We book a cruise with our adult children and our grandchildren during spring break each year. We choose Norwegian because of the kids sail free offers and the number of activities available for the little ones. This year the cruise was not as worry free as usual because of the virus scares throughout the world. We did not cancel because our cruise was before the Norwegian offers to give passengers credit for a future cruise, and our children did not have CFA insurance and would have taken a significant economic hit. Overall, we had a good cruise. There were many good things but also some "misses."
Embarkation was terrible for us. We arrived at the port at 12:30, went quickly through the temperature screen, security, etc, but then my husband and I were in line to board the ship for over an hour. We did not make in on board until after 2:00. This delay was in no way related to the virus because we had already completed the extra screening prior to getting into the line. We went straight to Taste for a bite of lunch. We finished a quick lunch, went to our mini suite, met our steward, and unpacked our carry-ons before the muster drill.
Our room steward kept our cabin clean and we were pleased with him. I wouldn't say that he went above and beyond, but he did a nice job and responded to my request for additional coffee packets promptly. Personally, I do miss the towel animals a little and think not having them removes a bit of the fun. I know I could have requested them, but I did not. My children requested them for their cabins because they have little ones. They asked for the children so I hated to also ask for adults. I felt it was important for the little ones to have that experience. We gave him a nice extra tip for doing the animals. Perhaps Norwegian could do towels for all guests just one night during the cruise so guests could have that experience at some point during their voyage.
Our first port was Roatan, and we did a private excursion there, which turned out to be our favorite day. We visited the sloth sanctuary before splitting our group into 2 parties. Half went snorkeling while the others went to Las Palmas Beach. Both groups had a wonderful time, and we returned to the ship with time to spare before our scheduled departure from the port.
We had to tender at the private island, but that tender went fairly quickly and efficiently. We rented clamshells, let the kids splay in the splash pad area, spent time on the beach, and really enjoyed the time there. The tender back to the ship was also not excessive.
We chose to stay on the ship at Costa Maya but planned to go ashore at Cozumel. That is one decision I would change now if I were making new plans. Cozumel was a disaster so I wish we had gone ashore at Costa Maya. I will address that in more detail later.
We ate at Cagney's, Teppanyaki, and LaCucina and enjoyed all three. We had amazing waiters at Cagney's and LaCucina. Suma at Cagney's went above and beyond trying to please one of our picky diners. The chef at Teppanyaki was quick to make the show as special as possible for our three year olds, and I would not hesitate to rebook at any of those specialty restaurants.
One real positive that I saw was the effort that the crew was making in sanitizing the ship. Cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning was observed all day in the common areas and hallways. You did not enter a restaurant without using the hand sanitizers. No salt shakers or condiments were on tables without request so contact between other passengers were avoided that way. Tables and chairs were disinfected between use. I think Norwegian was doing their best in that area. We are not big buffet lovers, but the one morning we needed to eat at the buffet because of an early port time. Turns out that was at Cozumel so it was a mistake too, but the buffet was not self serve. Everything was done to keep people safe from germs and the virus.
The one big negative on our trip was the stop at Cozumel. Norwegian could not dock on the day we were there so the plan was to tender. That was a disaster. When we discovered we were tendering, we immediately reacted and secured Tender Tickets for Tender # 1 never dreaming how bad it would be. We thought we were in good shape with an early tender until we reached the theater to wait and saw what was happening. One whole side was filled with people waiting who had priority tender, and they had not boarded yet. No one was boarding because there weren't enough tenders, and of course, they had to sanitize them after every trip over and back. I understand that the sanitizing slowed the process down, but what we experienced was ridiculous, and it was not all because of sanitizing. There were not enough tenders, and even without the sanitizing, there would have been long delays. They called Tender Groups 1-3 at 8:30, and we were still waiting at 10:00! When we asked if they had any idea of how much longer it would be, they had no guess except maybe 45 more minutes. We'd booked a private excursion, but we were going to miss it so we finally gave up, forfeited our excursion deposit, and left to let the kids enjoy amenities on the ship instead of waiting for a tender. Lots of other people left too. They were still calling tender numbers at noon and were only half way through the list.
I think Norwegian needs to re-evaluate the itinerary during this cruise shutdown. If the ship can't dock at the pier in Cozumel, perhaps they need to change their order of the ports, and if they know you will be tendering there, they should let you know in advance so you can plan accordingly. They knew about the tendering before we sailed because someone told me they were doing a bi-weekly share of the dock. One week tender; next week dock. We tried to salvage the rest of our day, but this is a problem that they need to solve.
We also experienced shutdowns of mini golf, ropes course, etc. due to sanitation, which made the few days hard on our little ones. Some of that I understand, but golf clubs, golf balls and bocci balls could have been checked out with equipment sanitized between uses. They could have checked them out at the same spot that was signing out pool towels. Interestingly enough, bowling was open. That is a "for fee" activity so I guess those balls were safe for guests to handle but not golf balls and clubs.
We returned to Miami under a cloud because of the virus, but disembarkation was super simple for us. We never see a reason to try to get off the ship early so we get luggage tags for 8:30 or 9:00, depending on what is available. This time it was 8:30. We vacated our cabin at 7:45, went to Savor, had a nice breakfast, and went to the line at 8:40. It moved quickly, and we were off the ship, in our cars, and on the way home by 9:30.
I want to close by once again saying how hard the crew on this cruise worked at trying to keep the ship free of the virus. I truly feel sorry for them during this time because they will suffer income loss and are probably worried above loved ones just like the rest of us. Even if Norwegian pays them, they will be missing out on tips.
We stopped for lunch on our drive home, which is about 6 hours. What we saw at the restaurant was far more concerning than ANYTHING we experienced on the cruise. Of course, now we are on a 14-day quarantine just because we were on the cruise. My kids can't work, kids can't go to day care, etc. Good news is that we are now 8 days post cruise with no symptoms. I'm thankful we were able to go on this cruise, even if it wasn't perfect. I look forward to a future cruise when all the craziness is over, but I will reevaluate whether or not I wish to port in Cozumel.
We were happy with our cabin. It was mid ship and had a very nice shower. As is the case with other Norwegian ships we've sailed on, we always need additional outlets, but I have learned to bring an outlet adaptor which gives us additional USB ports and an extra outlet for regular plugs. It does not have a surge protector so it is fine for use on the ship. If the USB ports by the bed work properly, it helps, but one of ours did not work.
Parking was okay, but when leaving the elevator in the parking garage wasn't working. That meant having to climb stairs to get to our vehicle. I am physically able to do it, but others were struggling.
We had to tender for this port, but the tenders were efficient without excessive wait time. We booked a clamshell and enjoyed the beach, splash pad, and pool. Overall, it was a nice day.
Just stayed on board and enjoyed the ship's amenities.
This port was the worst day of our entire cruise. We had to tender, and Norwegian did not have enough tenders for efficient transfer to the shore. We had booked an independent excursion, which we missed because we waited 90 minutes for a tender before giving up and just staying on board. We lost our deposit, but more importantly, had we known we'd not be able to get off in a timely manner, we'd have planned to do things like the splash pad early before the crowds got out of hand. I heard them announcing tenders after noon for people with tender ticket numbers that were about half way through those available. It was all blamed on swells and the needed virus sanitation, but Norwegian clearly did not have enough tenders for a ship the size of the Escape.