We started our last morning with another early start with getting our coffee and walking. We had breakfast at The Local once again. Afterwards, we visited the casino and did some more laps around the Waterfront. The couches and chairs were crowded already with people enjoying the sea air. We tried the Sustainable Spritz which is very similar to an Aperol Spritz and decided to visit the pool deck. It was packed! We explored the upper sundecks as well and it seemed as if every chair was taken included the upright chairs along this very narrow area on deck 19.
We were invited to a VIP party in the District Brew House at noon. It was a nice gathering with the typical NCL canapes as well as spring rolls and pot stickers. They came around with beer flights to sample as well. We had two flights of beer as another was just placed in front of us. A third was offered while we were just starting the second, so we declined. We both wanted to try the complimentary table escape game at one and did not want it to impede our abilities to escape quickly.
The escape game is called BAMBoozled! A Superhero Escape and is held in the Q restaurant. We were assigned to be on a team with another couple. Each team has a box with various types of locks and an envelope with clues on how to open each lock. Chris and I have done over 40 escape rooms on land and helped guide our teammates who have never done one. We opened a few locks very easily and some took a little longer. We had plenty of time though after we opened the box to figure out the phone number which is the final task. Our first attempt failed. We tried many more and all failed. The host of the event came over and was looking at our table but said nothing. Other teams tried closer to the end as well but no number worked. I was frustrated at this point, and we had to listen to a recording on how to solve every puzzle in order to learn the answer to the last puzzle. Well, we never would have been able to solve the puzzle as our box had two of the same color cards. We just thought the phone number had a repeating digit. We were supposed to have a purple card instead of two reds. It was a fun event up until that point and I view it as a win. I think the host should have noticed this obvious error when he looked at the cards lined up on our table if he was familiar with this game. We had to leave quickly though as we had a reservation for the paid escape room at 2pm in Galaxy Pavillion.
The Captain’s Quarters is the escape room in the Galaxy Pavilion. It costs $15 per person with a maximum of 6 per team. We were teamed up with a group of four, a set of grandparents with their teen grandchildren. It starts with each player donning a VR headset to watch the story about the room. Then, you enter a traditional type of escape room. It was very nicely themed and had some interesting puzzles that we have not seen in other rooms we have previously done. Our team did well together, and we escaped with plenty of time on the clock. I think it is a good value for an escape room as land ones are typically pricier.
Originally, we had planned to do the wine tasting at 2:00 with our friends. We went to the Cellars to see if it was finishing up. Our friends were just leaving the tasting and we decided to hit The Local for a late lunch/snack. I had some nachos and Chris had the pub hot dog. The service was not great as one person did not get their soup and another never got the dessert they ordered.
While eating, our friends convinced us to join them for the next wine tasting at 4pm which was the Riedel glass seminar. In this tasting, you sample each wine from a plastic cup and then from the three different Riedel glasses. One glass is considered the optimal glass for the varietal of wine. We were all astounded by the different ways the same wine tasted (we even purchased 2 sets of glasses when we got home!)
Tonight, we had Choir of Man reservations for the 7pm show. First, we did some packing and we dressed for the evening. We headed to Maltings for a pre-show cocktail and brought it to the theater. The show starts with guests invited to visit the pub set up on stage for a beer poured by one of the cast. We did not get in the long line and just enjoyed our drinks. The show is the story of The Jungle, a neighborhood pub and the regulars who frequent it. The show is not heavily story driven though and it is mainly the cast singing pop songs. Chris found it to be boring after about 30 minutes and I agreed. We were going to leave but the bartender started singing one of my favorite songs, Escape (the pina colada song). He did a fun rendition, but we left shortly after.
The dinner menu in the main dining room was not too enticing nor was the Grill Extravaganza theme of the buffet. Chris suggested we visit Onda and dine ala carte if they had availability. The restaurant was busy but had availability right away for us. We ordered cocktails while looking over the menu. We both ordered the salad I had on the previous visit for our starter. For dinner, I had the short rib ravioli and Chris tried the lobster tagliatelle. Everything was outstanding once again.
After our meal, we went for a walk around the ship. We browsed the offerings in the ship stores but did not make any purchases. Our final stop was the casino in our usual spot. We thought we might see our friends to say goodbye but we did not run into them. We had a plan to wake up early and take advantage of the priority disembarkation time. The suitcases were placed outside the door and alarm was set for six and we had a restful final night’s sleep.
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.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.