This was our first experience with NCL; our previous cruises have been on RCL, Carnival and Princess. We sailed the Mexican Rivera itinerary once before on the Princess Diamond in 2004.
We flew from DFW the day before departure and stayed at the LAX Renaissance; this is a nice property with a free shuttle from the airport. Taxi fare to the port from LAX is about $55.
Embarkation: we arrived at noon and stood in line outside for about an hour. It was a beautiful sunny day so this wasn't a problem; however I can't imagine this same process being much fun if it is cold or raining.
Cabin: the day before we left we were offered a free upgrade from a BA-Balcony to a min-suite on deck 11. The 2 cabin stewards were very efficient and I always recommend at least a $25 tip per person upfront. It usually results in attentive service and these people really work hard and are usually very deserving. In addition to the upgrade, we also received a $125 cabin credit.
Entertainment: we enjoyed the small venue entertainers. Bill Barclay (piano), Chris May (piano & vocals) alternated at Gatsby's and were both terrific. Sissy Wallace performed in the Red Lion Pub and was also very good. One thing I couldn't help notice was that the crew would occasionally meet and socialize where these entertainers were playing (especially the Red Lion) and would talk over the performance; the bartenders also did this. This seemed rude, disrespectful and distracting; I finally mentioned it to the Cruise Director (Archie) who showed up at one of the performances. I'm not really sure that he cared. Two production shows (AL Weber and Band on the Run) were wonderful.
Casino: for us, always a highlight on any cruise. With 1 or 2 exceptions, the casino staff was very good and well trained. The slot machines paid better than any ship we have been on and both my wife and I did fairly well; we won about $1,000 plus got a credit on our bill for our play.
Food: we are completely sold on Freestyle Dining. I couldn't imagine going back to a fixed seating cruise. NCL really makes this work well and we were very impressed. We enjoyed 2 dinners at Soho but didn't particularly care for Le Bistro; this was our least favorite restaurant on the ship. The food quality, and especially the service, were very good at both the Versailles and Aqua. We preferred the atmosphere at Versailles but if you are sensitive to motion, you may want to avoid sitting at the back of the dinning room. It is at the stern of the ship and you will experience some vibration. We were never able to get into Endless Summer; it was always booked solid.
Guests: a lot of Americans and Canadians. It is a very relaxed atmosphere and a very friendly crowd. It was great dressing casual, packing light and leaving the formal clothes at home. Because we sailed the week after Easter, there were very few children and teens onboard.
Crew: wonderful, professional and very friendly. The uniforms were tailored and we were so very impressed with the NCL staff.
Ports: Acapulco - a beautiful port with ample time on the itinerary to see everything. Be aware that there is some nasty violence going on between the cartels. We came across a murder on the main street in the afternoon. Zihuatanejo - a beautiful, simple little port. Relax, enjoy a song from the singers strolling around and a cold beer or chelada on one of the many beach venues. PV - this port has really cleaned up since my first visit in the early 90's. A restaurant recommended by NCL called "Si Senores" was the best meal we had on our entire vacation. The food is wonderful and the atmosphere memorable. Cabo - very modern and clean. The marina is greatly expanded and there are many nice places to eat and have a drink. A water taxi ride to the Arches is about $20 to $24 per couple and a great way to experience this beautiful natural wonder up close and personal.
Disembarkation: simple and fast. Unlike other lines, NCL allows you to pick your time to leave the ship. From the time our color was announced, it took a little over an hour to leave the ship, retrieve our luggage and arrive at LAX.
We loved this cruise and can't wait to sail with NCL again. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org