This is my 5th cruise, all with NCL. My wife and I flew into Ft Lauderdale on the afternoon of the cruise, and were "transferred" to the ship terminal by NCL. The intake process took all of 5 mins and we were on the ship. Having been on the NCL Jewel before we had our bearings of the layout of the ship. Although the bowling ally, which was great fun and a climbing wall was new to us. We dropped carry on bags in our cabin and heading for the buffet. As expected the buffet was near capacity and everything was moving along. The buffet's food is laid out in separate areas,allowing everyone to head for their food type. The buffet is one of my favorite places. I love sharing the breakfast table with someone I just met. They are very friendly and happy people on these ships. Just average people no airs or graces,just having fun.
The Captain, Captain "Lars" was a riot, If he decided to retire, he could be one of the acts on the ship. A very funny and intelligent man who knows how to humor and educate his guests at the same time, through his daily reports. Simon, the cruise director, another professional, always there with the right thing to say. Loved the daily trivia games. The ship was beautiful and "spotless" clean. The crew is always there with a hello and a big smile. Which is why we keep coming back to NCL. On our first cruise we learned that most guests who have sailed on other cruise lines found NCL's "Freestyle" a better way to go. It works for me.
Food is good, made to order eggs in the morning, sitdown restaurants, speciality restaurants,and a 24 hour "diner" type foods restaurant. You can't go hungry.
The ports were great. This trip we went "local" for our shore trips. Taxis, and tours are available just on shore. We saved about 50% by doing our own. I bring AAA books and we take a taxi. I do not speak spanish, but it's easy to show the driver the AAA article if you get stuck. Talk price before you leave the curb. Most taxis used a "rate zone" system where prices are fixed. Start low and bargain, it's how it's done. Dollars are accepted everywhere. Learn the rates on the ship before go. In Colombia (Santa Marta & Cartagena) we paid $30 for a 2 hour tour of the city and surrounding area. - interesting history and very hot. Then it was on the the Panama Canal. On the morning of the canal crossing we arrived during the night. By daybreak more then half the ship were up on deck as we entered the canal. This was an amazing experience that falls into the top five best things I ever did. 12 hours of being pulled through the canal by electric tugs, raising and lower locks, only 3 feet to spare on each side.
In Mexico (Acapulco,Puerto Vallarta,and Cabo San Lucas) we took a shared tour in Acapulco in a van with two other couples and was able to watch the cliff divings, as well as a great historic lesson during a 4 hours tour. In Puerto Vallarta, we took a taxi to Misloma Beach and ate at a cafe overlooking the ocean and the waves, very relaxing. We anchored off of the "Arch" at Cabo. This is where the rough dry light colored land mets the blue ocean, breathtaking. L.A. was next with a ship sponsored trip to the highlights. We have been here before but I enjoy riding instead of driving through this area.
San Francisco was another amazing experience,as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge with the sunrise in the background. Alcatraz was the day's adventure for this cool windy day. Enjoyed it very much. Astoria, Oregon, home to "Kindergarten Cop" and my prized photo of an American Bald Eagle sitting on a pier piling in the wild along the Columbia river. It doesn't get any better then this.
Then mass depression sets in the night before arriving in Seattle. Bags are packed and it is realized that this amazing adventure of 19 days from Miami to Seattle is almost over. In closing, we have always had excellent experiences with NCL and will continue to be loyal member of the latitude family. Up next is The Med in Dec09 and maybe somewhere warm this coming winter, and yes it will be on NCL.