Background on us: this was the 4th cruise for DH & me, 3rd for our two DS (ages 14 and 18) and their 1st on NCL. We'd done this same itinerary on HAL in 2008 but wanted to try it again the NCL way. We happen to be a family that really enjoys being together (most of the time), and we take big bites out of life. We'd rather be happy in any situation than waste time looking for negatives just to be able to complain. I think because of that pretty much everything about this cruise was wonderful.
We drove to Los Angeles from Oregon and parked at the cruise terminal. Check in and embarkation were breathtakingly swift. We got to go through the Latitudes line and were walking onboard within 20 minutes or so. We had lunch by the pool and were able to get into our rooms around 1:45 p.m. Muster drill consisted of meeting in your designated lifeboat gathering area to watch the crew demonstrate proper lifejacket procedure. Our luggage was delivered to our cabins soon afterwards, we met our room steward and were ready to explore the ship. We had an aft-balcony on deck 8 with the inside cabin across the hall for the boys. We got keys that worked in both doors so they could come spend time with us as they wanted.
We'd been a little nervous about the noise issue on deck 8 from the Spinnaker Nightclub directly below, but it wasn't much of a problem. The live bands were the loudest, since we were literally right on top of the stage, but they sounded so great that it was more of a treat than a nuisance to fall asleep with music.
Younger DS met Joe in the Teen Center and immediately was pulled into the fun activities being planned. We didn't see much of him most evenings - he was busy with his friends until curfew at 1:00 a.m. He did join us for at least one meal a day and would play games with us if he didn't have other plans. Older DS chose to hang with us for the entire cruise, which suited us fine. As a threesome we hit most of the trivia sessions, a few karaoke times and enjoyed listening to most of the fine musicians onboard.
I'd been active on the roll call since booking this cruise in late 2011 and ended up organizing the Meet & Greet on our first sea day. We were treated to a wonderful showing by the crew: Captain Iydar, Cruise Director Iain, Hotel Director Hugo, Food & Beverage Director Vik plus Group Coordinator Ligaya. Wow! On top of that, Captain Iydar was in a particularly fine mood and offered us a bridge tour. We took him up on that on our last sea day.
We ate most breakfasts at the Market Café, taking our food out poolside. Lunch was usually spent in the shade up in the Bier Garten, where we'd be forced to climb up and down the 36 steps to fetch food or beverage refills. Who says you can't stay fit on a cruise? Dinner was most often at Aqua - we didn't step foot into Versailles except for the lifeboat briefing. Twice we went to Blue Lagoon because it was too late for Aqua, and a couple mornings we just had coffee and juice delivered to the cabin. The only pay restaurant we went to was the Sushi Bar/Ginza. It was reasonably priced and pretty good, but I wouldn't necessarily have to do it again.
We went ashore in Cabo specifically so our older DS could enjoy a margarita and try a tequila shot. It was very hot walking around, and we were happy to get back to the ship. We skipped going ashore in Mazatlan entirely. Instead we enjoyed a family day together. In Puerta Vallarta we repeated the Pirate Cruise we'd done in 2008. It is a fantastic adventure complete with sword fighting, plank-walking, cannon-firing, beach fun plus breakfast, lunch and non-stop beverages. I think we'd all do it a third time if we ever go back.
Disembarkation was very easy. Instructions and announcements were clear, plus they were running ahead of schedule. We were in the car, hitting the freeway by 10:30 a.m., heading back home after a wonderful week.