Background information: My background- this was my first time cruising as an adult. I traveled with my children (3 and 5), parents, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousin (9.) We spend most of our vacations in Disney World, and honestly, I wasn't thrilled about cruising so I went in pretty skeptical. The cruise was a Christmas gift from my parents.
Hotel information (if any): Embassy Suites on S. Florida (several blocks from the port.) Nice accommodations, spacious room, package for parking and shuttle, and complimentary drinks and breakfast. The room was noisy.
Embarkation: Quick and easy. The porter took our bags from the shuttle. We went through customs quickly, checked in without any line, and were in group 4. I believe we arrived around 11am and were on the ship not long after 12.
Pool was small! It was fine since we didn't have great weather, but the last day, when the weather was great- it was shoulder to shoulder. I did appreciate that the staff by the pool didn't allow guests to leave their items to hold chairs in the morning. Still, the chairs were gone by 9 on the sunny day that we had.
Overall, the ship needed some TLC in places and was showing some wear and tear. It didn't impact our trip for the most part though.
Cabin: 8002 (Forward, Starboard), Family picture window.
Small, but I liked the layout compared to the sideways layout that some others in our group had. The window was a good size and my 3 year old loved sitting in it and looking out. There was plenty of storage space for the 3 of us. One pro was it's closeness to the Stardust Theater.
It was VERY noisy! I'm not sure what was under/around us, but I'm guessing something related to the anchor because when they anchored the ship at each port, it was very loud for about 30 minutes at a time. When we hit rough waters, there were loud noises around us from that, too- something clanging on the side of the boat. And, minor, but you could hear the Stardust Theater shows sometimes, too.
-Sail away parties and poolside games were fun, when we had them (the weather was bad until Day 5 or so of our trip.)
-White Hot Party- A lot of fun. A great combination of newer hit music and some older classic songs. The entertainers from some of the shows came out and led several dances to get the party going.
-Towel Animal folding demo- My 5 year old's review is "not so fun. We just watched the guy make a towel animal." Perhaps it might be more entertaining for the older kids.
Really, the best part about the trip. I was blown away by the service we received. Our room steward was incredibly nice and always made sure we were taken care of. The staff in many areas of the ship learned our names, favorite drinks (espresso drinks, alcoholic drinks, etc.), and treated my 3 year old like a celebrity. My three year old had his birthday on Tuesday of our sailing. I had casually mentioned it a few times to some of the staff on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, staff members were singing to him everywhere he went- at one point it was like a flash mob of staff coming out to sing to him. Our steward made him a special towel animal and brought him a fancy cupcake. One night when my boys were restless at dinner, our waiter made them origami birds. Another day, when I was searching for bananas at the buffet (not realizing they were over ripe by the end of the week), a chef came out and found me by the pool area with 3 bananas. These little touches happened throughout the week and made a huge difference in our trip which was cursed with bad luck (bad weather, cancelled excursions, one person in the group getting injured, etc.)
Port & shore excursions:
Well, we didn't do many! The weather from Day 2 through Day 4 was awful- chilly, windy, and rainy with rough waters.
Roatan: Docked. Scheduled for Tabyana Beach Party, but it was cancelled and refunded. We shopped at the port for a bit, but the shopping wasn't great.
Belize City: Tender. Some in our group were scheduled for the snorkel expedition, but it was also cancelled and refunded. We took the tender boat in (no need for a tender ticket as they were practically begging everyone to take the tender boats out, haha.) We shopped and ate lunch at the Wet Lizard. The service was incredibly slow and the food was just ok. It seemed to be under a new ownership perhaps? No one knew what they were doing. The free wifi was a nice perk though.
Costa Maya: Docked. Did a bit of shopping in the port. The vendors were a bit more aggressive than they were in Roatan and Belize. The boys splashed in the pool in the port for a bit (the weather was still iffy and the high was only 70.) Took a cab over to Tropicante (following the directions on the Tropicante site by leaving the port before catching the cab) and we really enjoyed it- the beach was beautiful and we had a great view of our ship. We enjoyed the food and the prices were good. There are other activities offered over there but we didn't do many since the weather wasn't great and the water was still choppy. The vendors came by constantly as we sat there, but were very friendly and never pressured us.
Cozumel: Docked. Excursion to Playa Mia waterpark, which was nice but went by quickly (we arrived to the park around 9:30 and they started calling everyone to the shuttle just after 1.) There is plenty to do here and a bit of decent snorkeling that you can swim out to. The play area for small kids was great. The food was ok, and the drinks left a lot to be desired. Headed back to the port, got Starbucks, and shopped for a bit but I found the vendors to be a lot pushier in Cozumel than the other ports so we headed back on the ship.
-Garden Cafe- B. Really, not bad for a buffet. They seemed to keep it as clean as possible and they were persistent about having guests sanitize hands before going into the line. The food selection was good. The boys loved the soft serve ice cream- I think they had it almost every night. I had a few crepes and really enjoyed those.
-Room Service- B. Not much selection for breakfast (pastries, yogurt, fruit, drinks), but they were timely and we seemed to always get what we ordered.
-Aqua- A-. We had some slower service one night, but for the most part service was good. The food was pretty good (better than I expected for an "included" restaurant. I liked that half of the menu changed each night. We ended up eating here four nights, simply because the men in the group forgot (didn't know) they had to wear pants to go to Venetian.
-Venetian- A. We only made it there once but the food and service were both very good.
-Blue Lagoon- C-. We ate here for a lunch and a dinner. Both meals were served at room temperature, which was so disappointing. We had the wings for one meal because I had heard great things, but I didn't care for them.
-Bimini Grill- B+. Very little selection (burgers, hotdogs, and fries), but the food was hot- especially the fries, which was great.
-Poolside BBQ- B. They grilled different meals each day, which was nice. The lower score is because the first day, they gave me a burger that was almost completely raw in the middle.
-Chocoholic Buffet- Really neat to go by and see- they had many chocolate and ice sculptures, and a great variety of chocolate desserts.
-We didn't do any specialty dining. Two in our group went to Cagney's and enjoyed it.
My 5 year old went several times (and the 9 year old in our group did, too.) They enjoyed it and said the staff were "nice" and "fun." My 5 year old brought back several art projects that they did. I also had read that you have to pay hourly during port days, but that wasn't the case- it was free pretty much all day until 10:30pm, except for the $6 charge if your child was there during lunchtime. My 3 year old went once and refused to go back. They will not let a child stay if they are crying (and I was a bit disappointed that they made zero attempts to even console my little guy or try to talk him into staying.) I posted my 5 year old's review of the staff at the kids' club, because they weren't overly friendly when I signed the boys in and out.
-Caribbean Wave poolside- A. Loved listening to the music at the pool!
-Deal or No Deal- C. If you get picked for this, TAKE THE DEAL before the end. It's computerized (and most likely rigged)! The two contestants we watched had great luck until the last 5 or so cases, they kept going and ended up winning very low amounts, when they could have taken $200+ and run midway through the game. It was enjoyable- not a spectacular show but good.
-The Second City "Improv" comedy- B-. Improv is in quotes because there was only one very short skit that was improv and the rest were scripted. We had a few laughs. It was good, but not hilarious.
-Comedy with Tim Kaminski- A. Excellent! Hilarious and he included many people from the audience in his first show. The follow up show on the last day wasn't quite as funny, but still worth going to see.
-Pure Variety. B. Good, but cheesy. The singers were great- I'd love to see them in a different type of show, but perhaps this one just appeals to a different crowd :-)
-Duo Deja Vu- A. Acrobatic/aerial artistry show. Great show with incredibly talented performers.
-Bollywood- A+ Loved! Definitely a highlight of the trip and I was very impressed that Norwegian offers this show. We loved the dancing, music, and acrobatics.
Quick and easy, and on time! We got aqua tags, which were for 9:45 and we were on the road by 11 (which included waiting for our hotel shuttle, riding to the hotel, getting the car from valet, and loading.)
Despite having so much bad luck during our trip, it was an enjoyable trip and the wonderful service we received would be enough of a reason to go back. I would prefer that the little charges just be included in the price as it felt like we were constantly being charged for one thing or another.