Sunday, December 29, 2013

Post-Holiday Hello!

Boy, I sure haven't checked in for a while! I thought I had! Sorry about that! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday?

We went on a cruise, which turned out to be a bad cruise (I'll briefly explain below.) However, there were some nice highlights to my trip and I thought I'd share!

First, we drove into NYC to stay the night and get on the ship in the morning. Our plan was to play around in NYC and show the kids Time's Square (and my daughter had her sights set on Forever 21, because that's her favorite store... one of mine too!)

She's so happy, I wish we could get this store in Vermont!

Unfortunately, Mother Nature was busy stirring up one heck of a storm! We beat it into the city, though! NO traffic coming in, I couldn't believe it! However, by the time we were wandering around it was cold. Cold-cold. Bone-chilling cold. By the time we walked back to the hotel we were frozen and beaten down by the storm. Still, I had fun! My son decided we were specifically torturing him, but the rest of us were happy!

We saw the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (I took a 4 second video of it):

Hubby and I at the Rockefeller Christmas tree, FREEEEEZING!
No, I didn't pack gloves, we were going on a cruise!

These were just ridiculously cool. I wanted to play on them.
The next morning the storm had passed and we were off to the boat!

We cruised on the Norwegian Breakaway. I'm going to stop here to make something very clear: I am VERY angry at Norwegian Cruise Lines. This was a bad cruise. The crew on the ship were absolutely miserable, and it was evident from the moment we got on the ship. When people are going on a cruise to get away from it all, to be surrounded by an angry and miserable crew just makes everything worse. When we were all disembarking at the end, strangers were asking one another if they had a bad cruise too. This was not unique to us, and NO ONE said they had a good time. A good example would be that when they canceled the stop at Stirrup Cay (one of the islands we were so looking forward to), we personally witnessed crew members celebrating with high-fives over the decision. That was one of the only times I saw any smiling from them.

Norwegian's policy on board was that the guest is always wrong. I'm not exaggerating, and we had direct experience with it that was just sickening when we simply asked a question about something that wasn't clear to us and they immediately went on the attack. I was completely flabbergasted by this attitude, I've never seen anything like it anywhere - but most especially never in a vacation company.

I'm always polite, I never get angry unless the situation truly calls for it with the person directly responsible. I am not that awful traveler you see on videos. I wait my turn, I'm respectful, and I'm patient. Being mean or rude accomplishes nothing, so I don't go there even if I'm having a problem. Not ever. It's unfortunate that the staff didn't have a similar perspective (I witnessed one yelling at a little old lady who was just trying to understand... oh it was just awful on that boat!)

The beds were horribly uncomfortable, they charged for anything they could think of, were completely disorganized, and on the last night they endangered my daughter's safety. My daughter loved the teen center on board, and on the last night a group of teens showed up drunk at 1AM (when they were closing.) Rather than call those teens' parents or security, my daughter (who had been in the teen center safe all night) was asked to walk some of them back to their staterooms.

So, my 15 year old was walking drunk teens back to their rooms at 1AM by herself.  The top of my head blew off when I found out. The things that could have happened, what could have gone wrong. She came back to our room late (we were waiting up for her, panicking and my husband had been out trying to find her but the center was shut down when he got there and there was no one to ask) crying and told us what happened. My daughter is the good girl. I mean that, I'm not just being a silly parent here. She is on the honor roll, student council, cheerleader, soccer goalie, charity volunteer, helps anyone and cares about everyone, respectful of authority - she is the poster child for the good girl. (I know, that she is related to me is one of life's great mysteries.) So, when an authority figure - the teen center counselor - asked her to walk those teens back to their rooms, she did.

She was wrong to have done as they asked. We had to have a long talk about doing the wrong thing when the authority figure asks you to. What a bizarre conversation that was, but in the end I suppose it was a good teaching moment. Just because someone is supposed to be trusted and in control, it doesn't mean that their direction or requests will be the right thing to do. We talked about how she should have high-tailed it back to our room and told us what was going on. We would have gotten involved, believe me. After the fact, there was simply nothing we could do. She learned a lesson, and I learned that Norwegian is a company to NEVER cruise with again.

They called me yesterday to ask if I would like to book another cruise with them. You can imagine my (polite, if angry) response. Their response? "Uh... sorry." And that was it. I've written a comment and review to them, but I don't expect to hear anything because they simply do NOT care. So, I'm putting this out there: avoid Norwegian, they're awful.

(I've really enjoyed other cruise companies though! If this had been my only cruise, I would never cruise again. Fortunately, it was not. I love cruising, and we plan on doing lots of it in the future - hopefully with a company that respects and cares for their guests. My favorite so far? Disney. You wouldn't think of them for cruising, but I've never experienced such wonderful service, kindness, and organization from a cruise line. Even without children, they offer adult only options and I would pick them without a doubt. The cost difference when compared with their service is worth it.)

OK, enough about my anger. I'm working on letting that go. *sigh*

What saved parts of the trip were the stops. We only got two, because they cancelled one of the islands, but we stopped in Port Canaveral, FL and Nassau, Bahamas. In Florida, we booked an excursion to see the manatees. Alas, they weren't there (too cold), but we loved kayaking! I was in a boat with my son and we saw some wild dolphins and fish that tried to jump in our boat! It was a lovely day.

In the Bahamas, we booked an excursion with Dolphin Encounters on the Blue Lagoon island. We chose them over the Atlantis option because we heard they were better - and I think they really were!

My girl and I on the boat going to the Blue Lagoon Island!

Oh, you have no idea what it was like to swim with dolphins! I have always wanted to, but it was always a sort of bucket list type of thing. Well, I've done it!

I have more pictures and video coming... but the video is not here yet. We swam with them for over 30 minutes, and at the end they pushed us across the water by our feet! (I'm hoping to have that video to share when it arrives.)

Here are the two professional pictures we have from the swim:

My girl, doesn't she look like this should be on the brochure cover?
OK, I'm biased, but even so!

This is my family! I didn't catch that my son was wearing his hat and shades until later
*face-palm* He also refused the wetsuit, but the water was CHILLY, so it was a good thing to be wearing!

I also have a few I took on my phone after we were done swimming:

Saying hello!


The beach on the Blue Lagoon Island

Those two shore excursions were wonderful. That's what I'm trying to look back on, and what great companies those two were! Swimming with the dolphins was amazing. Kayaking was fun. Warm weather (not hot, just warm) was such a nice break. It made Christmas seem a million miles away. I don't think I could live in a warm climate year round if I didn't go somewhere cold for Christmas. It's so pretty there, a perpetual summer of a sort (compared to Vermont, anyway.) But I would miss my snow!

So, not great trip, but some excellent moments. And in the end? We needed a break, even if it was a bad one. I sincerely wish it had been good, and the money we spent for what happened makes me want to cry, but at least it was a break of some sort. And hey, no food poisoning, plague, or loss of life or limb, so it's a win, right? *wink*

I now have the desire to paint some dolphins... I wonder why?

We got back and I braved the mall and big stores to finish my shopping (in a dead-on panic, yes I was that woman.) Then finally the day was here and we made our once a year cinnamon rolls and enjoyed a quiet day. It was very nice, although I learned that in the future I'll be scheduling any winter vacations for January or February, because there is too much to do in December and not enough in those months!

That's how I've been, how have you been?


Almost Precious said...

Looks like you had a fantastic vacation. Yes December is rather a hectic month - so much to do and so little time to do it in. lol
From your post I can guess that you had a very Merry Christmas, so here's my wishing you and yours a most Happy New Year. May 2014 be one blessed with abundant good health, a mountain of joy and love, and bountiful prosperity. :)

Magic Love Crow said...

Wow, did you and your family go through a lot! I am just happy you all had each other! It's not fun what you went through! If Norwegian cares, they will get back to you! I hope they do!
I loved all the pictures! They are all so beautiful and happy! Baby dolphin! So darn cute ;o)
Happy New Year ;o) I wish you and your loved ones many blessings ;o)
Big Hugs ;o)