhouse which was our favorite restaurant on our last Norwegian cruise.  The main difference is that they changed the menu.  A lot of things that they used to have on it are gone now.  Notably there surf and turf is now filet mignon and shrimp, whereas before they served lobster.  But it was still a delicious and yummy dinner though! 


After dinner we went to the Welcome Aboard Show and I was relieved to see that the Escape had a proper theater with good seating (Points to Norwegian, the theater on Carnival SUCKED!).  The welcome aboard show was a sneak peek of all of the entertainment coming up on the ship for the week.




After the welcome aboard show we went to check out Howl at the Moon.  We remembered having a blast at Howl at the Moon on our last Norwegian cruise.  And it did not disappoint this time either!  This is also another area of the ship that wasn't as widely known on our last cruise, but the word has spread because it was PACKED!  Standing room only.  And it's actually a pretty decent size venue too.  It took us a little bit of time to get a seat (and then when we did it was in the front row) but we love Howl at the Moon!  The guys are so much fun and the music is usually very lively.  I'm just always amazed by how super talented they are, because they are able to play literally any request that is sent up to them.  In this picture you can see that the cruise director, Tyler, even popped in and played the drums for a while. He actually came in every night for an hour or so and jammed out with the guys ( I swear he must never sleep!).  But yes if you are ever on a Norwegian cruise, check out Howl at the Moon.  It isn't on every night because it shares the venue with the comedians on the ship, but it's definitely a good time when it's on.


As soon as we walked onto the ship, I noticed the beautiful chandelier in the center of the ship.  During the day time it was just crystal clear... 


But at night, it really came alive and changed colors.


As you can tell, I thought it was beautiful!


I was memorized by the different changing colors.


So of course I started snapping pictures of some of the different color formations!


The Norwegian Escape was definitely a lot more beautiful than the Carnival Vista!

Day 2


Our first full day on the ship was all about taking advantage of our Vibe passes!!  The chairs in the Vibe area are the only chairs in the entire ship (except maybe the Haven area) that have padded/comfortable chairs in them.  Also, it is never busy in the Vibe (we never saw more than 20 people at a time) so you are ALWAYS able to easily find a seat.  Also, it was one of the only places on the ship that I noticed that you could sit in either the shade or the sun at the same time. Cody likes to sit in the shade when we are outside, and  I like sitting in the sun.  It was nice to have our own umbrellas that we could raise or lower as we liked.


Probably the best part of the Vibe and what makes it really stand out is the great service that you get in there.  There were three guys working in the Vibe area, and they took real good care of us!   They kept our room cards, and then they would just keep bringing us out drinks.  The drinks in the Vibe were also the best on the ship, because they don't have as many people to serve so they don't have to rush to make drinks, so they don't have pre-made drink mixes, which means they make everything fresh!  I think this is the reason why we probably drank more on this cruise than others, because as soon as our drinks were getting low they'd come by and give us another one.  One time they even brought Cody two!!


Also, as soon as we came out, Michael, our main waiter, would come by and drop off two glasses and a pitcher of ice cold water.  This was really nice to have while we were relaxing outside.  They also came around passing out fresh fruit skewers and cookies!  Yay for getting Vibe passes!  I do not think that the regular decks have service anything like this, but I can't say for sure because we didn't sit out there.


The only thing that I would have liked more about the Vibe is if it would have had more water areas.  The Vibe area only has 1 hot tub in it that was almost always pretty crowded.  When we were in the hot tub, we started to talk to other people in the Vibe, and we quickly realized that we were with the rich people on the ship.  The one guy told us that this was their 7th cruise in 15 months!  He said that he loves the way that Norwegian treats their loyal customers.  He said that he wrote in ahead of time about how much his wife and he enjoyed the Vibe area and that they were looking forward to their next cruise.  Of course, he's an elite member so he got priority boarding... he said that they went and bought Vibe passes, and then when they got to their room, they saw that Norwegian had passes waiting there for them, so he released his passes.  Cody and I were like, that's how we got our passes!!!  We were the first ones on the waiting list!  Thank goodness for that guy getting passes reserved and then turning back in the ones that he bought!  Another couple in the hot tub, were saying that this was their 73rd cruise on Norwegian!!  They said that they get all of their cruise's comped now because of how much they gamble in the casino (by the end of the cruise she said that they had bet $40,000 in the casino).  I kinda felt like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic when he's dining with all the rich people, and I was like I'm the luckiest person alive!!!  Haha!!  Because obviously almost all of the Vibe passes go to the VIP/rich type of people.  There were girls that we saw in line at the terminal and they were the first ones in line.  They said that they got Vibe passes number 59 and 60, so basically that tells me that there were like 10-15 passes left for the common folk after all of the VIPs got theirs.  But hey!  I've always had pretty good luck, so I'm happy that it worked out for us.  We hung out in the Vibe every single day and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.



Around noon we went to the Cruise Critic meet and greet.  We almost didn't even want to go to this meet and greet, because of how bad it was on Carnival.  Basically on Carnival it was in a boring venue and was basically a complain fest.  Well not on Norwegian!!  They had a dj, brought around appetizers, they passed out drink samples, and it was even kicked off by the cruise director!  It was a lively atmosphere and actually pretty fun!  We were pleasantly surprised.



Here is Cody with all of his beer samplings that they passed out during the meet and greet.


Next our group went on a slot pull.  Basically everyone put in $20 and then the group was going to split the pot between whatever was won.  Everyone got so many spins, and we ended up going several rounds.  Between all of us we ended up putting in like $560 into the machine, and didn't end up winning anything!  The machine we picked really sucked (but that could be a reflection of cruise ship casinos.  There is a reason that they only let people gamble in international waters, because there aren't any regulations on how much they need to pay out.  Everyone loses on cruise ship slots). The woman in the picture is Laura.  She organized the slot pull, we learned that she is also a casino member and gets free cruises from gambling in the casino.  Afterwards Cody and I started talking with her and we became friends with her.  She actually had a Vibe pass as well, so we ran into her a few times throughout the cruise.


After the slot pull our group started on a bar crawl.  The bar crawl lasted for 3 hours or so, but it wasn't very organized and we only made it to 3 bars in all that time.  It was still fun showing up in a big group though and meeting new people (like Laura up above).  If we ever participate in one again, I think that I'll suggest that we should move onto a new places every 20-30 minutes instead of lingering at one place for too long.



That night we went to the Supper Club for a nightly show.  At first, I thought that this venue cost extra money because it was dinner and a show, but it turns out that it was free.  We went to see a group called The Company Men and they were my favorite show of the whole cruise.  They were a group of 4 guys and they sang mash ups of different songs.  Basically one guy would sing an older song and another guy would sing a modern song and they would blend them together.  It's hard to describe, but it was really fun to watch!  (Norwegian gets a point here!  They had WAY superior entertainment than what Carnival had.  They had multiple venues for people to see shows in and they had all kinds of variety.)  The dinner that they served there wasn't too bad either. 


After hanging out on our balcony and taking a nap, we came back to the Supper Club for another act.  They had a comedian juggler on the ship while we were there (I think that they regularly change up their acts, because I had heard that a hypnotist was on the ship a week or two prior to us going on).  The juggler was actually pretty good.  He told us that a couple of years ago he won the gold medal at the world juggling competition in Vegas. He had an entertaining show... pretty typical of what you'd think a juggler would do. He did have one trick that I especially enjoyed, where he turned off the lights and juggled balls that changed colors and it was sooo pretty/memorizing to watch.  (Point to Norwegian for actually having a good juggler, unlike the fool that we watched on Carnival that sucked!  Haha)



On a couple of occasions we were surprised by gifts left in our room.  One day we had a bottle of champagne in our room and then on two other occasions they left chocolate covered strawberries in our room.  It was super nice and unexpected.  We have no idea why they brought it to our room.  

Day 3 - Roatan



This morning we woke up and tried to avoid the Garden Cafe (which was the main buffet area on the ship) because it was SUPER packed every time that we went to it.  It had long lines and it was hard to find a seat.  So today, we realized that the Margaritaville restaurant serves a limited breakfast menu and has very little lines and plenty of seating.  We opted to have our breakfast there.  They made fresh omelets, sausage, bacon, hash browns, and eggs there.  Plus they had some fruit and pastries.  It was a good place to grab breakfast in the morning away from the hustle and bustle of the main area.


We turned the clocks back one hour today because of the time zone changes, so we actually woke up pretty early on this day.  We knew that we would be in port all day, so after breakfast we decided to hang out in the Vibe area for a little while before we got to Roatan.


We had pre-booked a ziplining excursion with South Shore Canopy Tours, and it was very easy to find them.  Basically, once you walk through the main area in Roatan there are vendors everywhere trying to get you to book with them.


Here we are waiting to get onto the bus to take us to the zip line place.



After about a half an hour ride to the zip line place, we were trying to attach our brand new GoPro to the helmet attachment.  The only issue is that this was the first time that we've really used the GoPro in an action environment, and I didn't realize that there are different screws that locks the GoPro into different attachments.  I only had the screw that connected to our selfie stick, and it wasn't the right one for the helmet attachment!!


We were both frustrated and upset trying to make our screw work, and finally I saw another couple next to us that had their GoPro attached to their helmet so I asked them if they could help us.  Luckily, they happened to have an extra screw that they loaned us to use!!  The girl said that she almost didn't bring the extra one with them, but then at the last minute decided to do so!  Phew!  Lucky us!  It would have been so disappointing if we wouldn't have been able to use our GoPro while ziplining.  Obviously we didn't buy the GoPro to just use while ziplining, but it was something that we talked about when we decided to buy it.  Check out some of the pictures that we got from it...


There's me!!  And there's me about 60 other times... haha.  The GoPro was on Cody's helmet so all of the pictures that he got were of me!  


Getting ready to take off...



Coming in for the landing!


Here is the view of Cody coming into the landing area.


Cody on the zipline.  This zipline was a little different from the one that we went on during our last cruise.   This was a more traditional zipline that had a hand break that you had to use to stop yourself at the end.  I feel like this is a more fun way to zipline because it gives you more control over the experience, and gives you a little extra adrenaline because you know that you have to figure out how to stop yourself at the end.


Here is a view of Cody on the zipline.


Here is a picture of our guide.  He was asking everyone if they wanted to do a trick on the zipline.  Basically you go on the zipline with him and flip upside down...


I was scared at first, but then I figured... oh why not??  So there I am trying it!  It was CRAZY and I screamed like a little girl!!


Here is a shot that I took of Cody with my camera.


Here is a picture of both of us!


This ziplining place had monkeys walking around and some in cages there!!


At first, I was like, "Awww look at the cute little monkey."


Then I was like, "Ahhhh!!  The monkey's grabbing me!!!"  Haha!



This little guy was a little rascal.  He was not shy at all and kept coming up to people.  He also kept trying to get into people's bags when they weren't looking.  I thought he seemed pretty tame, so I walked up to him and put my arm out.  Sure enough... he jumped right on it.


After the ziplining, we went on an ecotour which detailed walking on about 8 suspension bridges and trails underneath the ziplines.  The tour guide pointed out various things to us on the tour (like snakes, plants, fire ant nests, and termite nests).  I was really struggling during the first couple of bridges because I had an eyelash in my eye, and after touching the monkeys I didn't really want to touch my eye.  Eventually Cody helped me by lifting my eyelid up and blowing it out.  But phew, it was rough at first!!


Love this picture of Cody during the ecotour!


Here we are enjoying the ecotour.





For dinner, Cody and I went to La Cucina which was the Italian restaurant on the ship.  Cody absolutely loved it.  I thought that it was ok, but I don't really like Italian food.  They did give us lots and lots of food though.  I also thought that they had the best mashed potatoes of anywhere that I'd had on the ship.  We had intended on going to Howl at the Moon that night, but after eating we went to our room to relax for a little bit and ended up falling asleep.

Day 4 - Harvest Caye, Belize


Harvest Caye is Norwegian's brand new private island.  I had read a lot of reviews about it, and not very may were positive.  People were very upset that food and drinks on the island were not included (other private cruise ship islands do include food and drinks), and people were also upset that they could only book excursions through the cruise ship, because private vendors aren't allowed on Harvest Caye.  Many people that they weren't even going to get off the ship at this port, and based off of that feedback we almost didn't either... But we had read that they had a large pool and a nature preserve that was free to do on the island, so we decided that we would check it out.  We figured it we didn't like it we'd just come back to the ship.


We ended up having a blast on Harvest Caye!  The pool was absolutely amazing!!  Unlike the cruise ship pool, it was a large fresh water pool, and it was only between 3 FT to 4'4 FT deep.  This picture is actually only half the size of the whole pool.  It was too big to get in one picture.  We had a lot of fun in this pool!  We came out about an hour and a half after the ship docked, and we were still able to find two chairs in a close proximity to put our towels on.


Our GoPro is water proof so we were able to take it into the pool with us.  Also the GoPro can shoot on video mode and then you can turn scenes from that video into pictures (which took me forever to do by the way!).  However, it was worth all of the work because we definitely got pictures that we would have never gotten otherwise.  Case in point...


Here is the process of me going underwater and coming back up from pictures that I made from the video Cody took of me.


Underwater...


Here I come up...


Yep that actually reflects my excitement of getting pictures from a video.  I think that you have such a wide variety and opportunity to get pictures, and you never have to say "dang I missed it!"


This is a typical pool scene for Cody and I.  He always like me to hold him when we are in the water.  To give him credit he does hold me and taxi me around too.


We were considering eating at the Landshark, which is basically an extension of Margaritaville (which was on our ship) but the prices for food were crazy!!  It was like $15-$20 for a burger and drinks were like $10-$15.  Just to buy a bottle of water on the island will run you $2 for a small and $4 for a large.  We were like... HA!  Forget that... we just swam for a while and then walked back to the ship to grab lunch.  Then we went to the Vibe to get some drinks.  After relaxing for a little while we went back out to the port and went swimming some more.


Honestly, despite all of the bad things people had to say about Harvest Caye, it actually ended up being our favorite port!  Even better it didn't end up costing us anything at all to go there!  We had a fine day of hanging out and relaxing in the pool.


In addition to the pool, Harvest Caye also has a man made beach.  However, the sand is pretty rough and we met a woman that got stung by a jelly fish in the water.  They also had an excursion through the ship that had people ziplining from a lighthouse on the island (What a joke!  Those people paid more than we did to zipline in Roatan and they only got to on 3 zip lines).  They also had a bunch of different shops that you could buy things in.  They also advertised that they had a nature preserve that was free of charge to visit.  Yeah.... basically it was 4 birds, 2 snakes, and some butterflies haha, but i guess they tried???  I understand why people have complaints about Harvest Caye, but for what we did we really enjoyed it.


After enjoying our time in the pool, we came back to the ship for dinner at our favorite, Cagney's!  We had a good dinner there, and then we spent the balance of our evening at Howl at the Moon.  Day 4 was probably one of our best days on vacation.  We slept in, ate good food throughout the day, enjoyed the refreshing pool, and then had a good diner and fun entertainment for the night.  You can't get much better than that!

Day 5 - Costa Maya, Mexico


Costa Maya was our least favorite port, and we probably only spent about an hour or so walking around there.

There were tons of little huts selling pretty similar items for tourists to buy.  There were also some bars and restaurants.  The excursions were mostly available through the cruise line, and we didn't see anything that we particularly wanted to do there.


We ended up going back onto the ship pretty quickly, and we decided that we wanted to go to O'Sheehans (which is like an Irish pub) for lunch.  This place is open 24/7 but apparently they close inbetween breakfast and lunch.  There was a group of us waiting to get in, and while we were there Laura came by.  She was waiting to get in also, so we had her join us for lunch.  I had high hopes for the food in O'Sheehan's, but it was only alright.

This day ended up being a Vibe day.  There were actually quite a few people in there on this day too.  We took full advantage of the great service in the Vibe and enjoyed the cold towels, fruit, and cookies that they passed out throughout the day.



That night we went to the Hibachi restaurant on the ship, Teppanyaki.  We had a blast there!!  You can tell that Norwegian has a script of the show that the cooks put on, because you can hear all the cooks around you doing pretty much the same tricks... but that doesn't change the fact that it was really fun!!  We thought that the food was really good too, and that everything had a lot of flavor.  It was the best hibachi that I have been to in a long time.  My only complaint is that they don't give you very many vegetables.  They use the vegetables as an appetizer and only give you a slice of zucchini, squash, onion, and a carrot.  However, besides that it was an awesome experience and we'd love to go back there!




That night was a night of watching two comedians and hanging out with Erwin at the mojito bar in between the comedy shows.  The second comedian introduced himself as from Cleveland, and as we were listening to his show it sounded oddly familiar.  Turns out we'd actually already seen this comedian at the Rocksino!!  I guess Norwegian gives comedians a two week contracts on their ships and it just so happens that we got the guy from our area that we've already seen!  Small world!  and what's even funnier is that we've only been to a couple of the comedians at the Rocksino too!  What are the odds of that happening?

Day 6 - Cozumel, Mexico




Cody and I deliberated long and hard on what we wanted to do in Cozumel.  We thoroughly enjoyed our last trip to Cozumel when we went on a bar hopping tour, but with having free drinks on our cruise, we didn't really want to do that this time.  We ended p booking a private jeep tour with Cozumel Cruise Excursions.  We chose this option because many other tours said that they had a stick shift jeep that you had to drive yourself and we were trying to avoid that.  They also mentioned that this trip was customize-able and that it was just you and our guide so you could do whatever you'd like on the tour.  They also said that towards the end you go on a private snorkeling tour with a guide...  WELL...




We get there and it turns out that the taxis on the island are pretty much like the mafia and don't allow anyone that is not in their union to drive tourist in the cruise ship area.  They even had inspectors on the roads double checking.  So, our guide, Paco, tells Cody that he's going to have to drive.  Poor Cody had to drive the jeep, which WAS a stick shift, in the most congested areas of Cozumel.  Good thing that he knew how to drive a stick shift... I wouldn't have been able to do it... You think that they would mention that as a requirement for going on the tour, because if you couldn't drive a stick shift than how could you do the tour?  It seemed like they just assumed everyone could drive a manual transmission, because we were telling our guide that our cars were automatic and that we didn't use a manual transmission and he seemed amazed.  Once we were out of the main drag, Paco did take over and drive... but to Cody's point Paco was driving in the area where there was no traffic or stress.


Besides Cody having to drive in the beginning, the tour itself was pretty good. We saw huge groups of people on cruise ship excursions driving themselves in their own jeep with 20-30 other jeeps on their tour. We did have our own private guide and it was just us in our jeep (and I'm pretty sure we paid less than the cruise ship excursion jeep tour too).  Our guide, Paco, was a nice guy and was very knowledgeable about Cozumel.  He often pulled off to show us little things along our way, like this crashed boat.  Other tours were racing along and didn't bother to stop and look at small things.


We got to stop and hold an iguana.


She was someone's pet and seemed pretty docile so I wasn't scared of her.

We also went to a chocolate tasting place.  They showed us the process of how to make chocolate, and then gave us samples of about 15 different types of chocolates. A lot of the samples were of dark chocolate ( yuck!!! ) but it was cool to go to.


We also stopped at a natural blow hole.


Here we are on the beach.


Part of our tour was a tequila tasting tour.  I think that Cody was pretty excited about this!!  We learned that it takes the tequila plant 7-9 years to get to a mature age (They only use the pineapple looking part at the bottom to make the tequila), and then it takes between 3-12 years for the tequila to age properly in a barrel.


The tour talked about the history of tequila and showed all of the steps of the process of making tequila.


At the end they let us sample 9 different blends of tequila (waaaay too much for me!!).  Our guide told us the proper way to drink was to sniff twice, drink, inhale through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth to taste the full flavors of the tequila.


 We went to a little bar off the side of the road that Paco claimed had the best daiquiris on the island.  I ordered a mango daiquiri and the guy started hand peeling a fresh mango to make it. He ended up giving me the left over piece of the mango.  There was a nice sitting area there with hammocks righ ton the ocean. And it WAS a very tasty daiquiri!



Of course... boys will be boys... and the guy running the stand gave me a free shot and look at where they put the salt on!!


I think that they all got a kick out of me doing the shot.  Apparently, he gave Cody a shot too that had a naked girl in the bottom of the glass, but I didn't realize they'd given it to him until he told me later haha.


They made so much it had to go into two cups!!



 Next we went to a light house and climbed all the way to the top of it.  Phew!!  It was a heck of a climb, and then there was only a small little crawl space to get out onto the observation deck too.


As you can tell it was pretty windy up there!


We couldn't get a decent picture until I put my hair up in a pony tail.


Here you can see that on one side there is a beautiful beach, and the other side is a swamp area.  After visiting the lighthouse, we went over towards the swamp area to look for crocodiles.  Our guide said that people don't snorkel or dive on this side of the island because 1. The waves are really rough and 2. Crocodiles can swim in fresh and salt water and often swim in the ocean on that size of the island!!


On their website it said that we would get a chance to see some Mayan Ruins during our tour...  Here's the ruins we got to see... lol!!


Here is Paco leading us to lunch.  A fajita lunch was included in the price of our tour.  At first they tried to sit us in the only non-shaded spot in the whole place!  But we were burning up and made them move us.  


The food that they served us was pretty disappointing.  Here you can see the portion size of rice and beans that they gave us.  Our fajitas also didn't have hardly any flavor.  Rats!  We were hoping for some good Mexican fajitas too.

 

Our private guided snorkeling tour with professional snorkeling equipment... ended up being a half an hour of us in the water on our own, wearing life vest that we had to blow in to inflate...  Paco mentioned that there wasn't enough snorkel equipment for our guide to come out with us ( What!?!?)  so we were just off on our own snorkeling a little bit. 


Very quickly, Cody realized that he hates snorkeling because for some reason his mask always floods.  So he was not having fun snorkeling at all. I was also a little anxious because Paco told us not to worry about buying a locker and the he would watch our stuff. As soon as we started walking towards the beach I saw him leave our stuff to go to the bathroom.  I was a little bit worried that our money and phones might not be there when we got back, so Cody ended up going back to the shore after a few minutes of attempting to snorkel.


Now I know that I said that we took our GoPro to the pool in Harvest Caye, but I didn't actually submerge it into the water there... here is my scared look before I take it underwater for the first time.


Here it goes!


All was well!




I wish we would have had a snorkeling guide, because I didn't know where to go to see anything.  A guy told me that he just got done with his snorkeling tour and that they saw a 6 foot sting ray, but I was on my own and I didn't know where to go...  However, up ahead I saw a bunch of people gathered together so I swam over by them.


When I got there I realized that there was a school of fish swimming right near the surface of the water there.  There were SO many fish!!  The pictures really don't do it justice.


After being there for about 3 seconds, I decided to try to touch a fish.  But it was like I was moving in slow motion and they were swimming super fast because I couldn't get one.  So here I am trying to touch a fish... (kind of like a dog chasing a squirrel.  They desperately try to catch the squirrel, but if they did ever get they wouldn't know what to do) ....  And then I was going for one and I bumped into a different one!!  EEK!!  I screamed right into my mask!




Here is my distraught look right after.  After I touched it, I noticed that the fish were ALL around me!!!  EEK!  Too many fish!!!  I got scared and started swimming away but I couldn't get away from them quick enough.  Eventually I just turned my GoPro off and started swimming as fast as I could away!!  Haha!!




Overall, I think that we had a nice time on our tour, but their advertisement was very misleading.  Honestly, if we had known what we were signing up for we probably wouldn't have done this tour... but I definitely think that there could have been way worse tours to go on.  We read Trip Advisor reviews, but we didn't see anyone mentioning some of the aspects of our tour (like having to drive and not having a snorkel guide) ...  but despite that it was still a pretty fun day.  If we ever come to Cozumel again, I think that we will try Mr. Sanchos, which is one of the most popular attractions in Cozumel.  It is an all-inclusive beach/pool resort that has all kinds of water sports/attractions at it.


That night we ate at Moderno which is the Brazilian steakhouse on the ship... where they come around with skewers of different meats and slice pieces off for you.  I was feeling sick from the day and didn't end up eating a whole lot there.  We ended up heading back to our room after dinner.  Cody watched the Cavs game and I took a nap.


That night we went to the 10pm show call "For the Record: The Brat Pack."  It was a performance that was based off of famous 80's movies (like the breakfast club, 16 candles, pretty in pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, etc...)  I would have probably liked this show more if I had known the movies a little bit better ( we were a little young for this show I think) but it was put on very well and it was done professionally.  I preferred the Legally Blonde show that was on our last cruise, but I think that they change out the shows on the ships quite a bit.

Day 7 - At Sea Day


On our last day, we decided to try out the ropes course.  The Escape is advertised to have a plank that you are able to walk out on while on the ropes course.  So Cody and I ventured out onot it and I have to say that the plank was actually kinda scary to walk out on!!  It was even more scary trying to turn around to get back to the main platform!  Of course you are attached to a harness the whole time, so you know that you will be alright, but my heart was still pumping!  I have mixed feelings for how I feel about the ropes course.  I am produce of myself for going on it, but while I was on it, I wasn't too sure how much I liked it haha.


Later on in the day, we went to the Cruise Next presentation that tells you about upcoming ships and promotions that Norwegian has.  We were tempted to sign up for a future cruise to get their promotion of extra on board spending money, but we aren't ready to commit to another cruise within the next 4 years on Norwegian yet.  However, Norwegian is coming out with a ship next year, the Norwegian Bliss, that sure does seem very tempting!!  This ship is designed to go to Alaska.  Cody and I have been wanting to go to Alaska for several years now, but we've put it off because the ships that go to Alaska have all been older small ships.  With a brand new mega ship heading to Alaska now though... that is pretty darn tempting!!  We will have to see how things go next year to see if we will have the time and money to go on the Bliss next year or not.


The rest of our day was spent in the Vibe.  We were there all the way until it was time to head to our room to start packing our suitcases before dinner (boo!!).




We went back to Cagney's for dinner tonight and I changed it up and order the Queen cut prime rib.  Holy cow!  Look how big this piece of meat was that they brought me!!


After dinner we stopped to take some pictures during the sunset.


As we were taking pictures the couple from the Vibe (the people that turned the passes that we ended up getting) walked by us and offered to take pictures for us.


I guess the husband used to be big into photography.  I really like the pictures that he took of us!  This one ended up replacing our wedding picture (two year later... it was time...) as my profile picture on Facebook.


Here I am at my spy spot.  I enjoyed coming here at night and looking into the magnifying glass to see what was out around us. I particularly enjoyed spotting other cruise ships around us.


On our last night, we went to The Company Men's grand finale show.  I really enjoyed them.  At first I was disappointed that the show "Oh what a night" had rotated off of our ship.  I knew that show was a tribute to the 4 Seasons and I knew that we'd like them, whereas I didn't know anything about The Company Men.  But boy am I happy that they were on our ship!  There shows were my favorite that we saw the entire cruise.


At the end of the show they started singing a song about how everyone is part of the Norwegian family, and that they wanted to bring some family members up on stage to be recognized.  They brought up members of the crew from everywhere... room stewards, bartenders, waiters, officers, and even the Captain!!  It was honestly pretty cool.  Everyone gave the crew a standing ovation and you could tell that the crew had a lot of pride.  I have heard people comment in the past that they don't feel that the service is that great on Norwegian... but I don't know what they are taking about.  We had numerous positive experiences with the crew, and the ones that we were regularly around even knew our names and our favorite drinks.


 I have to say that this was probably one of our favorite cruises that we've been on.  We really had a great experience and such a fun week.  The weather and the waves were phenomenal during this trip.  I mean you could hardly tell that we were on a ship at all!  I'm going to compare our experiences on Carnival Vista vs. the Norwegian Escape in my upcoming blog... but as a spoiler alert... I have to say that overall we enjoyed the Norwegian cruise the most.  The experience on Norwegian was just a little bit better.  I'd say that it starts with a better floor plan/layout of their ships.  All the food and entertainment are on floors 6-7-8 which makes finding things on the ship very convenient.  I also think that the amount and quality of entertainment on the Norwegian was better than Carnival's.  There were nights when we were bored on Carnival, but never on Norwegian.  Having the drink package included is also another large bonus for Norwegian, because it really helps create a laid back atmosphere for us where we don't have to worry about the money we are spending (or have spent already) on the ship to get drinks.  I would say that if we are going to cruise again there is a very high probability that we would go back to Norwegian again.  The only thing that would persuade me to move away from Norwegian is to try one of the Mega Oasis class ships from Royal Caribbean.  I have heard great things about those ships, and I'm really curious to try them out.  But then again... I'm not to sure when we will be cruising again... so we'll see what happens!  I hope that you enjoyed the blog about our Norwegian Escape Anniversary Cruise!