I want to write this while still fresh and to encourage others who are to take this voyage in the future. Years ago my father in law taught us with travel that you get what you pay for. This cruise proved him correct. We had an overall very enjoyable cruise. Because we had booked early and choose deck 9 aft that wrapped to port side we had the most amazing view of the canal that even the concierge commented on. The breakfast and lunch in Cagney's with their skilled team of wait staff was a highlight and would convince us to try Hawaii in the future with NCL. If we had chosen an inside cabin with buffet for 14 days I think it would have ended our NCL relationship. The staff were amazing at trying to control a Norovirus outbreak and as an RN I could tell CDC had given them many instructions which they carried out. To the passengers that complained about not being able to serve themselves food you missed the point, they were concerned about your health.
We have cruised HAL and Princess and this crew went far beyond either to ensure a good cruise for its customers. The Versaille main dining room was great once we found our waiter, Joseph arranged by our concierge for my husband's birthday. My advice find a waiter you like and wait for him. He would time my son's dessert without being asked. He always had a smile and a watchful eye on his whole section. I would ask about an entree and without saying a negative word his face would tell me not to order but he would suggest something else and it would be perfect. Reminded me of Princess 10 years ago. Of the specialty restarunts Moderno was the only one we felt worth the extra, but didn't try Cagneys because of eating breakfast and lunch there. Italian was a serious disappointment as I can do Marsalla much better and told them. We were compensated with Tapanyki and a 2 for 1 at my request and it was pleasant talking to other cruisers at a small table with good food but the maitre de apologized for the large loud group celebrating a birthday, we take all of this in stride if you want to enjoy your vacation. Entertainment was great with many talented groups and music throughout the ship. The teen program was very well run and made the cruise for our 13 year old, Joe has a talent and I hope goes into teaching if he ever tires of travel.
We did our own tour at Cabo and PV having been to both before and enjoyed these ports. Hualtuco the guys took the ship's tour of snorkeling and could have done it on their own but safety prevails and glad they did it with a group. I bought jewelry without a consultants card ( better price) in Hualtuco, please stick to silver and local gems.
Columbia and old city walking tour despite asking the concierge was a total waste of time and money and I told the lady when we were asked getting off the ship. Bernie was looking for a percentage at every stop and spent more time in the jewelery store with poor quality emeralds than in the museum. This is wrong and needs to be advertised as a shopping tour. We stopped and took pictures and caught up with him, easy to find him he would park the group near the hawkers on purpose. I have traveled extensively through neighbouring SA countries and this needs to be improved or removed. I applaude the lady that asked for a reduced tour price, I just deducted one ticket price off the tip of the person who arranged the tour for us ( sorry O)
Costa Rica was our favorite stop and tour on the tram and we need to go back and spend a week to explore properly.
Any time dining was convenient but we missed meeting others at dinner. Cabin was very well attended to by Victoria our steward. Madie our butler was very professional I just never knew if we gave him enough to do or what he was expecting to do. He made sure we had coffee and ice and juice but otherwise we found room service food not as good as breakfast in Cagneys so probably used him less than room service on other cruise lines.
Skip buying pop cards if you can, we found once you purchased the pool bar staff ignore you as they can make more gratuities off those buying alcohol and pop individually. NCL instruct them this is not appropriate if you have shared the gratuity or remove the pop all inclusive. 200 dollars to be ignored is not appropriate. Our son and myself would wait in front of others and be ignored until we were the last ones standing because our pop was prepaid. If I was buying a drink with my card service was attentive.
We will choose NCL for Hawaii in the future to avoid 5 days at sea and to spend more time on the islands before and after. You can be sure it will be in a suite with out prepaid beverage cards.
Thank you to Harriet our CCritic lead for all her work arranging a group meeting with the senior staff, they were delightful,professional and caringwhen we met them at the group meeting. Our son had the greatest experience with a bridge tour that will stay with him for ever.
When we sail Europe and Southern Carribean in the future will probably try Celebrity and Azamarra just for variety as we are itinerary driven.