We were up early as usual, and both went for coffee together. We opted for The Local for breakfast since it is always hot and fresh. The ship docked much earlier than the arrival time and we watched us pull into the harbor while walking laps on the Waterfront.
Our plan for the day was to explore the port area at Taino Bay and possibly walk to the Amber Museum. This was Chris’ first time in the Dominican Republic but I was here on my second ever cruise in the late 80s. I bought an amber and a larimar pendant on that trip. I was curious to visit some jewelry stores to compare.
The port area has stores, restaurants and a large pool that is complimentary to use. The loungers in the pool looked very inviting and I am sure this will be a popular stop. We walked past the pool and explored an area still under construction where a lazy river is being made. At this point, we were close to the port entrance and decided to see about walking to the Amber Museum. After reaching the exit, I saw the tons of tour guides and decided to stick to the port area. I did not feel like telling everyone “No thank you” and I will admit I was a bit nervous after reading the cautions in the Freestyle Daily. I saw a sign for Monkey Island which intrigued us both. It was more a large, caged building where you could hold squirrel monkeys. We passed on that and made our way back to the boat. It is a large port area and we ended up walking about two miles around it.
I wanted to do some writing and we went up to the pool deck since most were off the ship. Chris read while I wrote. The lure of the frozen drinks called to us and Chris had a pina colada while I had a frose. I had been watching the massive amounts of frozen drinks being made all week and told Chris to go surprise me with something I do not usually drink before lunch. He came back with a Bushwacker and while tasty, I cannot imagine drinking these milkshake type drinks all cruise as some do. Lunch was the buffet, and we ate at our poolside table.
Late afternoon, we did go to the Sustainable bar to have a Bananaruma. I will commend Aran at this bar as his versions seem slightly better than on Joy and Breakaway. We enjoyed our cocktail with a great view of Puerto Plata. We ran into our friends and heard all about their ATV adventure. They had a blast trekking through the mud but after seeing pictures and hearing the tales, I do not think it would be my cup of tea.
Tonight, we dined once again in the buffet. The theme was Oriental Night and I found it to be not as good as on other ships. The choices seemed very limited although some were very good. Of course, you cannot go wrong with the large Indian food selection.
The entertainment tonight was the comedy magician, Eric Buss. Chris said we did not need to go but I knew he still wanted to. Plus, there was not much else that seemed exciting. This show was about the same as the first with magic but less annoying. The Glow Party was tonight but we decided to skip it and hit the casino for a little bit before bed. We ran into our friends there once again. It was not too late an evening for us. Tomorrow is our last day and we wanted to get up early to make the most of it.
The alarm rang very early today for our stop in Tortola since we arrived at 6am. Chris went to get us a light breakfast to have before meeting our friends in the theater for our tour, Escape to Jost Van Dyke. I was very excited as we did this tour on the Escape many years ago and loved it.
The catamaran over was not what I was expecting as it did not have sails or a net like the one we were on years ago. The ride over was choppy and took about 45 minutes. But soon, we could see the beautiful beach where we would be spending the morning. It was more built up than last time. The Soggy Dollar now has a breakfast spot, but we just opted for the liquid breakfast of Painkillers. Chris and I went to the bar to retrieve the first round for everyone. We sat in the shade and sipped our drinks looking at the bluest water. I did go in the water a few times and it was a little chilly for a few seconds but then felt fabulous. We tried a vegetable roti from Gertrude’s next door and Tim bought me one of their Painkillers to compare. At Gertrude’s, you add your own rum to it and grate your own nutmeg. That could be even more dangerous than the Soggy Dollar! Unfortunately, our boat arrived at 11:15 to take us back to Tortola. It is way to short of a port stop. Someone convinced me to take one more Painkiller for the boat ride back. We had to sit on the inside but it was also next to the bar and we had to try their rum punch to compare it to yesterday’s. It was no where near as good. The ride back was just a rough as the way there but after so many Painkillers, I did not mind.
We returned to the boat to take showers and Chris and I went to The Local for lunch. He got some wings and sausage sliders, and I tried the fish sandwich. After so much rum, everything tasted amazing. Unfortunately, the Latitudes Wines Around the World complimentary tasting was at two and we did arrive a little late. It is not a formal wine tasting but set up with stations. We did meet up with Tim there. We did sample some wines not that we needed more alcohol though. I think this event would be better on a sea day or at least not a hour after leaving Tortola.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of a walk on the Waterfront and sampling the “trash drink” of the day, the café Replay made of old Starbucks coffee grounds. All the day drinking led us to taking a nap before dinner. One perk of an inside cabin is the amount of darkness for a nap. We made the rookie mistake of not setting an alarm and overslept for our Le Bistro reservations. We were only off by about ten minutes but did not want to rush. Chris called and they were able to change our reservation to 8:00 PM.
Le Bistro is the signature French restaurant on NCL. We have dined there on just about all our cruises. We used our Latitudes coupon which included a bottle of wine. I started with the escargot and Chris had the beef tartare. We both tried new entrees since the filet has the upcharge. I had the Dover Sole which was nice but not a showstopper. Chris had the Coq Au Vin and absolutley loved it. The sauce was very flavorful, and the chicken was juicy and tender. I think he has found a new favorite at Le Bistro. For dessert, we had the Ille Flottante which was delicious as always.
After dinner, we strolled around the ship to help digest our meal. We ended up visiting the casino and catching up with our friends. Both of us were tired from all the festivities of the day and went to bed. Tomorrow, we will be in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.
Day 5 - NCL Encore - St Thomas
It was another early wake up for us. Chris went for coffee and some pastries before our catamaran tour to St. John.
We had to meet our friends on the pier at 8:30 and found a taxi to take us to the harbor to meet our captain. The taxi was an open-air jitney and cost $15 per person. Our captain for the day was there waiting for us and took us to his boat via dingy. There waiting for us was a nice plate of muffins, fruit and cheese. There was waters and beer available in the cooler. After a brief safety talk, we were sailing to St. John. Chris, Tim and I chose to ride up front on the nets. It was a bit rough going with some sea spray but I loved it.
Our first stop was a very small beach, Scott beach that is only accessible by boat. The water was perfect blue and the sand was soft and fine. We all did some snorkeling. I loved seeing a few turtles munching away on the sea grass. While we were snorkeling, our lunch was being prepared. We had a plate of caprese salad on bread to start followed by freshly made chicken Caesar salad. It was served with their famous rum punch or pum runch as they called it. For dessert, she had some cheesecake which I passed on but the others enjoyed it.
While we were eating lunch, we went to a different location, Honeymoon beach. After lunch, Tim, Michelle, Chris and I went ashore here to swim and snorkel. The beach was nice but there was way more sea life at the first stop.
On the way back to St. Thomas, we went back upfront to relax on the nets with Tim and his wife. We enjoyed the breeze and I think everyone dozed off a little bit. This was a such a perfect and relaxing day. It was much needed after the lack of sleep so far. I highly recommend using Sail with Liberty and Justice to book a private or group tour in St. Thomas. They are the nicest couple and provided us with a memorable day.
We took showers and relaxed before going to Observation Lounge for a pre-dinner drink. It was once again busy and took about 20 minutes to get a drink which wasn’t even made that well. I had a Gin Martini and Chris had a Negroni. After a few sips, we decided to go to dinner at the buffet. The buffet was Caribbean themed, and we mostly ate food from the Indian section as Indian food is done very well since most of the chefs are from India.
We saw the comedy of Christina Walkinshaw in the main theater. She is a very conversational comic and at first, she seemed ok but it started to run a tad long. I looked over and saw that Chris had his eyes shut. Usually, I am the one who nods off at a show. We decided to go back to the room earlier since we had an early arrival in Tortola with our tour departing at 6:45am to visit Jost Van Dyke.
Day 4 - NCL Encore - Sea Day
Happy Valentine’s Day!
We were up early once again. Chris once again retrieved some coffee and a little pastry for me. We used to get this delivered complimentary, but NCL has started charging for this service. I think Chris might be missing this more than I am.
Chris wanted to try the buffet for breakfast today. We thought they had a nice selection of choices. They had a cute display for Valentine’s set up of bread.
After breakfast, we decided to go to the casino for a bit. It turned into most of the morning as we were having a good time. We did eventually do some laps around the Waterfront to get our steps in for the day though. We met up with our friends and since the Croissant Mai Tai was the drink of the day, we had to get one. We caught up with our friends and one Mai Tai turned into two.
We had wine tasting with our pals at 1:00 so we decided to get showered to be presentable for the tasting. We also thought it would be good to have some food to help absorb the alcohol. So, after our showers, we ran to the buffet and ate a quick little lunch.
The wine tasting had a decent turnout, and we took up most of the Onda restaurant. We had assigned seats and were seated with two delightful ladies who tuned into my shenanigans. I was a bad influence, and we all tasted a sip of wine before we were supposed to. In our defense, it did start over ten minutes late and the wine was tempting us. This tasting was about pairing wine with cheeses. The first was a prosecco paired with aged parmesan. The second was a Sauvignon Blanc paired with goat cheese. The third was a red wine from Italy called Valpolicella. This was a new varietal for me, and I really enjoyed it. It was paired with fontina. The last wine was a port paired with Roquefort. That wine and the cheese were by far my least favorites.
We had a meet and greet/shot glass exchange afterwards. My fellow admin on our Facebook group, Tim set this up. We had about 50 people show up for the event. Tim did a great job of organizing and moving the event along. It was fun to meet new people and get a shot glass that had meaning for them. When it was all over, we relaxed in our cabin and got ready for our Valentine’s meal at Onda.
Onda by Scarpetta is the Italian specialty restaurant on Encore. This was another first for us and we were very excited to try it out. The cocktail menu looked great, and we each started with a Mediterranean Negroni which is made with watermelon infused Campari. This is one of the best cocktails I have had on NCL. The bread plate arrived first with three types of bread along with eggplant, ricotta and citrus olive oil. Each bread and spread were delicious. When the couple was seated next to us, they asked which appetizer it was, that is how impressive it looks. For our starters, Chris had the short rib ravioli, and I had the market salad. The short rib ravioli was filled with savory, rich short rib and the pasta was very tender. The light horseradish cream sauce was outstanding. My salad was so fresh, and the vinaigrette was so flavorful. We both chose the filet for our entrees. Chris had a side of mushrooms while I had the lentils. The steaks were phenomenal, and Chris thinks it is one of the best he has ever had. The sauce was excellent as well as the vegetables. This steak in our opinion is better than Le Bistro (which now has a $10 upcharge) or Cagney’s. For dessert, Chris had the butterscotch budino and I had the panna cotta. We both thought the budino needed a little more butterscotch flavor but the pannacotta had a very lovely tropical taste and paired nicely with the coconut sorbet it is served with. Stuffed, we walked around to find some dance music to keep our date night going.
Our first stop was Sugarcane for Latin Ballroom. I was hoping for some rumba after a big meal but it was more like yesterday with salsa and merengue. I was disappointed as I was hoping for a romantic Valentine’s dance. After a few songs, we moved to the Atrium for Adda band Queen and Police set. The first song wasn’t bad, but his second song was. It sounded like he blew out his voice from the night before. We decided to hit the District to hear some piano and met up with our friends. The pianist was very talented and engaging. He had a few passengers, including Tim sing while he played. We found out that he will be on our next cruise on Oceania so I look forward to seeing him again. We stayed until his last song and then went to bed to rest for our tour in St. Thomas. We were arriving early since we missed our port stop at GSC.
Day 3 - NCL Encore - GSC or Not?
I was up early and missing my room service coffee. Chris went and found some coffee and brought back a nice big cup. We went to the casino and while we were playing the captain made an announcement that we would not be stopping at Great Stirrup Cay due to winds. We had been outside and did not really notice the winds, but GSC is a frequently missed port for NCL. We were looking forward to a quiet boat today so our relaxing plans might be ruined.
Breakfast was in The Local. It was busy but still served quickly and very hot. I think it is the best breakfast on the ship. We perused the revised Freestyle Daily to see what activities have been added. The atrium was having trivia at 9:30 so that was our first choice of activity. The trivia was pretty challenging, and we scored 14/20. I tried a bloody Mary since I noticed that NCL is using their own brand of mixer now. It was a decent drink with lots of horseradish flavor.
We found a nice area on the Waterfront to relax. First, we played some cards. Then, I wrote while Chris read his book. He went inside the District and returned with two drinks, Pumpkin Spiced Guinness and a Guillotine. I picked the Pumpkin Spice and surprisingly enjoyed it.
Since we now had this extra sea day, I told Chris we should try the main dining room since we have not had lunch there for some time. We both started with the scallops which were very similar to escargot in preparation. I chose the Monte Cristo which was a favorite from Bennigan’s during my college days long ago. It was a very close copy of the sandwich and I really enjoyed it. Chris thought the ribs were tasty as well. For dessert, I had the warm chocolate melting cake and Chris had flan de coco. Both desserts were very good, and we left stuffed from lunch.
We did some walking around to burn off some of lunch. The rest of the afternoon consisted of relaxing and a nap in the cabin before getting ready for dinner. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much rest as our cabin was still so noisy. We took showers and dressed for the evening. For our pre-dinner cocktail, we headed to the Observation Lounge. It was busy and took a few minutes to order our Negronis. They were slammed making lots of frozen drinks. It was a longer wait than we have had before. Our drinks were made nicely though and we had another before dinner.
Tonight’s dinner was in the Taste main dining room. The second night is typically a very nice menu in our opinion. We both started with the spring rolls. I had the smoked salmon tartare which is very good. Chris chose the bruschetta which was ok but nothing too exciting. For our entrees, I had the broiled hake and Chris had the shrimp pasta alla vodka. We had both of these entrees on our Breakaway cruise and they were just as good tonight. We skipped dessert because we wanted to go see the early show.
The show tonight was a comedy magician, Eric Buss. As my loyal readers know, we have attended lots of magic shows. He had his own spin on some classic effects that fit his style. While the magic was performed solidly, the comedy was weak. Towards the end, the comedy became annoying when he used a looper to create a song while doing his tricks. I do have one trick that if performed, I will make a quiet exit. Well, he did it, so I did leave about 4 minutes early.
We headed to Maltings for a cocktail. Chris had a Manhattan while I got a Woodford Old Fashioned. I peeked in the Cavern Club to hear the music which sounded good, but it was very crowded. We took our drinks to Sugarcane and did a little dancing to the Latin music being played. Although it said Boleros and Cha Cha, they only played Salsa, Bachata and Merengue. We danced a few songs and decided to check out the Atrium. They had a R&B band which sounded nice but no dance floor, so we did not stay long. We were both tired from our busy day and returned to our cabin for the night.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.