I booked my cruise through whats called a interline agency this time. It's a travel agency that caters to employees of the travel industry. (I am a flight attendant) I think I paid around 369p/p(before tax) for a inner JJ. The price was only about 30 bucks below the retail rate at the time.
About 3 days before sailing I saw the rate went down and called my travel agent to see if I could get a upgrade to a outer. Thank you travel agent and NCL, I got a outer for no extra charge! I booked my own airfare via American for the day BEFORE sailing. I've seen first hand the effects of late flights and cruises. Even on our cruise, a few people had to "catch up" at the next port of call....Bummer!
My hotel was the Doubletree Miami Airport South for 99us (via priceline). Nice hotel, but don't expect airport hotels to be clean. They get used and abused. Stay in downtown or South beach.
The day of the cruise my friend and I took a cab ($25) to the cruise port. Boarding was unusually retarded because the cruise port agency "forgot" to spring forward a hour to daylight savings time. We arrived at 1130am and didn't board until 1pm or so. Bonus was that the rooms were ready as soon as we boarded. Nice to be able and drop our junk off before exploring the ship.
First impressions of the ship.. Immaculate. All the public spaces were clean clean clean. The decor is a little carnivalish but minus the chrome. Some public areas are actually pretty classy. Le Bistro, Teppanyaki the Atrium and Spa are very nice. My room was better than any hotel I stay at work. The bedding was crisp and clean. The storage was more than adequate for a 7 day cruise. BRING a IRON or STEAMER, NCL does not offer irons. Funny they have a "shower line" for steaming clothes, but the hangers in the room don't have hooks. (hint bring a couple of hangers if you want to shower steam your clothes) Don't use the body wash BRING your own soap. Trust me the NCL slogan should be "your not fully clean unless you smell like Listerine" The bath products really smelled like peppermint
My cabin attendants Selvin Knox and Assit Dessai were typical of NCL cabin stewards. AMAZING! They had our names memorized by the first turn down service.They were THE most friendly crew on the ship. Towel monkeys, elephants, pigs you name it they made it. Most Important part the room was clean! So I am rambling, point is a good cabin attendant can make or break a cruise.
Cruise-out was nice. YEAY no mandatory life-vest drill. You should have heard the crowd cheer when it was over in 5 minutes! For dinner I had the sushi bar. Come on think about it. Get it while its fresh (not after a day at sea....) Excellent choice BTW. 15 dollar cover, came with Miso soup and seaweed salad.
First show I saw was the 70's theme music (read camp to the max)If you like disco its for you. Day at sea #1 CRUISE CRITICS... Almost forgot we had a meeting with the hotel Director John O'Hara, The captain and various staff. BECOME A CRUISE CRITIC AND CONTRIBUTE!!! First Relaxing.... I bought the 99 thermal spa package. All you can use whirlpool, sauna,steam shower,tropical rain shower,ice shower heated tile chair, relaxation pool omg bliss etc etc. 99 BUCKS gets you all of it for the whole cruise!!!!! Forget taking a shower in your cramped stateroom, take a whirlpool bath sauna and then a shower up at the spa! BTW thanks to Amanda for fixing some of the issues with the men's spa. NCL is on top of customer service.Partay.... White hot party is fun. That's where I met Rich and some other cast members from the show, but I digress.
Back on the boat later the evening after Roatan I decided to partake in the minibar. Base prices for acohol are reasonable I am not a fan of all the extra charges they tack onto the bill though. Example gratuity is already included in the room charge. For dinner I had Tsars. Typically perfect waitress. So so food. The scallop appetizer was nasty.. Imagine room temp scallops with miracle whip on them. The other food was unmemorable.
Off to Belize now. Booked online prior to the cruise my shore excursion. NCL lost the reservation even though I was able to show I was charged for it. It was a royal mess to get it sorted out. The excursion was great but took up the entire day. That evening I ate at the garden cafe. I love the true to form ethnic dishes! (well and the minibar again in the room but that's another story)
I basically skipped the Costa Maya Village the next day. I've spent enough time in Mexico to know Costa Maya isn't the real Mexico. Its a great tourist trap! Even the drugstore won't sell you the good stuff.... Venture to the local village to see real Mexico. 2 dollar cab ride and you can get some real bargains and good food 2.
Day at sea #2 I don't remember much other than it was rather cold and I was rather drunk. Bad mini bar..... I did play at the casino for a while and went to Cirque Bijou. The later was a good knock off of the real Cirque. Don't sit in the first 10 rows though. Center mid is perfect to catch all the flying action... Get there EARLY!! Up to topsiders afterwards to party with some friends and crew. Good times!!! BTW make sure you look at the shot menu. Its the best value on the ship. As are the Mega Marys.. (Double bloody Mary in a Stein for the price of a regular cocktail)FYI be careful the bartenders WILL sneak in upcharges for premium drinks even though they use house liquor.
Stirrup Cay Not much to say here. I bypassed to go to the spa for the afternoon. I wanted to enjoy the boat to myself one last day. Once again the spa is a great bargain! Afterward I wandered the ship. Lots of quiet places to chill. I suggest deck 13 forward or the outdoors cafe at the rear on deck 12. The fizz lounge and the mid deck walkways on deck 7 are also great for a quiet get away.
Last night at sea I went to Azura. I saw the menu earlier in the day and was impressed. Mozzarella and Tomato salad with basil,Escargot,Prime rib with Yorkshire pudding,mocha cheesecake.Sign me up! Although the decor was tacky the food was excellent. The service was impeccable. Tsars is much more eye friendly. Overnight we sailed back to Miami... We docked very early like 600am.
Disembarkation began at 745am prior to the published 8am schedule. I walked off after having breakfast around 9am or so. 10 bucks got me back to MIA airport for my flight home...
All in all I would say NCL was/is a good value. One crew member told me that NCL stands for No Cash Left. NCL is the KING of A la carte cruising. That's the great thing though, don't pay for what you don't want. Service at NCL remains its MAIN selling point. Even with the few problems I had, I was always welcomed with a apology and a smile. More importantly I felt at home and am looking forward to my next cruise this summer!
Close to elevators. Anchor noise can be bothersome to people who sleep in. Pull down bunk for 3rd occupancy.
Roatan. Thanks to Jake (fellow CC)and some of the crew, we were directed to WEST END. Cab was 20 pp r/t We hung out at Lulus. Very cool place. It's a crew hangout so it must be good.Roatan is typical of most less developed ports in that as soon as you are off the pier you and forget at tourist traps.
I did Lamanai, the mayan ruins. Verrrry long excursion(don't expect free time). Hour bus ride in a "Greyhound" style bus followed by a hour boat ride up the New Belize River. Dorian our guide spouted out about everything... Some of it a little less than true. Oh well tour guides get paid for that I guess. I love Mayan culture so it was worth it. I suggest Altun Ha though in Belize they are better ruins and the ride there is more authentic (think repainted school bus).