Loud Music is a $40 Fine

Just my personal blog.

April 30, 2008

Cruising Thoughts

We docked back in Miami on Easter Sunday after a 9 night cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. The ship visited five islands in the Southern Caribbean and had a total of three sea days. This was our third cruise, our first (and probably last) on a Norwegian ship.

When we booked the cruise through Sam’s Club Travel, we received two coupon booklets with $300 in free stuff. Also, we joined the Casinos at Sea club, and we received a coupon book with free stuff for the Casino.

Turns out, my definition of “free” and Norwegian’s definition of “free” seem to differ. In my world, when you tell me you’re going to give me something for free, all I have to do is walk up to you and get it. In the cruise ship world, free means that you have to buy one thing at full price, then you get something else for “free”. For example, to get $10 in slot play for free, you have to buy $10. Or to get a free t-shirt, you have to book a shore excursion.

As I mentioned above, this will probably be our only cruise with Norwegian. We’ve cruised on Royal Caribbean and Carnival, and even though the Jewel is not quite 3 years old, it doesn’t have the on-board activities that the other ships do. Nine nights ended up being too long, at least on this ship.

I took the opportunity to play in three poker tournaments while on board. Poker tournaments on a ship are NOT like those in Las Vegas. First off, they only have one real poker table, so if there’s more than 9 in the tournament, they have to use black jack, pai gau, and other table games’ tables, which can hold at most 7 players. And they’re not in the business of holding 4 or 5 hour tournaments; they want the tournament over in 2 or so hours.

To do that, they start you with 2000 chips and start the blinds at 100/200. You can start the tournament with 4000 chips if you want to “rebuy” at the beginning. After the end of the third level (first two levels are 30 minutes, then the levels are 15 minutes), you can “add on” 5000 chips. Of course, these rebuys and addons cost you money.

Of the money you pay to play in the tournament, only 75% goes into the prize pool, and they only pay the top three. They only paid out the top three, and the best I finished was 17th. I could have continued to rebuy after rebuy, but I didn’t want to waste the money.

The next time we cruise, it’ll probably be with a couple of friends and will probably be on Royal Caribbean. Their ships just seem to have more things to do on board. We’ll more than likely only take a five-night cruise, with one or two days at sea.

If you’re planning on cruising, one thing to keep in mind is that while the fare covers your basic room and board, there are other charges you’ll encounter. I paid almost $65 for a card that would let me get soft drinks with unlimited refills. At $1.75 per can, I probably broke even. I was expecting Norwegian to have free lemonade like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, but they didn’t. Since I don’t drink coffee, tea or milk, I opted for the soft drink card.

You’ll also have to pay for shore excursions. These can range anywhere from $35 up to several hundred dollars (they had a golf outing for over $600). If you want to see the islands, this is your best bet. The tour companies are not the fly-by-night ones you’ll get if you just go ashore and take a “tour” bus.

One thing that irks me is the gratuities. They added a $10 per person per night gratuity to our bill. That was almost $200 on the grand total. Most of that goes to the cabin crew who keep your room clean. I’d rather just pay the extra money up front as part of the fare and not be bothered with it. At least we didn’t have to go through the agony of putting money into little envelopes at the end of the cruise.

Overall, the cruise experience was a good one. I highly recommend taking a cruise.

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