This was our first cruise and after reading reviews we were not expecting much. We found it is best not to read reviews from people that expect to be at the ritz on a ship. Our cruise was wonderful. The ship is older but kept very clean. Our room was on the 9th floor and always cleaned when we spun the wheel at our door. If you do not use the wheel how is anyone supose to know if you are ready for cleaning or just want to be left alone for the day?? The rooms were ok for two people. I would not try 3 unless its small kids. The crew was happy, friendly, helpful, professional and bless their hearts, they even smiled at some very rude people. We embarked in Tampa and the process was very smooth. The lunch cook out was nice but we did not save room for the food in the other resturants. Our advice would be to try a little then go and explore to see what is available. Our first night was rough with winds but we were able to use our motion bands and made it through. We explored the first night and ate in the Aqua. I will say that the waiters all push the bottled sparking water without warning that there is a fee. We knew better but found that if you did not order a drink or purchase the water you did not see much of your waiter. Thus we went and added the ultimate dining package on our cruise. I cant say enough about upgrading to the ultimate dining package. It is well worth the extra. You were no longer in the crowds of people and the food at the resturants was great. We enjoyed the Ventian in the am for breakfast, its quiet, calm and you are not fighting with the kids. Lunch all around was fine, nothing great but it is a ship so you cant expect the ritz. It is wise to walk all the way around both buffets in the Garden area to see what is there. Some food was the same but some was different. There is soooo much food all of the time, you will never be in want of food. The pool area is small but there are more than enough lounge chairs you just have to go to deck 13/14 if you cant find anything on 12. Due to a crew death on another ship, we skipped Rotan. For us it was not a big deal. We do believe that safety comes first. NCL should have had additional entertainment or offered drinks but that is something they will need to look at for the future.
Day 3 we were in Belize and picked up a local tour after we hit land. It was a lot cheaper howere if you were going to snorkel, scuba etc. its bettter to do that with the cruise tours. In Belieze, you tender into the port area which has a lot of medical shops/duty free shops and a few bars with a swim up pool. We found that if you order drinks early they are better than when the crowds come back. Also, nothing was cheap, in fact some crew members from another boat were shocked at the prices. More like NY/Chicago prices than Belieze on food and drink. Shopping had good pricing.
Day 4 was into Costa Maya. We went snorkling but it was pretty grubby down there and some garbage. Others said that Cosumel was better for snorkling. We had a nice boat crew but snorkling in Costa Maya is not worth the cost. Cozumel was a bit nuts. When you get off the boat you are in an enclosed shopping area and its difficult to exit and see the real area. Take someone with you as there is a lot of poverty and falling down buildings which seems to be why the boat tries to keep you enclosed with the shopping area. Tequilla is pretty cheap, great place to pick it up. It is a long walk to and from the shopping area (if you are older) but they have bike carriages and you just tip the guys.
Our last two days were smooth sailing and departure was pretty easy. The entertainment was not great other than a husband wife team that sang in the atrium. If you are taking this cruise for the entertainment you might as well stop now. Elevators were always busy and we had a wheel chair person. We learned to get on when we could. If you can walk stairs do so and leave the elevaors for those who really need it. People would actually move forward to keep the wheelchair people from getting in the elevators. Some would press the door closed without even trying to let handicapped people in. A few tips, have a lot of dollars on you for tips. When you drop your luggage you need to tip, then for all of your island services during the trip, although your account is charged 12.00 per day for service fees that is split between everyone on the ship and the workers do not see it until the end of the month and usually they do not see all of it. Tip when you can in your own way. The crew works hard and a tip is your way of saying thank you. If you put your luggage out on the last night then pick it up, use the bellman and they will move you to the front exit. Again that will cost you a tip but its better than standing in line with a few hundred people trying to get out. We loved this cruise, the crewmembers and the assistance from NCL. Will travel with them again.