The ship: We had a quiet and clean inside cabin on the 9th deck. The room is small, but comfortable, with a nice size shower! There was no refrigerator in our room, but our room stewards did well with supplying us with ice. Our room stewards did a great job with our room despite having lots of rooms in our hallway that contained teenagers and kids, which gave them a huge workload. We told them to skip our room a couple times. Here is a tip that your cabin stewards will appreciate: on Cozumel day tell them to not worry about cleaning your room, we just exchanged towels. This is the one port where they can get off the ship to communicate with their families and do a little shopping. The ship's overall crew seemed very friendly and helpful. The only problem we had was while eating breakfast on the 12th deck outside, my husband got sprayed with a deck washer's hose. This has happened to me before on a previous cruise. My husband asked him to stop since he was trying to eat; the employee looked at him, stopped, and began spraying again this time the water landed in my husband's food. My favorite relaxing areas on the ship were the comfortable loungers on the 7th deck and the chairs and loungers on the 12th and 13th decks. They were great places to watch the sun rise and set. I also enjoyed the swim-against-the-current pools which were located within the fitness center and the sauna inside the spa. The library had a large selection of books to use for free.
Entertainment: Soozy our cruise director was funny and personable. The NCL Production Company were very good, but lacked some pizzazz of other singers and dancers we have seen on previous cruises. Our favorite was the Second City Comedy Troupe and their improv show which was hilarious. We also enjoyed listening to Prism and Selwyn Wright in the clubs.
Dining: For the first time in our cruise history, we really enjoyed the buffet. We ate all of our breakfasts and lunch up there as well as three of our dinners. We just loved the views and eating in the open air outside on the 12 deck aft. While not gourmet by any means, the buffet had a wide variety of different foods. I thoroughly enjoyed the salads which they freshly prepared, the pasta bar, and especially the Indian food, which I thought was delicious. The desserts that you can grab and go looked a lot like a tasteless gelatin like substance, but they had a nice selection of fruits, a crepe station, ice cream, and a chocolate fountain, where if you grab a bowl of ice cream they will smother it in chocolate for a very tasty sundae. We also ate at the Windows dining area twice which was our favorite dining room due the elegant ambience and great service. The Windows was also nice since they allow more casual attire with the same great service. They didn't really have the traditional lobster night on this cruise in the main dining rooms, which was disappointing. They did include some small lobster pieces in a couple of entrees though. Cagney's was fantastic with Prime quality steaks.
Casino: Very small. I won a very little on the slots. My husband enjoys playing blackjack and poker even though he usually loses. This time however he insisted the blackjack is somehow rigged. He lost much of his gambling allowance rather quickly and watched others lose the same. The dealers continually had great cards. He was so convinced that something shady was going on he refused to gamble the rest of his money, which was a first for him. The casino did look pretty empty when we glanced in there while walking around the ship.
Costa Maya: This is such a great laid-back port! We had to go check out the famous "hole in the fence" and the beach that is off limits thanks to that hideous wall separating it from the port. We walked over there ignoring the no trespassing sign and just hung out on the beach which we had completely to ourselves for an hour! We then grabbed a cab and went into Majahual where I had a fantastic hour long massage $30 including tip and my husband drank some beers at a seaside bar and just relaxed. I also did some swimming and brought a cheap flotation device to relax on which made me very popular with a couple of small Hispanic boys who wanted to play with it and were overjoyed when I gave it to them. On our cab ride back, my husband left his MP3 player in the cab, the cab driver drove back to port to see if he could find my husband which was very kind!
Guatemala: I just love this port for shopping and adventure! We went with the very famous cruise critic hyped up "Go with Gus"! The Rio Dulce - Livingston Humanitarian Tour lives up to the hype and more! It is a fantastic adventure and really gave us a taste of the culture of this fascinating area along the Rio Dulce. We saw the people of this area in their natural daily activities such as fishing and making tortillas. Gus said the average annual income for these families was $268. A group of school children met our boat with huge smiles. Some wore cheap flip-flops, some had no shoes at all (when I come back, I will bring them some shoes). Many of the people in our group brought school supplies, toys, candy, and some toiletries. What a great experience, and Gus stated that now more children are being able to get an education! The link to his website is http://gowithgustours.com/ On line, Gus charges $85.00 per person and $60.00 for kids. But you can always bargain when you get to port or if you have a large group. We paid $55 pp which included a great lunch.
Belize: My least favorite port due to the always frustrating tendering process. If there was a port you were going to take a ship excursion this would be it due the priority you'd get with the tendering! However, we decided to try a snorkeling tour through Eco Tours. We were taken to a reef and saw a few colorful fish, but in my opinion I would only recommend this tour if you are new to snorkeling and haven't seen many reefs. It was a little boring and they keep you all huddled together. The staff was nice and very watchful which is great if you have a lot of kids or newbie snorkelers. We did get to spend some time on a very nice relaxing island. This would be a great place for kids with safe areas to swim and a playground, kayaks, hammocks, etc. This excursion is only 15 minutes away from the cruise port. The price online is $49 pp. We were quoted $40 pp by the salesman at the cruise port. Once again you can bargain and we ended up getting the trip for $30pp including the snorkeling. You can also choose the beach break only without the snorkeling for $20 pp.
Cozumel: My other favorite port for sheer convenience and adventure! We once again rented scooters. This time from a company called Sol y mar at Calle 2 Norte near the port terminal. The website is http://solymarrentals.com/ The scooters were in great shape and with some bargaining we paid $28 per scooter including taxes. We drove around the SE and SW coast checking out beach clubs even jumping in the water at one point somewhere near Chananaab and Playa Corona and snorkeling along a reef. We absolutely love driving our scooters along the SE road to Punta Morena along the wild yet beautiful coast road with very little traffic. It is the best! We do stay away from driving our scooters around San Miguel, which seemed pretty dangerous due to the heavy traffic and one-way streets.
Debarkation: We decided to carry off our own luggage. The process went smoothly and we were off the ship and driving home by 8:30.
It was a great cruise, with wonderful ports of call, and I am looking forward to cruising with NCL again! Although next time I would like to bring the kids, this really looked like a great ship for families!