This was our first time on NCL (been on RCCL before) and we were extremely impressed. First, the value was excellent. I have cruised out of Port Canaveral before because it was an easy drive for us from South Carolina. When I compared the pricing of RCCL out of Port Canaveral to that of NCL out of Tampa, I could book the Deluxe Owners Suite significantly less than a suite on RCCL so decided to give NCL a chance, and I was very glad that I did! Our suite was 12502 and we would not have been happier. It was me, my wife, 16 year old daughter, and her friend for the week.
Upon entering the cabin we were blown away with the amazing view. You can see the same view as the captain has from the bridge... the entire front of the ship and from the dining area you could look back down the left side of the ship. The room is floor to ceiling windows along the front and one side.
The bathroom has plenty of storage, two modern sinks, an oversized whirlpool tub, a large walk-in shower, and separate space with door for the toilet. Lighting is excellent. There are even sparkling star lighting for over the tub when you would want to relax and soak. This bathroom is about what you would expect in a modern home's master bathroom.
The living area has two nice leather seats overlooking the bow of the ship, a round dining table with 4 chairs, and a sleeper sofa. The sleeper sofa is far more comfortable than a traditional sleeper sofa and the girls had no complaints after sleeping on it for 7 nights. There are also some end tables, a small desk, and an entertainment bar. The entertainment bar has a refrigerator and shelving underneath, and on a top has a nice modern coffee/tea/hot chocolate maker, ice stand, storage for glasses, bar area on top. Above the entertainment bar is a decent LCD TV (maybe 30" or so). There is also a large closet with both drawers and area to hang clothes that was ample for the 2 teenage girls.
The master bedroom was completely separate with a pocket door. There is a king sized bed that was comfortable, even after 7 days. The bedding and pillows were luxurious. There is a small desk, large closet (with ample storage/hangers/drawers, etc.). There is a smaller LCD TV on the wall. There is a nightstand on each side of the bed. Lighting options were excellent including reading lights for each side of the bed. The view from the MBR was also floor to ceiling windows looking down over the bow of the ship.
All rooms had separate temperature controls (totally adequate) and electronically controlled curtains/shades that worked well. There were no issues with the room; it was immaculate.
Note that you will be provided 3 bottle of liquor of your choice and unlimited soda/water beverages in this room. Your butler will restock daily. This was an excellent benefit and negated the need for the soda package. My wife even liked root beer (not on the list), but the butler found it and kept her well stocked. Each day the butler will bring trays of goodies in the afternoon. This is excellent particularly when coming in from a port and finding sandwiches/cookies/candies waiting for you.
You will have your selection of the type and quantity of pillows you'd like as well as the quantity of towels.
Before I selected this suite, I was really torn with not having a balcony. Let me say that we did not miss the balcony at all. On our way out I looked at the other balcony suites, and the deluxe owners suites are definitely larger and a little more luxurious. You also have a few extra amenities (liquor/beverages/preferred show seating, etc.) that made up for no balcony. I will always go for this room in the future if it is available. It would be amazing for an Alaskan cruise!
With this room you have a room steward (ours was R. Torres), a butler (Jennifer Calixto), and a concierge (John D'souzo). The room steward will keep your cabin immaculate, perform turndown service, etc. The butler's service, and particularly our butler Jennifer, was simply amazing. She catered to our every whim and was there to ensure all of us had a wonderful cruise vacation. She delivered room service, picked our liquor and delivered it to the room on the last day, brought the girls DVDs to watch, kept the room stocked with beverages, etc. I cannot stress enough what wonderful service the butler provides. Jennifer is definitely the best! The concierge will take care of reservations, ensure you are getting priority seating, priority disembarkation at the ports and on the last day, etc. He ensures you don't get caught up in the masses! Wonderful benefit.
The other amazing benefit with a suite is the use of Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. I can't stress enough how beneficial this is. The menus for breakfast and lunch were great (gourmet) and were FAR superior to the options in the other dining venues. I had steak and eggs for breakfast most days with lots of options for fruit, smoked salmon, smoked trout, pastries, etc., etc. Cagney's is a fine dining establishment in terms of ambiance as well as culinary experience.
Now on to the cruise...
Embarkation was quick and easy. Suite guests are treated special right away and get a personal escort to seated waiting area with beverages and snacks for a few minutes before you board and go to Cagney's for lunch. After lunch your suite is ready and the fun begins!
Every night there shows in the Stardust Theater at 7:00 with a repeat at 9:00. We chose the ultimate dining package which was a bargain. Every dinner was outstanding, the speciality dining was truly special, never crowded, and the staff were always exceptions. We chose to eat at 5:30 to make the 7:00PM shows. There were times we cut it close if you had dessert. In those cases, we told the waiter what we wanted and Jennifer (our butler) can down to to the restaurant to deliver our desserts to the room for later. We usually watched the 7:00PM show and then other entertainment options after that. All of the shows were very nice and there was always something to do. We went to be bed late each night, exhausted after a full day of activities (even at sea days).
The ship was well maintained and beautiful for a little older ship. I liked the smaller size, but that means trading off things like the massive water slides found on the larger, newer ships. However, the smaller size enabled us to meet folks more intimately, get to know our staff better, etc. We prefer the smaller ships.
There will be a chocoholic buffet one night in the Garden Cafe. The concierge will get the suite guests in first. It was purely glutinous and an amazing amount of chocolate. I am glad I had other options than the Garden Cafe for eating lunch and breakfast. It was always full and crowded at meal times.
The Venetian was beautiful and the food was OK, but not up the level of the speciality restaurants.
Our favorite restaurant was Teppanyaki (hibachi style) and the teenage girls ate there a second time alone. Hint: make your dining reservations for that restaurant before the cruise starts or on the very first day. It only seats 18, and was booked the entire week.
Getting around the ship was easy as was getting on and off at the ports.
My wife enjoyed the spa and had a heat and ice pedicure and loved it!
We had no issues or negative comments about the ship or the crew. It was an excellent time for all!
We booked indecently with Belize Exotic Adventures and had a private van and tour guide. We saw the ruins and the howler monkey sanctuary. Our guide, Henry, was excellent and I felt safe and assured with him. He met us at the port and whisked us off so we could beat the big busses.
We had a brief city tour and then went to the monkey sanctuary. The operator was able to coax the wild (not in captivity at all) monkeys down from the trees to take fruit from the teenagers' hands. This was delightful and a wonderful experience. Great photo opportunity.
We then went to the Mayan temples for a guided tour by Henry. He is extremely knowledgable and proud of his heritage. My wife and I are educators and appreciated the knowledge. We climbed on the ruins and did a little shopping. This was a nice experience. Remember, barter for everything... start at 50% less than asking.
Henry took us to lunch at a local place where we had a traditional Belizean meal. My wife and one of the girls had chicken, while another girl and I had GIBNUT (look that up). :) It was served with a Belizean beverage, rice and beans. Very tasty. This was included in our price. Believe it or not, the gibnut was tasty - a mix between pork and chicken.
After that we made our way back to the port. We skipped the usual shopping nightmare of Diamond International and the other touristy shops.
Note that Belize uses a tender - the ship doesn't dock in Belize.
The tour with Henry was a full day and we wanted to beat the crowds back to the ship.
Costa Maya itself was very touristy and I was so glad that I booked with Maya Chan Beach. After a short walk outside of the port area (where the crowds are and the typical junk), a representative from Maya Chan was there to pick us up. They only allow a small number of guests (so book early). Their all inclusive rate included: transportation, meals, unlimited beverages (including alcohol), a private cabana on the beach (private for your family - not shared), kayaks, snorkeling gear, etc.
This is the ultimate in beach relaxation! They greet you chips/salsa/guacamole/drinks and show you to your privately reserved area of the beach. The cabanas are awesome, the beech is beautiful, and the water is splendid. It's truly a small group of folks you are with so you do feel exclusive and like you have plenty of space. There are nice beach chairs, chaises, and even a beach bed. I hang out under the cabana enjoying the views while sipping drinks while my wife tanned and the girls did floating chairs (provided), kayaking, and snorkeling.
Lunch is fresh cooked and excellent. Different meats, beans, salsas, and fresh tortillas all grilled in front of you. Again, unlimited drinks - whatever you want, they have it. I preferred the Mexican beers and mixed tequila drinks.
When you're ready to go, let them know and they have the taxi meet you and take you to port. Again, transportation is included. This is 100% all inclusive. A+!
When you go through the port, again be sure to barter if you buy anything... start at least 50% off.
Cozumel was the nicest port because it was more developed and totally about the tourists. We booked with Tours Plaza and had a private van and guide for the day. Our guide was Miguel and he was excellent. He gave us a tour of the city, we went to a small park to look at iguanas and other wildlife, then to Casa Mission restaurant (next to Tequila tour/store). Casa Mission was excellent (good price too). The tequila tour was free (nice) and tasted great. We brought home a couple of bottles (a little spend, but they were great tasting and in decorative bottles). We went to the Chocolates Kaokao Factory tour and the girls took a class in making chocolate. They enjoyed this very much.
The only disappointment was the restaurant Miguel took us for lunch. Unfortunately can't remember the name of it... but the food was disappointing and the bill came to $68 US! I have never paid that much for a typical Mexican meal in a high class Mexican restaurant in the U.S.! The prices were in pesos. I wasn't careful and got duped. The food wasn't great (my shrimp fajitas were awful) either. There were lots of locals. My wife asked our server if there was a different price structure for tourists... we couldn't believe locals would pay that much for what we got.