We thought the destinations looked terrific on this cruise and it would have been wonderful, were it not for the construction work beautifying the ship throughout the two week cruise. Jackhammers, sanding, drilling, dust, strong chemical smells meant that a gloom descended over us, however hard we tried to make the best of things. Fantastic locations and days off the ship were great, and it was a huge relief to get away from the irritation of being around building work! However, I couldn't snorkel in Ensenada, as my throat was so irritated by the dust and my mild asthma was very aggravated, resulting in a horrible panicked feeling. We only found out when we boarded the ship that it was headed to be refurbished in Victoria, Canada, at the end of our cruise, as pallet after pallet of chemicals, paints were loaded at Miami. This meant that much of Deck 12 was covered by these materials, but we thought it wouldn't affect us. How wrong we were - major work lifting decking mats, sanding, filling, levelling decks, priming them, then covering them with self-levelling rubber compound was carried out on Decks 6 and 12, then work was carried out on Deck 11. The final straw for me was the Smoke Stack being worked on, with hammering and insulation materials being ejected from the stack, which billowed around us on the Aft Deck 11 and 12, on tables, food and drinks. Sea days lying around the pool on Deck 11, were spent with sanding going on overhead, with a fine mist of mouldy old paint in the air. Quite a few people felt seriously ill and saw the doctor, while a large number of people had headaches, sore eyes, sinus sensitivity and coughs. NCL should have been honest about their plans, and only after calling a meeting with the Captain, have offered 25% of the price paid, to be used against a cruise if actually started within the next 11 months. I'm unwilling to give more of my hard-earned money to NCL, as their handling of this has been awful and it certainly spoilt much of the holiday. The general staff were good, but I've given service a 'terrible' rating, as the true test of customer service is when things go wrong, and no service was given in relation to our complaints. Healthwise, I'm still coughing now I'm at home - we're very disappointed in NCL as the cruise could and should have been fantastic.
The room was a little bit tired in places, but lots of storage space and clean and more than adequate. The ship was headed for refurbishment in Victoria, Canada, so perhaps the rooms will be updated? Work was being done throughout our cruise which was very distressing, and the room seemed to get dusty very quickly, even though our Steward was fantastic. We think that particles from the sanding of the upper decks was getting into the aircon intake ducts. Almost everyone complained of this. The Children's room is at the end of our corridor, but there weren't many children on this ship and we only heard children running down the corridor in the early evening or during the day, so no problem. Otherwise, we slept well - a nice, quiet cabin.
The Cruise Port is lovely, with plants and birds. We jumped in a taxi with another couple and were dropped off at the Old Town Square. We walked around, found a cafe with internet and had a cup of Columbian coffee. Visited the Inquisition Museum. We had printed our own map of the town and knew what we wanted to see. We bumped into people on the Ship's excursion, so it seemed like we were doing very similar to them. We got a taxi back to the boat from the centre - no problem. People were friendly and it felt very safe, with a good tourist police presence, although there were two of us. I wouldn't wander off alone, just to be sensible, as we did hear of an elderly lady who was stopped in a street on the same day, and asked for money - she was a black belt in her youth and pinned the robber to the ground until the police arrived!
I booked our own tour with Odyssey Tours (email@example.com), called 'Puntarenas 10 in 1 Tour". We were out exploring the local area all day. Two other couples joined us, so it was very comfortable with six of us in the air conditioned minibus (with seatbelts and in great condition) - we paid US$75 each. They were highly recommended when I researched them in Tripadvisor and I would also recommend them. It included a lovely lunch. I really prefer not shuffling around in big coach parties, and also prefer to stop in smaller places, rather than restaurants set up for coach tours.
We weren't sure what to do in Corinto. There were lots of agents who spoke English, who as you left the Port gates, approached you to get you a taxi. We weren't keen on going to Leon, which most people seemed to be doing, but realised that no taxi would take us anywhere else! In the end, we joined a group of 9 people who had already agreed a price and went to Leon. We were so glad that we did, as the drive alone was fantastic, looking at the mountains and smoking volcano. The town of Leon is similar to Cartagena, and our driver took us on an interesting tour. Again, we bumped into lots of fellow passengers who were on the cruise tour, only we paid US$25 each for our trip.