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Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, Cozumel

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At Sea, Caribbean

Cruising the Caribbean towards Miami Friday, March 21, 2003
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Cozumel
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Port of Miami

Sea Day

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After departing Cozumel, Friday is a day at sea, and the slowly cruises by the western and northern end of Cuba. The seas were relatively calm, and everyone was out tanning soaking up the last few moments of sunshine before going home. At 2:30pm most people vacated their prized deck locations and ventured back to the Great Outdoor Cafe for the Chocoholic Buffet. Amongst a piano playing in the background and an ice sculpture, the hordes of people filled up on every imaginable form of chocolate dessert.

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Digital Seas - Onboard Internet

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I decided to try out the onboard Internet, to see if it had improved over the past few years. Bad news, it's worse. They charge you a $3.95 *setup* fee, and then $.75 a minute. Of course, they don't tell you about the setup fee until after you have used it the first time. Your actual cost per minute is probably a great deal over $1.00 per minute because of a latency effect-- that is to say because you're using a satellite system, your signal must first go out 22,300 miles into space and back to send a packet of information. What this means, is that you're effective surf rate is around the speed (and probably less) than a 14.4 modem. It's aggravating to wait, especially if you're used to DSL or a cable modem. Recommendation is to use the Internet cafe's on the islands (such as Cozumel) where it's cheaper and faster. Since I have used Digital Seas back in year 2000, 2001 and 2002, I have thought it was a rip-off. Worse yet, now they have banner ad's that litter the screen. I don't want that junk on there if I'm already paying to gain access. Overall, unless you absolutely have to use it, don't. In Roatan, our complete Internet access was down for over a day. They even made the ship wait for a technician to fly into Roatan to fix the system-- delaying *our* cruise so that Digital Seas could make their money.

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Singles Social At The Windjammer Bar

I went down to the Singles Social scheduled for 5:00pm at the Windjammer Bar, nobody there. I wish more effort were put into these events, but I guess they figure that the single people will search each other out.

Dinner at East Meets West

Dinner

I called early morning to make reservations at Il Adagio (the pay Italian restaurant), but it was fully booked. Asking what was available, I got a 6:30pm reservation at East Meets West. This is the same dining room as the Tepanyaki, Ginza, and Sushi Bar. By Friday they had run out of live lobsters, so that option was out. Luckily, the other few entree options looked very good. The appetizers were very good, followed by an incredible sizzling sirloin steak. For dessert Rosaria made us peach and pineapple flambe'' which was incredible. Overall, the Tepanyaki, West Meats West and Sushi were the best. The general seating restaurants were good (but not great), and the Pacific Rim Restaurant was average to bland (I would not eat there again, even though it was free). I really wanted to eat at Il Adagio, but this was the most popular of the pay restaurants.

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Freestyle Dining

NCL touts Freestyle Dining as "dine where you want, when you want, and with whom you want." The truth is anything but this approach. The only good think about the pay restaurants, is the it weeds out 95 percent of the passengers, so that the restaurants are not crowded. So what is the bad you ask ? Well... there's nothing *free* about Freestyle cruising. The restaurants charge either a flat access fee (which they term cover) for $10, or a sliding scale cover ($25 for example if you order a lobster), to a al cart pricing if you order from the sushi bar. Personally, I feel that if I've paid for the cruise, at the very least the food should be included. What's worse is that in the general seating restaurants, you still have to wait. We waited 20 minutes one night to be seated. Not quite dining when you want. In addition, the pay restaurants have only set reservation times (you may not just walk in and order). So you end up eating either at 5:00pm or 10pm, unless you're lucky enough to actually get a reservation. Of course, you can't make reservations well in advance-- only from 8:00 am that day (you can call in for reservations or go to the Atrium Deck 5 to look at menus and schedule direct with an agent there.

Additional Photographs: Cruising the Caribbean towards Miami

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