We are a married couple in our late 50's. This is our 4th cruise in 2013 and our 1st with NCL. We usually go to the Caribbean before Xmas to break up the miserable UK winter, but we liked the look of this cruise and booked it 3 weeks before departure. We did not particularly want to do a lot in the ports, but just wanted some sun and relaxation.
Cabin - 4 out of 5. Deck 10 cabin 726 an aft facing Penthouse suite. We have had an aft wake-facing cabin before and really like the relaxing views, but even on deck 10, there was some slight wake noise. Overall a good size suite with a comfy king bed with nice linen, a dining table with 4 chairs, another small table with chair and a 2 seat leather sofa. There is also a desk with stool and a good size tv above. Plenty of floor space. Small fridge with minibar. Lavazzu capsule coffee/tea machine. Cocktail cabinet with plenty of glasses and cups. Large wardrobe and lots of cupboards and drawers. There is a good size, well-lit dressing table. You are welcomed with a complementary bottle of fizz on ice, a large bowl of fruit and some nice fresh flowers.
Bathroom - 4/5. A good size with full size bath, shower above and sliding shower door - not a horrible slimy curtain!! Large sink with vanity unit. Nice Elemis toiletries. Separate toilet. Robes and slippers,
Balcony - 4/5. A reasonable size, but it narrows at the right side due to the curve of the ship. 2 sun loungers and a small table. Our suite has a wraparound balcony, but the door to the right side was locked. I asked why we could not access it, but was given no real explanation. The steward said it was safety!!! A pity, as we booked this suite for the wraparound balcony. The one below us, had full wraparound access.
Ship - 4/5. Slightly showing its age, but generally clean and tidy throughout. Not flash like some of the larger, newer vessels.
Food - 3/5. Generally ok. All cruise lines are tightening their belts due the recession and it shows. We prefer the Freestyle type of dining to set times.
Entertainment 3/5 – average. Again, costs are being cut.
Staff - 5/5. Faultless in every way. How staff keep motivated over a 9-month tour I will never know.
Overall 4/5 – a pleasant ship, an interesting itinerary, fine staff and good weather. All adds up to a pleasant cruise.
Day 1 Embarkation
An excellent free shuttle bus from the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11.15. It was chaotic, with no signs explaining where to go, so we followed everyone else. Enthusiastic porters quickly relieved us of our bags. We had been sent red priority boarding tags for our bags (more on this later). There were no queues at check in, which was fast and efficient. Suite customers were kept in a separate holding area with complementary tea/coffee/juices with cakes. We were introduced to our butler Gary and concierge David, and then led in a "crocodile” past the boarding queues and we were the first group to board at 11.45. Our steward Gene was finishing making up our room, so we went to the Market Cafe buffet for lunch. After lunch we spent a few hours sunbathing on our balcony. Considering that we had dropped our bags off at 11.15, Barbara's bag eventually arrived in our cabin at 16.00 and mine after 17.00. The slowest delivery we've ever known on a cruise, especially as our bags had bright red "Priority" labels. I had to ask the butler and steward a few times to try and locate my bag. It was eventually located somewhere on deck 4. Poor service, considering the bag was well labelled.
We sailed out of San Pedro at 16.15. Not a particularly pretty sail away, but a nice sunset and a glass of fizz always goes down well and it sure beats working. Each afternoon the butler brought some canapés or other pre dinner treats. For dinner on day one, the concierge reserved a table for us in Versailles for 19.15. We were given a poor table, so asked to be moved. The dining room was packed, noisy and seemed generally chaotic, though the entry queue seemed to go down quickly. The staff seemed very rushed and unable to cope. It took an age for us to order a wine package. After an hour we had only had our starter. The food was average at best and overall it was not a very relaxing or pleasant experience. The tables were very close together, with both staff and customers struggling to find a way between them. We have always enjoyed the Main Dining Room (MDR) experience on other ships, but this was not a good start - I hope things improve. We were still tired from jet lag, so we gave the show a miss and had an early night.
Day 2 At sea.
We had breakfast in Cagney's. Breakfast and lunch is reserved in Cagney’s for suite passengers only. It was a haven of tranquility and good service. Later we walked 4 miles of the Promenade deck. At 10.00 we went to a presentation in the main theatre on the ports of call and the excursions available. We had an excellent lunch in Cagney’s, and then spend a few hours in the sun on deck, as our balcony was in shade. We watched the early 19.15 show “Oh What A Night”. A fine tribute to Franky Valli & the 4 Seasons. Later we had dinner in Aqua, the other Freestyle doing room. Certainly better organized than the previous night in Versailles. The clocks moved forward an hour.
Day 3 Cabo San Lucas
A lovely early morning sail along the coast of Baja with fine views of the famous Cabo arch under clear blue skies. Breakfast in Cagney's, then we walked 3 miles on the promenade deck - spotted lots of humpbacks blowing - one was very near the ship. We'd seen humpback in September in Alaska and it was great to meet them again on their long migration south. Such quiet, dignified and majestic creatures. We arrived at Cabo at 10.00. We were on the first tender at 11.00 and spent a few hours wandering the pretty port and marina in the lovely sunshine. Had a refreshing beer in Captain Tony's bar. Back on board by 14.00. Lunch in the Market Cafe buffet, then a few hours in the sun. All on board 17.30. Our departure was delayed for some unexplained reason until 18.30 and hence the sail away was disappointingly in the dark. We tried dinner again in Versailles- we got a nice table this time and the food was better but the room still felt crammed and claustrophobic. Later we saw the George Solomon One Man Show. He's a fine singer with lots of energy, but his attempt at comedy was corny and overall it was average.
Day 4 Puerto Vallarta
Another fine sunny and warm Pacific day. Breakfast in Cagney's, then 4 miles fast walk on the Promenade deck - more whales blowing. We sailed into the very narrow harbour at 10.30. Docked directly on the quay with gangways open at 11.10. We had a walk to the nearby Hilton and then went to Wal-Mart to stock up on supplies. We had a beer in a nice bar by the ship with good wifi. Afternoon in the sun. Dinner in Aqua, then watched the excellent Gary Leninio’s violin show – he got a deserved standing ovation!! A fine musician who did not try to be funny.
Day 4 - at sea. Thanksgiving
Breakfast in Cagney's, then a 4 mile fast walk on the Promenade deck. Lovely clear blue skies, but no whales seen today. Lunch in Cagney's then a few hours in the sun. A beautiful sunset with Dolphins swimming in the wake - magical. Dinner in Versailles. We had to wait (pager) for approx 15 mins. Later we saw the “Band on the Run” show. A medley of popular 70's hits by the ships dancers/singers. A good lively show with lots of classic songs.
Day 6- Huatulco
A pretty sail in to this tiny narrow harbour at 07.15. Gangway to the pier open 08.00. Had room service breakfast then walked along the short pier into the marina. We took a cab into Huatulco town $3 each way. The town is sleepy, with a nice central square with a large church. Very friendly locals, who were obviously grateful for cruises bringing much needed revenue to the town. We had a beer at a bar in the centre with good wifi, had a look at the central church and then got a cab back to the harbour. We walked along a lovely bay at the harbour and had a beer overlooking the beach. This is a really nice small town. All on board 15.40 - and a beautiful sail away at 16.00. There was a wedding on the rear sun deck - spoilt a little by the wind blowing the bride dress about and the groom having to fiddle with the CD player to get the music to work - we wish them all the very best for the future. Later we went to the Captain's cocktail party for suite guests, and then had dinner in Versailles. We are warming to Versailles a little. The show was Nadeen "Queen of Hypnosis" - we did not bother. The sea became rough for a few hours, which the Captain had warned us about - it turned out not too bad.
Day 7 - Puerto Chiapas
Arrived at 08.00. A small fishing harbour with a narrow entrance. Lovely clear blue skies again. The nearest town Tapatula is a 45 minute drive away. We had breakfast in Cagney's and walked off the ship at 09.30. Very little to do in the port area, except a few shops and a bar with a nice pool. We had lunch in Cagney's and sunbathed in the afternoon. I ran 20 laps (5 miles) on the running track – phew it was hot!! All on board was delayed by 15 min due to 6 late returnees!! A nice sunset sail away at 17.00. We tried the main buffet for dinner for a change - not great. They should have themed nights like other ships do. Later we sat on the Promenade Deck and chatted to other guests and missed the show (Stardust Comedy Showtime).
Day 8 - at sea
Another beautiful sunny day. Breakfast in Cagney's then 4 miles around the Promenade Deck. Later we had lunch in Versailles and then an afternoon in the sunshine. We had ordered an Indian meal in advance for dinner in Aqua - it made a really nice change. We did not go to the show "Shout! The Mod Musical".
Day 9 - Punta Arenas, Costa Rica
We arrived early at 06.00 at quayside. Gangway open at 08.00. Lots of wildlife near the ship. Dolphins swimming, fish jumping & pelicans diving. We did the ship’s "Pacific Train, Boat & Bus Tour". Bus to the Asuaire Train, then bus to Jungle Crocodile Safari, then bus back to the ship. It was just OK - the boat trip was the star, with lots of bird species seen, many crocodiles and a few lizards and monkeys too. We saw the early show comedian Bud Andersen - awful – I hardly smiled, never mind laughed. Like a children's entertainer - really obvious humour. Late we had dinner in Versailles.
Day 10 - at sea
Breakfast in Cagney's then 4 miles on the Promenade deck. Overcast and humid. Lunch in the main buffet then a few hours sat in the sunshine when the cloud cleared. A lovely sunset. Dinner in Versailles then saw the show "Graffiti Classics" - an entertaining string quartet playing both classical and modern music.
Day 11 - Panama Canal
We were awake at 05.00. We had room service breakfast. We initially went to the front of the ship to get a good view, but as it was too crowded we returned to our cabin and watched the complete canal transit from the rear, which was fine. Panama City was on our starboard side and much bigger than we expected. We sailed under the Bridge of the Americas at 06.15 and entered the Miaflores triple lock at 08.00. Then after sailing a small lake, we entered Pedro Miguel single lock at 09.30. We then sailed through the Culebra Cut and into the large Gatun Lake. We entered the Gatun triple locks at 14.30 and exited into the Caribbean Sea at 16.45. We passed Colon on the starboard side. The Panama Canal transit was a wonderful experience and the highlight of the cruise. Later, we saw the excellent acrobat show and had dinner in Versailles.
Day 12 - Cartagena
We sailed into Cartagena bay at 07.40 and docked at 08.30. Gangways open at 09.00. There was a short walk along the quay (or use the courtesy bus) to the entrance building. We caught a cab to the old town for $20. We walked the walls of the old town and visited the cathedra and Bolivar Square. The old town is mainly pedestrianised and full of character. We then walked to the Castle. It was hard walking around the town, as it was hot and humid and we found comfort in an air conditioned Mall. We got cab back to the ship was $10!!!!! We watched the early show - Sander & Alison, an illusion show - how do they do that stuff. We had dinner in Ginza ($15pp supplement) - it was average. Later we went to the popular chocolate buffet in Market Cafe. During the buffet, Rufo a chef did a karaoke set - wow what a character, the place was jumping - really fab. The captain warned us that the sea would get rough later and sure enough it did.
Day 13 - at sea
Conditions continued to be rough, so we stayed in our cabin most of the day. Things smoothed off for a nice sunset at 17.30. White Night tonight. We had dinner in Aqua. The show was a Broadway singer - I didn't think much of her, rather a shrieking voice.
Day 14 - at sea & my 58th birthday!!
Breakfast and lunch in Cagney's and then some time in the sun. We saw the crew show in the afternoon - not as good as we've seen on other ships, but Rufo was good again. We had dinner in Cagney's ($30pp). Good cocktails and fine steaks. They brought me a birthday cake and sang happy birthday – all very embarrassing, but it has to be done!! A really superb last night show. A real spectacle of some previous artists working together. Superb acrobats, fabulous illusionist and wonderful dance routines. One of the best shows I've ever seen, anywhere and a fine way to end the cruise. Bags outside your cabin by 12.00.
Day 15 - disembark
Breakfast in Cagney's, then huge queues at US customs. It took us 90 minutes to get off the ship and through US Customs, even with our supposed suite priority!! We took a cab to MIA airport – it was very busy as usual. We had an uneventful flight back to the UK, via Chicago.
Overall an enjoyable cruise. We always book on itinerary and price, and yes we would use NCL again