Part 1: Top 10 Shipboard Experiences
After a 15 month wait, cruise ships finally hit the water in June. I was fully vaccinated and just waiting for the cruise lines to say come aboard! So between late June and early August, I sailed out of Nassau on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas with my husband; Fort Lauderdale on the Celebrity Edge by myself; and Athens on the NCL Jade with my girlfriends. This is the first of a multi-part series that will provide you insight on what it’s like to cruise after the long wait. Part 1 is my top 10 shipboard experiences.
1. Well organized pre-boarding system: All three cruise lines did a fantastic job of keeping me informed of the latest travel requirements. I also made sure to check the airlines and destination countries. I checked in online with my passport and vaccine card, and was prompted for any additional requirements (i.e. test results, passenger locator form, etc.). Although optional, I uploaded a photo and added a credit card to avoid having to do this at the port. After completing the online check-in, I was assigned a port check-in time. Seeing the Adventure of the Seas for the first time on boarding day took my breath away. After not sailing for 15 months, I never realized how much I love cruising. Okay…significant emotional event over…back to the blog.
2. Smooth embarkation processes: Boarding at the port was super easy with my passport, vaccination card, test results, and required forms. I showed up before my boarding time and do not recommend showing up more than half an hour early. All three ports had very strict entry protocols to avoid crowds and keep the boarding process slowing smoothly. All three ports required my:
- Online-check-in document
- Vaccination card
- Successful completion of verbal health screening
In addition, Nassau required negative PCR test results and Athens required onsite rapid antigen testing. It took me less than 20 min to get through the boarding process in Nassau and Fort Lauderdale. It took less than an hour in Athens even though I had to complete an onsite rapid antigen test. After getting cleared, I got on the ship and went straight to my cabin on all three ships. The key cards were on the door number placard outside my cabin. It was awesome having the cabin ready and not having to wait!
3. Warm welcome and outstanding service from the crew: The service staff were very accommodating, appreciative, and extremely responsive from the port, throughout the ship, and on the excursions. All three ships had crews that were at least 98% vaccinated, and quarantined on the ship for a period of time before the ship received passengers. I was thanked numerous times for being back on board after 15 months of these ships not sailing. I often saw the crew cleaning and sanitizing common areas throughout the day and late into the night. And I got to meet Captain Kate and Bug (her hairless Sphinx cat) on the Celebrity Edge!
4. No lines – mostly: If there is ever a time to sail, it’s now. All three ships were sailing at less than 55% percent capacity. The Adventure of the Seas was less than 30%. It felt like we had the ship all to ourselves. No crowds. No wrangling over deck chairs. Mostly no lines at guest services. And no problems getting in the dining rooms when we had “anytime dining!” The buffet was open for breakfast and lunch (crew-served for most items) on all three ships, and dinner on the Celebrity Edge and NCL Jade. On the Adventure of the Seas and Celebrity Edge, we had no issues getting into the specialty restaurants. On the NCL Jade, the reservations were quickly filled even though we tried to book online before departing home. We tried to book reservations after getting on board but were unable to get into one of the restaurants we wanted to try. So if there is a specialty restaurant you really want to try, don’t give up on the online reservations or make them immediately after boarding the ship.
5. Dining on the Celebrity Edge: I absolutely loved the four complimentary dining rooms onboard the Celebrity Edge. Instead of having one or two large complimentary dining rooms, the Celebrity Edge has four smaller themed dining rooms: Cosmopolitan, Normandie, Cyprus, and Tuscan. All four have common rotating menus and fixed menu items. However, they also offer exclusive menu items and beautifully decorated based on the theme of the restaurant. I did not feel the need to book a specialty dining restaurant with these wonderful dining rooms. But I’m glad I spent a few more dollars and booked an evening in Eden. A magical six-course menu with two choices for each course whisked me to an out of this world exploration of sight and taste – each course was a work of art. The wine menu provided a history of wine along with selections from each region – wow! My waiter brought out a surprise 2nd dessert that blossomed into a chocolate flower surrounding a delectable gooey center that left me speechless. Eden was the absolute best and unique dining experience I had aboard all three ships.
6. Having a martini in the Celebrity Edge’s Martini Bar: All three ships’ entertainment offerings at the bars and theaters were in full swing. While I normally favor the production shows over bar entertainment, my most memorable experience on all three ships was hanging out at the Martini Bar on the Celebrity Edge after the theater shows. This amazing bar is in the central part of the ship and rightly so! The live music entertainment was nicely varied and the chandelier lit up while he three bar tenders would juggle bottles, shakers, and other items while making a variety of martinis. The highlight was having Captain Kate join in and pour multiple martinis from stacked shakers without missing a drop!
7. Sailing into breathtaking ports: I was blow-drying my hair in my NCL Jade club balcony cabin and just happened to turn my head to see the amazing lava-created islets out our veranda window – wow! I rushed outside and enjoyed an incredible vista of the Santorini caldera and beautiful white buildings atop steep black volcanic cliffs. The sunny blue sky was dotted with occasional clouds and made for an absolute picture-perfect day. Other notable ports I sailed in and out of were Nassau, Rhodes, Corfu, and Olympia. Plan to be on your veranda or on deck with your camera in hand as you sail into or out of ports to capture those breathtaking views.
8. Variety of ship activities: All three ships were sailing with reduced crews. Despite this shortage, I was very appreciative of the variety of activities offered. My two favorites were Silent Disco on the Celebrity Edge, and Trivia on Adventure of the Seas. Although I was traveling by myself, four other travel agents from my host agency, Uniglobe Travel Center, were also on the Celebrity Edge. We enjoyed a number of onboard activities together. Our favorite event was the Silent Disco in the Club on the Celebrity Edge. Each participant wore headphones that could switch between three channels. You can tell which channel was playing the most popular music by observing the color-coded lights on the headphones. During breaks I would take off my headphones and enjoy watching everyone dancing in absolute silence – surreal! Okay…maybe Trivia on the Adventure of the Seas was one of my favorite ship activities because my hubby and I brought home a lot of loot! When the occupancy rate is less than 30%, and you partner with another couple that LOVES Trivia, winning is inevitable. The crew was kind and made sure the contests were enjoyable and not too frustratingly hard.
9. Thermal suites on Celebrity Edge and NCL Jade: If there is a thermal suite on the ship, I’ll always get a membership! It’s an extra-fee area of the spa that has heated loungers, steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, rain showers, and other various treatment rooms. Adventure of the Seas has a thermal suite, but it was closed. After paying my entry fee for the entire voyage on the Celebrity Edge and NCL Jade, I enjoyed unlimited entry privileges during spa operating hours. On both ships, the thermal suites were never crowded (limited number of entry fees are sold), and were a great way to relax, feel pampered, and take a break from the ship activities. Both thermal suites were located on the aft end of the ship and the heated tile loungers faced panoramic windows showcasing the beautiful ports. The Celebrity Edge thermal suite had eight treatment rooms including my favorite – the Turkish bath. My favorite feature of the NCL Jade thermal suite was the separate areas for men and women that contained whirlpools, sauna, and steam rooms.
10. Smooth debarkation: For the Bahamas and Greek Isles cruises both ships conducted complimentary rapid antigen testing for passengers re-entering countries (i.e. U.S.) requiring the test. For testing, you’ll be asked to download an app, register for the test, and receive a QR code. Take a screenshot of your QR code in case WiFi is weak at the test site. TrustOne, a private testing company, administered the testing on both ships and had results completed in a timely manner. The crew on both ships provided hard copies of the result in my cabin the day before debarkation. The Celebrity Edge sailed in and out of Fort Lauderdale so no return testing was required for us. The rest of the process was similar to pre-pandemic cruising. I received my tags and put my luggage out the night before. The morning of debarkation I waited for my luggage tag to get called. After my luggage tag was called, I proceeded to the debarkation location and swiped my key card. My luggage was waiting for me at the port without any delays.
I had a fantastic time on all three cruises. Join my Facebook Group for more pics, videos, and details about the three cruises featured in this article by clicking on Empty Nest Mom Travelers Facebook Group.
Stay tuned for info about my holiday cruising experiences in November and December!
Ready to set sale, explore the world, and get pampered on these beautiful ships? Let me help you sort through the latest health and safety protocols and travel requirements. Schedule a discovery call at a day and time that is most convenient for you at this link.
Travel Agent, Escape The Nest Travel