My wife and 7-year old daughter just got back from a 6-day Mexican Rivera cruise (April 25th - May 1st). This is normally a 7 day cruise but cut out Mazatlan so the ship could get back to L.A. and prepare for a relocation cruise to Vancouver. I would rate this cruise at best a 3.5 star out of 5. I've cruised Carnival before and the food is much better, the ship is much cleaner, and the staff if a bit more professional. As with any cruise, expect a lofty bar tab. $32 (including gratuity)for a bucket of 6 beers...you pay for 5 and get the 6th beer free is how they promote it. Yeah...free beer. NOT! The Freestyle cruise anthem they preach and plaster logos everywhere is really not that big a deal. It is just another chance for them to hook an IV up to your wallet and suck more money out. The ship has three menu style restaurants that don't have a cover charge. The Versailles and Aqua have identical menus so don't let them fool you on saying they are any different. The Blue Lagoon is free and barely anyone goes there because it's...very boring with a limited menu. The other 6 or 7 restaurants all have cover charges. $25 per head on the most expensive and $10 per head on the cheapest. Do the math. Want a good steak? Head to Cagney's Steakhouse where you pay $50 for two, another $50 for an average bottle of wine, and add another $10 to $15 for gratuity for the guilt tip (not guilt trip...guilt tip...they add a line to your bill that says "additional gratuity" to get more than the 18% gratutity automatically added to your bill). After all is said and done, you walk out of there paying $135. Is Freestyle sounding like a great deal anymore??
Some other things to not let yourself get sucked into is bingo. OMG! People were dumping $30 to $40 just for a 6-pack card for 4 games. Some even bought the machine that plays 144 cards at the same time for like $124. Wanna know what the amazing prizes were? $125 for the first game to close to $200 for the last jackpot game! Now imagine winning and finding out you have to split the pot with 5 others who got bingo too. Wooo Hoooo! You've won $25 bucks! Win another $15 and you break even!
The entertainment at the theater was not real exciting. A comedian was decent, the Second City troupe was fun to watch, but stay away from the other shows. The Cirque Pacific act was like watching a production put on by Perez Hilton, Elton John, and Boy George. Just more flamboyant if you can believe it.
The kids program is TOP NOTCH! I say that with certainty. The kid's staff was well-trained and did a wonderful job with the kids! Our daughter rarely wanted to leave even to eat since she was having such a good time. They do crafts, games, movies, and all sorts of stuff. Being we cruised in the off-season could have made it better than normal since there were not a lot of kids on board (75-100). Their hours run up to 10:30 at night which is also a plus.
As with any cruise, expect the normal crowds. I probably don't need to explain this but if you haven't cruised before you may not know this. Cruises attract lots of the older crowd (blue hairs, Florida retirement community types and Canadian snowbirds). Not to mention a wealth of people that go strictly for the endless plates piled to the ceiling with 15,000 calories worth of food...I'm sure you get the picture but in case you don't they typically look like your plumber with lipstick on. Then there are the people that don't realize how loud and completely ridiculous they sound. Think the Beverly Hillbilly's with a Bud Light in each hand, a cigarette out of both sides of their mouth and beet red skin because they are too numb-headed to understand what sunscreen is. Then there is the other 20 percent...the normal just-wanna-have-fun crowd that has to maneuver through the hordes and masses of all the others.
Having said that...NCL does not do enough to make me want to cruise with them again since there are so many other cruise lines out there. It was enjoyable, just not extremely satisfying for the money you pay.