Our November 18, 2013, 11-day Panama Canal Sunfarer was going to be a great bucket-list check-off for my wife and I. We reserved a suite cabin, but at the last minute we upgraded to a Neptune Lounge SA cabin which, by ship standards, was spacious and lovely. The Neptune Lounge concierge team had memorized our faces and names before we came on board. Our suite designation also entitled us to free laundry services daily! That meant taking one less bag and saving money on the airplane. Tremendous.
Big problem though. Our air conditioning was broken and could not be fixed for the entire cruise. There was no place to put us that would be cooler except an inside lower-deck stateroom. Many cabins were over-heated, in fact, but not consistently. Our next-door neighbor on one side left when we got to Aruba. On the other side they said they were freezing cold. Our room with the blinds drawn and the lights out during the day was measured (by the staff, 3 x a day) at more than 77.7 degrees. Some days it was in the mid 80s.
Also, we had problems with our food. We ordered kosher meals through the very confusing form that HAL require special needs passengers to fill out. The form implies that you can only get one kosher meal a day and go without the rest of the day. Not exactly true, but not all of the staff knows that. One assistant maitre'd had no clue. We had reported our confusion before arriving to ship services, who told us to meet with the director of cullinary services (I think that's what he was called), but he refused to meet with us, even for 5 minutes, for four days! After that, he was very nice and apologized to us while sweating in our room. But it took him four days. After we made nice, he spoke to us upstairs in the Ledo area. As we were talking, two women passed and said, "I hate this ship! It's the worst I've ever been on." I thought he would have then excused himself and then gone to the upset woman to deal with the issue. Nope. Solving new problems was not on his agenda. Fortunately, on Day 1 the Cullinary Director gave us his best maitre'd, Yogi, to take our dinner orders and trouble-shoot our problems. He was terriffic.
All of the visits were very nice, although I don't see the attraction to Aruba. The entertainment was very good to great with the exception of the classical duet (the violin was either out of tune or suffering from lack of skill), and the main entertainers sang and danced to pre-recorded music, leaving me to think it was a waste of time for the band to stand on the stage and fake it. Olga in the Piano Bar was great fun and we were there every night. Magician and ventriloquist Mike Robertson was also fantastic and very very funny.
My main complaint with the cruise was that there was "can-do" attitude. We suggested to the excursion folks that they get a few stackable lawn couches and a tent for elderly and disabled folk who have to wait a long time for their tour bus. NCL does that. We were told it was "impossible...NCL didn't provide that, the port did." Well, if the port did, it was nice that they painted NCL on the tent. Also, the pre-departure emergency test was a disaster. Too long, very disorganized. Lousy instructions. And at least one casualty, an elderly lady fainted from standing so long. Roll was only taken after everyone arrived, not as people arrived. Big waste of time and not very comforting. Hopefully that's been resolved.