Our vacation began with three adults and five teenage kids (14, 14, 14, 16, 17) flying from Boston on 2/26 at 6am to New Orleans arriving at 1:30pm. We rented cars and drove to our hotel (Crowne Plaza on corner of Canal & Bourbon). We spent the day on the balcony watching parades and collecting beads. It was around 80 degrees F outside and a little humid. We had dinner at Huck Finns and walked around a bit with the parades coming through almost every 2 hours. It was a lot of fun considering we had the kids. Can't wait to go back without the kids and cross the barrier on Bourbon St.!!!
On Sunday we had breakfast and attached the cruise tags to our bags and brought the rental cars to the Canal St location for drop-off. We were shuttled from their to the port. We used Avis for the rentals but to be honest they were lack-luster at best. The woman who shuttled us both ways was fantastic however.
Getting on the ship was the quickest we've ever experienced (barely faster than Pride of America). We immediately went up for lunch and sat outside of Raffles to enjoy the view while we ate. The food was about what we expected for the buffet. No complaints but certainly not going to say it was amazing...
After we ate our rooms were ready so we checked out our staterooms (6035 & 6535) which were inside staterooms that are almost double the size of a standard inside. We did the muster drill and before we knew it our bags were in our staterooms. We went topside for bon voyage and then the adults headed for the hot tub with the 17 year old in tow while the little ones headed for the teen center to make friends. We ate dinner at the Windows dining room and the food was very good. The service was amazing as we had Horace for our server. If you've met Horace then you know what I mean. We finished of the night with a show at the Stardust and some drinks...
The next day was a day at sea. We got up kinda early and had breakfast. We played bingo which was a major dissapointment. It was heald in the Galaxy of the Stars nightclub rather than the theatre and the numbers were called too quickly for those of us who purchased the biggest package. You couldn't get through all of them before they called the next number... it was frustrating. Because of this we did not play bingo again. After bingo we played around the pool and hot tubs. Lunch at Raffles was good and later we had dinner at Windows again. The food was fabulous but the service was mediocre at best. We were certainly spoiled by Horace the night prior. We spent the rest of the evening being entertained but went to bed somewhat early as we had to be up at 6:30am so we thought.
We woke up early on Tuesday and had breakfast. We all were under the impression that we would be at Costa Maya for 8:00am. Turns out the joke was on us. We were still at sea. Costa May was 10:00am today - someone read the newsletter incorrectly (hmmmm...). So we watched the flying fish off of the side of the boat and the coastline as we approached Costa Maya. In Costa Maya it was in the mid 80's and not very humid. The port is full of shops and a pool with a small beach area. Not really anything we would want to hang out at but it wasn't horrible. We took a taxi to the north end of Mahahual beach. It was $5 round trip. We found a nice resort and paid $15 per person for all inclusive packages with non-alcoholic beverages. We chose this area as the snorkeling is good for beginners and our kids had never snorkeled before. We had a blast snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboating the day away. The guys at the resort were fantastic and they gave the adults SPECIAL drinks all day long. We even got 30 minute massages on the beach for $15 each. We went back to the ship around 4:45pm and showered and went to dinner. At windows it became very apparent that if you did not have Horace serving you, you were not going to be happy. The other servers we had did not have any personality at all and they constantly mixed things up and were not very attentive. Almost seemed like there were a lot of rookies in that dining room. We spent the rest of the night checking out the entertainment and then to bed before midnight for another early rise.
On Wednesday we were in Belize. **** NOTE **** Prior to coming to Belize we did a lot of research here on C.C. and read about all the problems in Belize with Carnival Cruise lines and the reports that the Belizians were upset with the tourists and that Belize was a scary place to visit. We read how people were planning on staying on the ship because they did not feel safe. LET ME SAY THAT THIS IS ALL A BUNCH OF BS!!! The people were VERY friendly and not once did I feel unsafe or see anyone who looked or acted upset with the tourists. Yes Belize City isn't much to look at but Belize was one of our favorite ports of call!!! **** END NOTE **** We caught our tender at 9am because NCL only allows people who have excursions booked through them the ability to get the passes for the 8am - 9am tenders. We booked the Zipline & Cave Tubing package through cavetubing.bz based on recommendations here on C.C.. We were met by Vitalino and handed off to Fabulouso and Jose who brought us to our private van. Fabulouso told us all about Belize and what we were seeing as we drove to the Zipline property. When we arrived they set us up and we zipped through 7 lines. Some were low but most were 50 - 60 feet high at the tree tops. When we finished we headed over to get our tubes. We walked a little over 30 minutes on a path that I expected to rather rough based on reports here on C.C.. The path was rather easy to manage and the river was slow moving so crossing it was easy as well. Tubing the caves was amazing and a lot of fun. I highly recommend it. Along the way there were several places you could get out of your tube and jump from a rock into the water. This was nice as it was a rather hot day and it was very refreshing. When we finished tubing we went to the cavetubing.bz place to eat. They served chicken and rice with your choice of sodas or rum punch! The food was surprisingly good. After the meal we were dropped off at the port in plenty of time. We did a little shopping and headed back to the ship. Showers and dinner followed. We requested Horace tonight and they had no problem accomodating us. We just had to wait for a table to open in his section (10 minutes). After that it was another night of entertainment and the hot tubs. Before bed we had a late snack at the Blue Lagoon (24 hr food). It was very good but the place is basically a walkway with tables and chairs along it.
Thursday we were in Roatan at 8am. We docked at Mahogany Bay and we walked to the entrance to meet our tour guide Annie from Victor Bodden tours. We toured the island in our private van and then headed to the Bodden ranch to play with the monkeys and other birds and animals they had. The monkeys were awesome! Later we went to Half Moon Bay and snorkeled. The snorkeling here was fabulous and the resort they brought us to had descent food. The prices were a little high though... Our last stop was at the Cameo factory. OMG are those things super expensive!!! Back on the ship we did dinner with Horace again and then headed out for the night on the ship.
Friday we were in Cozumel. We took a taxi to Chankanaab state park. We had booked the kids for the Dolphin swim and based on recommendations on this forum we planned to spend the day and snorkel. The kids loved the Dolphin swim but we were dissapointed in the size of the dolphin pools. We did it in Isla Mujeres two years ago and that facility was much bigger and much better. At the end they wanted to charge us $25 per picture with no quantity discounts. The offered us a package of all the pics on a disc for $240. I think Charlie Sheen must have been there recently because these guys were high on something!!! In Isla we paid $90 for a package that contained the DVD of our swim and 6 pictures... and it was the same company. We had our HD video camera with us and filmed the whole swim so we were not going to pay that kind of money for the pics. The snokeling was great. Deep clear water but it was lacking coral. What coral that was there was in great shape and there were enough fish. I think in 10 years (with no MAJOR hurricanes) the snorkeling will be amazing... The food was good but beware of the menu. They have everything priced in pesos on one side and US dollars on the other. When we were there the exchange rate was 14 to 1. They had the menu priced at 10 to 1. We paid in pesos... We took the taxi back to the ship. Taxi rates were rather high. It cost about $4 per person on the return and about the same on the way out. We were a party of 8, it was more expensive for smaller groups. We passed the Allure of the Seas on our way back. What an amazing looking ship. We can't wait to get on her!!! We took showers when we returned and then had dinner at Tappanyaki, the Japanese steakhouse. It was well worth the money. The food was incredible and we were entertained the entire time. We hit the hot tubs tonight until they kicked us out - fun fun!!!
Saturday was a day at sea and we slept in until 9:00am. We hit breakfast at Raffles and then I did the Hold 'em Tourney. Almost made the final table but it started at 11:00am and it was too early for me to wrap my head around playing cards. It took at least five hands before I felt sharp. The casino on this ship has very low ceilings. I'm 6' 2" and my guess is that the ceilings are at 7' at the most. After the tourney we went to lunch and hung out at the pools for awhile. Just before dinner the outside decks were closed because we hit a squall line and were experiencing winds of over 75 mph. Our kids were topside when they first hit and one of our kids hats was blown off her head and probably never landed before Grand Cayman - lol. About an hour later things calmed down and they opened the decks back up. We did our last dinner with Horace at Windows and went back to our rooms to pack the bags so they are ready. We went out to enjoy the entertainment and came back around 10pm to dump the bags in the hall. Then back out for some drinks and fun!
Sunday we were up early and had breakfast. Because we were flying out on Monday we didn't rush out of the ship. It was 50 degrees in New Orleans and we were not interested in freezing our butts off watching the parades... Getting off of the ship was a breeze and Horace was at the exit waiting for us to say goodbye! Getting through customs was a breeze as well. We could have gotten out faster if we hired a bag handler to take us through but the line was not that bad so we just waited. Maybe cost us 15 minutes at the most. I can imagine there are times when it pays to hire one, especially early.
Overall we had a great time. Like any ship we've been on we found things we liked a lot and things we didn't like. This ship is clean and offers decent facilities. The staff is friendly and the food is better than average. The itinerary was great and we would definately go on it again in the future.