I'll start by saying that my wife and I spent 4 days in New Orleans before the cruise, and it was a great time. If you can swing it, I'd recommend getting there early and exploring New Orleans a bit, lots to see and do.
Now onto the cruise:
Embarking Embarkation was pretty simple, there was a line through security, then a line to check-in, then another line to get on the boat. All in all it was probably 40 minutes from the time the cab dropped us off until we were on the boat. Not too bad. Once on the boat, they try to direct you to Raffles upstairs, but I had read on here that Windows was open so we headed back there for lunch. Turned out to be a great move, it wasn't crowded at all and we had a great lunch next to the aft window. By the time we were done with lunch our room was ready.
My father-in-law had purchased the birthday package for our room, because it was my wife's birthday. The package was supposed to include room decorations and cake. We only had a cake, and it wasn't very good. Turned out to be a waste of $30, so beware if you're considering anything like this.
We were off to explore the ship, and walked around getting our bearings until the muster drill. The drill lasted about 15 minutes, and by the time we returned to our room our luggage was there, thus completing a fairly pain-free embarkation.
Food For someone like me, the food was a bit on the weird side. I'm definitely a pizza and burger kind of guy, and never really liked fancy food. It wasn't bad, but it seemed everything I was served was fancy and I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have if it were simpler. That being said, nothing was bad. Raffles was our least favorite, we only ate there once. I preferred eating at the Blue Lagoon and Bier Garten. We also ate at Windows, Garden Room, Teppanyaki Bar, and Cagney's. The teppanyaki bar was very good, and our chef was very entertaining. Cagney's was OK, about what I would expect from a good steakhouse. Garden Room and Windows were both OK, nothing special but nothing bad. The thing I'll say about all these restaurants is dinner seemed to take FOREVER. I don't think any of these dinners were under 2 1/2 hours, and that caused us to miss the show one night. Blue lagoon was good, but always crowded. Bier garten was GREAT! I ate most of my lunches here.
Entertainment Jo-el Sonnier was the first night's show, and I really enjoyed it. He's a cajun accordion player and singer, and put on a great concert. The second night was a broadway/showtunes type thing. Not really my type of show or music, but the singers and dancers were very good and overall was a good time. The third night was the second city comedy show, which was my least favorite of the bunch. Not really all that funny. Fourth night was the magician, I forget his name. Wasn't anything special, but not bad either. Fifth night was a show where the performers sang popular radio songs throughout the decades. It was good. The comedian, Sam Griesbaum, absolutely made my week on Friday night. He's hilarious, and I didn't stop laughing much through the show. The last night was the one we missed because dinner went too late, but I think it was the second city team again.
There were always other things to do throughout the ship, line dancing classes, parties, bingo, etc. The band that played by the pool every day was very good, and made the afternoons very enjoyable.
Didn't visit the spa so I can't comment there. The fitness center was ok, though I don't know why they have round dumbbells rather than hex. Rocky seas caused the dumbbells to roll around. Also, running on the treadmill was interesting when the ship was rolling.
Ports Costa Maya This was probably my favorite port. We were the only ship that day, and Costa Maya is a little city hours away from the next city in Mexico. Tourism is all they have there. It's a very quiet place, great for relaxing. You could spend the whole day in the port if you wanted to. Shopping, restaurants, bars, beach, pool all right there in port. We did a biking/kayaking adventure, which was fun. Overall a great stay.
Guatemala We did the Las Escobas falls hiking trip. It was fun, and informative as far as the history of the area. Our guide was good. There isn't much port to speak of. One big building where they have some small restaurants and shopping booths set up. The port is very industrial, there are shipping containers all over the place. The cool thing about Guatemala was the send-off. While we were leaving port all the taxis lines up on the pier with all the guides, and they did a song and dance for us. It was pretty cool.
Belize City Quite a change from the previous ports. There were 2 other ships at port with us that day, and at Belize City you have to tender from 8 miles out to get to shore. We did the ATV rainforest excursion, which was pretty cool. Getting back to port we just walked around and shopped for a bit before heading back to the boat.
Cozumel There were probably 5 other ships at Cozumel the same day as us. The terminal was busy. There was a market not far from the terminal that provided ample shopping. We did the adventure park excursion, rock climbing, zip line, rope bride course, etc. It was a lot of fun, and the guides were very good.
Disembarking Getting off the ship was a breeze. We did express since we had an early flight. We were off the ship by 8:20, and to the airport by 9:00. Definitely the way to go.
A few tips:
-Take binoculars if you have a balcony stateroom. It was fun looking out on land and at other ships. The Mississippi River and Guatemala especially provided good material to watch. -While in port, you can easily get on the ship to eat lunch and then go back out to the port. Some people like to try the local cuisine, but if you want to save money most of the restaurants on the ship are empty. -Take a over-the-door shoe organizer. Pick one up at Big Lots for $10 and hang it over the bathroom door. You won't regret it. -Get up early on port days and eat at Raffles. You can get in and out quickly and off the boat with a full stomach to enjoy the port. -Enjoy yourself, it's supposed to be fun...