As a newcomer to cruising I was very impressed. It's comparable to staying in a luxury hotel that takes you to different places. I typically take short trips and only stay in a one place a few days, so it was very relaxing to unpack and not live out of suitcase. Inside cabin was small but comfortable. For inside cabins, be sure you know how to turn on the lights when awakened. Our first morning, room service called and waking up in deep dark without a clue where there was a light switch was scary. There is a light right over the bed, so learn how to turn it on in the dark.
Had breakfast delivered via room service everyday, there is no extra charge. Cabin steward Santiago visited us often and made sure we had everything we wanted. Ports of call included Costa Maya, Belize City, Roatan and Cozumel. Of the four, only Cozumel is a real town although Cozumel's only industry is tourism. The other three port landings were at piers designed to receive cruise passengers and basically featured shops and tour operators looking to get ship guest business. I discovered that it is less expensive to book excursions on shore directly with tour operators than on the ship. You will hear talk that by booking through the ship, it guarantees that the ship will wait for you if something delays your return. However, all the tour operators are extremely conscious of ship schedules and they are committed to getting you back on time. In Roatan, you can hire a private taxi service to take you a beach for several hours. A tour guide stays with you to ensure there are no problems and you're back at the pier in plenty of time. Our guide, Oliver, said it was mandatory in Roatan for tour guides to accompany passengers on taxi excursions. The taxis fill up with 6 - 8 passengers plus a guide and off you go to the beach or an island tour. It cost $20 round trip and we paid $10 to hang out at a private beach so we could use beach chairs and bathroom facilities. The beaches at West Bay are busy -- no deserted scenarios if you want to be alone. You can rent snorkeling equipment or kayaks and go out on your own to check out the coral reef quite close to shore.
Belize is a little rougher and everyone seems to caution tourists about wandering beyond the tourist pier on their own. I booked an excursion thru the ship and was very disappointed. It was overpriced and not what was advertised. This was the Baccab jungle bike tour -- not worth $65. It got started an hour late, we were 45 minutes late getting back and the bike ride was short and rough. My traveling companion booked a Land Rover excursion that cost $100 and she loved it - thought it was great though it is rigorous. So, it's really the luck of the draw I guess.
In Cozumel, you can easily sign up for glass bottom boat ride and snorkeling for less money than the cruise ship excursion. I signed up with Snorkel Adventures Cozumel on the pier and had an awesome experience for $35. Our snorkel guide Lucio Navarro was entertaining and animated. He is a professional diver he knows everything about the coral reef and fishes that inhabit it. I got more than I paid for with this group. If you want to snorkel in Cozumel contact them at:
I found them on the pier but you can book online ahead of time. If so, ask for Lucio as a guide. It was a really fun four hours. I had to voluntarily stop snorkeling because I got so water logged after visiting three different sites. You are never far from shore either -- quite close actually. I saw so many different fish plus an underwater wreck of pier that had been washed out by hurricane Wilma. Lucio can dive right down to the bottom, and he points out things of interest, then surfaces to tell everyone what they just saw. We literally at one point were in the midst of a huge school of black and yellow striped fish. I tried to reach out and touch them, but they eluded my grasp every time. This was the best snorkeling I've experienced (fifth time snorkeling).
Costa Maya is a just a tourist destination. It costs $2 to take a taxi to Tequila Beach in Mahahaul or you can just walk. I booked snorkeling for $30 and that entitled me to use the facilities which included a clean bathroom and a cold shower plus beach chairs and kayaks. The snorkeling was okay -- some coral reef and fish. (As a said, Cozumel with Lucio was awesome snorkeling!). The beach itself was nothing special. You can walk a paved path that serves as a boardwalk and there are lots of restaurants and bars plus trinket sellers along the way. It felt quite safe with a honky tonk party atmosphere.
It seems easy to carry alcohol back on board from port stops. Passengers have to put their bags through a metal detector like at the airport, but are not searched so you can carry a small bottle in your clothing and probably not get caught.
The food was great and available all the time. Maybe the worse thing about cruising is the temptation to overeat. There is a grill at the pool so people are walking around with loaded plates all the time.
As a first time cruiser, I had a fantastic time and would recommend NCL to anyone who asked. Look to get a bargain fare through last minute deals or off-season rates. The period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a best time for bargains for cruises, airfare and hotels.
Only complaint was the 24-hour piped in music everywhere which was Christmas pop songs all the time. It started to drive me crazy! I could faintly hear it in my cabin at night too.
Treat yourself to a cruise. This was my first of what I expect will be many in the future.