This is our 9th NCL cruise. It's the first time that both bus transports booked via NCL were a complete and total mess. We waited for a bus to take us to to the port for THREE hours. On disembarkation day, we met 3 couples who were likely going to miss their planes because of the long (TWO hour wait) for the buses to take us to the airport.
The ship itself: Not alot of areas to sit and relax. The pool area was extremely small and unless you wanted to roast yourself out in the sun, there were hardly any areas/loungers to use. The food outside was always the same - burgers, hot dogs, etc. Every other NCL we've been on has had terrific barbeques but this 14 day one only had a couple and they were mediocre at best. The MDR (Versailles) seemed very small. The theater had many broken seats and no cup holders for drinks.
The food: Same old same old. The menu doesn't change (and hasn't for YEARS). Seemed like there were not as many salad choices as usual. The buffet was the worst. We couldn't even look at the pizza as it looked like just a glob of mess under a hot light. Ask for over hard fried eggs and expect oozing yolks. We tried Teppanyaki for the first time and won't do it again. The seafood tasted like soy sauce...and that's it. Even the lobster was ruined. The fruit sashimi was a disappointment. We got ramen noodles drenched in the same dressing as another noodle dish - also the same flavor of a meat dish. Definitely try Moderno. Not only was the service terrific but the chicken and meat were great. The Italian restaurant was also good but we miss the foccaccia bread, Italian deli meat appetizer dish, and pasta with fagioli. Cagney's was great as usual and Blue Lagoon had great fish and chips and chicken tenders.
The staff/service: The Versailles host (Samuel) was dismisive and rude. It was like he was doing us a great favor to have us seated. We found couple of good servers and the Maitre'Ds did a nice job checking in on us and other tables to see if we were doing ok. We are accustomed to more friendly/chatty servers from other NCL cruises. The buffet Maitre D was terrific and the Thanksgiving decorations in the buffet and MDR were great. The cruise director staff was highly lacking. (Paul Scally? Calvin? Where are you?). Candi was never to be seen unless doing a brief reiteration that there was lots to do (not) after the show. Her hosting of game shows was painful to watch as she seemed uncomfortable and she was clearly not funny. Laughing and claiming how funny something is does not make it funny, Candi. The only person on her staff that was entertaining, engaged guests and seemed to care about us having a good time was Roberto. Every activity he did was hilarious. "Junior" (Brazil) spoke as if he was bored (open your mouth when you speak, Junior...take an antidepressant for your sad demeanor) and consistently appeared as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. Shore Excursions Andres and Alain were great although the excursions seemed way overpriced.
Ports: Take the Puerata Vallarta Las Caletas Hideaway excursion. It is definitely worth it. The coffee plantations were educational and interesting. Roberto did a good job in warning us about the Colombian street vendors so we were prepared but they were still a bit overwhelming with their pushiness. Good buys there, though!
Entertainment: Something different every night which was nice. Brenda the hynotist was the worst I'd ever seen. She needs more training. Barely anyone really got hypnotized and when she did, her directives were so convoluted and complex that nothing "stuck." Her frequent 10 minute ads for her seminars and CDs were annoying commercials. The production shows were good and Franki Valli was the best. The Broadway singer was good but could have skipped her 20 minute overview of "Cats." The comedian was not very funny and we got tired of hearing him boast about his homeS and fancy carS.
Overall, we had a great time. Cruises are what you make of them, really, so in spite of some negatives, we focused on the positives. The Panal was interesting and the itinerary something different. The staff we met and like were ones we sought out as much as we could and tipped extra.