This is my first review. My wife and I have been on about 17 cruises to date. We are in our 40's. This was our 3rd NCL. We flew in the night before (highly recommended). Stayed at the Westin Long Beach since we are Starwood people and wanted our points. Very nice hotel. Very comfy beds as advertised. The morning of the cruise we set up a 4 hour tour through the concierge to Hollywood and the Stars homes.(SunSeekers Tours at 562-961-9510) It was only $59 per person and was well worth it. We were back by 12:45 PM and took a taxi to the port which was only about 10 minutes away.
We carried our suitcases on board with us so that we would have our stuff and not have to wait for NCL to deliver the suitcases to our room. (recommended if all possible). The line was fairly long to register and get our shipboard cards. This was about 1:15 PM. We had to wait about 45 minutes. My wife and I were alittle paranoid because the Noro virus was found 2 weeks prior to this cruise. We even brought our own hand sanitizers and wipes so that when you get into your room you can use the sanitized wipes to clean all the surfaces such as the phone, TV clicker, handles, etc. The balcony was really nice except they never clean the plexi glass below the railing so it is very dirty. Just stand up and enjoy the scenery. The beds were Ok. My wife and I always have the room stewart put extra padding under the sheets to make them softer. They were alittle skimpy on the towels but we asked for extras with no problem. We even asked for extra pillows with no problem.
The biggest complaint we had was the "creaking sounds" of the walls and ceiling of the cabin. We have been on many boats and this was by far the worst. We heard the creaking during the night when we were out to sea. We tried opening the sliding door to let the sound of the waves come in and it helped quite abit. Our room was on the port side Deck 9. WARNING: In the ports where you have to tender ashore the tenders themselves our stored just below deck 9. So at about 6:30 AM we were awakened by the screeching and loud noise of the metal fingers extending from the ship just below our balcony surely waking all of us up. Not that big a deal. Just annoying. The showers were pretty big compared to many cruises we have been on. The water pressure and temperature were fantastic. TIP: Bring your own bar of soap. YOu will be glad you did, believe me. They provide a soap and shampoo dispenser on the wall but no conditioner. The also provide a hair dryer. Closet and drawer space were good. After unpacking slide your suitcases under the bed to get them out of the way. TV was not great. Only had CNN, TNT and ESPN. There were 2 movie channels with OK showings. You do not have choices and no pay TV movies available.
Now for some private tour information and ports. In Acapulco we booked a private tour with the infamous "ROSIE" Her E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. THis is highly recommended. She books up early so contact her as soon as possible. She will take you on a tour all around including the cliff divers at night if you so wish. Skip the excursions offered on the ship. Save money and get a better tour. You can pick either private or with other passengers. She only charges between 30-40 dollars per person for all day. Acapulco can be alittle scary at night so being with her makes you feel more comfortable. Her vans are air conditioned if you were wondering.
Next we went to Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa. We did not take an excursion here. We just walked around and shopped for silver and gem stones for my wife. There are flee market type shopping here along with some stores. It was fun bartering with them. They will go down quite abit in price so don't give up.
Next up was Puerto Vallarta. We had no plans here either. We got off the ship around 11:00 Am and walked up to the hospitality tent. You will see it to the right as soon as you get off the ship. We told them we wanted a tour of the Tequila Factory and shopping. What we got was a pleasant surprise. They called over a gentleman in a White uniform, very clean looking with a badge and ID. His name was Javier. He was a tour guide. We paid only $25 a piece for a 3 1/2 hour tour of the city and Tequila Factory and then he dropped us off along the beach front where they have sand sculptures that were really neat to see along with shopping. I highly recommend contacting Javier directly first at email@example.com and request him. Skip the tours on the boat and again save money, only $25 plus a nice tip since he was fantastic. He spoke good english and was a really nice guy.
Next up was Cabo San Lucas. This is a tender port. The boat anchors off shore with a great view of the famous "arch". Now for the not worth it Whale Watching excursion that we paid $72 for and got less than 10 whale sightings with only one tail slap. Forget it. On the excursion many of the young children got sea sick and threw up since the water was alittle rough. Plus, they pack so many people on board and push margaritas on you to try and make you forget the torture of the boring excursion. Wait till you tender ashore and take a private glass bottom boat $13.50 a person or other choices that are also cheap and they take you out to the "arch" and there is a beach they can drop you off on. You also can look for whales with them for half the price. Cabo has alot of construction going on and plenty of shopping places that we found good deals on Silver and Gemstones.
The weather on this cruise was wonderful and having the balcony was so worth it. Now for the food. We again have been on many cruises and found the buffet on this cruise probably one of the worst. But, the one positive thing. When you first get on the ship, go right to the buffet and you have to try the Cold Banana soup. It is the best soup I have every had. I had three of them this time. You will be talking about this cold soup for weeks after the cruise is over. The food every where else was really good. The regular dining room (Versailles) was good. If you get to the restaurant before say 6 PM there is never a wait. The Aqua was good (same exact menu as the Versailles, except not as good atmosphere) We did many specialty restaurants including; Teppanyaki's (cook in front of you) well worth the $15 or $20 extra, order the Filet, absolutely fabulous. Le Bistro (French) $15 or $20 extra but also well worth it, get the Duck. Endless Summer (Tex Mex) this one is free and probably was the most full. The Skirt Steak was great. Then La Trattoria (Italian) also no charge but it was not that good. Order room service. The food was pretty good. It is also free. Just tip the guy a buck or two. Like I said earlier the Buffet, especially breakfast was not good (F) so go to Versailles for breakfast. Lunch is also great at Versailles.
Entertainment and fun: The Theatre is smaller than many of the boats we have been on. Tip: usually the front two rows are open even a few minutes prior to show time. The comedians were very good. I missed the magician. Second City was also funny. The music of Andrew Lloyd Webber show was really good. TIP: if you play in the Casino skip the slots. Forget it. Play black jack, both my wife and I walked away with money. They also have two tables on the pool deck for black jack on your days out to sea. They are only $5 tables. Go play there. Lots of fun. The spa is OK. I have been in bigger ones. For $20 you can use the Steam rooms and special pools inside including the hydropool. Internet has a $55 deal for 100 minutes. It is slow but you can check E-mail fairly easy with no wait. They have plenty of computers.
To sum up. This was a nice boat and a really fun cruise. My wife and I rated it a 8 out of 10. The only place that bothered me was the casino for the smoke. The rest of the boat was not bad for smelling smoke. Try a Banana smoothy out by the pool with alcohol ($9) but worth it. If you have any questions feel free to E-mail me.