My husband and I started out at the Miami airport taking the NCL sponsored bus to the cruise terminal. Getting off the bus at the cruise terminal, we were 'accosted' (too stong a word, but it felt like it) by the terminal workers who 'demanded' a tip for unloading our luggage from the bus. We didn't know what was going on...one guy said, "how many pieces of luggage do you have." I said "two". He said, "Give him two dollars", pointing to his cohort. I had two dollars in my hand as a tip anyway but totally resented the strong-arm tactics. I was not thanked either. Something needs to be done with those aggressive people. I hear they are paid very well, too! If we are expected to pay extra when we get to the cruise terminal, we should be told ahead of time. This is not a tip...it is a mandatory fee as far as I'm concerned.
We were sent to an embarcation room, and after about 2 hours we were let on the ship. It went smoothly. We had lunch in the Garden Cafe Buffet. During the week, we had dinner twice at Cagney's Steak House. It was good but nothing extrordinary. We mostly ate at the Garden Cafe and enjoyed the variety of food. Again, nothing special but definetly ok. We really liked the 'freestyle' anytime dining, too.
There were a lot of activities on board. We loved the "Oh What a Night" Four Seasons tribute group. They were excellent. The juggler was good, too. We enjoyed the "Second City Comedy Troupe". We saw them in the main theater during their 'scripted' show (very funny) and again in the Spinnaker Lounge for their 'unscripted family-friendly' improv show. 'Dancing with the Pearl Stars' was fun. The 'Newlywed Game" was fun. 'Deal or No Deal' was lame. No big money for the audience and the cards were $20.00 each. If you won anything, it was a free pull-tab game. Bingo got on my nerves. During the last game of Bingo on the ship, the cruise director's staff member, Ashley, was babbling and telling jokes between calling Bingo numbers. They were just all repeat jokes we heard during the cruise. People were yelling at him to 'JUST CALL THE NUMBERS!!!' But he kept amusing himself with his stories. I also saw him insult a guest in the guise of being funny. I forget what he was trying to do, but he just shouted at him, "Just pick a number, old man!". Ashley's coworker sarcastically said, "I just love how you insult our guests". Also one of the Russian women on the cruise director's staff insulted a heavy-set guest who was excited she won at Bingo. The woman was jumping up and down and the cruise director's staff member said (in front of the whole audience), "I'm afraid to go over there, she may eat me." There were more cracks such as these during the week, too. I think the cruise director's staff needs training in guest relations. We did the cruise sponsored excursion to see the Stingrays. It was fun, however, the whole time at the sand bar was spent with the ship captain and assistant taking pictures of the guests with the Stingrays. I think their whole goal was to sell pictures and not much more. And when they started handing out squid to feed the stingrays, they only had about 10 pieces for about 60 people...not enough for everyone. Again, only interested in selling pictures at $25.00 per CD. We also did the city-tour of Cozumel. A little bit of a grueling tour but the guide was nice and he was funny.
At the end of our week, we found leaving the ship very easy. We did the "BAGS" program where our bags left the ship, went through customs, and to the airport without us. It cost $20 per person. It was worth it. We got off the ship at 8:30 AM, went through customs quickly, and just hopped in a taxi to the airport.
I know the above assessment of my week on ship may seem a little critical, but we really did have a good time and I hope my criticism of the cruise director's staff will result in some remedial training. Except for the cruise director's few bad apples, the crew was nice and very friendly. The washy-washy people and Aneel, our room steward, were always smiling and very pleasant.