My 3rd cruise. (previously with Costa cruises and RCL). our group, 2 adults, our two 18 year old sons and our 13 year old son.
Embarkation. Very easy. We arrived in New Orleans the day before and stayed at the Hampton Inn across the docks. (hotels offers free shuttle to cruise ship). We decided to board the ship around 2:00 p.m. hoping the lines were gone...and they were. We carried most of our bags ourselves but the other bags arrived by our cabins within 3 hrs.
The cabins are fine. No fridge but we didn't miss it. I asked for ice in the room and the stewards made sure it was available every day.
The ship. Overall clean and nice. Although the elevators had a strange smell. Not very important but I noticed it every day. Overall a nice smaller ship. We liked the pool layout.
Food. We didn't go to any specialty restaurants. (my 13 year old had sushi once and said it was ok but not great) The breakfast buffet was fine and offered plenty of choices. Me and my husband liked "Windows" the best but our kids preferred 'the Garden" because they didn't need to dress up.(all restaurants, except the buffet, require long pants but at The Garden people still dressed in shorts) Food was pretty good at both. The service at "Windows" is better and more personal. The first evening it seemed that everybody on the ship went out for dinner at 7:00 p.m. so we had to wait 30 minutes for a table. The rest of the week we went at 8:00 and were seated right away. I missed the "getting to know" your waiter and the more "formal" dinners from our previous cruises.That is the major difference between "free style' and regular cruises. We as it turned out, prefer the "regular" concept. During the day we ate at the buffet and grill by the pool which was fine. Our kids all enjoyed the "Blue Lagoon" grill which served smaller meals all day long. Wine. I like to drink wine but the wine at NCL is not cheap! They only had 3 or 4 bottles under $30. Finally the 3rd day one waiter advised me they had a housewine for $22. I ordered it and it was better then the $30 wine I ordered the first 2 days. You can order by the bottle and take the bottle to your room and later to dinner.
"so so" all days. Absolutely of less quality then the shows we saw on other cruises. We saw the comedian and he was "ok". We didn't like "Second City" at all. The magic show was again "ok". All performers really work hard and so does the crew but it was all just of less quality. But.....we still had a very nice time. The nightclub was not very busy and so we only went there once to check it out. Our 18 year old sons did enjoy the "deck party" and the "dress all in white" party. There were plenty of kids their age on the ship so they had a great time together. Plenty of music by the pool all day long on the 'sea days"
ports of call.
Costa maya. We took a cab to the local beach where there are plenty of local restaurants and they offer free beach chairs but expect you to order food and drinks (which is pretty cheap and the beach was nice)
Guatemala. We booked the combo "waterfalls and green bay resort" with Turix ($45). Well the waterfalls were beautiful but when we arrived at The green bay resort they wanted us to pay again $5 pp. We refused because at "Turix" they said all was included except food and drinks. We decided to return to the dock also because The Green bay resort was not worth staying at all. We argued for awhile but did get our $$$ back for part of the combo.
Belize. We booked the zipline/cave tubing with "Action boys" and not with NCL. It was cheaper and we read good reviews on "Trip adviser" Well it was ok and fun but not great. The guide we had was on his first workday for "action boys". he was nice but eventhough he said he had worked for other companies, it stunned me he never had done the zipline. He did do it during our trip for the first time. We also felt that we got ripped off on the Cave tubing part. We had plenty of time left but got a very short (30 minutes) tubing trip while we saw others going on after we had to return. So....be aware with what you book and ask for details.
Cozumel. We rented a car and drove around the island (2 hr trip) and stayed for about 2 1/2 hrs at "Mr. Sanchos beach" which was fine.
Disembarkation. The worst ever. NOT NCL's mistake but the New Orleans customs was very slow and not very well organized. So if you have an early flight to catch...make sure you get of the ship asap because it took us about 1 1/2 hr.
Overall we had a great time and if you don't expect the best of the best this cruise will be ok for you. I think we'll go with the "regular cruise concept" again next time.