My husband and I decided to surprise our kids with a family vacation a few days before Spring Break. My kids are 13 & 14. Due to our crazy schedules, we felt we needed some quality family time. We have been on 4 cruises as a family and 3 have been on NCL. Our first was on Disney when the kids were young. Freestyle dining works out great for my family.
We took Amtrak from IL to New Orleans. Once we arrived to the station, the line for taxis was very long. The train was late, so perhaps that is why. We (actually my husband) decided we could walk to the hotel.( 5 suitcases, 4 backpacks, 1 cooler, 3 small string backpacks and my big purse. Yep – we must have been quite a site!) But it was probably for the best because I do not think we would have got a taxi for at least an hour. Once I switched suitcases with my husband, the walk wasn’t that bad. It took us maybe 15-20 minutes to get to the Marriott Convention Center. This hotel is across from the port. Great location! The next day we just walked across the street and down a small block and we were there. After arriving at the hotel, we showered up and changed and had a nice night. We have been to New Orleans before so we knew our way around. We went to Grand Isle for dinner and Café Du Monde for dessert.
On Sunday my husband and daughter ran 4 - 5 miles around the city and took some great photos too. We left the hotel around 12:30 and walked across the street to the terminal. As soon as we got there, someone took our luggage and then we entered the building. Embarking took about an hour from when we arrived to when we got on the ship. A worker there said it is normally much quicker. We went straight to the buffet for lunch. I was glad we went there first because it was closing when we left. We went to the Spa to get passes. For $150 each (adults only), you get to use the Spa the full week. Saunas, Hot Tubs, Steam Rooms – it is very relaxing. There is a section for co-ed too. I would meet my husband in there most days. They have these heated tile lounge chairs that were so comfortable I feel asleep each time.
CABIN: Our cabin was 8568. It was an obstructed window room. It had two small port holes that we really could not see out of. The windows were fogged up. If you put your face right next to the window you could see a little, but we just liked it for the light that came through and it is also bigger than the inside rooms. The bed was VERY comfortable. Better than most hotel rooms. My son slept on the bunk that pulled out from the wall, which was not very comfortable. My daughter had the pop up bed next to ours and that was only slightly better. The closet is large but only had about 10-15 hangers. I had brought 20 extra hangers, knowing that we would need much more. Between the closet, the drawers, and the shelves, there was plenty of space for our clothes and things. Most of our luggage fit under the bed and one went into the closet.
CREW: The crew on this ship was the best! Everyone was so friendly, especially all the cabin stewards we would pass on the way to our cabin. Jamie the Entertainment Director was also the best we have had. I saw her so many times walking from place to place and she always greeting me. All of the waiters and waitresses that we had were also very friendly. I cannot say enough about this crew.
ENTERTAINMENT: The entertainment was great! We missed Band on the Run, but my daughter and I saw all the other shows. The 4 of us all loved the comedian Dave Naster. His show was so funny! He also put on a session about Bullying and about how laughter can help during a crisis. He seems like a great guy to know. The magician/comedian show was very funny. Two shows that you do not want to miss! We have played the Deal or No Deal before, so we only played once this time. That was fun, but of course we did not win. We stayed away from Bingo. They also had three movies in the theater that we watched: Frozen, Catching Fire, and Gravity. The movies were also shown on the TV but it is more fun to watch it in the theater. We went with our daughter to the family white hot party. We just watched but she had a great time dancing with a friend she had made. We also listened to music in a few of the bars a couple of nights and really enjoyed it. However, most nights we were pretty tired after port days and after the shows. We probably went to bed around 11 each night.
PORTS: We have been to these ports before, so we didn’t really feel like we had to do much. (Plus we were on a budget due to another vacation planned for June) In Cozumel we took a taxi to Chankannab National Park. The taxi ride was $12 and it cost $21 ($19 with a coupon I found) each. We had been there before and we had swam with the dolphins and had a great experience, so we decided to go back. It has a beautiful beach with nice lounge chairs, and nice walking paths. My husband and daughter snorkeled too. I was hoping to see the sea lion show but we missed it. There is a pool there too in case you don’t want to go into the ocean. The next Port was Belize. I decided to get my hair cut and highlighted that morning in the salon since I didn’t get a chance before we left. It cost me a fortune, but that is to be expected on a ship. Then my daughter and I took a late tender and went and did some shopping at the port. We stopped at the Wet Lizard for cokes and salsa. We stopped there b/c of the wifi but we were not able to get on. Then we found a frozen yogurt place and she said it was really good. We had a nice time shopping together. The 3rd port was Roatan. The four of our shopped at the port and then went to the straw market, which is really just a building that you go to the second floor to see some ladies all selling the same thing. However, there was a place called the Crusty Crab that had wifi so we bought something to drink and sat there on our phones checking email and posting pics to FB. It is a very small place and almost everyone there was a crew member. We saw a couple of people video chatting, probably with family back home. Our last port was Costa Maya. This was to be the highlight of our trip because we booked an awesome beach resort. However, after trying to dock, the port authority told the ship they should not. The water was really rough! This was SOOOO disappointing to my family. Never again will I have our best excursion on the last day. I will make sure it is earlier so that if this happens again, we can book something else for the next port. Instead we found a spot by the pool but in the shade and had a pool day. The kids pool is right next to the adult pool. I think this works out really well. There is a slide but all the kids going down (no matter the size) seemed to get stuck in the same spot and would have to push themselves down. Not much fun, according to my daughter.
FOOD: My daughter always wanted to eat at the MDR and my son always wanted the buffet. So we compromised. As a family we ate at both MDRs and then one night went to La Cucina and had a great meal. On the other nights, the boys went to the buffet and the girls went to the MDRs. We did have to wait a few times, but each time that happened it was for about 20 minutes and they would give us a slip for a free coke or champagne at the bar. I have read reviews that said the service was slow. We never experienced that. In fact it was quite the opposite on the days my daughter and I ate alone. The servers were always very polite. Once night when the four of us were eating, the waitress brought us two extra appetizers to try. Then for dessert she brought us what we ordered and also surprised us with a banana split as a bonus. That was a nice surprise!
The only two things that we thought were missing on this ship was a diner and an irish pub. On the Spirit and the Dawn, the Blue Lagoon is set up more like a Diner. On the Jewel it was a normal restaurant and you had to wait to be sat. We prefer the diner feel. We also missed the Irish Pub that is on the Sprit and the Dawn.
Leaving the ship was very easy. We chose to get off at 10 since our train did not depart until 1:30. It was easy to find out luggage and customs only took about 5 minutes. We did have to wait about 15 min for a taxi, but that wasn’t long. We had enough time to drop off our luggage with Amtrak and walk to Hard Rock Café and then for Frozen Yogurt near Bourbon. It was a great vacation and awesome family time.