Friday, December 4, 2009

Pirates of the Caribbean

I've been woefully slow in getting this posted, but every time I sat down to attempt an entry, I'd be distracted by dangling string or shiny objects. This time, I'm forcing myself to write.

From November 16th to the 23rd, Janet, Benjamin and I, accompanied by Janet's father and aunt, took a Caribbean cruise. It was a much needed vacation and we had a very good time.

We booked on Norwegian Cruise Lines for this, our third cruise. I was very much looking forward to it based on the experiences I'd had on the previous two cruises. However, this time, I have to say that the experience was somewhat tarnished and my expectations of enjoyment were left a bit disappointed.

The best part of the cruise, as I had anticipated, was the snorkeling and watching Ben on the ship and at the beach. A few months ago, when I turned to Janet and suddenly declared I wanted to go on a cruise, it was the desire to once again go snorkeling that prompted the decision. Having Ben with us on this vacation made it all the more fun. Certainly, he made it much more challenging -- meals in particular are always more interesting with a baby -- but we were blessed to have the full support of Auntie Patsy. She was our hero when it came to helping with Benjamin.

In the interest of keeping this post of reasonable size, I'll recount one brief story that will no doubt be one of my favorite memories for all time. We were in the most upscale restaurant on the ship enjoying delicious steaks when Ben began to get rowdy. He was sitting to my left in a wheeled high chair. We had a series of distractions: babyfood, his bottle, toys, keys, etc. that we hoped would keep him occupied through dinner. Eventually, the novelty of each one wore off and he returned to throwing things off his high chair and being noisy. Having many times seen kids making far too much noise and parents do far too little to reign them in, I am rather sensitive to how much noise Ben makes in public. I felt like he was approaching that point where one of us would have to leave the restaurant with him. Not something I was particularly looking foward to.

The maitre d' came over to inquire if we were satifisied with our meals and service and if there was anything he could do for us. I said, "This guy next to me is making an awful lot of noise. Can you throw him out?" He called over one of the waitresses and instructed her to "take Monsieur for a ride." At that, she wheeled Benjamin away from the table and across the restaurant. Ben's face immediately lit up. Ben and the waitress then visited every table in the restaurant where he was able to make liberal use of his favorite word: "Hi!"

He made the rounds like a politician running for office. He spent a fair amount of time at each table, with the couples and families at each exclaiming how cute he was (he really was), and chatting away with him in his own little language. He never outstayed his welcome and he quickly moved on to visit the next table and to chat up the guests seated there. Some twenty minutes later, he returned to our table, very happy indeed, and just in time for a little ice cream for dessert.

In general, the weather was great, the many beaches, the shopping, the tours, were all fantastic, but there was one thing that, I personally felt, left a taint on the entire experience. In the two previous cruises we've taken, I felt like we were treated like royalty. That was what I anticipated on this cruise as well. However, instead of this being the case, I felt like we were being "nicked and dimed" by the cruise line.

Unlike the previous trips, Norwegian suddenly had all sorts of extra charges that I hadn't anticipated. During our first trip, all the food was phenomenal and it was all included. On the second trip, there were two restaurants that were considered "extra special" and they cost $10 per person to get in. This time, however, fully three-quarters of all the restaurants had a "cover charge" (some as high as $25 per person!) and the quality of the food in the standard restaurants was far inferior.

There are a number of other examples that really left me cold, but I'll not bore you with them here. Suffice to say, I won't be back on a cruise ship again, at least certainly not on Norwegian Cruise Lines. My complaints, when voiced to the front desk were dismissed entirely with a wave of, "That's the company's new policy." At an economic time when I'd expect to get more bang for my buck, not less, I found people banging on me constantly demanding more of my bucks.

I think I'm going to return to backpacking and hiking as my preferred vacation mode. At least that way I'm in charge of where I go and who I give my money to.

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1 comment:

cemeteryconsort said...

I'm sorry your overall experience was not good, or not up to snuff, but your restaurant tale was awesome. We've been in that position, with the soon to erupt volcano child. To have someone come over and distract him like that so you could finish is priceless. Every restaurant should have a waiter or waitress devoted to letting parents finish their meal. Great story.