Let me start by stating up front that I am a first time cruiser. I'm from the midwest, very easy to please. We traveled over Spring Break and we took our kids (12 & 16). We also arranged the trip with other families who all could be described as roll with the flow, friendly, fun loving, who were looking for things to like and not for things to complain about.
Embark.. Easy as described in countless other reviews.
Day at Sea... Windy, sunny, fun. Spent the time learning the ship, getting some sun, plotting specialty dinners, visiting with friends. Very enjoyable day.
At sea and at Roatan... This day was very rough (for us first timers). Plenty of people loosing their breakfast in the halls. Either it was legitimately rough or there were many other first timers. While at Roatan, we used Victor Bodden tours, actually was given our tour by Victor himself. Very friendly man, very informative tour, would recommend this to anyone. Given that we got to port at 3:00pm, got off the ship and met Victor by 4:00pm leaving only 2 hours of daylight, not much time for any excursions beyond a tour.
Guatemala.. We did the Amatique Bay Resort. Kids seemed to be okay with the pool slides. The shore was not nice. Again, it had palm trees and the ocean, for that, we were happy, but once wading into the water we found plastic milk cartons, toothpaste tubes, and other random trash half buried in the shallow muddy sand. The bathroom entrance had the sidewalks lined with vendors, if you don't mind that gauntlet, it wasn't a problem for us. The food was good, the fresh fruit was fantastic.
Belize.. We booked through Coral Breeze (not through NCL). This was the first port that we had to endure the tender boat process. NCL makes it very clear that the people who book excursions through NCL are their first and top priority. We had an excursion for 9:30am (allowed 1.5 hours to get off the boat). When every passenger who booked through NCL have been taken to shore regardless of their excursion times, then and only then are the "Independent" excursion passengers allowed to leave. After 2.5 hours of standing in line to try to get off the ship, the whole time stressing about missing our excursion, patience grew thin. To this point this day, we spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get off the ship (began at 7:15 am waiting in line for a tender ticket) to finally show up for our excursion 1.5 hours late and pissed off. Our tour guides (Javier and Travis) were super. Our group was large enough that we were the entire group on the tour, so we now understand why they waited for us. They did let us know that NCL was very slow to tender passengers compared to other ships. We even had that information on our itinerary, seems widely known in Belize that NCL has a poor tendering process. Loved the tour guides, loved the jungle trek, loved the cave tubing, would do it again tomorrow. We stopped at a place called Amigos, had stewed chicken and beans & rice was awesome. Thanks to our late start on the excursion, we were rushed all day and barely made it back with only minutes to spare. If nothing else, get off the ship and taxi to Amigos for lunch. Could have spent 2 days in Belize and skipped Guatemala.
Last port, Cozumel... Again, tender boat chaos. Keystone cops of the sea. This time they told us to go wait in our rooms or in one of the public areas.. they did not let us even wait in line. There is nothing quite as nice as starting your day waiting hours to get off a ship while watching your excursion times pass and the amount of time available on port get eaten up by the incompetence of the NCL crew managing the whole process. Some of our group did the Playa Mia Beach day (even the ones who booked through NCL didn't get there till well after 11:00am) One thing to watch here is the crowds. Several of the booze cruises from Cancun end up here. This particular day, it was standing room only, no room to enjoy the beach or the water. Others did the Discovery Dolphins at Chankanub park. Beautiful facility, Dolphin swim was great (spring extra for the royal, it's worth it).
At sea, last day.. Spent it trying to get NCAA scores, playing shuffle board, relaxing and enjoying good friends. This day, there must have been norvo-virus outbreak as the buffet became a served buffet and no passengers were allowed to handle anything. No one in our group was affected and no one on the ship seemed to be going hungry because of it either.
NCL seemed to do fine at sea, when they drop anchor and open the tender hatch, they turn into a mass of incompetent idiots. On the bright side, our room steward was fantastic. He could get our room cleaned whenever we turned or backs for just a few minutes, he had our beds turned down just as quick in the evenings. All the food servers, bar tenders, and everyone else was friendly and warm. Shows we went to were entertaining.
Next cruise will not be NCL. I will go so far as to steer people away from NCL unless your intentions are to stay on ship, attempting to get off the ship is just not worth the rise in blood pressure. We witnessed crew arguing with passengers in the tender lines, surely other cruise lines handle this process much better and I'll assume much nicer.