First, I need to state that we are experienced travelers, except when it comes to cruising. We have cruised just one other time - the Alaskan Inside Passage about five years ago on the Celebrity Mercury. One of the reasons we have shied away from cruising is that I have a propensity to get seasick. I was fine on the Alaska cruise (wore the patch) but the rough seas we experienced on this cruise (wave spray splashing OVER the 11th deck) were more than I could handle.
We made our first mistake by booking a room so high and so far forward. We didn't research this well enough, and now realize that I would have been much better off in the middle of the ship. Also, our room was right under the night club and it was incredibly noisy. A couple of nights (well, really, early mornings) we heard the pounding bass from the music over our heads until 2 am.
Other than the wrong location, the cabin was fine. The bathroom was roomy, the bed was comfortable, and everything seemed to work OK after we got the closet doors fixed while we were unpacking. This seems to be a problem - we heard of others with the same issue, the doors came off the tracks or jammed so that you could not open the doors at all. One strange thing is that when we were packing up on Saturday night, we found an abandoned suitcase under our bed! Gotta wonder how long that had been there, and when was the last time someone cleaned under the bed???
The service in the rooms was very good. Our cabin stewards were friendly, the room was always prepared after we came back from breakfast and again after we returned to the room in the evening. We had a balcony room - and we did have a coffeemaker and robes. We've since read that these amenities are disapppearing from balcony rooms.
Dining onboard was good, not exceptional, except for Le Bistro which we thoroughly enjoyed. We ate there two evenings, and felt the $15 surcharge was worth the extra service, atmosphere and quality of food. We also ate at Cagney's and were disappointed by the service and quality of food. We did not think it was worth $25 each and there was just nothing all that special about it. I agree with someone's assessment that it was pretty close to a typical chain steakhouse. We ate breakfast mostly in the buffet after trying the main dining room. The buffet was actually better and you could get eggs cooked to order. I was disappointed in the lack of no sugar added flavored yogurts. I tried to get it a couple of times, but apparently it was not available. I am diabetic so regular yogurt is off limits. I was able to doctor the plain yogurt with some berries and that worked out OK. I think it's ridiculous that you could not get regular orange juice. I don't drink it, but hubby loves a glass in the morning or evening. Your choice was $3.50 for a small glass of fresh-squeezed, or the "orange drink" in the dispensers in the buffet. Yes, it was drink. I saw the packaging as an attendant had left it out for a few minutes. High fructose corn syrup as the second ingredient - yuck!
The chocolate buffet on Friday night was interesting....too bad they didn't let people in to take pictures before they let people start pigging out. People were taking overflowing plates of concoctions, eating a bite Ror two, then leaving it to waste. We spent about 15 minutes looking at a few of the sculptures, had a quick bite, then left the mayhem. I remember on my Celebrity cruise that the spectacular midnight buffet was opened for pictures first. Then you could go back through to eat.
The weather on this cruise was pretty miserable, so shore excursions were not what they could have been. That said, I think the cruise lines pander to Diamonds International and some of the other "big" retailers and it seemed all the pre-docking information provided by NCL was all about how to shop. I would have appreciated some educational seminars on the countries we were visiting. I took this cruise because I figured I would never go to Belize or Guatemala otherwise. I'm not sure I know much more about these two countries now than I did before the cruise. I knew these countries were poor, and we had plenty of exposure to the poverty. When I go on vacation, I really don't want this fact thrown in my face. But on our beach excursions, locals were allowed to work the crowds soliciting hair braiding, pictures with iguanas or tropical birds, henna tattoos, etc. It was never-ending and annoying. We paid a pretty good penny for the beach club in Cozumel. I was not happy that the soliciting was constant. And in Belize, where we took a Mayan Ruins tour, local boys as young as 8 were approaching us constantly. One had a spider in his hand and wanted to know if I wanted a picture. Seriously! I guess this is why, when we want a tropical vacation, we usually go to Hawaii. And will probably do so in the future. There's poverty everywhere but I don't need to be reminded constantly. And I think the cruise lines and shore excursion operators could control this better if they were so inclined.
One of the things I looked forward to on our sea day was a spa service. On Sunday, I decided to have a fancy pedicure. Unfortunately, the technician was more interested in chatting in her native language with one of the other technicians and getting in a feud with another one. I was supposed to have a "hot rocks" massage, but she got mad, tossed the rocks into the foot tub, then waited until they were cooler, put them on me for about 15 seconds, then literally threw them back into the heater. Then after my nails were painted and she had smeared them putting my shoes on (before letting the polish dry!), she took off because a friend was cruising. She left me to take care of myself (I was waiting to use the one dryer they had) and never came back. Never said thank you, good-bye, have a good day, or whatever. I've had better pedicures for a third the price in my local Asian salon and I've never had such rude service. Needless to say, I didn't go back. My husband did have a service on Saturday and he did enjoy it.
And as the final straw, I got very, very sick while on this cruise and ended up spending most of Friday and Saturday in our cabin. I got a respiratory illness that led to bronchitis, and I am just now recovering from it. Hard to believe with all the hand sanitizing, including someone spraying you every time you entered a food place. It may or may not have come from the cruise - we'll never know and it doesn't matter now. We spent a lot of time in the hot tub, which wasn't very hot. My husband didn't get sick even though we shared all our beverages, but I am short, sat low in the tub, and often got water in my mouth from the bubbling. We'll never know, but what I do know is that I've not been this ill in the past ten years.
One other thing - NCL, what were you thinking? On Sunday morning, we went upstairs to walk across the pool deck to go for breakfast at the buffet and what we found was a deck completely glazed with ice! It was below freezing, they had obviously "swabbed the deck" and it froze. It was a very dangerous situation - the entire pool deck area was an ice skating rink, there was no one warning people to be careful or go around. That was just dumb!
I think we've decided that cruising is not for us, vacationing in the Caribbean is probably not for us unless we go to a resort and don't leave the grounds, and taking a vacation in the dead of winter leaves open the possibilities of really crummy weather. We'll be saying 'Aloha' on our next tropical getaway.