This was our first cruise... and first review!
Embarkation: The check in was very fast and efficient. We were the first through to sit in the waiting area for about an hour or so. We were told that that would mean that we would be the first on the ship after the VIPs. What actually ended up happening was a disorganized mad dash to the ship and we ended up being 40th on the ship. No big deal.
Luggage: BE CAREFUL PACKING WINE! I received my luggage about two hours after getting on board. DB waited. And waited. AND WAITED. Finally, we got a note on the door telling us that the wine had indeed been caught and he had to go and get his bags inspected. He said that he felt like a child going to the principals office - he also said that there were A LOT of people who were really mad about the corkage fee and were saying that most ships will allow for packed wine. I don't know about this; but I do know that the $15.00 bottle of wine we packed from home ended up costing $30 with the fee - we should have just bought a bottle on board, it would have cost the same. To quote another passenger "So basically don't bring wine on board because it's a big pain."
Cabin: After hearing stories from friends and family that cruise, we were expecting a small little cramped room. We were happy to find that our balcony room was fabulous. We couldn't have asked for anything better. The bed was very comfortable, the room was clean and the balcony itself was wonderful. I didn't have to sleep on the fold out couch; but laid on it to read many days and I could understand why someone would NOT want to sleep on it - as it was VERY hard and firm. The bathroom was fine, a little different from what we are used to; but FANTASTIC water pressure in the shower and hot water that just kept coming!
Steward: GREAT! We mostly dealt with Eva, and she was just wonderful. Always a smile and never once did we have to ask more than once for anything. It became a joke, it seemed that every night we would come back to our room after dinner JUST as she was getting ready to do the turn down service (with the cutest towel animals ever). She was very kind and sweet and really enhanced our experience.
Ship: As newbies I really have nothing else to compare it to. I thought that the ship was great. On the first two days we noticed a strange "public bathroom cleaning product" like smell; but that dissipated over time. Obviously, it being an older ship, there was a little wear and tear; but overall we had no problems. For some reason at night, the glass elevators stopped working and would sit on the 6th deck. Being that we were on the 10th deck, using the main elevators was kind of a pain; but no big deal.
The hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. This is great, cause really, who wants to get sick? Some of them shoot out on the floor and can make it quite slippery - be careful!
Onboard entertainment: We missed most of the shows because we enjoy eating quite late; but we did see the comedian who was good - not great; but good. The magician was AWESOME! J.P. (a fellow Canadian) was funny and had the fastest hands during his card tricks, it was great. Bingo was fun; but EXPENSIVE. Pools: TOO BUSY!!! We never got near them, opting to enjoy the quiet of our balcony on sea days instead of the mayhem of the pools.
Casino: I WON $$$$ ON THE SLOTS! Then lost it... hahaha. The casino was fun, not huge; but fun. The staff were pleasant but there were some problems with the dealers on the blackjack tables. Dealing to people who hadn't bet, doubling peoples bet who had not doubled down, etc. The pit bosses were VERY rude and not very good at the customer service end of things. The casino was very smoky and not well ventilated.
Restaurant Schedules: I was never sure where was open for breakfast/lunch, for example, I had NO idea that Pacific Heights was open for lunch until I was home reading cruise critic! Other than that it was fine.
Food: MEH. To be honest, it depends what type of expectations you go in with. It was not terrible; but far from excellent.
Breakfast: OK. The buffet was poorly organized and stocked. By the time you realized that you weren't actually in a line, just standing behind a bunch of people that keep walking in front of each other - there was nothing left and you had to scramble to get to the other side to try to get some food. Main dining room was good to get away from the hectic buffet; but the food is the same as the Garden Buffet (we had a running joke that it took so long to get your breakfast in the main dining room because the servers had to go to the buffet to get it). Room service is a good option providing you are ok with the bare minimum (cold cereal, coffee, fruit, danish etc.) - we did this for disembarkation.
Lunch: We mostly ate in the main dining room or had room service. Both were quite good. Room service came quickly and the kitchen had no problem adding things that we asked for.
Dinner: We ate at Pacific Heights the first night and LOVED it - the perch was great and DB loved the meatloaf. The service was fantastic and we really enjoyed the meal.
We went to the main dining room for "lobster dinner" on the second night. I was lucky that our server came when he did because apparently I got one of the last lobster tails. The meal was OK, not great - the lobster was dried out and I cant even remember what DB had. The wine we got was great and that helped the mediocre meal.
We had room service the third and fourth night (too tired from Roatan and Belize!). The fifth night we wanted to try Las Ramblas. IT WAS HORRIBLE. Tapas? More like cold/room temperature gross appetizers. The service in this particular "restaurant" was rude and I can understand why were were the only ones there. It was really, really bad. We made a last minute reservation at Pacific Heights and again had a lovely meal.
The sixth night we made a reservation for the Steakhouse, East Meets West, and although the service was great (as was the company of fun couple at the neighboring table) the appetizers and starters were alright; but actual steak was not good. I felt like I was eating a piece of shoe leather as did my boyfriend. Desserts were great and tasty. For the extra cover, this was not worth it. The same night was the Chocoholic buffet, which should not be missed. All you picture takers - this is a must. Wonderful sculptures and fun buffet. Great for the kids and adults alike.
The last night we went to the main dining room and I had the best starter of the trip (warm goat cheese and balsamic salad) and the my worst entree (pecan crusted fish) the waiter was not very attentive and although he was more than happy to accommodate my needs of getting something other than the fish, he did not clear the fish from the table - even after bringing the replacement entree.
Overall the food was fine, if you look for things to be upset about, you will find them; but remember you are on vacation and as long as you don't have to cook it or clean it - its all great!
Roatan: We did Victor Bodden's tour and it was so much fun! Franklin was our guide and he was wonderful, knowledgeable and friendly. He took us where we wanted to go and made sure we did things in the best order so that we would have to wait the shortest amount of time. First we went to the iguana reserve, which was awesome. We were one of the first there and that in itself was a pleasure. This is not to be missed - thousands of iguanas EVERYWHERE. Monkeys and fish too. After, we were taken on a tour of parts of Roatan - the shipwrecks, landmarks etc. Franklin then took us to Victor Bodden's estate (we were the only ones there) and it was raining. The vehicle could not make it into the driveway so we had to walk through the mud and I normally would have been miserable; but at the end of it all, Franklin told us to wait a second and then got us monkeys that we were allowed to hold and pet. This was a definite high point of the entire trip. Franklin then took us around town and to the Cameo factory and shopping. We had a ball in Roatan and would go back!
Belize City: We went on the Mayan Ruins Altun Ha and Belize City tour with the ship. This was VERY disorganized from the tender to the bus. There was no line ups, signage or otherwise and it would have been VERY easy to get lost or left behind. Once we were on the bus we met our tour guide Pedro who was very well-informed about the area and history and all in all was a wonderful guide. He was entertaining and funny and helped make the rather long trip to the ruins quite enjoyable. A highlight for the boyfriend was an unscheduled stop at the "Snakeman's house" on the road to Altun Ha. A few kids and men got off the bus to hold the snakes and take pictures (yuck). We got to the Mayan ruins and just made it under cover before a storm hit. Some people were complaining and saying they wanted their money back, I mean COME ON, LIKE ANYONE CAN CONTROL THE WEATHER!!! Once the rain lessened, off we went to the ruins. This is amazing. The history, size and beauty is awesome and it was a great time. Pedro really knew his stuff and helped everyone understand more about these mysterious people. I am not one for heights; but DB climbed to the top of one of the temples with everyone else and we got some great pictures. The city tour on the way back was alright, and we were dropped off a the Smoky Mermaid for a free beer or juice. We had our drink then wandered back to the pier and tendered back to the ship.
Cozumel: We happen to have a friend who is the executive chef at the Cozumel Caribe resort and we spent the day with him. If you get a chance to go there, please do - you can go mountain climbing, parasailing and they have a private beach too. MAKE SURE YOU TRY THE FOOD! We had lots of rain; but it was beautiful none the less. Shopping was too touristy - lots of the same junk (shot glasses, sombreros, jewelry etc.). The weather ended up being quite lovely (hot, hot, HOT) by the end of the day.
Great Stirrup Cay: White sand beach, crystal clear water, best weather of the entire trip. The beach was VERY crowded; but if you walked down the beach a little while, it became a lot less occupied and we were able to find chairs no problem and it was quiet and absolutely relaxing! Even though we got really really sunburnt, his was the best day overall. We had a blast!
Overall: We had a great vacation. I know a lot people are saying bad things about NCL; but for our first cruise we really just enjoyed everything and we felt that NCL helped to make our trip a success. I would definitely travel with them again.