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Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 2] At Sea

On our first sea day, we woke up to cloudy, drizzly weather.

We had planned to eat breakfast in the dining room at 9:30, but realized too late that we had confused the breakfast time with the Ocean View Cafe. The dining room was only open for breakfast from 7:30 AM to 9:00 AM. Ocean View Cafe was open for breakfast from 6:30 AM to 11:00 AM (includes "continental breakfast," "breakfast buffet," and "late breakfast").

So back to the buffet we went.


The breakfast food was okay. I don't have the patience to wait in the make-your-own-omelet line. It was unfortunate where they placed the omelet bar, though, because the line for omelets wrapped in front of the food stations, so you had to squeeze in through the people waiting for omelets just to get eggs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - [Day 1] Miami Embarkation

Rise and shine, it's Embarkation Day!

I should listen to my own advise because I didn't allow enough time to get my camera gear ready to go and found myself rushing to repack my bag. It's always a bit awkward because the things in my backpack for the plane aren't the same thing I want in my backpack to board the ship. So I try to shuffle things around, and nothing fits quite right.

I got an UberXL to take us from the hotel to the cruise terminal ($14). If you're a party of four people with suitcases, make sure to order an UberXL rather than an UberX so that there is room for your luggage. This is because a vehicle just needs the third seat fold-down option to be considered XL, so if you need to put suitcases in the trunk, you won't be able to use the third row seating in smaller SUVs. If you have more than four people and luggage, you'll want to order two separate UberXs.


It was a very short 8 minute drive to the pier. We were at Terminal G, one of the Royal Caribbean terminals.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Celebrity Summit Christmas Cruise - Pre-Cruise Miami

We flew into Miami the day before the cruise, December 21. Flying in the morning of the cruise is risky, and I proved that by missing my flight and almost missing the cruise a few years ago.

I originally started looking for flights in July, right after we booked the cruise. Initially, there were only nonstop flights on American Airlines, but ideally I wanted to fly Delta because I was pursuing Silver Medallion (also every time I fly AA, I say that I will never fly AA again). I set up Google Flight Tracker to track flights from LAX to MIA. A few weeks later, a new nonstop Delta flight from LAX to MIA appeared, and it was very affordable. I booked Comfort+ seats.... then the next day, I was playing around with the Delta change flight feature and realized that I could rebook First Class for only an additional $125 per person. I decided that this would be a nice surprise for Aaron and a fun way to kick off our vacation.

About a month before our flight, I got an email from Delta saying that our original flight was canceled, but they rebooked us on another flight. Unfortunately, we were no longer nonstop and would be connecting in ATL. Also, while our arrival time remained the same, our departure time now moved from 10AM to 7AM. The good news is that we were booked in First Class on both flights. I was worried that Aaron was going to catch onto my surprise when they emailed him about the rebooked flight, but luckily it went unnoticed. I also thought that he may notice the day before our flight when he checked in on the app, but again, he didn't.

It wasn't until we were at the airport. I took us into the Sky Priority lane to check our bag, and I was sure by then that he had caught on. "Merry Christmas!" "Is this for your status stuff?" "No, I upgraded us to First Class!" Had I known that the Sky Priority line hadn't given me away, I think we could have made it to the gate, and he wouldn't have noticed until waiting for them to call our Boarding Group. After the news sunk in, Aaron was very excited.... or as excited as one can be at 6AM - it was a good surprise.


In addition to our checked bag (Away Medium Checked), we each had the Away Bigger Carry-On. Aaron packed his suit and blazer in the Seyfocnia Garment Bag which rolls up into a duffle bag. We're skeptical that this actually qualifies as a personal item, but we didn't have any issues this trip... possibly because we were in first class, but also Aaron took the duffle off of his rolling bag and carried it on his back which made it look pretty unimposing (a hack that wouldn't work for someone my size). My personal item was my Brevite Camera Bag. I also used a magnetic hat clip to bring along my hats.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Christmas & New Year's Cruises - Celebrity Summit & Disney Fantasy!

Ahoy! It's time for another Christmas Cruise.... and New Year's cruise review!

This year's Christmas/New Year's vacation was elaborate in both planning and executions, so in order to set the stage, I'm dedicating an entire post to the story of how our Christmas Cruise - WDW - NYE Cruise vacation came to be.

Disney Fantasy and Celebrity Summit

If you've been following the blog for awhile now, you probably know that it is Shinglebell family tradition to cruise over Christmas. From 2009 to 2019, my sister Rachel and our parents (a.k.a. Stove and Judy) would meet together and set sail to spend the holiday at sea. However, we introduced our boyfriends into the mix, and Christmases became more complicated. Back in 2020, Rachel and I came to the conclusion that we could alternate Christmases every-other-year with our family and our boyfriends' families. Since the cruising industry was not yet open in 2020, Rachel and I offered the first year to our boyfriends' families with the hope that cruising would return by 2021 in time for a Christmas cruise. And it did! (See my Trip Report for our 2021 Christmas on NCL Encore.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Christmas on NCL Encore - Final Thoughts and Rating

NCL Encore Rating and Review

Our sailing on the Norwegian Encore marked the 12th Shinglebells Christmas Cruise (and our first Christmas Cruise following the 2020 pandemic cruising hiatus). It's been years since I've rated our cruises, but I think it may be interesting to bring back the rating system.

The rating system is based on ten components of a cruise vacation which I find important - itinerary, ship novelties, pools, activities, dining, bars and lounges, service, design and aesthetics, and stateroom.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Christmas on NCL Encore - Glad I Did/Wish I Did

NCL Glad I Did

I've found that Glad I Did/Wish I Did posts are fun because it's a great way to quickly share with others what worked, and what didn't. It's also been really helpful for us to refer back to over the years when preparing for our next cruise.

Glad we bid $15 per person for a Stateroom Upgrade (Balcony to Club Balcony)

Rachel and I originally bid only on the Haven suites because we were worried that bidding on a lower category stateroom would negatively impact our odds of getting a suite. As the cruise got closer, we kept a close eye on our cruise group on Facebook and realized that bids were being awarded, and we weren't going to get the Haven (from what we could tell, most Haven upgrades were awarded to parties of three or four guests in one stateroom). The minimum bid for the Club Balcony stateroom was discounted to $15 (originally $25) per person, and I'm glad we decided to put in last-minute minimum bids. With the Club Balcony, we were moved to a higher floor and our staterooms were actually closer together than the balcony cabins that we had originally booked. Also, the large bathroom in the Club Balcony was nice to have.

Club Balcony Stateroom

Glad I decorated Judy's stateroom for her birthday!

My original plan had been to decorate the door of my parents' stateroom. However, unlike other cruise lines, Norwegian actually has a rule against decorating stateroom doors (not sure if they'll actually hold you to it - I saw a few decorated doors on our cruise). I did not find any rules against decorating the stateroom interior. Originally I planned to create my own banners, but then I ran out of time and purchased garland and banners from Party City. I used heavy-duty magnet hooks to string the garland across the room. It was fun and festive. Since the ship wasn't that decorated for the holidays, it was fun to have this cheery little space that felt like a celebration.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

[Day 8] Christmas on NCL Encore - Disembarkation in Miami

On December 26th, we were back in Miami.


We decided to roll off our luggage, rather than setting our luggage out in the hallway the night before, so we were free to leave at anytime. We headed up to the Garden Cafe to grab breakfast before going downstairs to disembark.


The pools were closed, and the crew was prepping for the next sailing.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

[Day 7] Christmas on NCL Encore - Last Day at Sea

 It was the seventh and final day of our cruise, and also Christmas morning!!


Judy requested that we have Christmas Brunch in the dining room. There are two dining rooms open for breakfast - Savor and Taste. They're located directly across from one another - Savor is port side, and Taste is starboard. They're basically the same. We had planned to dine at Savor, but we got a late start, and they were only seating at Taste, so we dined at Taste.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

[Day 6] Christmas on NCL Encore - Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

It was Christmas Eve. We were scheduled for a 10 AM arrival in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and docking in Taino Bay Port, a new cruise port in Puerto Plata (Carnival has nearby Amber Cove cruise port in Puerto Plata which opened in 2015). 

Construction on the new Taino Bay cruise port began in 2018 and was expected to be ready by Summer 2020. A million passengers were projected to visit Taino Bay during the 2020/21 season... but as you can probably guess, things did not go according to projections.

Taino Bay received its first cruise ship, the MSC Seashore, on December 15, 2021 - just a few weeks before our cruise. The second ship to arrive in Puerto Plata was actually the NCL Encore a week prior on December 17. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

[Day 5] Christmas on NCL Encore - Tortola

On Day 5, we arrived in Tortola bright and early, docking at 6 AM! 6AM was also the time that we needed to disembark and meet up for our excursion.

This is the one excursion that we booked through NCL (to use our "free" excursion credit), Escape to Jost Van Dyke. Rachel picked it out. She has a good track record for choosing excursions.

Jost Van Dyke is actually the smallest of the four main British Virgin Islands. You can also travel to Jost Van Dyke from St. Thomas - maybe something to look into the next time we have a long day at St. Thomas.

It wasn't fun to wake up before dawn, but at least we got to watch the sunrise -