I booked our cruise online last November. About a month ago I started looking for reviews in anticipation of our journey. What I read scared me to death so I entered this vacation expecting the absolute worst and had prepared my family for that. I was wrong.
Embarkation-we decided to drive to New Orleans since there were 4 of us and the drive was only about 14 hours. I drove it straight through without relief and had done so before several times as we have friends in New Orleans so this was no big deal. We got to the pier at about 10:30 and parked our car for the week for $98.00. A porter took our bags from the parking garage and that was great. We checked in and was directed to a waiting area as it would be about another 1 1/2 hours before boarding would begin. The wait wasn't bad at all. I came prepared with a crossword puzzle book and bottled water. A sign in table was set up in the waiting area for Kids Crew since there would be over 500 children on the ship. And I thought I was the only person to have the idea of taking the kids on a cruise for spring break! The process was quick and they even served yummy cookies and iced water during the wait. We boarded promptly at 1:00 and were told we could enter our cabins at 2:00. During that hour, I tried to upgrade to a room with a view and could not because the ship was completely full. I also purchased a teen passport which was a book for $34.50 and it entitled you to 20 drinks anywhere from sodas to virgin strawberry daiquiris. I highly recommend this purchase. We also went to Windows for a nice sit down lunch. It was almost empty. I had a club sandwich with chips and salsa. It was delicious. I was already starting to doubt the validity of the reviews I had read.
Cabin-When we got to our room at 2:00 our luggage was waiting for us.I was so surprised that clothes and shoes for 4 people for 7 days fit with room to spare. There was lots of storage and you could even fit the empty suitcases under a bed. The room steward introduced himself to us and I requested a foam topper for each bed. It was delivered promptly. Everything was clean but I sprayed the whole room with Lysol I had packed because of the norovirus stories I had heard about. No outbreaks happened for the entire cruise. The four of slept in the inside cabin with no problem. 2 beds, 1 fold down from the wall bed and a chair that folded out into a bed. It's true that there are only a few tv channels but the ones that we got were ones we enjoyed. There was always a movie on and then of course the cartoon network.
Ports of call Honduras-I had read a review that talked about how terrible this port was. Once again, I found that review to be false. We booked all of our excursions through the ship and the tour we took in Honduras was an island tour. It included going to an iguana refuge which was super cool and anyone would enjoy it. At the end they took you to a shopping area which was next to a beach. The husband and kids ran to the beach to dip their feet in while I waited in the shopping area. They still talk about how fun that was. I am sad that I missed it. The people are nice there and the landscape is beautiful. True, it is a poor country. I found the culture rich though. If you want to get your passport stamped you will find immigration inside a trailer on the pier and they are eager to make you feel welcome.
Guatemala-we took the waterfall tour. Again this is a poor country but a rich culture more than made up for that. Walking through the rainforest to the waterfalls was a chore especially carrying a bag with lots of towels and cameras. They stopped frequently. Thank God for that. The hike was abut 1 1/2 miles and it all seemed uphill. The reward was seeing a beautiful series of waterfalls that words can't describe. All of your shopping can be done on the pier in a building that is quite busy. YOu can also get your passport stamped there and watch dancing. It was very neat.
Belize- I had the best experience my entire cruise at this port. WE signed up for the Beach Break shore excursion that took you to a private island. It was raining when we got to Belize so NCL offered anyone that wanted to cancel this excursion would get a full refund. We opted to go to the island anyway. About 150 people turned in their tickets so only 23 ended up going. The name of the island was Bannister Island. It was man-made and beautiful. It was clean and had restrooms. You could also order food there. The water was great and we truly felt like we were all alone. We got lots of shells and my daughter got her hair braided there. You could also shop. We stayed there 4 hours and then went back to the ship where we finally decided to tender in to the mainland to get our passports stamped. Unfortunately, the immigration office had closed early because of holy week and we never got it stamped. The same would be the case for Cozumel. Bad time to travel if you want you passport stamped. WE enjoyed shopping on the pier and taking pictures.
Cozumel- we had been to Cozumel a few times before so decided to go snorkeling. My 9 year old son hated it but my 11 year old daughter and husband loved it. After snorkeling we took a cab to Paradise Beach we swam and played in the sand for a few hours. After that we went back to the pier where we took a short tender to the ship.
Food-we refused to pay an extra charge for the restaurants so we did all of our eating at Windows, Garden, Raffles and Blue Lagoon. I had read horror stories about the food so I was very scared about this part of the trip. Once again, the reviews I had read were not accurate. It is true that the food seemed to be better on other cruise lines but the food was not horrible here. Most of it was quite good. We always took breakfast at the Raffles buffet. Their waffles and omelettes are to die for. They have a large variety of food and there is not a bad seat in the house. It always seemed busy there with lots of people walking around. We also took most of our lunches at Raffles. The food in the main dining rooms was always warm when it was supposed to be and the service was always friendly. I was always specific about where I wanted to sit. I wanted a view and sometimes asked for certain waiters. I was always accomodated.The Blue Lagoon is ok for a quick snack and is a great place to people watch.We ordered room service twice and the pizza was awesome! On Monday night in the dining room you could order lobster tail or beef wellington. We often ordered two entree's and two appetizers and did so without flack.
The Kids Crew was very busy because of spring break week. My son went one time and my daughter went twice. She liked it alot. The kids area to swim on the ship is very cool and I was envious it was for the kids only.
We only played Bingo once and quickly learned that unless you purchased one of their hand held electronic gadgets for $129.99 to play 144 cards you simply didn't stand a chance. We opted to buy the 6 cards per game for a cost of $29.00. Again, unless you want to spend the money on the 144 card machine you are wasting your time. You just can't compete.
Entertainment was pretty good. We only saw 3 shows. Root Berry, Chantz and Second City. We all enjoyed the juggling of Root Berry and Chantz was AMAZING. I am convinced this young man will be very famous someday. Second City would be good if you like that sort of comedy. We are not fans of improv.
Disembarkation was a breeze. The porters were nice and the luggage was easy to find.
I would take this trip again in a minute. There was not one thing I could complain about.
A few tips I would like to pass on. Friday a photo special is offered and it will be the best one of the week. Buy 3 get 2 free. Also on Monday and again on Saturday the gift shop will offer buy 2 shirts get 1 free. This equates to 3 shirts for thirty dollars. They are good shirts and a great souvenir. Bring some bottled water.
I never quite did learn my way around the ship. I am not directionally challenged either it's just the ship is laid out strangely. You have to go up over and then down to get somewhere not far away. The last day of the cruise I finally was able to get to the dining rom alone.
They are hand sanitizers everywhere and hats off to them for that.