NCL does so many things right. Their children's program is top notch! The staff was outstanding and the programming was very enjoyable for my 10 year old son. I was disappointed to find out that they have removed the water slide at the main pool. This info was not available online. I had promised my son he'd have a slide to enjoy. The Summer Palace Dining room is the most beautiful I've seen! The food was good but I have to say the food wasn't as good as Holland America Line. If I could do it again, I would pay for the speciality restaurant package. I think NCL is making that option reasonable for people. Do it and you have more choices on the food.
Transiting the Canal was a thrilling experience. The full day commentary was helpful and having a balcony was worth the extra money. I already want to do it again the other direction!
Now the staff we encountered was professional EXCEPT for our cabin steward. He was not very motivated and my friend insisted we ask very nicely for him to improve the cleanliness of the cabin when he didn't we didn't push it to the next level because we were afraid he might do something like use our toothbrushes to clean the bathroom. The floors were disgusting. My friend wouldn't even walk on the carpet without flip flops. The bedding was only changed once. The mirrors had spots on them. There was lots of dust on various surfaces especially on the shelves by the TV. Not to be too picky but you really spend a lot of time in the cabin on a cruise with 9 sea days. NCL needs to emphasize this with their cabin stewards! The ship itself was very clean though and I did hear others had much better stewards.
The entertainment was good and sometimes GREAT! I liked the guitarist "Fabio" the best.
Our NCL excursion in Puerto Chiapas was not a good value at all. It was called "chocolate experience and Izapa ruins." We spent a ton of money for a demonstration in a small town on how the locals make chocolate and a quick view of a small trading community for $170 (one adult and one child). It was only a half day tour and included chocolate tasting and water but still - not a good value at all. I complained to the shore excursion manager and he said they are consistently hearing this from guests. So, you've been warned! If I could do it again, I would just catch a cab from the port and go to the Izapa ruins and back. It would have been a fraction of the price.
The Cruise Critic group got a special Bridge tour which was very much appreciated!
My favorite place on the ship was "The Great Outdoors" at the back of the ship. My friend really disliked the "washy, washy, happy, happy" thing when you enter the buffet. It seemed too childish.
Overall, I would recommend this ship, this itinerary and the officers of this ship! My only regret is not being able to do the 37 night version from Miami to Seattle- maybe next year!
I would not recommend Claudia Vidal Tours at all. I booked for a large group from Cruise Critic well in advance and at the last minute she said she was tied up and gave us a guide whose English was very poor. He just kept telling us how expensive Cartagena was. We enjoyed the stops on the tour but felt cheated by not having a good guide. Not only was his English poor but his accent was very thick. If I were you, I'd exit the port and hire a cab for a fraction of the price we paid.
Be careful to negotiate heavily on any emeralds you purchase. Try to get 40-50 percent of asking price if you can or walk away.
After exiting the ship we purchased a zip lining tour from a tour company right inside the port gates. We found out that a family of six paid only paid $150 for the tour that my and my son paid $120 for! This family bought their tickets outside the port (they weren't on the ship) and they were Mexicans. That is the way it works right? Cruise passengers frequently pay more for tours!
I didn't care for the transportation up to El Eden. We rode on bench seats in the back of a truck! It wasn't safe at all!! But, thankfully we survived and most of all we survived 70 mile an hour zips over a river. I will not do this again!!! I did it for my 10 year old and can say we checked that box. They try to sell you very expensive photos at the end. It was quite a beautiful place but I wonder how many people have been hurt. It is very difficult to slow yourself down.
We went on a crocodile river safari on the Tarcoles River.
The best thing about this tour was seeing many exotic birds. The fruit at the end of the tour was excellent. There was shopping at the site too. You could save money and join a guide right at the port.
We enjoyed the tour very much but if you want to save money this is an option.
I took my son to the San Diego Zoo which I have visited at least six other times. This was his first. We paid a cab driver $17 to get us there. The zoo charged almost $100 for one adult and one child! The food was extremely over priced and the weather was unseasonably hot at almost 90 degrees on May 2. Many of the animals couldn't be seen because they were hiding from the heat. After seeing many other smaller zoos I can say that I prefer a zoo that is not so large and not so expensive! I know many people consider it to be the best zoo in the world but I don't.
It is clean and they have many animals and plants but it is difficult to get around to all of them in one day so you must very carefully plan your visit.
The city is magnificently clean and upscale! The people were very friendly and sail away was absolutely gorgeous!