Arrived in Tampa by Southwest which has no charge for 2 bags each:) Stayed at Homewood Suites near airport. Shuttle and breakfast included. Nice until reception called at 11:45 PM to ask if we had shuttle pass for port, then called back to say they saw we already had it so "never mind". Wide awake rest of night!
Shuttle service to Port by Ground Jet was efficient and included in Sailaway Package.
Port was clean, fast, friendly - welcome change from some others we've been to. We were on the ship in 15-20 minutes if that long.
Once onboard, our level 9 balcony room was ready around 1:00 and luggage delivered around 3:00. David, our room steward, was attentive when needed, helpful, friendly yet non-intrusive, kept everything just right -- best we've had on 5 cruises.
We are active 60+ year olds. We mostly wander the decks, listen to a little music, hot tub, drink beer and wine, eat, read, people-watch, and follow the rule of "no elevators". Lots of stairs, which helped keep weight down. Overall, staff were friendly and helpful if asked. Augen in food service was always SMILING and Mr. Campbell, also with food service was always at task yet fun, friendly, and brought smiles with his morning rooster crow in the buffet area. All breakfasts were very early in the buffet and good. Lots of options such as salmon, made to order omelets and waffles, multiple meats, pancakes, pastries, much good fruit, yogurts, oatmeal, etc.
We ate in the Venetian first night. Slow, very loud. Got the surf/n/turf. Lobster was fine but the steak was tough. Second night we paid for LeBistro since we had enjoyed it immensely on the NCL Sun. Again, very loud. Food ok, not great. Decided to try Buffet 3rd night. Pleasantly surprised to find it reasonably quiet with very good food. Note: we are early birds for meals.
4th night we tried Aqua which was much quieter than the Venetian and had good service along with good food. 5th night was the Italian Restaurant with very good food and great service. Gladly paid for upcharge there. On our last days though we only used the buffet which was surprisingly efficient and tasty with lots of meal options along with fresh veggies, fruits, bread and desserts. The buffet area rotates meal options throughout the day to different lines which helps keep congestion down. Best of any prior cruise. Quite satisfactory.
We enjoyed organized entertainment the first night, the receptions for Lattitudes members, poolside barbecues, and sitting on the "risers" in the pool area watching the scenery and people. Drinks were fairly priced considering where we were. Average of $5 or less for beers (buy the bucket and take extras to room fridge), mixed drinks were usually high quality and about $6, and $6 for house wine.
Roatan has the beautiful Tabyana Beach where we snorkled for the first time - Many many colorful fish in the coral practically at our fingertips. Terrific experience. We took our own equipment and only bought the NCL "party" package. Worthwhile since a fair distance from ship and included lunch, chairs, and security. Very comfortable.
We stayed on the ship at Belize since we'd been there twice. Enjoyed a laid back day on our balcony. Next day sat on the small beach in front of Senior Frogs in Costa Maya sipping a couple drinks while noticing the dolphins in a pool right next to us. Fun to watch. Last port was Cozumel where we had to tender in. Couldn't get to land until 12:15 - wa-a-a-y too long. Needed another tender early on. Only walked around town square area since so late arriving but enjoyed the vibrant colors as well as walking along the waterfront.
Last day at sea was lazy with cooler temps as we headed back north. We crazily got up at EARLY Sunday to observe as we came into the mainland and especially enjoyed sailing under the bridge around 4:00am with about 10' of clearance. Disembarkation was amazing - early walkoff had us off the ship, through customs, in a shuttle, at the airport, and ticket in hand by 8:20am. Plenty of time before our noon flight!
We choose NCL Freestyle because it is just that. We don't expect gourmet food although most everything was very good, we don't expect white glove service although we received all the help we requested and more, and we comparison shop and find that, even with an excursion and all the food and drinks we wanted NCL provided a great vacation for less or same than competitors, even including the prepaid tips. Putting pencil to paper, if we were eating out at home, had room service at our beck and call, a nice room with a fabulous view, warm weather during the cold of winter, etc. the $ are minimal. Thank you NCL.