We drove to LaQuinta East by Miami Airport the day before our 11 day cruise. Nice, clean, but plain rooms, free parking for car and free buffet next morning. Great Cuban restaurant, Hitching Post, with hotel pickup and return only $5 per couple. Hotel was fine except for noise from overhead planes if that bothers one. Helpful staff, especially Marcel. Be sure not to miss the small service road when trying to locate hotel from GPS.
Took free 10am shuttle to port, easy embarkation, were eating by noon, rooms ready at 2pm, life preserver not needed at muster.
Cove in-hull balcony was fine w/plexiglass on bottom so we could sit and see the water.
Dawn was attractive although too cold in the public areas for us. Food was about an "8" which was great compared to food on past cruises. We didn't feel the specialty restaurants were needed. Sheets kept sliding off bed and pillows were uncomfortable. Mattress OK, but asked for egg crate since I kept sliding into the middle between 2 beds! Bathroom and storage space good.
Room steward, Jimmy, was marginal. Didn't clean glasses several times, didn't clean off deck, etc. Just did animals, bathrooms, etc. Waiter service improved alot since our past cruises. Not as much "pushing" drinks as in the past.
Enjoyed the first sea day poolside. Weather good for the whole cruise with very occasional, quick spotty showers. Guessing about 80 degrees and windy at beaches most days. We were told that December is windy in Southern Caribbean.
Did many private excursions this trip and were just too tired to see most shows. Loved the impressionist show and heard many good comments about others.
Didn't like the Spinnaker Lounge change - now dark and feels closed in. Also would have preferred White Party on the deck...just not the same inside the Spinnaker. Also missed the outside eating area off the garden buffet as on other NCL ships.
Mixed ages with more children than I expected due to length of cruise. Many Canadians and other nationalities which was nice. Made many new friends through Facebook and Cruise Critic before leaving. Lots of fun at Mix and Mingle and dinner.
Debarkation and customs went smoothly. Finding luggage no problem.
Would do this cruise again in a heartbeat....Everything seemed to go perfectly and noticed a huge improvement in many areas from NCL.
Dominican Republic - Samana (not listed individually below)
Best stop ever! Don't decide to stay on ship or visit port! Book an excursion and you'll be thrilled with the beauty of Samana. We took an ATV tour with Terry and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. He is such a nice guy and Pablo really helped us tour. Had a great homemade lunch, saw the rainforest, drove through rivers, up mountains, etc. People were very friendly.
See port info below for other stops we made.