Background: Our 2nd cruise with NCL since "freestyle" and won't be our last, 6th cruise over all. We travel for the adventure, cruising makes our adventures a little easier with less packing and less travel worries. In our mid-50s, we look forward to move trips like this one.
We are on our way...Husband got off work early on Saturday,.by 3pm we are on I-55 heading south. Spent the night at a motel in Hammond, la. The next morning, we plugged the GPS (with the address to the cruise terminal). The little voice said "41 miles to your destination". That little voice wasn't kidding, it directed us..with ease..the final direction was "turn left...in .5 miles turn right at destination"...we made the turn and there a guy, directing other cruisers into the parking lot for the Eratos cruise terminal. NCL uses the Julia St terminal, but the parking entrance in at the Eratos terminal. They directed us to the 3rd floor where the porters were waiting to take our luggage. Nothing could have been easier...a porter with a wheeled dolly was with us in less then 5 minutes and we were driving off to the 5th floor to park. We took the elevator down to the 2nd floor, they checked out ID and tickets...directed us to the main room. When asked, we told them we were Latitude members, past cruisers, and were directed to that line. The check in area was one big building with area divided off, some people had checked in and were waiting in one area, with a snack counter with food for purchase... to check in, people were directed into lines. The line, that we were directed to, had no one in it. We went to the front, waited for less the 5 mins before it was our turn. Total time from dropping off the luggage, parking the are and getting on the ship was less then 30 mins. There were signs all over the ship about not being able to get into the cabins until after 2pm. We went up the buffet, walked though it and out to the open seating on the fantail. Even as more people came on the ship, this area was open to the beautiful weather, got to watch the ship traffic on the Mississippi Got into our cabin just before 2pm...everything was ready and clean we dropped off our luggage and went exploring. Found our 1st piece of luggage at our cabin's door, around 3pm. It was the carry-on I had packed with sodas and water. The next piece came around 4pm and the last one showed up just after 5pm. After unpacking, we were to the casino for their "Welcome aboard" party. Free fruit punch, signed up the a new casino-at-sea card. We did check out the sail-a-way party around the pool, music, more food...except for the band and a few crew members, we didn't see any organized activities. The ship didn't leave new Orleans until after 6pm, (they were still fueling...since it was right under our balcony..we could watch it) when the ship did leave the dock, it was dark...too dark to see anything. Our meals were quick snacks at the buffet...we were too busy checking out the ship....to seat down to a real meal. Cruising down the Mississippi, the fog caught up with us. During most of the night we could hear the many fog horns, from our ship and others in the area. A quick look out the balcony, after midnight, showed us still cruising through the lower area as the Mississippi mets the gulf of Mexico The first day was a sea day, that morning Hubby went off for his early morning adventure. He did a couple of laps on deck 7. (deck 12 has a track for running/walking, deck 7 is walking only ). We met for breakfast at the buffet... don't get caught standing in the lines...there are several different stations..walk around and see where everything is. Omelets were toward the rear..away from the normal buffet lines, waffles were on the other side. Breads across the back. The ice tea is awful, very bitter....I didn't hear any complaints about the coffee, but it looked very dark.
Our day was very busy, I did a lot of walking around to take photos of the ship and exploring. We got reservations at La Trattoria (the Italian speciality restaurant that many of the NCL ship have) for 8:30, but when we checked at 5:30 they could take us right then. Glad they could, neither of us had eaten since breakfast the meal was well presented, well served and tasty. The cheesecake could have been sweeter, but the meal, itself was very nice. The show was "Songs of Broadway", the 1st thing I noticed was how young everyone was. The new NCL troupe of singers/dancers don't have the maturity that the Jean Ryan dancers had, but the productions was very nice and COLORFUL costumes. The lead females singers, each, had strong voices. The "not-so- newlywed" game was fun, not risque as some I have seen. We missed the 70s dance party and a few other things...just got too exhausted.
Tuesday (is must be Roatan): I would recommend getting away from the dock area. We enjoyed walking around, looking in the little shops...seeing life as it really is. Other could be upset by the vendors getting in your face. I just smiles and said "no, thanks" and kept walking. No one was rude or upset if you walked away...just do it with a smile. Leave the port area, get over to the other side of the island. The good beaches are over there, snorkeling is suppose to be great. Maybe we will try that next time.
Wednesday: it was Guatemala..Santo Tomas de Castilla. The ship docks at a working freight port..it's not pretty. There is a building, near by, with local entertainment, shopping and food. Walking outside of the dock area would not be something I would recommend. It's a long ways to the real town and, except for a few vendors sitting by the street, not much to see. We did the Quiaqua Archaeological Explorer...TAKE BUG SPRAY The drive is a long drive, but it's interesting to see the country side. Beware of how they drive. Our tour guide was Carmen, she was very good, but her English is not always easy to understand. She gives a good tour, doesn't hurry the group...we enjoyed her. The Quiaqua is a interesting area...it does have a ball court from the Mayan days, as well as some excellent examples of their stelleas..carved limestones. We were glad this tour was before Belize, we got a good beginning history lesson of the culture before the tour the next day. The only bad thing was the bug bite, I am just glad I saw the sale of "Deep woods off" for 70% off, we shared it with others on our tour. Don't miss out on this experience, just be prepared...this is a jungle The bus was clean and comfortable.
Belize: This was what I had been looking forward to. Understanding that Belize is well knows for it's Mayan Ruins, I choose to go Lamanai...so glad we did. Our tour guide was Jewel...a fun and witty lady. It started early, meeting in the Stardust theater at 7:45. by 8:15 we were on the tender heading into the port. It only took a few minutes to get everyone together, the tour guides were there with signs for their tours. In 10 minutes we were on the bus and off we went. Only 29 people on this tour. The bus was a mess, I don't mean dirty, I mean: falling apart. Our driver was excellent and didn't do any of the scary stuff the one in Santo Tomas did. Jewel kept us interested and time went fast. It's 45 mins to an hour on the bus, before you get to the small boat harbor. Here there are restrooms and a few vendors. A short break and they start loading the boat. They stop in areas for some wildlife viewing. We saw a couple of small (baby) crocs (I don't mean the shoes), saw a Nigh Owl, very tiny bird...some bats, more birds...including the ones that "walks on water". The site of Lamanai is different from some I have seen pictures of. This one is in the Jungle, the different temples/sites are not in the open but surrounded and covered by the trees. If walking is a problem...DO NOT take any tours to this site. It's over 1 ½ miles of walking in mud, up/down stone steps, over tree roots. We got back to the boat with less then a ½ hour before final boarding. It was a very LONG day. After cleaning up, dinner was at the buffet...I love the buttered pasta, the chicken was excellent. For my treat, I had another crepe....hot crepes filled with mandarin orange slices, banana slices and a few pineapple pieces, some chocolate and raspberry drizzles over the top...and a quick stop at the ice cream for a scoop of vanilla...I was a Happy Camper Cozumel : This was our beach break day. We had reservations at Nachi Cocom...$49 pp for food/drinks/pool/wonderful beach and our personal space under their thatched shady spots. You book it on-line, paying a deposit..the rest you pay in cash (only) when you get there. The taxi ride is $15 per taxi...if you have a group going..it's still $15. As he was driving, our driver was telling us how much we were going to enjoy it, how great the beach was. Nachi Cocom limits the number of people to 100 for the day. This day they had all 100, but it was never crowded. Never had to worry about out "stuff" or feel like we had to hide it. For more money you can rent a wave runner, go snorkeling, para sailing or whatever. DH had a massage, a private thatched area by the pool. The prices are $40 for ½ hour or $65 for an hour. He did an hour and said it was EXCELLENT. The drinks were good, not lacking on the alcohol. The food was great, we had the nachos, the chicken tacos (what we would call taquitos..but bigger) and the grilled shrimp. With our all-inclusive, we could have had more food and drinks. You are allowed a 3 course meal, either at 1 time or spread out during the day. The pool was not heated, the sand on the beach is not powdered sand...but not rocky either. By 3pm we were ready to leave. I had just gotten our stuff together, when our server came over and said he had called a taxi for us. But for anyone who wants to relax, drink, eat and get waited on...this is a great place to go. Friday night, after Cozumel, was Lobster night in the main dining rooms. The husband had Beef Wellington and I had the Lobster. The Lobster was a grilled, whole Caribbean lobster tail. Dessert was a wonderful creme brulee with fudge under it. ...it think the phrase "to die for" comes to mind.
Saturday was the last sea day, a good day to just relax with a game, or 2, of bingo. The morning jackpots ran just over $200, the cover all was over $500. The afternoon jackpots were a lot smaller, but the cover all jackpot was the big one for the week, over $1,500. Husband did the Poker Tournament. Food on the ship: We loved the buffet...everything was hot, we know look around and check out what the different stations are serving. The nights the crepes were being made, were a real treat for me. Breakfast...oatmeal for him, made-to-order omelets for me. Since the ice tea was so bad, I tried the milk..pleasantly surprised to find the milk very good. Try some of the pasta dishes, I enjoyed the simple buttered pasta. The veal coquettes were good, at lunch they had made-to-order sandwiches or some premade...both were good. Different Carved meats everything. Overall the buffet suited us for the unplanned meals. At La Trattoria, I had the veggie Manicotti...spinach filling with pine nuts. He had the Cotoletta di Pollo alla Milanese,his was better. Service was excellent. Breakfast: usually we ate in the buffet, made-to-order omelet stations was excellent. Quick easy and never crowded. Breakfast in the main dining rooms was quiet, very few people. Omelets, eggs any way you wanted, oatmeal/cream of wheat, Eggs Benedict or Salmon Benedict, several juices, fruit plates. Main dining rooms: we only ate at the Gardens twice. Both times we got right in..no waiting. I had the Veal Scallopini, veal was nicely thin, well flavored. Husband has the Coq au Vin, the aroma was outstanding. The flavor must have been good, he didn't share. The serving was the largest I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The whole dinner took less the an hour, but we only had 3 courses. 2nd time at the Gardens, it as 8pm when we got there, got seated right away. Had Alexandra and her crew to wait on us. DH had the Duck entree for a appetizer..he said it was excellent. The portions were huge. I had the pumpkin/ginger bisque...it was good, but maybe a little too different for my tastes. The seafood appetizer was very good...I had it without the calamari. For entrees, he had the Beef Wellington and I had the Lobster. The lobster was excellent. It was hot, tender...had a smoky flavor, like they had grilled it. The lobster tail was larger then normal. For dessert, I had the creme brulee..it was outstanding, had a fudgy chocolate bottom layer...the phrase "to die for" comes to mind. DH had the strawberry sherbet I don't know what they do, but their sherbets are excellent, very rich. Towel animals: Monday: Walrus Tuesday: Snake (so cute) Thursday: Stingray Friday: the infamous (and well known) dog with sunglasses Saturday: Monkey hanging from clothes hook...very fun, well they don't improve my cruising, they make me smile. Bathroom: raised tile floor with drains in the shower and under the sink. If you like hot water, for your shower, push the red button on the handle when you turn the handle. There is a bottle opener on the wall, just inside the door. The fish tile border was cute, gave the little rooms some color. Bed: our bed had a comfortable "pillow" top-type padding over the mattress. We didn't have to ask for an egg crate. You could feel the divide in the 2 beds, but it didn't bother us at all. The comforter was great, very cuddly Casino: they put out a small buffet around 11pm every night. Cheeses, fruit pieces, veggies and dip...sometimes egg rolls, sometimes chicken fingers...cookies or dessert breads or desserts left over from that night's buffet. The casino dealers could be nicer, the slots were very tight, very few jackpots. A good selections of games from pennies and up, but not too many of each money value. Bathrooms: the best ladies room are around the casinos. Over on the port side, under the Park West offices, they have some very few use. Near the Blue Lagoon, going toward the elevators (near the casinos) are more. Outside the theater, just the Galaxy of the Stars are others I saw. Passengers: they needed to be more friendly, while the crew always greeted us, the other passengers did not. It just seemed strange to not be more friendly while on vacation. Tendering in Belize: we did a ship sponsored excursions. All the ship's excursions met in the showroom. They were led off first, everyone else was lining the stairs and being kept back until we boarded. Gathering time was 7:45...by 8:15 all the ship's excursions were on the tenders and everyone else was being allowed to board by 1st come. The tenders load from deck 3...close to the water. If the water is smooth, like it was for us, you just have to take a medium size step to get on the boat. There are people there to help you. In the afternoon, on the way back...the water was a little rougher, but still easier then other tendering we have done. You just walk out on a platform..step on the boat. Disembarking: started at 8:15 with express, next call was at 9:15. We had breakfast, went back to the room and rested while we waited. Our call came at 10:15. The easiest disembarking ever, we were in the car and driving away by 11am.
This is the 1st cruise my husband would like to repeat, that is saying a lot. overall, for us, this cruise was a A plus!