A Panama Canal cruise has always been at the top of my bucket list. I was a little concerned about spending 14 days on a ship but it went by before I knew it. The Panama Canal itself was an awesome experience, and the ports we stopped at were interesting. Be careful of the shore tours you choose because they may sound good but many are not organized in the most efficient way. For example, I would not recommend the 'Old City and Spanish Fortress' tour in Cartagena, or the 'Chiapas through the ages' tour, or the 'Old Huatulco and Mexico Traditions' tour. There are too many buses all going to the same place at the same time. It turns into mass chaos ending in not being able to see what you want to see. The zip line in Costa Rica was awesome though. Highly recommend that. As for the ship itself... it's tired and in need of a massive makeover. This is the second time I have sailed on the NCL Star. The first time there was a foreword lounge above the bridge that was the best spot to have a drink and watch the world go by. That was removed a few years back and replaced with a couple of villas. The villas are good for NCL's bottom line but a huge loss to the other passengers. The pool side live band and singer are way to loud and not very good. We avoided that area for that reason. The food this time was good but did not rise above the average level. There were lots of specialty restaurants for an additional price but the quality of the food there did not justify the additional cost. There were shows in the theater every night and some of them were not worth the effort. There were only a couple that kept me awake. The rest were almost painful to watch. All the staff were friendly and helpful and always ready to please.
On our cruise, there were 2400+ passengers consisting of 23 kids. They had their own area and for the most part we didn't even know they were aboard. The rest of the passengers were elderly. Many in wheelchairs. At 66 I felt like one of the younger ones. At the end of the cruise when it was time to disembark, NCL created a huge bottleneck by forcing everyone to use the mid ship elevators. We wanted to walk off with our luggage but many other people had the same idea and the elevators just couldn't handle the large numbers. We were forced to fight our way through crowds gathered around the elevators to even use the stairs. Carrying two large bags down several flights of stairs was no easy task. I lost my footing a couple of times and the bags went flying down the stairs with me on top of them. The cruise itself is rated up there near the top in terms of cruises I've taken, but NCL could have done better. And should have. I think that will be my last NCL cruise.