Having been on a cruise before with Royal Caribbean, we knew what to expect but this was our first time traveling with Norwegian. Living in Texas, we like to go out of Galveston, but the rates were so high, we decided to drive to New Orleans. The drive was probably the worst part -- at eight hours one way, but the trip more than made up for this inconvenience.
We drove over to Lafayette on Saturday to break the trip up, and plan to get to New Orleans earlier than we actually did. I think if we had arrived before noon, we would not have had to wait as long as we did to board the ship. We drove straight to the Julia Street terminal, parked our car and unloaded bags with a bag handler, and then the kids and I went into the terminal, while my husband took the car to go find parking. At $16 a day, parking is quite steep at the terminal, and next time I will look for cheaper options close by. Once may have been got back to the terminal, we started the process to board, which took about an hour due to long lines. Just when you would think aligned with over, there would be a new line. After that, we went straight on to the boat and found our room, and then began to explore the ship. Our bags were delivered shortly. We did have a safety drill at the very beginning, which was very calm and relaxed. We had to go to the theater, so we just walked down there, sat in our seats, heard the drill, and were released. When we went on well Caribbean, we had to put on our lifejackets and stand around like cattle outside, which was not very fun. However, after leaving the drill, we still weren't very sure on where to go in an emergency. LOL the theater seems like an awkward place to go if the ship is sinking.
We explored this ship, bought a beverage, and the kids had a snack. I tried to wait to eat, because I had heard that there would be a barbecue by the pool, so we waited for that, then got a plate and went up to the front of the ship to watch us take off from the dock. We hung out on deck for a while watching us go down the Mississippi River, and then went back to the room to unpack and eventually got ready for dinner. Most evenings we ate in the main dining room Versailles which we enjoyed. The first night was surf and turf, and although good, I wasn't very impressed in the lobster. Previously, we traveled with Royal Caribbean, and the food was very good and asking for seconds was encouraged. Here on Norwegian, it didn't seem as encouraged, and when my husband asked for more lobster, he was brought back to pieces, and one was mushy and smell very fishy. I like to get my lobster and melted butter, and they did not have this option, they would come by and drizzle the butter on the lobster. This did not make the experience extremely pleasing. The variety on the menu, was not bad, and like I said most nights we ate at the main dining room and one night we chose to eat at Aqua which was very nice. Most mornings we would each at the market Cafe for convenience, but it was usually so crowded with tons of people, that he felt rushed. One morning we did eat of the main dining room and it was lovely.
The shows were entertaining, I'm not too much into dancing and singing, but my husband and kids went every night. My very favorite act with second city, and I would love to have seen more of them. They did have an adult show the last night of the cruise but it was so late, and we had to get up so early, that we missed it.
Our second day at the we just spent exploring the ship, and getting a little sun, I was impressed by the amount of seats for everyone all around the ship, but it was windy and most of the seats were taken, people tend to save seats for their friends, and no one ever sits there, so that is a little annoying. On the third day, we went to Costa Maya and didn't really know what to expect. I knew that it was a little shopping area, but we didn't book, so we didn't have anything else planned. We decided to venture out side of the small shopping area, and right when you walk out the back side of it, you see a stand that offers golf carts to rent for pretty cheap. We rented a golf cart for $45 for two hours, and the guy gave us a map and showed us where to go. About 2 miles from the port, is the beachside with restaurants, hotels, and shops. We were a little apprehensive, because this place is very primitive, it is not a built-up resort like you would think, and I'm guessing it has been torn down by hurricanes in the past, because there is new construction. We went down to the boardwalk, and people would yell at us to come parked our golf cart and eat at the restaurant, but we kept going until he finally decided to stop at Coco Corona. The guys offered us all free drinks and lunch and brought us down the table right in the sand near the water. The drinks were huge and the food was delicious -- we had fresh guacamole, shrimp tacos, and beef tacos. Little vendors kept coming up to us trying to get us to buy some trinkets, and we did by a few, my husband bought some cigars, and I bought a bowl and bracelet. My daughter bought a pair of sunglasses. This was a little annoying, and next time would tell them to go away, but it was unique and my son played in the water and saw the stingray and conch shells all around. When we went to pay the bill, it was more than we thought, and they had charged us for drinks, so he reminded them that we were offered a free round of drinks and they said that the drinks worse the small size and they gave us the large size, but we argued and got the drinks taken off the bill. Overall, what we thought would be a boring day, turned into a fun adventure.
The next day we went to belize and and had scheduled the ziplining and cave tubing on our own through a website. We went with cave tubing.com. Once you leave the port, and step out onto the streets, our drivers were waiting for us, and had us stand to the side while they waited for others to arrive. They are very concerned for your safety, so they made sure they chaperoned us to the restroom or anywhere else wanted to go. We were not left alone. I would advise going to the restroom before you leave the port area, because you have to go through security to get back into the port area. We got on a bus which was outdated but clean and had air-conditioning. I was a little creeped out because of the curtains and the bus but our guys were friendly and gave us a tour of the city as we left town. I will have to say I was a little apprehensive all day, because you have to travel quite far out of the city, and you go through some rough parts of town. They take you far off into the jungle, and once we got to the area, there was some rearranging the people, as they tried to get certain people to the ATV tours, certain people to cave tubing, and others to zip lining. We went straight to zip lining, and they wanted us to change into our cave tubing outfits, before going zip lining. There was no way I was going to wear my swimsuit that lining, knowing where those harnesses go! So we just wore long shorts and water shoes or tennis shoes zip lining and then change on the bus before going cave tubing.
Cave tubing is interesting -- you have to carry her to hike through the jungle and through several streams, before finally making it to your entry point into the river. I think the river just makes around many times and you just have to get to the farthest point to be able to enjoy the ride down. I'm not the best shape, but this wasn't very difficult, but it could be for elderly or someone with health problems. Once you get into the river, you go straight to the caves, which is really beautiful, and well worth the experience. We brought a disposable camera, but make sure you bring or ask for a Ziploc bag to keep it dry in until you're ready to take a picture. Only her bottom and legs get really wet, which is a good thing. Our guide was great, and funny, and he works really hard to get us through this adventure, swimming, pulling us along etc. I did notice another company -- I think called river runners that I would like to try again because they have bottoms on their tubes and they where nice lifejackets not the orange cheap ones that we had to wear -- more like the ski ones that fit like a vest. After we got back to shore, we were allowed to go to the bathroom and we hustled back on the bus and went back to the big Tiki hut with a set us a chicken tamale, that had a big leg bone in it, which was really weird, but tasty. At this point, for my adrenaline rush, and all that we done, I seriously passed out on the bus I was so tired.
On Thursday, we went to Roatan and, and had a trip planned out to little French key, which we had heard was fabulous but it is a little pricey, so when we got to Roatan, the weather was horrible so we decided not to meet our driver to the resort. We do not have to prepay, so we did not lose any money. We wandered around the harbor, trying to decide what to do, and ended up bargaining with a cab company to take us around the island. The first Company offered us the All day for $140 but then came down to $110. With the rain, we were hesitant to pay that much for all day, thinking we might not be out very long, and they were not willing to negotiate a cheaper price if we came back sooner, so we kept walking and right next to that booth we found another guy who offered us the For the entire day for $80. We paid and went into a minivan and started driving around with our driver. We wanted to try Honduran coffee, so he took us to a coffee shop, and we all got hot coffee, which was delicious and we bought him a bottle of water. We wanted to buy our own Honduran coffee, so he took us to one little store that was more of a tourist trap, and we bought two bags of coffee for $10 each and thought we got a good deal. We then asked to go to the grocery store, and we found the same exact coffee for six dollars a piece plus we bought other kinds of coffee for really cheap like $1-$2 a bag. We also bought a bottle of rum at the grocery store that we had seen at the harbor for like $20, we bought at the grocery store for six dollars, later we wish we had bought more of that rum :-)
We continued around the island, with our tour in the pointed out the different areas. This island is beautiful, prettier than Belize and Costa Maya by far! Very tropical, and it would have been nice to clear skies so we could have seen the beautiful water, but we were grateful that the weather was so nasty, because we would've spent all day on little French key and not had a chance to explore this beautiful island. We went to the west end, which seems to be where most of the Americans and tourists hangout, it is a really cool area, with shops, restaurants, cabins, right on the water -- so we may come straight here next time. We then went to a monkey and bird sanctuary, and paid eight dollars apiece for about it 30 minute tour, but it was well worth it, because you got to hold the monkeys and birds and we got great pictures. Next we had our driver take us to a local restaurant, and he ended up taking us to one close to the port, so we asked to just be dropped off and we ended up sitting on the deck over the water looking our ship eating beans and rice, shrimp and fish, and plantains. It was awesome! I think it was called Bernies.
The next day we were in Cozumel, and we pretty much just went shopping. We ventured out of the main shopping mall that you come in to get off the ship, and walked about two blocks and found this neat little alley that was lined with different shops. We found a guy serving drinks, and he had a deal where you could buy two beers and a tequila shot for four dollars and he have free Wi-Fi. So we sat at a table for my husband had a few beers and I did some work on my computer, and my husband and kids did a little shopping. My biggest piece of advice, is to learn how to bargain -- you should never pay the full price if they ask, offer the lowest price you want to pay and that they don't agree, say,"okay well thank you and start walking away..." most times, they take your cash. Another piece of advice is to make sure that you have some sort of currency converter on your phone. My husband bought one sort of expensive item. The guy told him he would give it to them for a great deal for 275 rather than 350, summer has been agreed, and we got home he had charged us 325 on our credit card but the peso price if converted was exactly 325. So, we got screwed on that one, but we learned a valuable lesson. Overall, we had fun in Cozumel, and 11-year-old said it was his favorite stop, because he got some great souvenirs for cheap.
The final day we spent at sea, and just relaxed and were actually tired of eating, because we had eaten so much. They had a huge chocolate celebration in the market Cafe on Friday night, which was really cool and beautiful to see, but some of the food was dry and not as tasty. The ice sculptures and chocolate sculptures were wonderful. They had a cr'pe bar that was really good, and my children did that couple of times. Overall we are pretty easy to please, so we found the food to be pretty good, and if you didn't like something you could always get something else. We would usually order to appetizers apiece like a cup of soup and a caesar salad. We did each eat lunch a few days in the main dining room, and it was also delicious. We never tried the blue Lagoon, but they had wings and spinach dip, and that would have been something fun to try, but like I said there are so much food, we really got tired of eating. They did joke that everyone gains about 7 pounds on the cruise, but we did not gain anyway, I think this was because we had four days of ports and were walking around quite a bit.
We also took advantage of a promotion that they had what you paid $250 for booking a future cruise and they gave you $100 back on your bill. I wish we had bought two of those, because as soon as we got home, I called and book a cruise for 2015 because Norwegian is coming to Houston, which is much closer to me, and we upgraded from an interior room to a mini suite with a balcony for only about $600 more and now we cannot wait to go on a future cruise. If I had bought two, I would have been able to book 2 cruises. Generally you have to pay a $500 deposit, but with this promotion your $250 promotion that we bought counted as the deposit, and we have up until 75 days before the cruise to have the whole thing paid off, which is awesome! Our interior room was nice, but very small for two adults and almost 2 teenagers. The lower bed made into a king size bed which was often and the kids were on the Pullman's. I made a note to bring some hooks to hang on the walls that you can take off easily, and also made a note to bring air freshener for the bathroom -- because it's starting to stink towards the end.
This was a great vacation, and we really love Norwegian. We were shocked by how clean the ship was, and how much they took into consideration cleanliness and sanitation. They even made it fun by having people everywhere with spray bottles to get you if you needed. The show the last night -- elements -- was amazing and should not be missed. We chose to leave the ship early, and carry your own luggage, so we went down to the lounge to get our dismissal ticket 730 and we were off the ship shortly after eight. Again this was a great trip, and I highly recommend traveling with Norwegian Cruise lines.