As usual a little late with this review, but, better late than never!!
Like any cruise, everyone’s opinions and experiences are different, which is what makes the Cruise Critic reviews so interesting. This was our 7th NCL cruise.
Panama Canal had been on my bucket list for a very long time, so I was very excited to finally be going. We booked this cruise 9 months before departure and did a fair amount of research/recommendations beforehand. All the ports were places/countries which we hadn’t visited previously.
We decided to spend 3 nights in Miami. First visit and we opted for a boutique hotel in South Beach. Great fun experience and we also used the hop on hop off bus to tour all the areas of Miami.
We were fortunate to have VIP status for this cruise which made the check in and embarkation process very easy. Looking round the embarkation hall there seemed to be some lines but didn’t hear anyone complain about the time it took to board.
Sail Away Party
Worth the time it took for me to organise it. Although difficult to know exactly how many people were there (most did wear red) it was very nice to have the opportunity to meet up with some of the Cruise Critic members before the Meet & Greet.
Meet & Greet
The Meet & Greet was not as well attended as it could have been. I find it annoying that people sign up and then don’t turn up. The ship caters refreshments according to the number of people that the Cruise Critic organisers give. Maybe something to think about before you sign up next time!! There was a very good turn out by the senior crew members who came to meet and talk to us. Their presence was appreciated and those who attended had a very enjoyable time.
Good size casino with plenty of tables and slots. Bonus for me was that it actually wasn’t too smoky!!
Probably the most boring I’ve seen on any cruise ship to date.
Mid ship balcony – deck 9. Comfortable bed, spacious and kept really clean and well serviced by our cabin steward Clariza. (She got a Hero report from me!) Never had to ask for anything more than the first time and the cabin was always ready by the time we went back to it. She got to know our routine very quickly! Plenty of storage space and even the bathroom wasn’t too bad. Would be nice to have a bit bigger table on the balcony and it’s time that the ship went interactive on the television system.
The majority of crew members were happy, smiling, helpful and very friendly. (Always the odd exception!) With the majority of tips prepaid or added automatically, there’s not that tendency to ‘overwork’ the tips!. However, we still tend to give a little extra to those that deserve it.
Overall, there was plenty of food available on the ship at all times! We had the ultimate beverage package which worked very well.
We were able to try the new Main dining room menus that started the week we boarded. We found these menus very good. 15 day rotation, so always something different each evening. Plenty of choice, good size portions, favourites kept on the starters menu in addition the daily ‘Classic Entrées’ and the changing daily Featured Entrées dishes. All the food was good quality, nicely presented and the hot dishes were hot! Not bad desserts too. I was sorry to see the 3 ‘a la carte’ items on the menu have been removed as I personally thought that that was a great idea for those that wanted something different without needing to go to a speciality restaurant. Perfect for families.
Both main dining rooms were very nice but overall we much preferred the Tsar’s Palace. Well spaced tables and good wait staff.
Didn’t eat in the buffet very often but what we did have was fine and there were certainly choices to suit everyone.
The design is good with island stations for a lot of the food. Like most buffet areas, there is never enough seating and at busy times that often meant food going cold whilst you tried to find seating or having to take it in turns to get your food.
Ate several times in both O’Sheehan’s and Chin Chin restaurants and thought the food was good in both of them.
Particularly enjoyed having a complementary Asian Restaurant.
The Suit/VIP guests get to use this restaurant exclusively for breakfast & lunch. Initially very poor service here although this was quickly remedied by management after complaints were made. The quality of the food is very good but the menus remained exactly the same for the entire 15 days. I would also add that these limited menus have not changed for at least the last 5 years!! If you want to eat lunch there every day it’s quite a challenge!
We had 2 speciality dinners included as platinum latitudes members. We chose the Bistro and Moderno. Have to say that these were the worst two meals, regarding food and service, that we had during the entire cruise!! Inclusive dining packages may well be part of the reason for this drop in standards??
Some shows were better than others but again that’s down to personal taste. We particularly enjoyed Jeri Sager, The Le Cirque Bijou and The Souled Out Band. There was music and dance provided for everyone and of course my favourite ‘The White Hot Party’!
Ian is a really good cruise director. Always around and very friendly and approachable. He also has a good team.
Plenty of dance classes, lessons, trivia, bingo, exhibitions, lectures, poolside dance parties, etc. so there was always something you could do. However, I never did work out why the Fyzz lounge was always so cold!
Ports of Call
Ports of call were Cartagena, Columbia – Puntarenas, Costa Rica – Corinto, Nicaragua - Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala ,- Acapulco, México and Cabo San Lucas, México. All new places for us and we really enjoyed all the excursions we took. (some NCL, some private). Particular bests for me were Antigua and the Cliff Divers in Acapulco.
This day more than lived up to expectations! Don’t want to say too much as it’s something you want to experience firsthand. However the ship did a really good job of making it a great day with various events. Very interesting documentary film a couple of days before and live commentary during the transit.
Disembarkation was not as bad as I feared but still quite a long line for US Immigration but it did move at a reasonable rate (at least when we disembarked at 9.30am!).
We stayed overnight in LA and then flew to Orlando for 4 nights. Visited Epcot and Kennedy Space Centre, both of which were brilliant!
Overall we had a really great holiday and NCL remains a favourite cruise line for us as it really suits our life style very well. Additional thanks to Claus for his time and to our Concierge Virginia. And, of course, to the very approachable Captain Pelle Fredriksson for such a wonderful smooth sailing. Now looking forward to researching for a new adventure in the not too distant future!
Well situated cabin. No noise apart from when lifeboats are lowered for tendering. Plenty of storage space. Comfortable bed. Bathroom is smallish but ok. Shame there is only a bedside table on one side of the bed. A bigger table on the balcony would be nice. Check out the light switch inside the wardrobe (back left hand side) makes a big difference! Not great lighting for the ladies for doing their make-up!!