John and his wife April recently returned from sailing their first full ship charter. This one was Country Cruising, produced by Flying Dutchmen Travel. In it’s second year, the popular themed sailing has 25 different artists with over 100 concerts during the seven night cruise. The Stars were there. They were there. Here is their account of the experience.
Stars Right From The Beginning
We knew it would be a different experience just waiting in the security line at the port. We looked to our right and it was none other than Trace Adkins walking into Terminal B at Port Miami. We had never seen Trace in person, but to see him up close walking in just like us fans was an exciting prelude for the week to come. Trace would be the headliner for Country Cruising 2014.. or would he?
In the Terminal
As we respectfully gawked at all of the artists walking by us we moved closer to the check-in desk. We played it cool, as we once again saw Trace walk by us again and get onboard the ship. Did I mention he’s really tall? We also saw Wynonna walking up the gangway. Soon we reached the check-in desk.
They placed a yellow arm-band signifying ‘Early Show’ on each of us. We also received the list of the week’s shows indicating all of the times and locations. We would need the armband to get into the headliner shows in the ships main theater each evening.
Boarding Quick And Easy
Time to board the Norwegian Pearl came and we quickly made our way to our cabin. Our cabin’s interior was very inviting, just like the ship. We had never sailed aboard a Norwegian Cruise Line ship before so it would be a new experience for us. We sometimes referred to this cruise as NCL ‘ Lite’ as this being a full charter it had a different vibe to it compared to a normal cruise, no matter what the cruise line.
Onboard And Settled In
This cruise didn’t have the Cruise Director making announcements all day about poolside games, ice carvings, poolside games, etc. It actually was almost a quite ship when it came to announcements. It didn’t have any production shows or cruise staff. It was all done by the producers of the ship. Even the bingo callers were artists and not the cruise staff.
To be clear this cruise was a unique and enjoyable experience. Since its a full charter little things like the logo on the drink napkins to big things like all announcements and entertainment are run by the organizers. Everyone on this sailing booked it because of the big name country stars.
A Nice Ship
The Norwegian Pearl is a really nice ship. At 93K Gross Tons and a passenger capacity of 2,394 we found this ship just the right size for us. It was easy to get everywhere quickly. We also really enjoyed the crew, they were very nice at all times and eager to serve. We liked how it had two nice sized pools and easy access to food and drinks. It would be great for a family cruise where the kids would be in the pool most of the time.
The Regular Entertainment.
In addition to the country content, the shipboard programming made up over 25 different acts. It was like being at Disney World of country music. It was not possible to see all of the shows each day; many ran concurrently. However, You could schedule it that you didn’t ever miss one you wanted to see later in the week or even day. I kept saying how wonderful the sound quality was. The artists were all very high quality.
We were amazed how close we could sit in the main show lounge to watch big names like Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan, Lonestar, Wynonna and more. We went into this cruise not knowing all of the artists but, were constantly amazed at how great the artists were. I called it a concert series at sea, because we had so many shows available to watch each day.
They Had Good Food
When we first boarded we couldn’t believe how much food was offered on this ship around the pool area. They seemed to have a grill at each bar. It was impressive. Some highlights:
- The buffet foodwas very nice and plentiful. It featured very good pizza, indian, asian and a pasta station and grill.
- The best meal of the cruisewas at the Tepanyaki (Japanese Steakhouse) specialty restaurant. My wife loves this type of food and I thought I had tried them all. I can honestly say the food and show was the best I have ever had.
- The main dining roomwas sometimes amazing and other times we found it a little inconsistent.
- The biggest disappointmentwas the Blue Lagoon which is billed at 24hrs comfort food. The food tasted like it was microwaved in a closet. I recommend this area be converted back to a sitting area and they stop serving this food, period.
We found the cruise and Country Cruising a wonderful experience. We enjoyed our fellow passengers aboard this cruise. It was enjoyable to see artists walking around with guests and the high quality production and music was something to be remembered.
The Flying Dutchmen staff seemed to be everywhere and worked tirelessly to make this a once in a lifetime trip. We look forward to doing another one of these types of trips again in the near future.
The Trace Adkins Thing
As you may have heard the headliner Trace Adkins, had some personal problems and had to depart at our first port of call.. However, He and Flying Dutchmen Travel have offered free trickets and a meet and greet pass to one his future shows.
We are looking forward to this and the next Country Cruising which is projected for sometime in 2015. Visit CountryCruising.com for more information.