This is my 3rd cruise, 1st with Norwegian. The other 2 were on Carnival and Royal. We booked this cruise back in December. I was pretty excited until I found this web site and started reading the reviews. I just want to say, don't believe everything you read. This was by far, so much better than Carnival and Royal from the time we checked in until the time we disembarked. This is my wife's 6th cruise. She has done a number of cruises on Carnival and 1 on Royal.
I'll start with the check in. We arrived about 10:30 a.m., stood in line for about a half an hour, by 11:30 we were on the ship. Our luggage arrived soon after. No problems whatsoever.
Cabin: We had an inside cabin deck 10 forward. It was small, but we knew that going in. We don't spend a whole lot of time in our room, so the small room didn't bother us. The balcony rooms looked nice from the hallway, but you'll save yourself a lot of money on an interior room and besides no one on the ship knows what type of room you're in unless you're one of those people that have to tell everyone they meet that they are in the penthouse ... I really don't care if you sleep in the hallway ... The bathroom was bigger than the bathrooms on Carnival and Royal, or at least it seemed like it was and believe it or not, we had plenty of water pressure. The room stewards were very friendly and did a great job. As a matter of fact, the entire ship staff was very friendly. I didn't pass one cruise staff person in the hallway that didn't greet me with a "hello" or a "good morning." I can't say the same for the cruises I took on Carnival and Royal.
Food: This seems to be the biggest topic of discussion. I enjoyed the Freestyle dining. If you can plan a vacation, you should be able to plan some sort of eating schedule (making reservations, etc.). The food in the main dining rooms was OK (the Aqua and the Versailles). We ate breakfast every morning in the Versailles and we were in and out in under 45 min. We had dinner there 2 nights, the lobster wasn't very good, but the steaks were OK. We ate at the Endless Summer twice, although I thought the service was very slow, the food was pretty good. We ate 1 night at Le Bistro. We had the surf and turf and it was really good. The other 2 nights, we ate at either in the Red Lion Pub (fish and chips are pretty good) and the buffet, marginal at best. If you eat at the main dining rooms, get there early or after the main crowd, otherwise you'll wait about a 1/2 an hour for a table. For lunch, the fish and chips at the Blue Lagoon are pretty good (I think they come from the same kitchen as the pub) or the buffets aren't too bad. Overall, I thought the food was better than the Carnival and the Royal.
A word of advice. If you don't have a shore excursion booked, go to the library the day before the tender port and pick up a ticket. They only allow you to leave after the shore excursion people have left the ship. If you get to the library about 8:45 a.m., you'll be one of the first 200 do get off the boat after the excursion people.
Ports/shore excursions: We only booked 1 shore excursion, that was the light show and night divers for $65 ea. The light show I could have done without. Imagine watching a Powerpoint presentation on the side of a brick wall ... It was nice to see the cliff divers, but save the money, take a cab to and from, you'll save yourself about $90 for 2. Acapulco is not a city that you will want to just walk around. From the time we left the ship until the time we got back, we were constantly harassed by the locals. Buy this, come here, do this, etc. If you can walk around with a group of people, you'll feel a lot safer, too. I could have done without this stop. I'm sure it was a very nice city 40 years ago. We left the ship at 9:30 a.m. and were back on board by 12:30 p.m. It was very relaxing back on the ship with everyone off.
Zin/Ixtapa: No shore excursion. Took a cab (should be about $5 for two) to Villa Del Sol. A hotel in Zinuataneo. Paid $25.00 each and had a wonderful time sitting on the beach. The locals cannot come into the beach area, so you are not hassled every 45 seconds to buy something. There are lounge chairs under an umbrella and a table for two. We ordered lunch and relaxed all day. Well worth it.
Puerto Vallarta: No shore excursion. Took a cab into town, walked around, had some beer and went back to the ship. It was avery overcast day. Locals are not as bad as Acapulco.
Cabo: No shore excursion. Walked around the pier area and took a water taxi to the beach. Locals walk up and down the beach and ask you every 2 min. to buy something. I don't recommend doing this as an activity. Shore excursion somewhere is probably a better idea.
Shows: Not too bad. The comedian was OK, the comedy juggler was great. The dance group was very good and the shows were good too. The Chinese acrobat show was not worth the time. I thought the bingo was a little pricey ... $29.00 for 4 games. The newlywed game was fun (we got to be in it).
Casino: I thought it was great, that might be because we won about $1500 on the slots. They had Texas Hold Em, $60 buy in. They really need to move it out of the back room so more people can play.
Overall this was the best cruise I have been on. The food was pretty good, the service was good too.
I hope this helps.