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6 Houston to Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

We thought we done a lot of research before choosing our cruise and travelling from Sydney Australia with my Adult sons and their partners to Houston Texas. Well were we wrong!!!! Before I criticise this ship I would like to point out ... Read More
We thought we done a lot of research before choosing our cruise and travelling from Sydney Australia with my Adult sons and their partners to Houston Texas. Well were we wrong!!!! Before I criticise this ship I would like to point out we have done over 20 cruises, mainly in Australia and Europe with RCCL & NCL, so what I have to say is only compared to what we have done in the past. The ship on their website sounds and looks fantastic, we I can say its not like the Brochure, not even close. The ship is just old and worn. to be honest we are really at a loss to understand how people who have cruised before can rate this ship as being remotely good. There is just far too many rooms compared to public area and entertainment or things to do, there is very little to do on this ship, watch a movie!!! The worst part for us was how the ship catered for the very Elderly, it was almost a floating Nursing home, No fault to the people on the ship and I have all the respect in the world for the elderly but, they really should state this and point out its caters for over 70s, I also admit my travel agent should have known. When you spend the money we spent travelling from the other side of the world i do think you have a right to complain on a site like this and hope they take notice, considering we had taken on young adults who had nothing at all to do, nothing!!!! The entertainment was pathetic to say the least. The other point to note was the food, it was not good and well below average, on the other hand the two the speciality dinning rooms were quite good, the Buffet dinning was the same every day and not good at all, it was Gross. It was very obvious they were cost cutting and knew the elderly were maybe not too fussy or tend to complain? Being self employed I had to use the internet, you get 600 minutes for $200, yes there was No unlimited package and it was sllooowww!! It cost me $600 in 7 days and I just refused to spend anymore. Also tipping was included and you don't get a paper receipt, so you need to keep track on a daily basis for your whole family, its just backwards and out of date. They clearly advertised for suite guest you get to use the Spa services, steam rooms etc. When we arrived to use this we were told No and you need to pay them $90 to use the facilities, I refused to pay.. Next to the Spa area is a smaller pool and just above this it has an area with nice padded chairs, it looked very nice But, sadly you had to pay $20 for half a days use, Yes suite guest cannot use this area without paying. And for the record, in the entire time we were on the ship I did not see one person use this area, 3 staff standing around all day doing nothing... Quite bizarre to say the least, but again zero care from anyone,. We decided to leave the ship on day 8 in Mexico, we simply could not last another day, it was depressing, it was a floating Nursing Home and the staff knew this, in fact they said this ship is know for it, and due to the heavily discounted tickets everything was cut back, simply the elderly people just don't spend money so they just keep it simply and cut costs, regardless what you pay or what room you stay in. Because we decided to leave the ship we had a visit from one of the senior lady managers, she came to our room and asked why and I simply told here what I have noted here, she also said the ship is know for a much older crowd, She also said she would fix the issue with using the spa and call us back when she spoke with the spa people, Well like everything else on this ship, It never happened, No care from anyone and a very depressed ship. Maybe the Spa was contracted out?? All I can say to people wanting a cruise is to stay clear from this ship, I have been told since Princess are known for the much older crowd and specialise for this on most of their ships. I can say for Value and entertainment RCCL & NCL runs rings around them, there is just No real comparison. If you are under 70 years of age just go elsewhere, terrible ship with no care and No after sales service, there is just No one at Princess you can call write to or contact. The No care Cruise Company... Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
We took this cruise with the expectation of going thru the Panama canal locks. Found out that the ship was too long. Having cruised on NCL,RCCL and Celebrity, we were disappointed in the overall lower quality compared to competitors. ... Read More
We took this cruise with the expectation of going thru the Panama canal locks. Found out that the ship was too long. Having cruised on NCL,RCCL and Celebrity, we were disappointed in the overall lower quality compared to competitors. #1. Balcony cabin size is not worth the additional cost. #2. This ship has too much vibration in the stern area. #3. Several areas had foul odors (sewage), and reports of poor functioning of cabin and public restrooms. #4. The buffet restaurants food was usually cold especially fried eggs and various meats. #5. The meals at the dining rooms were average, with rushed service. #6. The entertainment theater was insufficient in size -- poor ships scheduling. With the system of pre-paid gratuities, one can expect less attention from cabin and dining room personnel. Overall, this was our least enjoyable cruise, having been on more than ten, in the past twenty years. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
Panama Canal 19 Night Cruise NCL We are an active retired couple who have been on about ten cruises and especially enjoy longer ones with many sea days. Cruising on the Jewel through the canal was an outstanding experience. ... Read More
Panama Canal 19 Night Cruise NCL We are an active retired couple who have been on about ten cruises and especially enjoy longer ones with many sea days. Cruising on the Jewel through the canal was an outstanding experience. The crew and fellow passengers were exceptionally friendly and the ship was in very good condition; very clean and well administrated. I had worried about the heat and humidity but it turned out to be not an issue. The hottest/most humid weather near the equator was like any hot summer day back home in Ohio. This review will be detailed to help future cruisers plan and make decisions. We planned very well based on the suggestions on Cruise Critic. Thank you! Port of Houston: We arrived at Hobby and took Supershuttle which we booked ahead of time. It was about $75 for four of us to travel to Seabrook. I don’t believe there are hotels near the port that offer a free shuttle from either airport. We stayed at the Best Western Seabrook Suites after reading other reviews of the slim pickings in the area at Baypoint Terminal. The hotel was just fine and had a free shuttle that was well used by the cruisers. The hotel attempts to do their best but many use the shuttle for their water and Pepsi shopping and that causes waits and back ups. There are no restaurants within walking distance so the shuttle stays busy. I would definitely stay there again. We took the shuttle in the late afternoon to Kenah Boardwalk and there are a number of nice restaurants and shops. It is a pleasant place to spend an evening but severe storms came through around the dinner hour and put on quite a show all night. This was the only significant rain we experienced on the entire trip! Embarkation We arrived at the port at 10:20 and were processed through quickly and were allowed to board at about 11:30. We chose to eat at Tsars even though NCL always seems to direct people up to the buffet. The rooms were ready at about 1:00 and the muster drill was in various venues, not the promenade deck. Sail away was a bit overcast but no rain. Fellow Passengers The average age was 66 but the group seemed to be very energetic and active. Lots of walkers, exercisers and dancers so the ship was hopping. The group was very positive, greeted and talked with one another. Most were from Seattle/Western Canada and Houston. There were several hundred Germans and an assortment of other internationals. Most couples were eager to share tables in the MDR. There were maybe a dozen children onboard and all were very well behaved! Cabin- Balcony We scored a free upgrade and were given a very nice balcony on the 10th Deck. Ours was slightly forward of the forward elevators which made for a very quiet location. The deck and chairs needs some maintenance but the rest of the cabin provided enough space and there were bathrobes and a coffee maker (bring your own coffee and filters since the quality they offer is poor). Bring magnets and/or magnetic jumbo clips to keep your papers orderly, a nightlight and a Belkin travel adapter with USB ports. There was an egg crate top on the mattress which makes the bed a bit softer. We slept very well each night. Dining Tsars and Azura: The menu and quality of food is the same in both venues and the service was the best we have experienced on any NCL cruise. Efficient, pleasant and no waiting. I think the UDP had a positive impact on these restaurants. I only saw pagers being used once but they give you a free drink while you wait. I would rate the food average in the world of mainstream cruising. Nothing was really memorable nor was anything very disappointing. The food was always hot and served promptly. O’Sheehans: We enjoyed dining there because of the atmosphere. You can enjoy the music below or the views from the windows. The staff was either very friendly or somewhat somber, but everyone was efficient. The food was okay. The corned beef and cabbage soup was my favorite. Personally, I like the atmosphere but wish they would just bring back the Blue Lagoon menu. Chin Chins: Average Chinese food and perhaps our only dining disappointment. You would think the entrees would be served with rice or that the server would suggest it. We had to order it after the fact and it came out much later. The service was mediocre. I agree with others that it is obvious that Chin Chins was not a good value when it was a cover charge restaurant. It is not very popular even for free. Moderno: The service and food were exceptional. This follows the Brazilian steakhouse concept. My only negative was that the diner probably eats WAY too much protein at this place (how do you spell G-O-U-T) but that isn’t Moderno’s fault. Very well done and it was a smart move to put it in the much nicer location. Buffet: We loved the stations which made the traffic flow more efficient and the selection was excellent. The breakfast buffet offered absolutely everything you might want. The sugarless desserts were always excellent and a surprise. They have a cuisine theme each evening. Well done! Pool Deck/grilling: There were some very nice luncheons provided outside on the sunny days. Don’t miss out on those. They are listed in the dailies. I will add that NCL has very recently implemented a room service charge of $7.95 and also has a new policy that prohibits passengers from bringing food from the dining rooms and buffet. This new policy is now fleet wide but started the day after we disembarked so we didn’t experience this. The only abuse I saw was a man bringing a huge plate of whole fruits to his cabin (likely to take off the ship). I can imagine that people who are not feeling well or are feeling some leg/foot problems would be greatly inconvenienced by this new policy. I bring a travel mug each morning to the buffet and fill it up to take a better grade of coffee to the cabin to drink while we get ready. This new policy, if it is really enforced, would be a reason for me to not consider NCL again. Maybe I will work on designing food concealment bags for NCL cruisers. Entertainment in the Stardust- This has been known as an area where NCL shines, but we were a bit let down in a few areas. First the very good to excellent: Danielle Bitton- excellent performer and dancer David Nastor- comedian- fast paced and funny! LeCirque Bijou- the aerial performers were very good and there was some singing and dancing (not much). Oh What a Night (Four Seasons quartet) and George Solomon (singer/dancer- lead of Oh, What a Night) Luminescence (aerial) Folkloric Show from Mexico was stunning! David Levesque- Violinist and comedian (pretty good) and lecturer on historical topics (really good as a lecturer- a man of many talents) Disappointments: The NCL Singers and Dancers- they were talented but there were no shows that I considered to be well choreographed to display their talents or very creative. The set designs were really a letdown. Band on the Run was the only show that had the typical stage performance. What happened to the Jean Ryan style of singing and dancing? Sam Fedele – this comedian needs an energy boost and better material Didn’t see/Wasn’t interested: Hypnotists, Ventriloquist, Juggler, Showtime: It’s Broadway (heard it was not great and “screechy”) Last Night Goodbye show- watched a few songs and left We enjoyed most of the dance lessons and the variety of dancing in the Spinnaker and Fizz Lounges. Most classes were well taught but a few instructors who were the Stardust dancers went too fast (here’s how to do salsa…now do it twice as fast.... Much better when professional instructors are brought on board although a few of the cruise staff did a fine job. The International Show Band, Twice as Nice and the Alambre Trio were excellent. There were two other performers, a guitarist and a pianist who were very good, but we are dancers and didn’t frequent their shows. The only group that was a bit disappointing was Next Stage. I don’t quite know what the problem was, but they were often late with one member showing up late, but the group often rallied and did a good job. There was a mute DJ and a robot could probably have replaced him. The White Hot Party wasn’t well thought out and the CD staff made some errors in the show schedules. The party was fun but not as well done as on other ships. Stardust is just too small for the “kick off”. It was packed out! Fitness and Pool The fitness center is clean and there was a steady flow of passengers using the facilities. Never very crowded. The pools are pretty small and not crowded. No major chair hogging. A little advice and bragging time: I worked out at the fitness center on most days and used my Fitbit to measure my steps and stairs. My highest achievement was about 23,000 steps and the equivalent of 48 sets of stairs in San Francisco. I eat a pretty moderate but fruit heavy breakfast and an appetizer, nice entrée and dessert for both lunch and dinner. I gained NO weight on this 19 day cruise. My secret is to keep moving and never stuff yourself so that you feel full when the next meal time arrives. I’m hungry at each mealtime. Activities There is plenty to do onboard with crafts, games, sports, movies, trivia, gambling, seminars, etc. The staff did a great job of keeping a nice variety of activities available. The food demos were way too crowded at the atrium. Maybe Spinnakers would be better. The Latitudes party had to be divided into two days because of the large numbers. I wish that the MOC would figure out something other than “who has been married the longest” and “what are your secrets to a happy marriage” when surveying the audience. Cruise Critic Be sure to join your roll call and go to the Meet and Greet, Cabin Crawl, luncheons, Slot Pull, LRC games, etc. if they are organized by a nice person on your roll. A few people organized independent tours which were always superior to the Ship excursions and less expensive. We met a few people who we wished were our neighbors back home (Paul and Tanya and John and Connie.., loved all you cruise critics!). Ports Cartagena, Colombia- Don’t be afraid to get out and see this town. I have to say that I was a bit underwhelmed but glad I went so I can say I was in Colombia. Some nice shopping. We went with Dora and it was nice but I felt we were given too much time in their friends’ shops. This is a very hot port so dress appropriately. Panama Canal- Doing the Panama Canal wasn’t on my bucket list but I have to admit to absolutely loving the experience in retrospect. Be sure to watch a youtube video ahead of your trip and read “Path Between the Seas”. I skipped the part about the French construction since this is a very long book. I had a great appreciation for the experience because of the book. The Jewel had a historian/narrator onboard all day and he broadcasted from the bridge. Don’t feel that you need to find one place and stay there. Keep walking around to find different experiences but stay hydrated. We made a banner for our balcony and got our photo taken from the dock. They offer banner craft making times the two days before the canal. Puntarenas, Costa Rica- We went on the Rainforest Adventure and Aerial Tram (ship excursion) which lets you ride through the canopy of the rain forest. The view from the tram depends on where you are placed. This is a place where you get the best views if you are heavy/tall as they have to balance out tram with the weight of the guide in the back. Being the shortest/smallest was a disadvantage as I was placed in back of all the bigger/taller folks and my views were blocked. The heaviest people got the “best front row seats” and could see everything as we approached. This is in a private park at the EDGE of the rainforest so you won’t really see animals except in cages and terrariums. The ride there took 90 minutes each way and the views were generally uninspiring with many shacks with metal roofs, gravel, etc. Too much time spent in transit Still, a nice experience although you would likely see the same reptiles and amphibians in better displays at a major USA zoo. I would look into going into a National Park next time. The port city and countryside is very depressed and well, there is no other word except “trashy” that conveys the look. The residents just throw trash everywhere. It seemed a major contrast to the country’s efforts to protect their rainforest when the town/country folk just throw things everywhere. I didn’t see this in any other county. Ship excursions: this experience reminded me why we rarely do them. This was pretty expensive and the driver won’t drop you off in the shopping area. Not a huge issue, but a private tour would be more accommodating. They told us it is the ship rule that they have to return all passengers to the ship. Hualtaco- there is a very nice beach that is safe and clean right by the docks and it is free. We did some shopping and had a beer at a beach tent. All was fine until a woman surrounded by several young teen girls approached my husband (I wasn’t around). I saw her later showing a binder of photos of young girls for hire to single men on the beach. That ruined my opinion of that port since it was so obvious and overt. Despite that, a nice port. Acapulco- oh, why does NCL go there? The best thing I guess I can say is that I had the experience of being in a sketchy port. There was a huge military police presence that was there to protect the passengers, likely because of the recent violence/killings and drug trafficking. Jeep/trucks with mounted machine guns at the ready circling through town and scores of police near the port. I didn’t hear of one passenger saying they enjoyed that port. Passengers like the Cliff Divers but many ship tours were shorted on their time in port or had a luncheon that was reportedly really bad. The hustlers were overwhelming and it was just plain old icky around the port. Most people just walked a short distance and then felt like it was time to return to the safety of the ship. Cabo San Lucas- a refreshing port- more upscale and you felt relatively safe. We took a tour to Land’s End on a glass bottom boat- lots of operators right at the dock so don’t book onboard. The trip was really scenic and lovely. Glad we did that. The town has many stores for shopping, souvenir and upscale. Find Burger King for free Wi-Fi with purchase. The port and sailing vessels were very nice. San Francisco- We had never been there so didn’t quite know what to expect. We love this city. The wharf area is safe and has been cleaned up we were told. We bought tickets to Alcatraz for the 9:30 tour online weeks ahead of the cruise as they often sell out weeks in advance. The dock for the ferry to Alcatraz is just a 5 minute walk from the pier. The ship passengers had to go through US Immigration (the one and only time) so that took a while. Alcatraz was a very worthwhile and well organized trip. We returned to the ship for a quick lunch and a power nap and then headed off to Fisherman’s Wharf and down to Ghirardelli Square. Those low rider cars were a blast to see. The line for the Cable cars was quite long and we will save that for another time. Sunday afternoon is pretty crowded anyway! NCL added three hours to the port time in SF and we sailed past Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk. Go to the Great Outdoors on deck 12 for the best view- outside with a great opportunity for nice photos or video. Astoria, Oregon- We kept our fingers crossed as sometimes the cruise ships aren’t allowed to enter because of the dangerous weather/rough wave conditions. We saw what they were talking about when we left the port at the end of the day. Yikes! This port is absolutely charming. The town makes a great effort to welcome the visitors and even engages their city and school buses to shuttle people around. We first went to the Marine Museum which is a great experience (even for someone like me who is just mildly interested). We then hired a taxi for $20 each way to take us to Fort Clatsop and we are so glad we did. This is the site of the winter home of Lewis and Clark when they finally made it to the Pacific. You felt like you were in a primitive forest and the natural surroundings are amazing. I highly recommend going! We qualified for the $10 Senior Pass for the NPS, so that was a great bargain. We didn’t make it to the Astoria Column but heard it was also a very nice experience. The downtown isn’t very worthwhile for a visitor unless you want to eat at a local restaurant. Shopping is mostly antique/crafts. Souvenirs are sold at stands at the dock by the locals. Victoria, British Colombia- A very nice CC friend organized a tour with Nico from “I Love Victoria” sightseeing tours. The bargain of the century! For $14 pp, he took us for a tour of the city, sang to us and took us to Butchart Gardens (entry fee extra) which is about 30 minutes away. Our trips in the past to Victoria were always in the evening making the gardens not a wise choice. Be sure to go there during the day as it is perhaps the prettiest garden setting I have ever seen. This was in early May and the flowers were out in full glory. Only the roses were not in bloom. Try to get there early as it gets quite crowded. Nice gift shop and restaurant/coffee shop. Two hours is just enough time, although you could spend longer. Nico dropped us off on route to the ship wherever we wanted in Victoria. We got off at Hudson Bay near China town and walked the rest of the way to the ship along the harbor. There are lots of benches along the harbor and they have a Fisherman’s Wharf where you can have a lunch/snack. If you are able to walk, do this instead of the shuttle. Debarkation in Seattle- Very smooth with no customs requirement. We had a 2:30 flight so we stored our baggage at the terminal for $3 per bag and walked to Pike’s Market. We had arranged for Seattle Express to pick us up at the terminal and drive us to the airport. $12 pp and very efficient. We had a wonderful driver from Poland named Adam. High marks. Southwest lines were very efficient and we had a fish lunch at an airport place. There are two good fish eateries there. In summary, this was really an outstanding experience. Most of the ports were memorable and the ship experience was really excellent. I would highly recommend this trip but unfortunately, it seems that NCL is doing only one PC cruise next year rather than the four in 2015. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
As we live not far from the port of Houston, taking all our needs for 29 days worked fine in 4 large suitcases. Everything from swimsuits, shorts & tee's to heavy coats and earmuffs was packed along with needs for our whole ... Read More
As we live not far from the port of Houston, taking all our needs for 29 days worked fine in 4 large suitcases. Everything from swimsuits, shorts & tee's to heavy coats and earmuffs was packed along with needs for our whole cruise. Embarkation was fine, as we arrived just after noon, had lunch in the main dining room and found our cabin to be ready after lunch, with bags arriving within an hour or so - muster drill was a breeze, then on to Sail Away party by the pool. Great fun and we even won a free drink The whole crew was made to be high quality by the staff and crew - activities we attended were fun - sailing through Panama Canal interesting. We had a really great private tour in Costa Rica, going to see POAS volcano, oxcart factory and lunch at a local restaurant suggested by our guide. A great day for our group of 8. The cabin was small, with no room to walk on either side of bed, but bed was fine and there was enough storage areas in this inside cabin we used just to sleep and occasional nap. All directors attended our Meet & Mingle party on day 2 - they gave us their phone numbers and told us they aim to please, which they did. We saw directors everywhere, every day. The shows were good, just had some duplicated during the last 9 days. Dining was not over the top, but quite good on most days, with so many ways to fix chicken, it was amazing. Got cake on my birthday, chocolate covered strawberries and wine without asking, just because we were there. Mints on the pillow each night & towel animals continued throughout the cruise. Our private tours in Cabo, Victoria and Seattle went really good too, not missing a beat and even a nice private airport transfer. Great people made our longest cruise to date enjoyable for us - We should have signed up for another cruise, but waited until we got home to book with our discount broker for 2016 Grand Med Cruise - come along and join us on May 7, 2016 from Barcelona - NCL included the Ultimate Dining Package at no added cost expect the 18% gratuity added in advance. Not sure why they don't share the $12.95 per day that we will pay when cruising, but guess others have those funds earmarked - shame on you for not sharing. At least NCL does not claim to give all of the service charges to the crew, but I guess they can hash that out and hope to have other good crew members, even though the cruise line pays too little and many work around the clock to keep everyone satisfied. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
We are a late 60's couple married 46 years with at least 14 prior cruises to our credit, 5 long cruises across the Atlantic with lots of sea days. This was a much anticipated cruise with lots of research including the McCullough book ... Read More
We are a late 60's couple married 46 years with at least 14 prior cruises to our credit, 5 long cruises across the Atlantic with lots of sea days. This was a much anticipated cruise with lots of research including the McCullough book "Path between the Seas". Of course the cruise was much more than the day we spent going through the canal. We like lazy at sea days with lots of time to read and relax. If one watches carefully, even the open ocean can have visual rewards. First the misses. The tours and travels were not really capable of dealing with a handicap scooter and coordination with tour operators was marginal. We had to cancel several tours because we were informed the tour operator could not accommodate a small 3 wheel, take-apart scooter , only to find when we walked out on the dock there were lots of huge buses which would have accommodated us easily. We even asked a bus driver if the scooter could be loaded and he assured it could easily be done. The lack of meaningful lectures was sorely missed. The selection of movies available was interesting to say the least, but playing "The Hobbit" 8 times a day was annoying. I could go on, but why bother. The Azura dining room was dark and noisy, Tzar's was much better and open almost every day for all meals. Some nice bits. Osheehan's and ChinChin were greatly appreciated. Food everywhere and no need for a coke package if you can do with fruit juice, coffee and water at all times. The Jewel rides VERY smoothly and was extremely well handled. Our Steward Paul was a wonderful part of our cruise. look up "Quiet efficiency" and his picture will be there. The library on board was one of the largest I have seen on any boat and even had a few Atlas's available to peruse. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015
This was our first cruise. We never really considered cruising before--it seemed so focused on food, and impossible to connect with local culture. While those might be legitimate criticisms, we nonetheless found it an ideal vacation! ... Read More
This was our first cruise. We never really considered cruising before--it seemed so focused on food, and impossible to connect with local culture. While those might be legitimate criticisms, we nonetheless found it an ideal vacation! The Jewel is a bit older, and seems geared to an older crowd. We chose a cruise that was after school spring breaks and of a length that most working adults could not get away: hence, it was nearly all retired people. While we are younger, that pace was ideal for us. We don't drink or gamble or need spectacular shows to keep us entertained: spending the day reading, talking together, meeting a few interesting people and having a menu of possible but not pressing events was just ideal. Maybe I'm easily entertained, but having a cabin steward make up our cabin every morning and return to tidy it before bed was heavenly! We had cute towel animals whenever we got out of the cabin for turn down. Some people have complained about the food on Jewel, and I will admit that one of the meals we had at Chin Chin during lunch time was cold: the tea was cold, the entree's were cold, it was like some piece of equipment had failed. However, everything--even the too cold food--was prepared artfully, creatively with fresh and appropriate ingredients, inventive recipes with influence from multiple cultural traditions. While I will grant that there were repeat dishes on the menus and buffet, there were many choices and specials to keep it interesting. It was also easy to eat a delicious and healthy diet--many fresh fruits and vegetables, sugar free desserts, multiple protein choices. While there were tempting desserts and breads, if you wanted to avoid them, there is no need to feel deprived. A few days into the cruise, we discovered that the Italian Restaurant next to the Garden Cafe is open for overflow seating during breakfast and lunch! So we took our buffet plates in there, where the tables are charming wood, the walls real brick arches, and the viewing of the ocean is ideal. We enjoyed long brunch conversations while watching sea turtles, porpoise, and flying fish go by. I enjoyed dragging my husband to the dance lessons offered most days. There were several kinds of linedancing, swing dance, waltz, square dancing salsa and merangue. The one thing I did wish was that the instruction was more geared to just dancing with a partner to music rather than doing a routine. Those teaching are show dancers and seemed to relate more to teaching a dance to perform rather than teaching how to lead/follow and a vocabulary of moves. I had heard that there would be sales at the store just before the last day but that did not happen. Rather, there were specials on various items throughout the cruise and not everything went on sale at any given time. I was also surprised that the number of things like games offered at the store was limited. However, if you wanted any toiletry, candy, t-shirt, underwear, clothes, luggage, etc it is a good (if expensive) option. I liked shopping there. We booked ship excursions in all but one port, where we had a private guide. You do lose a little time when the ship first docks when you choose to do this--you have to wait until the tour operators are ready for you, and wait your turn to disembark. This means an extra two hours on board sometimes. In Cabo San Lucas, we were able to grab an early tender and meet up with our tour at the pier instead of waiting to be dismissed from the ship with our group. This allowed us to do some shopping that we would not have had time to do. I loved that you just don't hear "no" on board. No one tells you when to eat or sleep or where to be or what to do, it is completely relaxing. The staff is laid back and friendly and really good at making you feel welcome. They have also apparently toned down some of the selling that perhaps has happened on other ships or in other times, because we did not feel pressed to buy drinks or anything. Yes, you can definitely spend a lot of extra money: but no one is going to make you feel bad if you choose something else instead. We stayed at the Best Western Suites in Seabrook before we boarded. It has a free shuttle to the cruise port and is a terrific place to be the night before a cruise. I wish there had been more educational opportunities on board, lecture series or the like. Don't miss the Spinnaker Lounge, even if you don't drink! It has the best views and the most unusual furniture. Read Less
Sail Date April 2015

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