Panama Canal cruise 1/1/2011
We are family of 4 with 2 daughters aged 5 and 7. We have previously cruised Alaska with Carnival , as well as the Baltic's with NCL.
This year we sailed the panama Canal and decided to go for a family suite (AJ). What a great decision that was. The suite seemed about 4 times bigger than the oceanview room we had last time with NCL. One of the issues reported with the Star was there was not enough public spaces to relax in, if you have a suite you don't need any. The suite had an excellent bathroom, with a separate shower and bath, as well as 2 sinks. The room could be divided into 4 separate rooms if you so desired, by curtains and moveable walls, but I would not recommend any more than 4 people in the room. The room had a flat screen TV, coffee maker, dining table, lounge area and plenty of storage.
Suite perks - Due to an issue with our transfer we arrived late for check-in so we waited well over an hour, but once we got to the front we were escorted onto the boat and to our cabin by our butler as VIP guests. Further, there was no need to line up for the tender at Cabo San Lucas or for disembarkation as you were provided priority pass. We also enjoyed canapEs delivered daily by our butler, the coffee machine and breakfast and lunch privileges at Cagney's.
Dining - Breakfast and Lunch - One of the joys of having a suite meant that you were able to dine at Cagney's for breakfast and lunch. The food and service here were a credit to NCL. They spoilt the girls and had some hot chocolate and strawberries ready soon after we arrived and lunch time selections were delicious (probably the reason I put on so much weight).
Dinner - We tried 3 of the specialty restaurants, Le Bistro, Asian Fusion and the Mexican. Service was exceptional at each of these and the food plentiful and delicious, highlighted by the chocolate fondue. The service and food in the NCL main dining room was OK. Potentially this is due to the freestyle dining and prepaid tips. Most nights we found something we wanted to eat, and they generally treated the girls very well.
Entertainment - Day - we generally kept ourselves amused reading and lying by the pool due to the beautiful weather. The pools were heated to around 28 degrees. Large pool was salt water, kids pool fresh. Both pools has slides which were very popular. Tried trivia a couple of times, and joined in at the Sports bar to watch some of the football. There were a number of tournaments and sales pitches going on but we avoided them. Film on the making on the Panama Canal compulsory viewing.
Night -Watched a number of shows on the cruise (and they were very well attended so you had to get there early to get a seat). Found the majority of them to be very entertaining. The comedian and magic shows were excellent, the musical shows we watched were good, only the ventriloquist left a bit to be desired. All shows were about 1 hour in length. Casino provided plenty of opportunities to invest if you so desired and I learnt a few new games, that said, I still don't get craps!
Kids Club - We found that there were positives and negatives with the kids club. Positives - NCL kids club are open all evening, this meant that we were able to feed them in the kids cafe (a wonderful thing, the seating for just families), and dropped them to kids club while we had dinner in peace. There were only 70 kids on this cruise (up to 12yo) and only half used Kid's club so they got very good attention. Previous cruise had over 800 kids! Kids loved the kids club, and especially the 7yo never wanted to come home at night! Negatives - there was little educational content on NCL. For example, we thought that they may have taken the opportunity to teach a little Spanish. NCL charge for kids on Port days, and although we reiterated at least 4 times, the one day where we used them on a port day (Guatemala) no-one was there. We were trying to get to our shore excursion, which was leaving, and had major problems with reception getting them to understand. We eventually had to leave the girls at reception until the Kids club picked them up. They were very apologetic later and only charged us half, but we were not happy.
All the kids on the cruise were well-behaved but noticed a number of oldies not happy with their presence.
We loved the ports and enjoyed our seadays. See individual port reviews for further information. The cruise was great!