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Norwegian Jade Cruise Review



Eric and his wife Jessica from Tampa, Florida recently went on a cruise aboard Norwegian Jade.  They was kind enough to send us a full review of the voyage, ship, and Norwegian’s new private island Harvest Caye.

Check out their thoughts here:

Food: B+

Ate in: Grand Pacific (one lunch, multiple dinners), Jasmine Garden (one dinner), buffet (multiple meals), Blue Lagoon (one lunch)

The service at all food facilities was exceptional. The service for dinner in the Grand Pacific was superb. Our recurring wait staff Janice Rudinas and Ratheesh Franklin, along with helper Jessa, were amazing. Their attention to detail deserves recognition as they remembered our names, our recurring drink orders, took the time to converse with us while still being attentive to other guests in their section, and provided all around excellent service in regards to timing of dish delivery, keeping water glasses full, etc. We very much enjoyed sitting in their section.

Grand Pacific dining room – Norwegian Cruise Line

Overall, food quality was excellent, however food variation/selection could have been a bit better, especially in the buffet area where a lot of breakfast/lunch items were recurring.

Lastly, we would like to recognize Kimberly Millan from the buffet area. Kimberly was in charge of the hand sanitizer (“washy washy”) upon entering the buffet area – she always had a big smile on her face, would engage with you and was often found singing & dancing to the “washy washy” song causing guests to laugh and sing/dance along with her. For being assigned a relatively menial task, Kimberly really went above and beyond in her service duties.

Housekeeping: B+

Our room steward Gina Sardido was wonderful. She recognized that we tended to sleep in and remembered this even if we sometimes forgot to flip the ‘do not disturb’ sign. We always had everything we needed, and she even went above and beyond to secure us additional mattress padding when we commented about the firmness of the bed. We did have a minor issue of being charged for items from the mini bar and ponchos that we never purchased – we weren’t aware of these charges and had to clear it up on disembarkation day which was kind of a bummer.

Cabin: B-

The layout of the cabin and the amentities available were great. We really appreciated the excellent water pressure in the shower. The bathroom in general had a nice vibe with the faux wood walls and aqua tile, and the layout was good for the size with plenty of counter and storage space for toiletries. The balcony was great and we probably spent more time on ours than any prior cruise we’ve taken where we’ve had a balcony stateroom. The high privacy walls between rooms was appreciated. Honestly, our only real complaint with the room was the bed: the mattresses seemed like maybe they were past their prime as both sides were concaved in the middle and both mattresses were extremely firm – to the point where we asked Gina if there was anything she could do about it. We also had a few issues with the air conditioning where we had it as warm as it would go and it was still exceedingly cold in the stateroom. It was odd because this was not a consistent issue.

Entertainment: A+

We were very surprised with how good the entertainment was this voyage, especially the performance cast and their productions. The Blazin’ Boots and Elements shows were truly exceptional. There is one performer in particular we’d like to recognize and that is Lamoi Hedrington of the performance cast – he brought such energy and passion to his dancing often we would find ourselves watching him in particular vs the other dancers on the stage. He was truly sensational. We also very much enjoyed the performances of Anna Kaelin, Madie Kuepfer, Katie McGinnis and Josh Flegg. Overall, the singing and dancing of the performance cast was top notch and we enjoyed all their shows. The additional entertainment was also superb: we especially enjoyed Dmitry and Ksenia, the acrobats – Ksenia is a beautiful dancer and their fusion of ballet and acrobatics was sensational. Adding their love story to their performance was the icing on the cake, they were truly beautiful to watch and their ode to Swan Lake was lovely to see. The magicians were also very neat to watch as was comedian Rod Long, who we enjoyed. To date, we watched more of the entertainment available on this cruise than any other we’ve taken (and we’ve taken 15+ cruises) and thoroughly enjoyed it all. The Temperature Band was awesome and we really enjoyed their tunes in the Spinnaker Lounge later in the evening. Guitarist Matt was also awesome during the Blazin’ Boots show and in the various lounges around the ship. Lastly, the cruise team did an awesome job with keeping the energy high and providing entertainment – we enjoyed The Not So Newlywed Game, Majority Rules, and the Perfect Couple game shows that the team put on. Dingo Dave, Sin, Guido, and the rest of the team are fabulous and do a great job.

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Spinnaker Lounge – Norwegian Cruise Line

Beverage package: A-

We enjoyed having the beverage package and being able to pre-pay the beverage gratuties as well. All of our drinks on board were well-made and the bartenders were often funny & upbeat. My only minor complaints about the beverage package are that: 1: when you order a soda the bartenders can’t just give you the can, they have to pour it in a cup. This would be fine if the cups had lids. And 2: that bottled water is not included in the beverage package considering what you pay for the beverage package and what the cost of bottled water is in bulk. This was not an issue for us as we obtained our bottled water in the casino with the house casino drink card, but I can see how this would annoy individuals who had paid $79 per day for the drink package.

Casino: B+

Casino was great – the layout of the tables & machines was well thought out and we didn’t have issues trying to navigate around people even when the shows from the Stardust Theater let out. The cashier’s desk was always well-manned so you didn’t have to wait very long for service. My main complaint would just be about the ventilation/air flow through the casino given that smoking is allowed. I’ve been on other ships were smoking is also allowed but the cigarette smell/smoke is less noticeable. On the Jade you could smell the cigarette smoke as you were coming downstairs near the casino so it was wafting out quite a distance into the surrounding staircases and corridors of the ship.

Library: For the first time this cruise we made use of the library – we played sud0ku daily and really enjoyed that the ship provided these fun, easy games. The library was usually surprisingly full and while we didn’t check out any books, we appreciated that the option was available.

Library – Norwegian Cruise Line

Overall ship appearance: the ship appeared to be very well maintained, we found ourselves commenting often on how the carpet was clean & appeared new, veneer was in good condition, paint was in good condition – honestly, it was impressive given that the last refurbishment of the ship was 5+ years ago.

Harvest Caye: A-

Harvest Caye was beautiful! Unfortunately, on the day we visited it rained, limiting our exploration of the island. However, what we were able to see was very well done. The little shops and bars were close together and access to them was easy, the pathways were nice and wide to accommodate a lot of people, the pool was huge and very cool – the swim-up bar a nice feature.

Harvest Caye – flickr/Daniel Greene

The beach was where we spent our time. While we wish the swimming area had been larger (my wife was out by the buoys pretty quickly), there was a nice expanse of beach with plenty of chairs – we were surprised (and appreciative) of the large lifeguard presence on the beach and at the pool, and we were able to see wildlife beyond the buoys (dolphins, fish and birds). Watching people zip line overhead was very neat as well – though we personally felt the cost for that experience was a tad high.

The island is beautiful and Norwegian Cruise Line has done a great job with it – our only minor complaint is that they should attempt to integrate spending on the island with onboard accounts, especially since Norwegian is already developing a repetition for being the “nickel and dime” cruise line.

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Review: Antigua’s Beachlimerz Bar & Restaurant



Ever find a place you loved so much you want to tell anyone… and at the same time, you want to keep it to yourself so as to avoid it becoming too popular? That’s exactly the experience I recently had visiting Beachlimerz in Antigua.

How We Wound Up At Beachlimerz

Having never been to Antigua before, I didn’t really have any idea what to expect, and I certainly had no plans. Friends and I decided we wanted to go to the beach and — given that the island boasts 365 of them — started trying to figure out which one we’d hit. One member of the group didn’t want to travel far from where we were docking (in St. John), so we narrowed our search and found several positive reviews about a place called Beachlimerz.

Beachlimerz sells a limited number of passes, so the area never feels crowded.

From the start, this place felt right. I emailed the manager, Gail, to get info and she was as helpful as she was friendly. She explained that they had a pay-as-you-go plan as well as a day-pass which offered a couple drinks, lunch, beach chairs and umbrellas. We wound up going with that option, which was $65 per person, and paid half as a deposit to reserve our spot.

Fast-forward a few months and we arrive in Antigua on a lovely day. Gail had pre-arranged a taxi using a service she knew and trusted, Sammy’s Taxi Tours & Rental Service. We met our driver, Hilarie, at a designated location on the Heritage Quay at 9:30, and within about 15 minutes, we’d arrived at Beachlimerz.

You know how sometimes, you take people to your favorite restaurant and the place happens to have an off night? You feel crappy because you recommended the place. Well, by the time we got to Beachlimerz, our group had swelled from 3 to 11 people thanks to Facebook postings, and I was terrified… what if I’d booked us into some dive? But when the cab pulled up in front of Beachlimerz, and you could see the beautiful beach in the distance, the sighs of contentment I heard assured me this was gonna be okay.

Thanks to its location, Beachlimerz’ beach feels private and exclusive.

Gail and Marvelous, the bartender who definitely earns the nickname, approached with rum punches and big smiles. I swear, with the palm trees blowing in the gentle wind and the sound of the waves crashing on shore, I half expected one of them to pull a Mr. Roarke and declare, “Welcome to Fantasy Island!”

READ MORE: 7 Great Things To Do In Antigua

It turns out that Beachlimerz is a really laid-back bar/restaurant located on the far end of Fort James Beach. There are about 16 lounge chairs and umbrellas available for rental, and the location couldn’t be better. Because Beachlimerz is at the end of the beach, you not only have privacy but also something of a cove area. I walked the length of the beach — and it goes on for quite a ways — to another spot where people could rent chairs and umbrellas and, as these pictures show, the difference was striking. As in… crowds there, no crowds where we were!

The other end of Fort James beach was far more crowded than where we were parked for the day.

A short walk away is the abandoned Fort James for which the beach is named, and if you happen to be a cannon buff (as one of the girls in our group was), this is definitely worth checking out, as there are several dotting the property. And while we hung mostly at the treehouse-like bar or on the beach, Beachlimerz also has a front area would would be the perfect spot for a party. (One of the employees told me that only a few weeks before our February visit, they’d hosted a wedding, and I can’t think of a more beautiful spot in which to exchange vows.)

The bar at Beachlimerz feels a lot like a treehouse… although the one you hung out in as a kid probably didn’t serve drinks!

Now, this being the Caribbean, I’m not going to say that the service was necessarily the fastest. (To “lime”, by the way, means “to hang out and chill in an informal setting.”) But between Marvelous, fellow bartender Nathan and Mel, the charming-as-hell waitress, our group was definitely taken care of.

Lunch Is Served!

Our package included lunch, which was a platter featuring chicken, ribs, fish, potatoes, rice and veggies, followed by an amazing coconut bread pudding dessert with a rum sauce. I paid extra for an order of conch fritters and was really glad I did… they were awesome, and I consider it a crime to go to a restaurant in the Caribbean and not have at least one conch dish!

The included lunch was good, not great… but the conch fritters were amazing!

The waves were pretty big that day, but that didn’t keep most of us from taking a swim. And those who didn’t swim strolled down the beach, a few taking advantage of just how perfect an occasion this was for a little romantic hand holding.

Beachlimerz features an array of specialty drinks, including the Bob Marley… sort of a multicolored slushy with alcohol!

At 3 p.m., Hilarie’s son picked us up and delivered us back to the dock early enough that anyone who wanted to do a little quick shopping could, while the rest of us headed back to the ship.

Like I said at the beginning, Beachlimerz is a place I’m sort of reluctantly sharing, because I know I’ll be coming back… and I don’t want to have trouble getting a good spot! But I’m pretty sure if I email Gail, she’ll take care of me… just like she’ll take good care of you.

For more on Beachlimerz, visit their website by clicking here.

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Review: Holland America Line’s Pinnacle Grill



On every cruise line, there are specialty restaurants that you really look forward to. You might even save them for a special occasion or your final night on the ship, just to end the cruise on a high note. For me, the Pinnacle Grill – featured on many Holland America ships – is one of those restaurants. During a recent trip on the ms Eurodam, I swung by for dinner one night.

Making Pinnacle Grill Reservations 

There are a couple of different ways to make dining reservations for the Pinnacle Grill. You can dial 88 from your cabin’s telephone,  stop by the restaurant’s front desk and see a hostess, or make a reservation via the app when you’re logged onto the shipboard Navigator, which is free to use when connected to the ship’s internet.

The cost is $35 per person, and trust me when I say you should definitely make a reservation. This place is popular, and it fills up fast. We went to make reservations on a Sunday and found that there was nothing available until Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. Proving that beggars can’t be choosers, we immediately booked the table… and then looked forward to it all week.

Scouting the Menu 

Pinnacle Grill

Photo: Holland America Line

Long before we dined at the Pinnacle Grill, I was stalking the menu. I viewed it online, I stopped by the restaurant during the week to check it out in person and then, when finally we sat down for dinner, I continued mulling over the choices. Everything on the menu sounded amazing, and I suspected I might even wind up getting two entrees. They charge an additional $15 for a second entree, but sometimes, a guy’s just got to splurge… especially in a steakhouse.

The choices weren’t going to be any easier when it came to the appetizers either. Among those that jumped out at me? The lobster bisque, the jumbo shrimp cocktail, and the spinach salad.

The main course section of the menu features entrees divided up by “land” and “sea.” On the land side, you’ll find exactly what you’d expect, with options like steak, pork chops, and lamb. There are also vegetarian options, including wild mushroom ravioli. (But come on… what kind of sadist takes a vegetarian to a steakhouse?) And if you really have an appetite, you can go for the President’s Cut. Weighing in at 36 ounces, this bone-in rib eye (a cut hand-selected by Holland America’s president, Orlando Ashford) comes at an upcharge of $59 and is big enough to be shared. (Unless you’re really, really, really hungry, in which case… have at it!)

Over on the sea side of the menu, there’s lobster, shrimp scampi, Alaskan King crab legs and more. Dessert options include a Not-So Baked Alaska with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, creme brûlée, souffle and ice creams.

Read More: Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill Menu

The Pinnacle Grill Dining Experience 

Pinnacle Grill

We got to the Pinnacle Grill at 6:30 p.m. and were seated immediately. Entering the dining room, I noticed that most of the spaces allocated to booths are more intimate and reserved for couples. Four guys with appetites? We were seated at a great table in the center of the room and given menus. I still wasn’t sure what I’d be ordering. It was sort of like when the teacher hands you a test and, despite having studied, you’re not sure you know the answers!

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One of the servers welcomed us, offered suggestions and asked if we had any question. “How much,” I asked, “is the upcharge to add Alaskan king crab legs to my entree?” At $15 — less than they’d be back home — I was sold. I’m not a big wine drinker — I can tell a red from a white, although things get confusing when you start talking about rosés — so we settled on a $59 bottle of Portrait Barossa Shiraz.

So what did I wind up ordering after days of mulling over my options? I went pretty traditional. Jumbo shrimp cocktail appetizer, a 23-ounce porterhouse, and the aforementioned crab legs. Like most people, I’ve rarely ever eaten creamed spinach outside a steakhouse, but again, it’s sort of part of the true steakhouse experience. So I went with that and asparagus as sides, with a creme brûlée dessert to top off the meal.

Most Memorable Dish

Pinnacle Grill

I’m going to go with the Alaskan King Crab Legs. Is there anything better than crab legs dipped in steaming-hot butter? (Okay, maybe lobster, but…) As a big fan of seafood, putting a plate of these in front of me was all it took to make me happy. It didn’t hurt that they accompanied that 23-ounce porterhouse, perfectly prepared (medium rare) and beautifully seasoned.

Final Thoughts

Pinnacle Grill

You know how sometimes when you’re eating in a main dining room, you settle for food that might not be the hottest or prepared exactly the way you might like it? I think that when you eat in a specialty restaurant and are paying extra for the meal, the game needs to be upped. That was certainly the case here. Everything came out hot and perfectly prepared. Well, almost everything. I didn’t much care for the creamed spinach. The taste was fine, but it was almost like a puree, which was a different consistency than I’m generally used to in steakhouses. Whether it was an off dish or simply the way this particular chef likes to prepare the spinach, I don’t know. It’s not that it was inedible or even bad, just… different than what I’m used to.

The wine, food, and great company combined to make this yet another top-notch Pinnacle Grill dining experience. If you’re a fan of steakhouses, this is one at-sea venue that’s definitely worth checking out.

The Pinnacle Grill can be found on all of Holland America’s current ships. The restaurant also offers lunch at $10 per person, and the menus are known to change regularly to reflect the freshest available ingredients.

holland america pinnacle grill

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Review: Carnival Breeze Cloud 9 Spa



Pre-Cruise Thoughts

A few months prior to my Carnival Breeze cruise, my husband and I toured the ship for the day and went through the Cloud 9 spa. Carnival Breeze has one of the the best spas in the fleet, as it features multiple thermal suites and the popular thalassotherapy pool. We were instantly seduced by the relaxing aromas and bubbling waters, so we immediately pre-purchased the couples spa package online for $220 for our upcoming 7-day cruise. (An individual pass is $140 for the week.) It was a bit of a splurge for us, but like I said, we were totally enchanted.

Onboard Carnival Breeze Spa Experience

On Carnival Breeze, the ship has the standard complimentary saunas and steam rooms that every Carnival ships offers, and these are located inside the respective men’s and women’s locker rooms. However, those who book a Cloud 9 spa stateroom or who purchase access through the spa pass like I did are granted access to the thermal suites and the thalassotherapy pool.

The thermal suites include two dry heat chambers (the Laconium and Tepidarium) and two steam chambers (Oriental and Aroma) as well as an aromatic shower. Through the heat, these suites help you sweat out impurities in your body and cleanse out toxins. Some of these suites also include heated chaise lounges that are nothing short of heavenly to lie on. The thalassotherapy pool is a jetted pool filled with mineral-rich ocean water, and the pool is said to help relieve pain and soothe muscles. All these areas are co-ed, but don’t worry – everyone was clothed! Most people come in their swimsuits and flip-flops.

On our cruise in particular, though, we visited the spa only a handful of times. The truth is that after feeling so hot from sunbathing on lido deck all day or from touring an island on a port day, the last thing I wanted to do was go sit in a hot thermal suite. And since access to the thermal suites closes at 10:00 pm and I ate at the 8:15 dinner seating, I could never go after dinner either, though it would have been nice to end my day by relaxing in the spa.

However, when I did go I absolutely loved it. I tried all the suites, and my favorite was the Oriental steam room, mostly because I prefer steam rooms to dry heat and because the Oriental room had two heated chaise loungers as well that were usually unoccupied. The two dry heat chambers I found a bit unbearable, and I couldn’t stay in either more than a few minutes. But again, I am not one for dry heat anyway. I did try the aromatic shower as well, though the nozzles that spray from the sides of the wall weren’t working on our cruise. And, perhaps I wasn’t working it properly, but the aromas only worked with cold water, not hot, as that was another button beneath the scents. So it seemed you could only take an aromatic cold shower or a scent-less hot one.

As for the thalassotherapy pool, I’m still not sure I understand the hype around it. I swam in it several times and, while I enjoyed it immensely, it still didn’t feel very much different to me than a regular hot tub. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but I was underwhelmed.

One nice thing about the Cloud 9 spa is that Carnival limits the number of people with access to the spa to 50 per sailing. A crew member confirmed to me that means 50 people total, including those with spa staterooms and those who purchase a spa pass. This is a big perk, considering the spa can get rather busy on sea days. However, even when I saw it at its busiest, there was always plenty of room to enjoy the thermal suites and plenty of room in the thalassotherapy pool. Plus, people never spent too long in one place.

Final Thoughts

All in all, I left with mixed feelings on the Cloud 9 spa. As soothing and relaxing as it is, I feel the cost is a bit high to be justified. We splurged on this cruise, but $220 could have gone a lot further – to excursions, a steakhouse dinner, pictures, etc. – that would have given us more bang for our buck. And while you can argue that access is “free” with booking a Cloud 9 spa stateroom, keep in mind that Carnival intentionally raises the price of those rooms to buffer that cost. So, if you’re on the fence about purchasing access, I would hesitate to pre-purchase a spa pass. Wait until you’re onboard to at least take a spa tour first. But if you’re looking for luxury, go ahead and splurge here!

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