We took this Panama Canal repositioning cruise from New Orleans to San Francisco. It was very relaxing and we loved the ports we stopped at. There were only 4 ports on this 15 day cruise--1 day was the Panama Canal.
NCL is not a high class cruise line--the cruise itself was very casual--only one "formal" night as far as I could tell and that was barely advertised. The food on NCL is at the regular dining rooms is generally fair--the unlimited dining package is a great deal--and the food is excellent at the Cagneys steak house, Brazilian steak house, and French restaurant. As far as "fast food"--their Burgers and Pizza are lousy and there is the same menu daily at sit down breakfast and lunch--I shouldn't complain though--I still managed to gain an unacceptable amount of weight on the cruise.
It's not a huge ship--there are 2 swimming pools on the Lido deck--have gotten used to hanging out at the back of the ship's pool on other lines and we missed that. Not a lot of indoor areas where you can sit and watch the view--also some of the indoor areas are designated concierge level areas only during certain hours--so indoor space is very limited. Not sure that I would do a colder weather cruise like Alaska on this ship.
Casino was VERY friendly--there wasn't a huge crowd gambling and the pit bosses were very generous with buying drinks even though we weren't technically eligible point wise yet for that.
The ship was scheduled to go into dry dock right after our cruise--but all facilities were open, clean and functional. Wouldn't have known that a dry dock was planned except that it was announced.
Cruise critic activities were very nicely done on board--the meet and greet was well attended by officers and we had an active cabin crawl--we were even allowed access to the Haven Suite area.
Had last taken an NCL cruise 2 years ago and since then they have had a major attitude adjustment. Have never in all my cruising experience of over 20 cruises been asked so many times how the cruise was going?, did I have any suggestions?, and what could they do to make the cruise better? After talking to the staff--they asked for our room number and we received chocolate covered strawberries (on more than one occasion). The staff is 100% committed to giving the guest a "dream vacation".
Well--I enjoyed it and now I can cross riding a camel off my bucket list. Others in my party weren't as enthralled with the shore excursion which is why I didn't give it 6 stars. The camel ride is 20 minutes long plus you have a camel "photo session" which produced incredibly cute pictures which we bought for an extravagant price. The excursion also includes a walk in the desert which I found educational and interesting as well as a fantastic local lunch. There was of course Tequila tasting after lunch with very generous sized samples.
A very unique experience--totally out of my comfort zone--but highly recommended just for the experience. You climb about 50 stairs to the top of the volcano and then descend by ladder into the mud. Go early so you have the volcano to yourself--at busy times they put 40 people in the mud at the same time. After about 30 minutes and massages by locals you climb the ladder out (which is very slippery) and then you are taken to the lagoon where local ladies wash off the mud. Generally this involves them taking off the suit--so be prepared and don't go with friends who you don't want to be naked in front of. Suggest going with a tour guide--because he advises you on who to tip and how much. The reason we booked independantly was because our cruise pulled the tour due to lack of interest.
Probably one of the best shore excursions I have ever been on. Breath taking beach, great lunch--lots of activities included in the price including snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, lunch, nature tours, cooking classes . Also offer additional paid activies including Scuba and Sea Lion Experience--both of which were reasonably priced. The Sea Lion experience was particularly fun--bought their expensive pictures with priceless photos--too cute to pass up. Would 100 percent recommend this shore excursion!