A friend & I booked this cruise, because the itinerary sounded interesting. It was a special 10 day itinerary created when NCL found out the Dawn's dry dock had been postponed. We were excited to visit 6 ports in 10 days. The only disappointment was that it was supposed to visit the new Harvest Caye Belize, which is not ready yet, so we ended up in Belize City, which is not 1 of my favorites. It was a let down to not visit a new port we'd been looking forward to & that was a major reason we'd booked this cruise. But other than that, this was a fun and relaxing cruise on the Dawn, and she was in better shape than I expected, considering some of the other reviews I'd read.
We drove into NOLA a couple of days early to enjoy the city. We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites approx. 5 blocks from Jackson Square & Cafe du Monde and approx. 1 mile from the Julia Street terminal. The hotel was affordable and enjoyable. There's a pretty good breakfast included in the rate, and the courtyard pool area was lovely. Parking is expensive, $35 including tax & valet only. But oh well.
Day 1: Parking at the terminal was very confusing and frustrating. Do not drop off your bags first with the porters. If you do so, you will have passed the driveway for the parking lot, and you can't back up. Park 1st and walk your bags over to the porters. Signs are small and lacking in the area, and parking lot employees are not helpful at all. When you go around the terminal and then cross the railroad tracks, the driveway to the parking lot is immediately on your right.
I'm not sure of the cabin category. It was a modified (accessible) interior cabin on deck 10.
We loved our cabin, which was an accessible interior, cabin 10211, deck 10. Our steward Jay was new and did a great job. He was friendly without being in our faces 24/7. Our cabin was large, since it's wheelchair accessible. There were 2 twins with 2 end tables, a small dining or card table with stool, a vanity area with chair & good size cabinet style closets with plenty of drawers and shelves. There was also a sofa with pull out bed. It felt hard, but it was nice to have that extra seating area. The TV was on the cabinet which housed the safe & mini fridge and had more drawers for storage. The TV swivels so you can watch it from the beds or the couch. The restroom was quite large, as was the shower, but there is no vanity, and there were only 2 small shelves. Bring an over the door plastic shoe holder so you can put your toiletries, etc in it. It seemed like the restroom would be difficult to access if you were in a wheelchair. The floor sloped up into the restroom, so it seemed like you'd have to get a rolling start to get up into it. And the door was not automatic. You would have to manually open it first.
The Country Inn & Suites is affordable and has free breakfast and a lovely courtyard pool and onsite bar. It was approx. 6 blocks from Jackson Square and Cafe du Monde, and it's 1 mile from the Julia St terminal. Valet parking at the hotel is $35 per day.
We tried to visit Bourbon St and realized immediately that we're too old for that mess! The entire street smells of vomit and urine! Yuck, not our scene any more.
We had fun at Clue Carre' in the Vampire Hunter escape room. It was extremely challenging, but with the help of our group, we escaped!
When we drove to the cruise terminal, it got a bit confusing. I had read online to drop your bags off 1st and then park - Wrong! The driveway to the parking lot is before the porters and bag drop off, and you can't back up, so park your car 1st, THEN walk your bags over to the porters. When you drive around the terminal and then take a left for cruise parking, cross the railroad tracks and then the driveway to the parking lot is immediately on your right. They could use bigger/better signs explaining that process, because parking lot employees were NOT helpful at all. The terminal employee and NCL employees were great though.
$4 pp van to Royal Palms beach club on 7 mile beach. $2 pp entry. $35 for 2 loungers and an umbrella. The club includes an adult pool with swim up bar. The water is fantastic at the beach! There's a bar and restaurant, restrooms, changing area and showers. There are always plenty of cabs when you're ready to return to the ship.
You can rent a cabana at the pool for $50 I believe.
Usually it's a tender port, but the Dawn docked, which was great! $15 pp roundtrip cab ride to Bananarama beach club. $10 pp entry included loungers under the shade trees. There's a restaurant and bar and small shops for local souvenirs. The water was very nice. There are a lot of people walking by all day trying to sell you stuff though. Our cab driver was right on time picking us up when we were ready to go back to the ship.
We were disappointed that we ended up in Belize City. We booked this cruise, because it said it was going to the new Harvest Caye, which ended up not being ready, so we went to Belize City instead. Belize City is not 1 of my favorite stops, so we just tendered in (quick and easy), did some shopping, had some mango salsa with chips and drinks at the bar on the water & headed back to our lovely ship for the day. Allegedly, Harvest Caye will be ready in the Fall 2016....we'll see.
We booked Maya Chan beach club on our own online ahead of time. $59 pp included round trip transportation, delicious lunch, open bar, water toys, and our own palapa with chairs, a bed and a hammock. They only let 36 people in per day. It was quiet and relaxing, and the staff were extremely friendly and accommodating! They will even walk or kayak drinks out to you in the water while you enjoy their floating chairs! There was a lot of seaweed in the water, so we didn't enjoy the water as much as we thought we would, but that's not their fault. I would return again. It was relaxing and very nice day.
But if you want to do Costa Maya on the cheap, just stay at the port area. It's new and pretty, and there's a wonderful pool with plenty of free loungers, a restaurant, swim up bar, shopping, etc. If we'd known that ahead of time, we probably just would have done that!
$14 cab ride for 2 to Paradise Beach. $3 pp entry included loungers and umbrella. They just ask that you spend $10 pp at the bar/restaurant. No problem! There's a large, lovely pool, restaurant/bar, restrooms/changing area, showers & some shopping. We love this beach! The water is nice, but you may want to wear water shoes, as there are some rocks. And there are water trampolines and slides that are fund to do and fun to watch. They are included in the price. There are plenty of cabs outside when you're ready to head back to the ship.
Santo Tomas de Castilla Guatemala: We did not get off the ship, because none of the excursions sounded good to us, and it's an industrial port with nothing to do right there. So we just enjoyed a quiet, relaxing day on the ship.