We flew into Miami from Wisconsin the night before the cruise. There's just no telling with the weather. Spent the night at the airport Embassy Suite. They were overbooked so we got a room with a different sleeping configuration than we wanted. I was crabby from travelling. The next morning I had to admit that this configuration worked better for my family anyway. Otherwise the hotel was nice, clean and the front desk service was really good.
Because we were a family of 5 it was cheaper for us to take a taxi than to take the service everyone raves about on this site. It was an easy ride, detour at the grocery store for diet coke, coke, water, box of wine....
Went through the lines. Paid $15 corkage on a bottle of champagne we brought with us on our carry-on. I felt like they caught me doing something wrong even though I knew about the corkage and planned on paying it. The security guy didn't even talk to me, he pulled it out and walked me over to the table. I wasn't trying to be sneaky. I'm just looking for a "ma'am follow me to the table here and we'll settle up your corkage fee." Not a problem, just a feeling. (I might have had a guilty conscience, but we'll get to that later)
We then went to sit in the main "holding" room until it was our group's turn to board the ship. They gave us no instructions as to what was going on. We were just told to sit in the back. Then after 15 minutes or so they explained that we would begin boarding by our rows. It was quite orderly but again, I was told to sit down and wait with no explanations.
We boarded the boat and were greeted by the head of the child care staff. She was very nice and gave us the paperwork to register our children and asked us to bring the paperwork up to the "Kid's Club" by 2pm. We did and the kids were excited by the rooms they would be spending time in. We then grabbed lunch at the Great Outdoors. I knew from this site that we should go to a dining room instead but we were ready to put our carry-ons down and have a bite, so we did. This is when the kids found out about the ice cream machine. It was a beautiful thing.
When we checked out the pool area there was the BBQ going on and music. My son was dancing like crazy. I've never seen that before. We all had a great time.
At 2pm it was announced that we could go to our rooms. We had 2 ocean views with a connecting door. My husband and I slept in one room (the beds were made accordingly) and the three kids next door. We kept the adjoining door open almost always. This is where I really appreciated NCL. The bathrooms were very nice and clean (this is where I am PICKY). The rooms were laid out to make the most efficient use of space. The storage was very good. Our rooms were cleaned and turned down every day without us ever being in the way or feeling rushed out so they could get to our room. Our stewards were very good. The rooms could have been vacuumed better but that is only if I'm really looking for something to complain about. We always had our towels refreshed as we needed. I love to nap so they were really making up our bed twice a day. They also put down and up the bunk so that it was out of the way and yet inviting to a 5 year old after a long day of vacationing. I can't believe the kids didn't fight for the top bunk, but they all wanted the beds they got. We had two towel animals towards the end of the trip and they were very adorable. Not just some swan, but an elephant and monkey, not easy to pull off. The elephant was even wearing my husband's sunglasses on my husbands birthday which made it even more fun. Our 5 year old must have thought they were stuffed animals because 2 minutes after we found the elephant on the beds she came running in waving a towel over her head and said so joyfully "and you guys, he was made out of "towels"". She was incredulous and we all started laughing. That will be my greatest memory of this vacation. That is a good vacation right there.
So the kids club was open this night. We grabbed a quick dinner at Azura. They were busy so the service and the food were okay, not outstanding but I've certainly had worse. Then we brought the kids to kids club and my husband gambled a little. We would have done something together but I was a little dizzy from the ship so I went to the room. I was surprised by the dizziness but it was gone in a day, so if your trip starts this way it isn't necessarily ruined. While I was in the room I got a call that my youngest kept going to the restroom and wanted me to pick her up. When I picked her up she wasn't sick at all, it was just packed. I mean chaotic like a zoo. Her brother who is 8 said the same when I checked in with him and he came back to the cabin with me too. I wouldn't have even checked on him but it was so crazy that I accidentally waited in line to pick up a kid from his room instead of hers. So once I was there he said he wanted to come with. None of this really bothered me because I knew it was spring break. I heard a number like 900 kids were on this cruise. I believe it, there were a lot. Anyway, my husband brought home my 11 year old. Once she saw me she cried a little bit too because she didn't have fun either. All of my kids like this type of organized activities. I was shocked. But, there were just too many kids. I'm sure that on any other cruise on the same ship with the same employees my kids would have had a riot. NCL were not prepared for the number of kids on this cruise. We never convinced all three of our kids into the kids clubs at the same times again. Bummer, no alone time for Mom and Dad at all but as I noted earlier, I had some of the best family memories to keep.
I left out a paragraph earlier about our luggage. It arrived quickly. I think before 4pm. We chose to smuggle alcohol. We brought a box of wine and 3 of the larger rum runners and 3 of the 8oz ones. It all got through without a problem. I wish I hadn't smuggled the wine because it was the worst wine I've ever had. I'm not that picky about wine, but this box was horrible. It was all they had at winn-dixie and if I had had to go to the naughty room because of this crappy wine I would have been really depressed. The rum runners worked great and if it doesn't interfere with your morals I recommend them highly.
Our first day at sea: breakfast at Tsar's. It was right at closing time but they got us in. They had just had a large rush so the service was slow and they apologized. I appreciated the explanation and it was no big deal. We then went to the pool deck. It was packed. Stuffed. No loungers available at all. I would have been mad but everyone was sitting in their seats. There were no "hoarders" to complain of so it was just an at sea day on a super crowded boat. My husband worked out and then I did. The fitness center was super crowded too. It didn't matter because I was dizzy still so I only worked out for a half an hour and then called it a day. But, because it was so crowded I can't give it a high rating. It was very clean. I also refused to pay for a class (like yoga, or whatever) but as crowded as this cruise was it needed to be a pay for class. Anyway, the kids had a great time in the pools, hot tubs and the slide. While there were lots of kids none were obnoxious, rude, loud or rowdy. I was impressed. Finally we all ate a Tsars and had a lovely dinner together again as a family. No one would go to kids club but we had a good time.
Roatan: Crummy weather. We got a taxi at the port for $60 round trip. We could have gotten it for half that price if we'd taken the time to find the walkway out of the port and get a cab on the street but I was nervous with the kids. We went to West Bay which is a long stretch of beach. We had a nice time even though it was rainy. We bought knock off sunglasses for my husband($15) and a mohogany fruit bowl($30). We ate lunch at the far end of the beach. The food was good. By that time it was time for the cab back to the ship. Back on the ship, swim a little more by the pool and get ready for dinner.
Everytime we ate a Tsars we had to wait at the top of the stairs. Even if it wasn't busy. It was as if they wanted us to experience the wait. It got pretty old and usually just felt like they didn't know where to seat us even though there were many open tables.
Belize: the tender situation is ridiculous. We followed the directions but didn't get on Belize until 11:30am. We missed our independent tour. It seems like this might be a problem that NCL chooses not to fix because you really must do their tours at this port. The guests on their tours walked right on to tender boats whenever necessary to get them to their tours. It is NCL's right to do so and passengers would be smart to book their tours through the cruiseline at this port but it was frustrating enough that I don't think we'd ever book a cruise through Norwegian again. We did find a different boat to take us snorkelling and to a beach. The snorkelling was unbelievable to me. The island beach they brought us too was nothing to write home about. But, they did get us snorkelling when we might have otherwise been out of luck. The company was Fab adventure tours.
Costa Maya: For us it's "Maya Chan". Check it out on the port boards but this place was really wonderful. It was expensive but it's one of those times when you get what you pay for. We ate and drank well, kids loved the beach and sea, it was a lovely place to lay down on a beach bed and nap. It was holy week so lots of locals had vacations and the cabs were running behind. I think the owner was more worried that we'd miss the boat than we were. And, we didn't come close to missing the boat.
Entertainment: Tim K, the comedian was very good. I was on vacation and ready to laugh so I was an easy audience. But, he really likes his job and people and it shows and makes for a great show. The magician, he was good and the kids really liked him. I have no feelings big or small about magicians. The Cirque Bijoux show, well it really is not to be missed. It's not Cirque du Solei but you're on a cruise ship and it's high quality entertainment. I was impressed and enjoying myself the whole time. Again, our kids liked it too.
Great Stirrup Caye: Nothing much to say. It was really crowded. No seats available but in this case it seemed like there was lots of chair "hoarding". I actually went back to the ship with one of our children. I relaxed on a lounger (my first time this trip) while she enjoyed the pool. My other two children stayed on the island with my husband and played on the beach the whole afternoon. They didn't mind the lack of lounge chairs.
Cagney's: My husband and I ate there one evening when the kids agreed to try the club again one last time for us. The food was very good. My steak was great, my husband was a little too done. He really politely asked about it. He was happy to eat it but wondered if he could have the smaller cut version but more rare than this one (my husband can eat a great deal). They said sure but the second cut they brought out was a crappy piece of steak they had served my daughter at tsars the night before. Not a steakhouse cut. We didn't complain because the rest of the food was very good. The sides were so good we even had a second side each because we couldn't decide. The sides are sized for one person to easily eat so we didn't have to roll ourselves out of there, almost though.
Finally, I wonder how others feel about the "Kids Crew" on this voyage. Our food was average, but a real average meaning I'm not complaining and I'm not any thinner. We had a lovely family vacation. Our rooms were perfect for our situation. The entertainment was quite good. In then end I don't want much else from a vacation.