EMBARKATION- We arrived late and at 3PM there were no other passengers in the waiting area- it took about ten minutes and we were aboard.
THE CROWD: Our fellow passengers were mainly over 50, altho there were some "youngsters." Just enough attractive young women in bikinis to make a day on the pool deck worthwhile. There were a few little kids and pre-teens who were kept busy with their own activities.
STATEROOM- It was an inside room so we expected little- it was OK albeit a bit lacking in storage space- we travel light but even so we were cramped for drawers and hanger room. The desk was very small and there was no chair- more like a little footstool to sit at. No "settee" or other place to sit except the beds- and they were adequate. I'd rather have a blanket than those duvets they use in their stead. Room preparation was OK but the steward was so busy he didn't have time to get to know us- never called us by name once. Since he was getting his tip regardless of his sparkling personality, he didn't work too hard at it.
PUBLIC ROOMS AND SPACES- Norwegian has decent public rooms- we didn't go to any of the showroom events, but the lounge entertainment was OK- about what you'd find in a Vegas bar. Service by the bartenders and waiters was efficient, not particularly friendly, except on the pool deck- there they brightened up a bit. Entertainment on the pool deck was by a steel drum band named "JOY". they were too "corporate" for my taste- they played all the standards with a Jamaican style that was about half live and half canned music to which they played along. The singer was too restrained, like he was afraid to perform the way he might otherwise like to. For a Jamaican band they had little or no soul- never said anything and didn't take requests. A deck band should be on the deck and not separate up in some elevated and isolated stage area. You need a little "intimacy" on the pool deck.
One thing that did annoy me is that the cruise staff waited til just after the band had started to give their PA announcements. The band stops dead when the voices come on. The most annoying voice was the cruise staffer named "John" who would preface his announcements with "Herrrrre's Johnny !" Dumb.
There is the usual pressure to go to the cruise lines pet shops on shore and to participate in the revenue producing activities on board, bingo, etc.
DINING- This is our third Norwegian cruise since "Freestyle Dining" began- It is a DISASTER so far as the diner is concerned. The supposed "premium" restaurants provide the same quality of food, breadth of menu and quality personalized service that used to be the norm in the main dining rooms- at a price. Freestyle is clearly just a revenue stream and the main dining room is such a miserable experience, it seems it's only purpose is to drive the customers out and sell them on the "premium " restaurants at $15 to $40 each. We ate only once in the Venetian main dining room. The noise level was very loud, what with people coming in and out constantly and the waiters providing intermittent service to many tables. The wait for Venetian dining was about twenty minutes. The bus areas, where the used plates are deposited or serving plates are sorted are no longer behind closed doors, or in elevated and enclosed areas, but rather are located immediately adjacent to the dining tables. Again, the noise level there with crashing plates etc. is terrible. The servers are always talking among themselves and the whole dining experience is not at all serene and blissful as it used to be. The waiters are so busy they have no time for banter and they have little or no knowledge of the food items. For example: Me: "Waiter- how is the salmon tonight?" Server: "Do you like fish?" Me: "Uh- yes. Do you have any menu recommendations?" Server: Everything is fine."
We got a great meal in "Le Bistro" along with good service. The Italian Restaurant was also good- Cucina something, but it might be "Impressions". We didn't trey the others- the Bamboo was on pour list but the menu seemed a little unimaginative.
The Garden Restaurant buffet on the Lido deck was where we got most of our meals- while often busy and crowded, the food was adequate and diverse. There was always herring and lox for breakfast, so I was content there. The other meals tended toward oriental and Indian, but there were burgers and hot dogs and so forth. And pizza. If you're wondering about the "Midnight Gala Buffet"- it's been too long since you took a cruise- that's long gone.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We took a river cruise and visited the Altun Ha Mayan ruins in Belize. The boat was uncovered (they state that to be the case in the ad)and we endured a couple of tropical rain squalls similar to being sprayed with a fire hose. Cheap plastic rain ponchos were offered at $5 each- they'd cost $1 at Walmart. Given that there was no roof on the boat the raincoats should have been free. It was a nice cruise up the river tho when the sun came out but after a few minutes the lack of a roof made us feel like we were in a frying pan. We saw some big and little crocs, big tropical birds, manatees, dolphins and iguanas and monkeys. It was a good trip from that standpoint.
In Roatan we went on an island highlights tour- pretty good and we had a good guide altho she was a bit hard to understand with her thick creole accent. We had a short boat ride to go see some shipwrecks and to explore the mangrove islands. They took us to a new resort named La Playa (clever name for a beach resort) where we got the sales pitch. There was plenty of shopping on both tours and lots more in Costa Maya and Cozumel, where we did not go on any shore excursions. Our dock in Cozumel was at a place called Playa Maya, some distance from downtown, but well stocked with shopping. We did eat at Fat Tuesday's in Costa Maya and at Carlos and Charlie's in Cozumel, both very good. Mexican food and beer. Administratively, the tours were well organized and well-run.
DISEMBARKATION- Flawless and well-handled. We were off the ship and thru customs in a matter of ten or fifteen minutes.