The start was rough at best. We got a call the Saturday prior (as we were driving from Texas to New Orleans) informing us that the ship would be late due to a Medical Emergency on the 3/6 sailing. We were told to report to the Cruise terminal at 5pm 3/13. On Sunday we spent the day walking by the River and having breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. Around 1pm I called NCL after seeing a post on Cruise critic informing us that we could drop our luggage off early and NCL confirmed that to be true so we took advantage of that. Never realized what a great idea that would be until we arrived at the Terminal later.....after dropping off the luggage we spent the rest of the time hanging out at Gordon Biersch Brewery. At 5pm we started the walk down Convention and saw the very long line of parked cars. Since we were on foot we were able to go into the Terminal where we proceeded to wait until about 9pm-finally boarding at about 9:30pm. Many others were not so lucky and didn't board until after Midnight. We sailed at approx. 1:30am. Honestly if I didn't have a 10 month old with me I wouldn't have minded the inconvenience so much. NCL did provide boxed lunches and gave us champagne and beads as we boarded. Could they have done more? Yes. We were not compensated at all for missing the whole first day of our cruise. Was it the end of the world? No. There are far more serious things going on in the World. Just frustrating to go through after planning a vacation for a year and NCL was not the best at communicating to us what was going on.
Cabin: Deck 11, Mid ship Room 11078. Yes the room is smaller than what I am used to but it was set up well and we were able to get around - even with a pack and play, toys, and all the babies other goodies. Balcony is a good size for a few people to hang out on. We did have the occasional stomping and music from the pool deck. Never noticed at night though when we were trying to sleep. Our Steward Dale was so nice and always came to talk to us and loved talking to the baby. We didn't make it easy for him to clean the room as we were in there a lot with the baby; this is one area I think the Freestyle cruising is a negative. Stewards have always cleaned my room while I was at dinner...there were times we didn't get our towels or ice but I don't blame it on the Steward as with everyone coming and going at different times it has to be more difficult to track when you are out. Anytime we called he took care of whatever we needed.
Food: Overall I loved the food. Breakfast and Dinner choices were great; Lunch I wasn't too impressed with the buffet. Both times when I just wanted a hot dog the buns were hard and falling apart. Lunch at Henry's (fish and chips) and Blue Lagoon (chicken fingers) were very good and fresh. We tried the sit down breakfast at Windows the first two mornings and gave up after that. Service was very slow and orders incorrect. My mom had a hair in her eggs one morning and they ended up sending chocolate covered strawberries to her room later (for her inconvenience) which was a nice gesture. Also tried Windows two nights for Dinner. The first night went very well; the second night was the longest dinner ever. So slow we gave up by dessert because we had already been there for 2 ½ hours and my 10 month old wasn't having it anymore. We ate at the Garden restaurant two times and the Service was great and food was very good. My husband and I got to sneak away one night by ourselves and chose Cagney's. Fantastic!!! I had the Crab cakes, Clam Chowder, Filet mignon and chocolate brownie. Service was excellent and the food was so good. I haven't been that full in a long time.
Service: One of the best Crews I have sailed with. Everyone we encountered had a smile and a hello. There was a lovely lady (Phillipines, wish I would have gotten her name) in the Buffet at breakfast every morning that was so nice to us and the baby. Went to Guest Services a few times and the folks were very nice as well. Didn't encounter one unpleasant crew member this trip.
Shows/Activities: Saw the Broadway show (enjoyed a lot), Husband and wife Acrobat team (very cool) and the Newlywed not so Newlywed game (always funny). Tried to watch the 2nd City performance and walked out after about 20 minutes. Also tried to watch the comedian and made it about 10 minutes. Neither were funny to me. Played bingo once and lost. I believe it was $10 for three cards but only one game of blackout.
Costa Maya: This was the port I was most excited about and because of our late arrival it ended up being my least favorite day. I was excited because we booked Maya Chan Beach for the day (Not through the cruise line), costamayabeachresort.com. Because of our late start day 1 we didn't get there until late afternoon. It was cold, windy and we had very little daylight left. I will give NCL props for trying to make things right by getting to all our Ports. Maya Chan is a beautiful little place and I love how they reserve each group there own spot (they allow only 40-50 people to book as well). Almost makes you feel as if you are the only ones there. Service was great once things get started and the food was good as well. Very friendly people working there. Please be patient when you first arrive as everyone wants their drinks NOW. The group rate was $52pp and that covered all food, drinks and use of beach equipment. Would love to come here another time under better circumstances and spend the whole day.
Belize: Beliken Brewery and City Tour. This was a great tour as the weather was rainy and overcast the day we arrived. You meet at the Wet Lizard and they have you wait while transportation arrives. We were an hour and a half late thanks to the Tendering process. We did what were supposed to and waited our turn. I am thinking many others did not......My beef with NCL on this is why have me go to the trouble of getting a tender ticket, and then never ask to see it? I am sure many know they don't check and delayed us getting off. The bus driver drove our group around and told us about the City of Belize and then we headed to the Beliken Brewery where we were also given a short tour. We then were brought to a bar they have set up on site and were able to drink as much beer as we wanted in an hour. The beer is on draft, very cold and tasted great. Would have to recommend the Premium (I am only sad they don't sell it here in the States L) I booked this through Coral Breeze Tours and it was $59.38pp. After the tour you are brought back to the Wet Lizard for lunch where you have a choice of chicken fingers or fish, with coconut rice and beans. I had the chicken and it was very good.
Honduras: This was our no plan day and it was nice to just go with the flow and not have a schedule. We got off the ship after a few hours and just walked over to Mahogany Bay Beach. We spent about 2 hours here just laying in beach chairs and getting into the ocean. We didn't buy drinks or food here so I can't comment on any of that. Didn't notice anyone coming around to take drink orders. This Beach is very nice and a good option if there is a day you don't want to make plans or spend a bunch of money. Beach was not crowded at all the day we went but there were showers off and on all day so that might have been the reason.
Cozumel: We booked the Swim with Dolphins tour through NCL. We met at the end of the pier where we took a 5 minute bus ride to Dolphinarius (sp?). Once there we were instructed to showers to wash off sunscreen (not good for Dolphins) and to get in line for Life Jackets. After that we stood around for a while waiting for a lady to organize us into groups. And waited and waited....we thought to ourselves that there has to be a better system for this but they have not figured it out. Didn't fret too much as we didn't have the baby with us so we used it as time to relax ? Once we were separated into our groups we were taken to our pool and introduced to our Dolphin "Nautica". She was so sweet!! We were each given a ride, hug, kiss, hand shake. We had a wonderful time. Was it worth $139? Eh...maybe. It is definitely a once in a lifetime experience. I think what put a damper on the day was the $69 for 3 pictures. Not only that, you are given a disk...not actual pictures. The time with the dolphin was very special and I got to spend the day alone with my hubby and it was HOT and sunny so it was a good day.
Other passengers: Most were well behaved and courteous, the exceptions follow:
First day in Cruise Terminal obviously was a frustrating experience. They finally call our number to line up to Register and as I am walking to line up I am almost pushed and trampled by 8 young (early 20's) girls who are running. I somehow made it there first by walking (they went the wrong way at first) but they have cut off my family including my husband pushing the baby in the stroller. When I get into the line I motion to my family to get in line with me. These same girls have the nerve to start muttering "I can't believe they are cutting" and I finally snapped at them and said "that is my family". And then they were like "you don't have to be so rude". *sigh*
Elevators....if I had a dollar for every time I saw a young healthy person ride the elevator one or two floors I would be rich. There were times even with the stroller that my husband I would just carry the baby in the stroller up one or two flights of stairs as they were full often. I truly feel for people in Wheelchairs who have no other option.
Ah the buffet. I was standing in line at the Omelet station the last sea day for several minutes when a husband and wife strutted up to the station from the other side. They then jumped in and ordered two omelets. I simply pointed out to them the line went the other way when they had the nerve to declare they had been standing there the whole time. Guess I need to schedule a visit to the optometrist now that I am back from vacation. Either way the husband and wife spent a couple minutes berating ME. The only reason I even let it bother me at all was I was trying to get back with the other food so I could feed the baby who was waiting back at the table with my husband. Otherwise I probably would have kept my mouth shut.
And of course we can't forget DECK CHAIRS. What would a cruise be without many empty for hours reserved deck chairs??? I will only say this was one of the worst displays I have seen, 1st place goes to my 2006 Carnival Conquest cruise.
Casino: We booked through Harrah's so we had the card for free drinks that was really nice. Unfortunately (or fortunately however you look at it) we didn't get to spend as much time here because of the baby. It is a nice little casino but didn't want to pay me any money. I heard others did well. I was pleased that even though there is smoking here it was not noticeable to me.
Traveling with baby: Would I do this again? Not sure....I love spending time with my baby but this was not a relaxing trip. I felt bad at times dragging the baby everywhere. I was actually relieved to get home so my kid could crawl wherever he wanted. He has honestly smiled and laughed almost every minute since we have returned home. I will post more about this topic on the family boards.
Overall: I did have a good time and really enjoyed NCL. There were a few bumps along the way but every vacation I have been on has had some. I think we might want to try something other than cruising next time. If we take the baby we will definitely wait until he is older.