This was my 96th cruise and 13th with NCL. Booked Family Suite 12516 Port side forward deck 12. We sailed Sunday, Nov 27th. We chose NCL as Tampa is closest to my disabled friends home in Venice, Florida and we had already been on the Carnival and Holland America ships from Tampa this year..
3 gentlemen total in party. I am 64, my cousin is 59 and the handicapped traveler who celebrated his birthday on the trip turned 68. He also paid for the cruise as he does every year in exchange for companionship and our caretaking due to old age physical problems. He has his own portable wheelchair but is able to walk short distances.
We arrived at the pier in Tampa at noon. Usual backup of cars waiting to unload. got in line and in less than 5 minutes unloaded 2 psgrs, wheelchair, 5 suitcases and 2 carry-ons.left them at the pier while i went across the street to park in covered garage for $105 dollars for 7 days. short walk back to pier and then an elevator up to ck-in. since we had a suite and we are all repeaters we were shuffled off to priority ck-in which , unfortunately was understaffed ( 2 on duty, later 3) and sat for 30 minutes before our turn came. then given an escort to handle the wchr and onto the ship and our suite. Very impressed with it. I bring a tape measure with me and the approx dimensions were about 18 feet by 22 so very roomy. 4 closets, 22 drawers, 50 inch flat screen, safe, huge bathroom (not handicap accessible but separate shower and tub plus 2 sinks.) luggage arrived piece by piece despite priority stickers and one case held back due a Swiss knife in it so had to go to guest relations to claim. The young male from India who waited on me was not helpful at first ( towing the party line) but when I threatened to stand there in the middle of the atrium and yell at the top of my lungs about their incompetence until they brought my case he backed down. he went to get it and brought 2 female security thugs to witness the opening of it. the problem was the small Swiss Army pocket knife! they also noticed that i had portable fans in that suitcase ( in case the air conditioning doesnt work well enough ) so they confiscated them for their "electrician to look over" to make sure it was the right voltage and gave me a receipt. by the time I returned to my suite the phone was ringing and they told me they were bringing all 3 fans back asap. the concierge, butler, and steward all came to introduce themselves as well.
Finished stowing everything away and hid the cases under the king size bed. we also had a queen sleep sofa and a double Murphy bed in the dining area of the suite. as the convertible did not have a firm enough mattress, we told the steward to leave the Murphy bed down permanently for my handicapped friend and they moved the dining table and chairs into the living room portion of the suite.
As we all have cruised before many times I will state now that we didnt go to any shows, any bars, any of the a la carte restaurants, or buy any shore excursions. The ships duty free shops are a rip-off and most items can be purchased ashore or over the web at lower prices but we did buy 4 bottles of vodka and 6 cartons of cigarettes cheaper than we can obtain them in Florida or Washington , DC. There was a Lavazza deluxe coffee/tea maker in the suite so in the morning I made coffee and always had sweet rolls in the cabin for my disabled friend, then my cousin and I always went to breakfast in the Versailles dining room or Cagneys (suite psgrs only). we always got a table for two with hardly a wait except one morning when everyone showed up so we shared an 8 top with strangers which was ok but the service was much slower. The menu was the same every morning but, honestly folks, how many times does Dennys or Perkins change their offerings so I dont know why all the complaints! One nice thing NCL does do is leave a carafe of coffee on your table so you dont have to wait for refills. After our meal was over we went up to the Lido buffet and prepared 2 plates for our disabled friend and brought them back to the suite where he could eat in private at his own pace. Lunch was either in the open ( sometimes ) free dining room or at the lido. BTW, the NCL Chicken Noodle soup is delicious and may I suggest you actually stir the cauldron with the ladle from the bottom to get the solids instead of just the broth as one ignorant passenger complained about on this site. Also, the buffet choices were varied and changed every day in the 3 open lines so , again, why all the complaints?. This is decent quality hotel banquet food and nothing more so the "food gripers" should not expect champagne on a beer budget! Our butler ( Gary, a true angel) brought us the dining room menus every day and by 4 PM we had selected our choices and had a hot delicious dinner delivered to the suite every evening at 7, including cocktails and wine.
I felt sorry for the Northerners, Canadians, and Europeans on board who expected constant sun and smooth seas. we did have high winds at times (40 mph) and high seas (15 foot waves) and there was not a whole lot of good pool or outdoor time on board some days but this was not a problem for us as we are not "beach" people. We stayed in our suite and watched an assortment of TV movies and shows, closed circuit films and mostly BBC news to avoid all the political crap on the other stations due to the Republican candidate races and the Occupy wall street mess. We also had a free selection of DVDs available to us but we brought our own just in case.
My cousin and I got off at all 4 ports for a walk around but my handicapped friend only joined us in Roatan and Costa Maya. Nothing to our taste to purchase ashore except prescription meds at super low prices at the American owned and run pharmacy at the Belize pier. Lots of seniors know this trick and it is cheaper than in Mexico and no problem bringing them back to the US. One thing we did notice as we walked through the lower decks hallways to get to the pier or tender station was the actual odor of backed up sewer gas. The ship was refurbished in 2010 supposedly but although basically clean and fresh looking some work still needs to be done as on any ship in constant use 24/7 week after week.
We took advantage of the priority disembarkation in Tampa and were off the ship by 8:40 AM as promised. Found a porter and all the luggage and cleared customs quickly with no problems. He took us out to the waiting area and I crossed the street to retrieve our car. Circled back and claimed everything and was on the road back to Venice, Fl at 9:20 Am.
In closing I would like to say that our week was enjoyable and the birthday boy definitely enjoyed the change. I am a fully retired travel professional ( former airline agent and cruise travel agent) with over 40 years in the business and to this day I am still amazed at the amount of ignorance you see amongst travelers. Its like they leave their brains behind at home even if they arent drunk out of their mind. It is annoying at times which is when I'll say something to the staff or the actual misbehaving passenger themselves but it never ever changes. Cruising isnt for everyone and some folks just set their hopes up too high. Maybe they should just get in their RV or stay home instead! We travel by cruise ship to enjoy being waited on and just break the routine of being retired. BTW, all our dining room waiters, steward, and butler did a fine job. The only complaint I had was with the officious Indian Purser at guest relations