Please keep in mind when reading this review that the only line we have ever sailed w/is Royal Caribbean. Therefore, that's our only way to judge the service and the trip. Also, we do not like the freestyle dining. I did not like having to stand in line and wait for my table. I like having the same waiter every night so that he/she knows what I like/don't like. I think the service is much more personable when you have a set waiter.
We arrived in Tampa on Friday night and spent the night @ Chase Suites Hotel. We had a 2BR townhouse style which was great for our party. We spent Saturday @ Busch Gardens and really enjoyed that. The shuttle leaving the hotel on Sunday morning was right on time and they were friendly.
EMBARKATION: This really went relatively easy and quick. We got there around 11 and were on the ship by approximately 12:30. We did have to wait for a little bit as the ship was not ready but it was no big deal. They gave you a number and began calling them so that boarding was an orderly process. Cabins were not ready when we boarded but we went to the buffet @ the pool and got a bite to eat. Cabins were ready w/in an hour.
The first night we ate @ Aqua Restaurant. Not impressed w/the service. Our waitress was constantly glancing somewhere else when she took our order. We did enjoy our meal even tho they had to separate our party of 10. The desserts I felt were better on Norwegian than Royal Caribbean.
Our first day at sea was fine. Six of those sailing w/us had never been on a cruise and had no trouble adjusting and never felt sick. We did have some pretty heavy rocking a few nights but it just lulled us to sleep. We ate at the Versailles dining room. We had made a reservation for 10 @ 5:30 as they only had ONE table that accommodate that large of a group. However, we were told if someone got there before us, they would get the table. What's the point of making a reservation? We changed it to 5:00 since that's when the dining room opened. Again, we enjoyed our meal but the service was lacking. No matter where we ate (w/the exception of Cagney's), we were constantly out of water and soda. Royal Caribbean was not like that. You never had to ask for a refill.
ROATAN: We enjoyed this port very much. We took a tour of the island with Victor Bodden tours and enjoyed it. Our driver dropped some of us at the Parrot Tree resort which was beautiful! The rest did the zipline and offshore snorkeling. All reports said the zipline was so fun! We ate at a local restaurant high on a hill and then did some shopping. Made it back to the boat on time but a little too close for my comfort. I would have skipped the meal so we had more time but some in our party wanted to eat.
BELIZE: Belize was so much fun. We did the cave tubing excursion w/V.I.V. tours. It was $40 (no lunch) but this company has the mesh bottoms on the tube and a headrest. My helmet light quit working as soon as we got in the caves but I was able to see when others had their lights on. Our driver/guide was Manuel and he explained a lot to us during our walk thru the rain forest. The other tubing companies do not have mesh bottoms or headrests and we heard several people along the way wanting to know why ours did! Glad I did my research.
COSTA MAYA: This was probably our favorite port as far as what they offered. The buildings were so colorful and the pool area was very nice. It's only for cruise passengers so not real crowded. We did a tour of the Chacobben ruins which was very informative. Our guide Vincenzio (?) with Island Marketing had really gone the extra mile and had maps, a folder of pictures, a wooden Mayan calendar, etc. I saw no other guide who had this information.
COZUMEL: Probably our least favorite port simply because you are asked to tip EVERYONE! The woman in the bathroom, if you want a picture w/an iguana, an oxen, etc. Our friend was holding a parrot and I had a video going. I was told no pictures!! This port did not barter w/you much either. They would rather see you walk away. We did an island tour again w/Island Marketing and our guide was George. He took us to some Mayan ruins where we saw so many iguanas! That alone was worth the price. They tried to get us to hire a guide and we declined. They lowered the price and we still declined. They tried to get us to buy the picture w/the Indian and we said no. They keep pestering you so we didn't care for that. We did eat lunch at a great local place. I believe it was called El Molcajete. It was in the middle of a hotel in the courtyard. The food was wonderful. Their chips and salsa were amazing.
Our last day at sea my husband did the behind the scenes tour for $55. Interesting but definitely not worth $55. It was basically a filler for him as he doesn't like the pool, sun or water.
There was a LOT of chair saving which is not supposed to be allowed. Towels all over the chairs and no one in sight for hours. Norwegian does not enforce this at all. Also, the quiet zones were not quiet. They were away from the pool noise but people didn't understand the concept of "quiet." We ended up at the back of the ship where the helipad is located and the kiddie pool. That was quieter than the adult quiet zone.
Our room was fine but the furnishings are cheap. I did like the bathroom layout better than on Royal Caribbean. Their public bathrooms were terrible though. Out of order half the time, the doors did not close so you couldn't lock them. I felt the layout of the ship was confusing and not orderly.
Our cabin steward left alot to be desired. She just did not pick up or make things in the room orderly. I left a glass of diet soda on my bed table and it sat there for 4 nights! It was never removed until we told the Exec Housekeeper. Also, the overhead pipe on our balcony leaked brown water. We were told it was from a cold room overhead but it smelled like sewage constantly. Nothing was ever done except to give us a bottle of wine and we don't drink.
When I went to Guest Relations on the last day to adjust the "Service Charge", i.e., tips, they gave me a hard time about lowering the amount. I told them we did not get good service and, therefore, we were lowering our amount. My daughter and her friend were in room 8558 and their cabin steward was wonderful. He cleaned their room several times a day, folded their clothes, etc.
DISEMBARKATION: This was easy and we were off the ship in no time. Plenty of porters and luggage pick up was easy. We called the hotel after we cleared customs and she was there in 20 mins. We tried to tip her when we got back to the hotel but she wouldn't let us. She said she was the GM and did this for fun on her days off.
I do not think we would ever sail Norwegian again because of the freestyle dining and their service. No matter what restaurant we ate in, they couldn't seem to keep our soda orders straight. That's when there were only 5 of us at a table!
The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed the ports very much but would probably go back to Royal Caribbean.