Who we are: Party of 6 in two adjacent balcony rooms. Grandma & Grandpa (50's), my husband & I (30's), 2 kids (3 & 5)
Day 1- Tampa, FL
We were supposed to stay at the Chase Suites, but they overbooked and we were moved to a Marriott. Still had transportation to the ship on Sunday, embarkation day.
We arrived at the port around 1pm. It was very crowded, the lines moved slowly, but surprisingly we were all on board by 1:45. Not bad! Found lunch for the starving kids in the lido buffet and explored the pool area. Headed to our cabin to get the little one down for a nap. We had two adjoining balcony cabins on deck 9.
We stepped into our rooms... and discovered that the doors were on the opposite walls of where they were in the deck plans. Both of our rooms adjoined... to stranger's rooms. Since grandpa had planned on watching the kids a lot of the evenings, we were not pleased. Grandma went to guest services, and although they agreed that the deck plans showed the rooms adjoining, they weren't willing to do anything about it. Our steward wasn't willing either. So we camped out in front of our neighbor's room and waited for them to check in. They were gracious enough to switch rooms with us so we could have adjoining rooms.
The "kids" bed folded out from the couch. It was very short- perfect for the kids- but I'm not sure how an adult would sleep on it.
After nap time we went to the Venetian Dining room and set a reserved time for dinner. Freestyle is great... but with young kids we found it easier to set dinner for 6:30 every night and skip the lines. On the second night we ended up at Jokim's station. He was wonderful so we booked ourselves in his section for the rest of the week.
The kids started dinner with us each night and had their food brought out as soon as it was ready. We finished off dinner while they went up to the kids area on deck 13. They would have stayed there all day long if we had let them!
Monday- At Sea
The kids were up at sunrise- 6:15am- so so were we! The breakfast buffet isn't even open at this time, but there is a full buffet in the little kids area of the buffet so we often ate there.
The kids were eager to go to the kids area so we took them there as soon as it opened- 9am- and we went for a run on the jogging track. This is not designed well. Not only is it extremely narrow (enough for only one person in places), but also has really narrow tight turns. Add to that all of the walkers drinking their coffee and going for a leisurely walk on the track that says "Jogging Only" every 15 feet!
We picked up the kids to hang by the pool for the rest of the morning and got lunch up at the Bimini Bar (hots and hamburgers). Then we checked out the T-Rex kids pool. This layout is even worse than the jogging track- to get to the kids area you have to go up to deck 13, go through the arcade, out onto the jogging track, avoid getting hit as you go back down the stairs into the kids area. Whew! But the kids area was awesome with several pools and two water slides. Not enough room for loungers, but it was rarely busy so that wasn't a problem (a lot of families couldn't find it!)
The kids went down for a nap and we stayed on deck to watch the Mr. Sexy Legs contest. It was spring break week and there were a lot of college kids on board, the vacated their hot tub long enough to strut their drunken selves across the pool deck. There must have been 20 or more contestants!
Monday night was what passes for formal night on NCL. I think we were the only ones dressed up. Didn't faze me- we got great pictures! The kids had a princess and knight parade complete with painted faces. From there to bed while we went to the 70's disco party. The crowd was mostly older, I think the college kids were sleeping off their hangovers before the place turned into a nightclub. I've heard lots of complaints about Spinniker's location and size, but it wasn't overly crowded for the things we went to.
Tuesday- Roatan, Honduras
We turned back the clocks an hour to go to Central Time. Everyone got to sleep in an extra hour... except for us. Our kids do not do Day Lights Savings time or other such silliness. We were up before the sun was.
Our ship docked in Coxen Hole, very pretty dock area. We chose the Victor Bodden Zip n' Dip tour. Kids were free, beach only was $25, and zip lining was $60. My mother and I did the ziplining while the rest of our group checked out the monkeys. It took them all of 5 minutes and they were bored, but we loved the zip lining.
The beach we went to was Bananarama- and it was beautiful! Great bar/restaurant on the beach, plenty of chairs, and nice sandy beach. This was our favorite beach of the entire vacation.
Back to the ship in time for the kid's naps. I went to the duty free and filled my rum runners to bring back on board- no issue at all with security. Don't worry, my measely bottle of rum did not cut into NCL's bottom line. My husband drank enough $35 buckets of beer to ring up quite a bill (and honestly.... $35 for 6 beers? That is INSANE!)
Dinner at Cagney's for just the two of us while the kids went to the Venetian with grandma and grandpa. The service was terrific- and what I remember from cruising NCL several years ago. The servers were much more attentive than in the main dining rooms.
We had the chance to leave the kids with grandpa again... but we were exhausted! We were asleep by 10pm.
I hate tendering. I have heard that the beaches in Belize are beautiful, but you have to tender off the ship then take a 30-minute taxi ride to get to one. We thought we'd save some trouble by taking the ship excursion directly to Bannister Island. It was over $150 for the 4 of us and included nothing but the transportation to the island.
The island was beautiful... but the beach was filled with really sharp shells. Most of the loungers were broken, the rafts were the in same condition, and it got crowded as three other ship tours joined us for a portion of the day. It was really beautiful, but I was grumpy at spending $100 for lunch and drinks on top of what we spent to get there.
It was a good spot for young kids (as long as they have water shoes) as the swimming area is partially enclosed and the waves are very small.
The kids had a pirate parade tonight, and the adults went to "Band on the Run." More 70's music... and not really my thing. My mother fell asleep during the show, so apparently it's not her era either!
Thursday, Costa Maya
We docked along side the Carnival Dream in Costa Maya. This port has changed a lot since I was here last (pre-hurricaine). We took a taxi to Mahuhual, which was billed as a sleepy fishing village. The stretch of beach in view of the ships was lined with bars and restaurants and shops. We were greeted by a waiter who found us tables & chairs and loungers on the beach. We didn't realize it, but each establishment has a piece of beach that they set up for you in exchange for drinking and eating from their place. If we go here next time we'll find a nice piece of beach first, and then let one of the staff set us up. It was all very nice and they bent over backwards for us, but the beach was rocky and not the best for the kids to play at where we were.
Highlight of my husband's day was watching Ahman "Batman" Green from the Green Bay Packers walk by. He took our son "little batman" and got a picture with him.
Great day at the beach, but we returned by 1:30 for naps.
In the evening we went to the Perfect Couple game in Spinnaker. No questions like the newlywed game- all challenges. Entertaining to watch, and was followed by the White Hot party. The crew were all decked out for this, it seems like they enjoy this night more than any other.
Friday- Cozumel, Mexico
When we found out that there would be 5 ships total in port we were worried that it would be packed. We took a taxi to Paradise Beach- $2 a person for a beach chair, access to pool and very, very clean bathrooms. The beach area was pretty and had a lot of shade, but the ocean left a lot to be desired again. Very big rocks covered in growth that were pretty gross to walk on. There were inflatable toys off shore that were $12 to use, but the pool was beautiful and perfect for our needs.
The kids went back to the ship while my mother and I went shopping. Well, not so much shopping as stopping into every Diamonds International and other jewelry store that advertised "FREE CHARM!" We're suckers, what can I say? I did fill up my cheap gold DI bracelet nicely though!
Took the kids out of the kids area earlier tonight to go to the chocolate buffet. It was kind of underwhelming compared to other grand chocolate buffets I've been to. It wasn't very crowded though, so maybe this is something people don't really care about any more.
We got hit with a double time change on this night. We went back to Eastern Time... and then had day light savings time the following day. I'm still exhausted and not adjusted days later!
Saturday- Final Day- At Sea
We didn't save a chair on deck in the morning, so were out of luck by 10am. Spent time at the T-Rex kids area instead. Kids had to be in the kids area by 11am to prepare for the 2pm circus. That was adorable! Our kids in the 3-5 group were tigers, and jumped through a flaming hoop. Other ages did scarf juggling, plate spinning, and acted like clowns. Very cute!
This evening was the final show- Bollywood. Let the kids stay up late to see the 9pm show. This was MUCH better than the 70's show. We kind of laughed though at the fact they tried to use every single apparatus on stage and in the air.
Packed up the suitcases and set them in the hall for pick-up. What a quick week!
We got late tickets- 10am- since our flight wasn't until 2pm. On the tv they invite you to spend your morning having breakfast, working out one final time, or going for a swim. You can have breakfast... but the fitness center is closed, the jogging track and promenade are roped off, and the pools are empty.
We were nosy an walked around deck 13 looking at the rooms as they were cleaned. Mostly suites, with two-bedroom suites at the front of the ship (great big windows, but no balconies!) Our little deck 9 balcony room was just fine, thank you
Disembarkation was quick and easy, customs took all of 2 minutes and then we were on our way home.
What we loved:
The kids program
Our balcony located on deck 9 aft. From the aft location you're a few floors up to the pool, kids club, fitness center, and buffet. A few floors down to the main atrium, promenade, and Venetian dining room.
The staff. We never met a grumpy or unhelpful staff member. They were phenomenal- including Gio and the cruise staff. And they always went out of their way to stop, bend down and greet our "princess."
Roatan. I wasn't excited about this itinerary, but this was by far my favorite port. The beaches were incredible.
The ability to make reservations- in spite of "freestyle dining"
The "welcome back" party on the dock in Cozumel when we were docked next to the Star. So much fun... even if the "jello shots" were all jello and no shot.
What was just 'meh':
Food. Not great, not terrible. Perfectly acceptable but nothing that will blow your mind. The main dining rooms are much better than the food on the buffet. And the food pool-side every afternoon was always different and good.
Fitness Center. Enough treadmills and freeweights, but no equipment for serious lifters or even a pull-up bar. And the classes were really overpriced.
What we hated:
The "lap pool". The longest lap pool at sea? Hardly. Not 25-yards as advertised, but probably 25 feet. Not worth the $120 spa fee if swimming is your main intention.
The jogging track.
Bannister Island excursion. The island itself wasn't that bad, but it was way overpriced for what you got for your money (broken chairs and all).
Alcohol Prices. While it didn't faze my husband, it did me. I didn't drink at all because they were so expensive.