We were traveling from Dayton Ohio, so we left early on Saturday morning and drove to Picayune MS and spent the night there. We did our research and found that we needed to get to the port early to avoid any possible bad things happening so we did just that. We left the hotel early and got to the port just as the exit for St Charles Street was backing up. We arrived and parked at the port at 8:30. Instead of offloading our stuff and waiting, we left our luggage in the car and walked through the French Qtr and eventually made it back to the port between 10:30 and 11. Embarkation was a breeze. We did wait a bit to get on board, but our philosophy was better early than too late. (As is turned out there were a few who did not think that Mardi Gras would affect traffic in New Orleans.
Activities for the kids:
Both kids (12 yob and 15 yog) thought that the youth activities were fun and well managed. There were a large amount of kids on board, but they were all well behaved and the youth leaders never looked overloaded or out of control. Both kids were skeptical at first, but by the middle of the second day they were both fully engaged.
The parents (my wife and I) did a few trivia games as well as some of the family activities in the Galaxy Lounge. They were all well run and we had a good time. (We have found that you only get out what you put into the activities) My wife enjoyed the napkin folding class as well and the towel animal folding demonstration. The Lifestyle Room (Card room) was wall kept and always had people in there. We also saw the Acrobats and the Elements show. Both were entertaining and worth the time spent waiting to get a good seat.
The food was pretty good. We had heard mixed reviews on the food and were wondering how well they did. We think they exceeded our expectations. While the quality of some of the specific ingredients was not the absolute best, the kitchens did wonders on the preparation side.
Food highlights for me were:
Taste of India: This was the one premium dinner we did and we were thrilled. The food was expertly prepared and absolutely deliceouse. I would like to see more of this style of dinning. With all of the various nationalities on the ships, I think you could do at least three or four "Taste of" dinners a cruise. i.e. "Taste of the Balkins", Taste of the Phillipeans, Taste of Canada (well... maybe not that one!)
The Beer Garden: They had a wonderful Polish Sausage and my by appreciated the 'drive by eating' it afforded.
The Blue Lagoon: My Boy really liked their Wanton Soup, Prosciutto Panini and their chicken tenders
Henry's Pub: This became our favorite hangout. Their Bartender was excellent.
Stateroom: We had room 6035. This is one of the large inside rooms near the for-steps. It was very spacious. With the four of us, we always had plenty of room, the closet and cabinet held almost all of our clothes (including the 15yog. Our room steward was wonderful and our room was always clean and well kept. The room did have some noise late at night as it is directly under the restrooms next to Shanghai Bar, but not enough to overcome the spaciousness and convenience.
Crew/Staff: This is the one area that we think made our whole cruise stand out. We had heard that this is the best staff on any NCL ship. We haven't sailed with any other NCL ship, but I can say they were amazing. For us, it was not about getting pampered in every way, but the attitude that everyone seemed to have. From the Room Steward (My family LOVED Renato. He was an integral part of how much we enjoyed our vacation) to the waiters to the cruise directors. Everyone had a friendly relaxed attitude.
Ports: (As this is more of a ship review, I will only touch on the ports)
Costa Maya: We did Maya Chan and had an absolutely wonderful time, including the 12yob who was in a 'sand golf' tourney with a bunch of drunk middle aged men. Great food Great dinks great place and great people.
Belize: Did the snorkeling and Manatee watch with Coral Breeze. Had a great time Good company to work with
Roatan: we could not tender here due to high winds. We would have Zip Lined with South Shores Excursions. They had our refund in Pay Pal by the end of the day!
Cozumel: We just did the 'shopping thing' and had lunch at "Poncho's Back Yard". It was a good time at the restaurant. (we recommend their Guacamole and the Enchilada Verde)
Overall: The ship was clean and safe. The people were very nice, relaxed and attentive. The weather the first and last sea days left something to be desired, but you can't blame NCL for the weather!
I must say that they truly exceeded our expectations. Heck, for the price we paid, I can't believe the value we got for our dollar.
Well done to the staff and crew