Very Long Review-
Information can be a good thing, but don't be swayed by negative remarks found on some sites about this ship. She was beautiful and this was our most enjoyable cruise yet! I was so worried about the things said about NCL and freestyle dining. A cruise is what you make of it.
Embarkation was very slow, as our ship was 2400+ people, spring break. But we are latitudes members so that got us on quicker than most. Total pier to ship time 1 1/2 hours. Once on board, wow, what a beautiful ship. Very well kept, clean and shiny. Not overly Las Vegas like Carnival, just a lot of polished wood, still had a very Hawaiian feel to it.
Staterooms, we were on the 9th floor with a balcony room. Seemed small compared to Carnival and RCCL but it was very nice and clean. A sofa and sitting area, with a king size bed. A refrigerator, which was great. We loved the balcony, we saw many dolphins and loved coming into port. Los Arcos was just outside our balcony in Cabo, what a site.
The bathroom of course is tiny, but the shower compartment was fairly large. The waters are rough so the ship creaked a lot, but no big deal. The only bummer was that the people next to us smoked on their balcony and it blew into our room, maybe they should have a smoking section on the boat.
The public areas are all well keep, so many bars and lounges, you would have to do 2 a night to see them all. We liked the Red Lion Pub, great for the Sing-Along, too smokey sometimes. We also enjoyed the Carousel lounge and Martini Bar, excellent service and Stan Sykes plays a mean keyboard.
Entertainment was so-so, I am picky about the shows. They do something every night, music (Billy Joel Tribute, good), Cirque de Pacific (bad knockoff of cirque du soleiel), Mexican Forkloico (if you like that sort of thing), Andrew Lloyd Weber Tribute(ok), Magic Show, talent show, crew show and the worst part, FAME, a tribute to Bob Fosse, (yet we couldn't find the Bob Fosse part and we are huge fans). Eric Reid was a standout in the dancing/singing staff and Nole Levie (piano player), see their respective shows.
There are some many activities to choose from, other bands play around the clock. You'll never worry about what to do.
The at Sea days are chilly and rough, so most people are indoors doing other things. The gym was nice but crowded. The spa is amazing and open to anyone to use. Indoor pool, spa, whirlpool, steam room, sauna, etc. And the best view from the back of the boat. A very relaxing place to nap or lounge during sea days.
Service and Food:- I left this last as this was the thing that most people commented on negatively. Cruise food is that, I have never yet eaten on a cruise and thought this was the best food ever. But we did have very nice meals with tasty food. Breakfast either via the buffet or main dining room, was fine. All the usual things, served with a smile and always the correct temperature. The buffet area is huge, it takes up the entire back of the ship on the 12 floor. The best is room service on your balcony, you can't beat that. Lunch we ate mostly at the grill or buffet, the lunch in the dining room never interested us. The grill was great, they also had BBQ lunch on port days, great too.
Dinner - we decided that we would try the freestyle concept and we loved it. Dress casually or dress up, eat early or late. We never had to wait and never had a problem getting a great table and always had good service. We tried all the restaurants. We figured we would pay for specialty dining, it wasn't that much more and the choices were much better. Service was by far better in the service charge restaurants as in the dining room. Unfair maybe but hey it was worth the money. Le Bistro our favorite, we ate their twice, really good food and yummy fondue. If you try one, this is it. Soho was equally good, the room is more modern and not really my style, but food was again very good, service excellent. Cagneys was a wonderful steakhouse, great Steak and Lobster. Highly recommend these 3 restaurants!
Ginza was good for sushi if you like that, my husband loved it and the Teppanyaki. We didn't do the table part, didn't care for the menu. That covers all the pay per dining. The two freebies are Endless Summer, Tex-mex, we never got to and La Trattoria. It was so/so, service was sketchy and the food was ok. It is not in it's own location, it is part of the buffet made over at night, so ambiance is lacking. We did manage to eat in the other main restaurant which is only open for dinner, AQUA. A nice space, but the food was just OK and the service was a bit slower than every where else. So my recommendation is go for the other restaurants, if you really want an great meal and outstanding service.
Ports of Call - bring some pants and sweaters, it is colder than you might expect at sea and rougher too. We were a little caught off guard by this. The stops were fantastic, we can't wait to do this one again, this time with our kids.
Acapulco - well it is what it is, a large, crowded, poor city. Take a tour or head out of town. We opted to hire a car, we did the divers, ok, you have to do it. Then we went 10 miles out of town to PIE DE LA Cuesta, the beach resort. It is open ocean on one side and a lagoon on the other. Head to Tres Marias restaurant and beach. It is worth the experience. Expensive CAB RIDES! $40.00 US to Senior Frogs, stay on the boat and appreciate the lights from a far at night.
Zijhatenjo(did it)/Ixtapa(we didn't see it) - WE LOVED IT< AS DID MOST OTHERS!!! The best stop on the trip. A cute, quaint, clean little fishing village. Great shopping, inexpensive, you can walk everywhere. Take a water taxi to LAS GATAS beach, go to EL ARRECIFIA and see Gillermo, he will take care of you. A wonderful day!
Puerto Vallarta - Another great town for shopping. Stroll along the beachwalk, shop, enjoy your day. We shopped in the moring and then hung out at the Krystal Vallarta, usedmorning beach and pool.
Cabo - PARTY land. We shopped in the am and then hit the beach. Beautiful beaches and the Los Arcos are amazing to look at. Water taxi to Medano beach for fun, fun, fun, crowded palapas, but beach, beer and lounge chairs. Lovers Beach gets you a nice beach, but it too was crowded, no food there.
Overall, we loved the cruise, the staff and boat. We never had a bad experience with the cruise, we loved it. We will do this cruise again and are fans of the freestyle concept. Try it you might be pleasantly surprised and have your expectation exceeded like us. That is one good thing about the negative reviews, it opens you up for the WOW factor.