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22 New Orleans to Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

Choose this cruise for the Panama Canal itinerary. Had great weather which helps, but really an amazing cruise start to finish. Ship was in great shape, staff were fantastic and hard working. Met lots of great people. I was very ... Read More
Choose this cruise for the Panama Canal itinerary. Had great weather which helps, but really an amazing cruise start to finish. Ship was in great shape, staff were fantastic and hard working. Met lots of great people. I was very impressed with this NCL cruise. Food was great and available all the time so were cold drinks. Buffet is laid out nicely so line ups are minimal. It was so popular the only issue was finding a seat but often they would open La Cucina for extra seating. Never had to go too far to find a place to sit. Maintenance of this ship was excellent. They had a major water leak on deck 5 one day and fixed it and had us operational and cleaned up in record time. Dining room always had a great selection of appetizers and entrees and repetition was minimal for a 21 day cruise...I challenge people to do that in their own home. The gym is great all the equipment was in excellent working order. I really enjoyed this cruise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I chose this cruise because of the multiple ports offered many of which I had not visited. The Norwegian Pearl is a beautiful well maintained ship which is staffed by the most amazing crew ever. I have cruised multiple times and have ... Read More
I chose this cruise because of the multiple ports offered many of which I had not visited. The Norwegian Pearl is a beautiful well maintained ship which is staffed by the most amazing crew ever. I have cruised multiple times and have enjoyed most all of the staff on all my cruises, but the Pearl's staff seemed to genuinely enjoy their work and their coworkers. They were all friendly and out-going and eager to assist passengers and each other at every turn. I would recommend a balcony cabin for passing through the Panama Canal and Port side was best for us to view the procedure when passing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. The food aboard the Pearl was as good as I have had in any 4 Star restaurant and this was in the main dining room. The specialty restaurants were especially nice. We tried all the restaurants on the ship and the only one we did not love was the "Lotus Garden" Cafe. The food at this one location was not on par with the other venues on board this ship. The service in every restaurant was special. The Assistant Maitre'D in the Summer Garden Restaurant, Milos Stankovic, made his rounds to each table at every meal to assure that all you needs/wants were met. One of our waiters, Gautam Kabiraj, must be mentioned for he went over and above to make sure every one of our wishes were met when we dined there and also when we dined in Le Bistro where he also worked. We found the perfect little bar up on the 13th deck mid-ship called Sugarcane's. Billy, the bartender in that bar, was so efficient and made outstanding concoctions that we all enjoyed. One of my favorite excursions was the Outback & Camel Safari at Cobo San Lucia, Mexico. This excursion was very diverse and Ted our guide was so very knowledgeable and capable. One of the members of our tour had some ambulatory difficulties and he made sure that she was safely able to participate in every activity. If you have the opportunity to make this trip, do it. You won't regret it. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
A Panama Canal crossing has long been a bucket list, and the opportunity to see so many other countries was also an attraction. Unfortunately, NCL dropped Honduras and Guatemala from the ports of call, substituting another port for ... Read More
A Panama Canal crossing has long been a bucket list, and the opportunity to see so many other countries was also an attraction. Unfortunately, NCL dropped Honduras and Guatemala from the ports of call, substituting another port for Honduras and gaining another sea day instead of Guatemala. We never did get a clear answer regarding why Guatemela was dropped, and the email communications from NCL were rather curt and uninformative. Embarkation and disembarkation were both very efficient. We took advantage of the Port Valet program in Seattle in which we received our Alaska Airlines boarding passes on board, our luggage was whisked away to the airport and we didn't see it again until we landed at SFO! Excursions were handled efficiently with buses usually waiting on the pier for us. A tender was needed only in Cabo San Lucas. Not all of the excursions were accurately described on the NCL site, however, particularly the day in Nicaragua during which we spent 75% of the 8 hour day bouncing around on bumpy roads for 2 short visits to Old and Colonial Leon. I will review those on the NCL site. I chose the $50 per port excursion credit, but had to go up to the excursion desk (twice) and get that credit applied to my account. It wasn't done automatically. Both Costa Maya and Harvest Caye are Disneyland-style ports of call - perfectly manicured with loud music, entertainers, cabanas, beach chairs, fruity drinks, overpriced food, etc. We avoided those altogether and took excursions onto the mainland. If hanging out on a beach is your thing, you will enjoy these perfect ports, but I really wanted to experience at least a taste of the country we were visiting. We purchased a 7-meal dining plan and booked the restaurants in advance on sea days. We thoroughly enjoyed every restaurant, and ate at Cagney's and Moderno twice. All are first class dining experiences and the service was exemplary. Though the 2 main dining rooms are quite nice, these premium restaurants are well worth the upgrade price. We alternated other meals between The Summer Palace, Indigo, O'Sheehan's and the buffet. We were so overwhelmed by the buffet on the first few days that we vowed to eat elsewhere as much as possible, but eventually we learned the best times to go and found quieter places to sit. Eating in the dining rooms also helps to curb any impulses to overeat, as the plated meals always have modestly sized portions. Breakfast in The Summer Palace was always peaceful, quite and lovely. The buffet is noisy, often messy with people spilling food on the floor, bumping into each other, and the food is lukewarm by the time you find a seat and dig in... I was impressed with the variety of food offered, and we didn't get bored even on such a long cruise. Some of the offerings were rather mediocre. They really don't know how to do Mexican food - the nacho sauce looked like Velveeta cheese :) The last day on the buffet at The Great Outdoors was an unexpected treat - it was German food day with sauerbraten, a whole pig, wienerschnitzel, dumplings, and other main courses; apple strudel with vanilla sauce and black forest cake for dessert! Let's just say that the diet has started now that we're home. Sea days were busy enough, with a choice of lectures, trivia, arts & crafts, language lessons, or just hanging out in one of the lounges reading or playing games. I do wish there were more intellectually stimulating lectures and learning opportunities. The single guest lecturer on board spoke almost every sea day, but I would have liked other similar offerings. We walked a lot on the promenade until we reached the Pacific Ocean when it became too cold and windy. I wish I had brought along a fleece or windbreaker! The "cruise cough" was rampant by the end of the first week on the cruise. I washed my hands obsessively, and used the hand sanitizers so often that my cuticles were peeling; nevertheless I succumbed. The ship's staff cleans constantly, but unless each and every person on the ship does their part to prevent the spread of germs, it's futile. I think the gift shop did a brisk business in selling throat lozenges. In my case, it wasn't a debilitating condition, but I did hear that some guests became quite ill and just stayed in their rooms. Panama Canal Day was exciting and definitely the highlight for us. We had attended several lectures in the preceding days, and the local commentator, Joe, came on the ship before dawn and announced the sites from the bridge throughout the day. I took hundreds of pictures and will eventually make a slide show to commemorate the day. The variety and quality of the entertainment on the ship was commendable and memorable. I feared that we would have the same singers and dancers over and over for 3 weeks, but there was no duplication. We had a juggler, comedians, magicians, broadway singers, an acrobatic couple, the ships production crew presenting several different shows, pianists and more. The ship's production band were quite impressive, given the many genres and pieces of music that they had to master. Each lounge had musicians throughout the day and well into the evening. We went to the White Hot Party (everyone is encouraged to dress in white), but didn't stay long because the music was rather frenetic. We didn't hang out by the pool, since it was really hot and crowded while we were in the Caribbean. I really dislike the strategy of staking out a lounge chair early in the morning by placing a towel or other object on it in case you feel like using the chair later in the day. If people want to "reserve" a chair for the whole day, they should pay a reservation fee! I never did find an empty chair until we reached L.A. I had about 2 hours after returning from the excursion before the ship departed to enjoy a relatively uncrowded deck. The crowd definitely thinned out after we started heading north on the Pacific Ocean. I did not use the gym because I got my exercise by walking the Promenade as often as possible. I also did not use the spa because I found their various treatments to be quite overpriced. The average age of guests on a 21-day cruise in the low season (i.e. when schools are in session) is definitely high - probably well over 60 on this cruise. Most guests were retired. There were 18 children on the ship, so we definitely didn't have to deal with kids running rampant, but the kids we saw definitely seemed to be having fun. We cruised on The Pearl in 2009 when she was just 3 years old, and I was concerned that she might be a bit tired by now in her 12th year of cruising. But after a comprehensive retrofit in 2017, she is still fresh and impressive. The lounges were completely overhauled with more sophisticated colors and finishes. The only sign of wear that I saw was the slightly soiled and tattered carpeting on some of the stairwells. The ship's crew is constantly repairing and repainting. The bollards that were used to attach the cables that guided us through the Canal were repainted within 24 hours! It was a very impressive and memorable cruise in every way, and we look forward to cruising again with NCL; I bought two CruiseNext deposits to ensure that I do so soon! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We chose this cruise because of the embarkation city, length of cruise, value of cruise and we wanted to go through the canal. The crew on the Pearl were excellent! They were very attentive to our needs and had very positive attitudes. We ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the embarkation city, length of cruise, value of cruise and we wanted to go through the canal. The crew on the Pearl were excellent! They were very attentive to our needs and had very positive attitudes. We observed that as they interacted with each other, they were happy and had fun performing their jobs. We believe that these positive attitudes translated over to the guests enjoying themselves, as well. Kudos to Cary and Tony, the hotel director and food and beverage director for selecting a team that performed splendidly on a three week expedition!! Our only “negative” experience was in La Cucina. The quality of the food was sub-par to us. This was our second NCL cruise and also the second time we felt like this after dining there. However, Le Bistro, Carney’s and Moderno made up for the disappointment in La Cucina. The bar staff at the Martini bar were the BEST! Ricardo and “Elly” along with their team were quick to serve and please the guests. Enrique in the Bistro, Grama in Indigo and Milos in the Summer Palace were awesome! Overall, we had a grand experience! Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Cruise offered was back to back through Panama Canal and on to Alaska. Two ports were cancelled (were not told why) so assume that is why we arrived in LA at 12 midnight and could not get off ship until the following morning after 7 am - ... Read More
Cruise offered was back to back through Panama Canal and on to Alaska. Two ports were cancelled (were not told why) so assume that is why we arrived in LA at 12 midnight and could not get off ship until the following morning after 7 am - as ship was leaving at 2 pm in afternoon - there was no time to travel into the city and return in time to board ship. The customs took so long that we finally got on the dock too late to go sightseeing. The same really short dock time happened in British Colombia - no time to sightsee. All other ports were good - and we did a lot of sightseeing. Our cabin was the smallest compared to other cruise lines. We booked a double and had to be satisfied with a 3 berth, with the bunk on the wall. Customer relations all through the cruise offered no help. The food was average, especially as we were on the ship for 4 weeks, it did not change much. The entertainment was nothing to talk about either. The cabin stewards and dining room staff were terrific - we only have a complaint with the higher up staff. I have just re-read this review, and we are not 'whingers' and we never do this - we have cruised on over 14 different ships'- but this one was soo disappointing to the point that it will have to be a really cheap cruise to sail with Norwegian again, especially on the Pearl. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I have taken cruises before and I have cruised on several different cruise lines. This was my first repositioning cruise and I hope to answer some of the questions I had about this type of cruise. We chose this trip because of the ... Read More
I have taken cruises before and I have cruised on several different cruise lines. This was my first repositioning cruise and I hope to answer some of the questions I had about this type of cruise. We chose this trip because of the departure port and the itinerary. New Orleans Embarkation: We live a few hours from New Orleans and took the train down the day before. Our assigned check-in time was 10:30 AM. The cruise terminal was busy but the NCL staff were efficient during checking in. We had a few minutes wait before embarkation began and the seating area filled. We were assigned groups for boarding and this made the flow onto the ship very easy. The staterooms were not ready yet so we went to the main dining room, Summer Palace, for a relaxing three course lunch. This is a helpful tip for those who don’t like the crowded buffet lines on the first day. Usually the main dining room is open on the first day for a limited time but most people go to the buffet. During our meal the announcement was made that the staterooms were ready. We checked out the room and explored some of the ship. Our luggage arrived before sail away. Packing and attire: Packing for a 25 day trip can be a challenge. The Pearl does not have self-serve washing machines/dryers but does offer a laundry service. Given the length of the cruise they did offer a discounted rate at certain times and Latitude members also got a discount. A friend used the service and was satisfied with the results. The attire on the ship was mostly casual with a few people dressing up a little more for dinner. There were a few who wore a cocktail dress, evening attire, or suit but they were definitely the minority. There was only one official “night on the town”- Norwegian’s version of a formal night but people would occasionally dress for a special occasion, specialty dining or just because they could. This was one question I had about the 21 day cruise. I had expected at least one dress-up night a week but we only had one for the entire cruise. Dining and Food: Food was plentiful, fresh and well prepared. The buffets offered the most variety with many different stations and types of food to choose. Our group used the buffet when we needed quick meals or the occasional afternoon snack of ice cream or beverages. The Summer Palace-the largest dining room at the back of the ship was our go-to place. We enjoyed the relaxed pace and time to sit down and enjoy our meals without the bustle of the buffet. The breakfast menu did not change. There were several options of fruits, cereals, egg dishes, and traditional American breakfasts. They also offered smoked salmon, omelets made to order, pancakes and waffles. The lunch menus were rotated and we saw several of the menus multiple times but there was no pattern. There were days when we saw the same menu back to back. This was another question I had about repositioning cruises. There was no routine to the menu rotation-probably based on food availability. We looked at this as an opportunity to try more than one thing from a menu or to have something we really liked a second time. I will admit that toward the end of the cruise it was refreshing if there was something new/different offered. The dinner menus were also rotated with no specific pattern. We tended to eat around or before 7 PM and never had to wait to be seated. The wait staff were outstanding and we were visited by the assistant maître Ds almost every meal. They were a very cohesive staff and were eager to please. They were concerned if we didn’t eat the entire meal and were sincere in wanting feedback. We vote Gautam as the outstanding waiter. He went above and beyond for his “Mississippi Spice Girls” and we felt like family. He would check on us even if we were not in his assigned area. Julius was also very good and had a big smile and greeting whenever we met. Both Milos and Dollarich (not sure of spelling), the Assistant Maitre D’s checked with us frequently to ensure we were pleased with the food and the service. There were so many others who were also very efficient and friendly. The food was good and well prepared. The portions were ample but not huge. There were always beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian options. O’Sheehans is a nice alternative for a quicker meal at breakfast and lunch or different bar type foods for a snack. It does fill up on port days when the main dining is not open. We encountered a 40 minute wait once and opted for the buffet. Specialty Dining: We alternated the specialty restaurants with the main dining which broke up what could have become repetitive in the main dining area. We tried all of the specialty dining restaurants at least once and all were outstanding with one exception; Lotus Garden. Others seemed to like it and perhaps we just got a bad meal but all three of us were disappointed. The food was a giant salt bomb. There were too many other good options to try again. Moderno is best experienced when you are really hungry. I always make a huge salad and end up not getting to try all of the meat choices. The salad bar is smaller than it used to be but the options are wonderful. The filet was very tender and flavorful, one friend really enjoyed the lamb, and the chicken was also tasty. We all adore the grilled pineapple. I wish I could have that every day. Teppanyaki is just fun with chefs who have crazy knife skills making corny jokes and outstanding food. The weakest part of this meal is the desserts but who needs those after soup, salad, rice, vegetables, and meats. La Cucina is a charming space that transports one to Italy. Soft music and dim lighting encourage one to linger. Everything we had here was scrumptious. I liked my meal so much that when we went back a second time I had the same meal again: Ensaleta Caprese, Carbonara, and pork scaloppini. Cagney’s Steakhouse is always popular for a reason. We had remarkable meals here as well. The steaks were prepared as ordered and the accompaniments were delicious. Le Bistro is a favorite. The rich French prepared food is equaled by the attentiveness and service of the staff. One friend was not up for the rich meal and excused herself after the soup. The staff were very concerned and wanted to serve the remainder of her meal to her in the room. I really think the maître D might have delivered it himself if she had accepted the offer. We also observed the staff members turning a champagne bucket upside down to elevate the foot of a woman with an injury. They definitely strive to please. Delectable food from escargot to chocolate tort and everything in between. Ship: The Norwegian Pearl is a beautiful ship both inside and out. The décor is cheerful without being gaudy in most instances and the public spaces are easily accessible and flow nicely throughout the ship. The carpet is a useful navigation tool. The fishes swim forward except for the little red renegade fish who are swimming toward the back. Food is general located toward the back and entertainment toward the front. Public Spaces: Public spaces were rarely crowded although finding a seat for popular activities could be a challenge. I will mention at this point that the seating in several areas uses a barrel type chair that is bulky and not very comfortable. The crystal atrium in the center of the ship is a hub for most everything. It’s a beautiful space featuring a Chihuly glass display and high ceiling. A large screen displays mostly nature screens when not in use and a curving staircase leads up to O’Sheehans. A bar provides additional seating and refreshment. We rarely had waits at the elevators except when the theatre show was letting out or everyone was trying to go into port. Often moving to another set of elevators eliminated this problem. The Stardust Theatre is a gorgeous space with ample seating. We never had a problem finding seats but the prime ones usually filled about 30 minutes before a show. The sightlines on the outer seating were a bit of a challenge with the angle and poles. The Bliss Lounge seemed to have an identity crisis and I have to admit we did not spend much time here. The room is dark, the walls are lined with slot machines and then there are bowling alley lanes. The center has a small stage and the sides are decorated with ornate chairs, oversized couches, and canopy beds. It had a boudoir feel with red velvet and gold being prominent. There are also sectioned off parlor rooms. It does not match the rest of the ship. The Spinnaker Lounge at the top front of the ship on deck 13 is a bright spacious area that is multi-purpose. Early in the morning it is a great spot to find quiet and gaze out over the ocean. We saw dolphins and whales from here. People come here to read, gather, and play cards in addition to many activities that are held in this area. It has a night club feel at night with music and dancing. A small chapel is located next to the Spinnaker. Various bars are located throughout the ship but don’t expect to get the same drinks. The drink menus are different. We had the unlimited beverage package and enjoyed trying new things. I was frustrated that I could get an Irish Coffee at O’Sheehans as part of the package but if I ordered one at Spinnaker or the Stardust I was told it would be an additional charge for the coffee (the constant up-selling gets old). Our favorite bar area was the Sugarcane Bar located outside of Moderno’s overlooking the pool. This is a great location but limited seating and hours. The bar opened at 5:00 PM with Billy tending bar. He was an outstanding person on our trip because he always had a warm smile and friendly greeting. He was always busy. The card room was a nice place, although always cold, but too small. More often than not we could not get a table at 10:30 in the morning, thus the overflow into the Spinnaker. There were quiet little nooks to find in the photo gallery when not open, the hallway outside of the Lotus Garden on deck 7 or deck 6. These were also great spots in the evening for people watching and visiting with new friends as they passed by. The promenade deck has a few lounge chairs and is a wonderful place for walking, viewing the location, or getting some fresh air. I was disappointed that parts of it were shut down during the Panama Canal Transit. This seemed to be necessary for ship operations but could have been a great place for viewing. Staff and crew: The staff and crew on this ship were efficient, hardworking, and friendly. They seemed to be happy as they worked with many humming, singing and laughing. Having been on ships where this is not the case it was pleasant to see. They also tried to make personal connections and do things to make passengers feel unique and special. Rarely did I pass a crew member who did not offer a greeting. A bottle of wine with a personal note sent from the cruise director was a memorable delight as was having crew members remember and call us by name. Entertainment and cruise staff activities: I wondered how the evening entertainment would be scheduled for a repositioning cruise and if shows would be repeated-they were not. The production crew did their two main shows- the Variety Show during the first part of the cruise and the Legends in Concert Production toward the end of the cruise. Every evening had entertainment but it was usually solo performers. We had singers, pianist, comedians, aerialists, a hypnotist and a magician who rotated on and off the ship. They sometimes performed twice but with a different performance. A group known as Uptown deserves a special mention for their outstanding performances and Ivan Rutherford, a vocalist did two outstanding shows. The aerialist Dual Essence were also amazing to watch. The various activities offered by the cruise staff were typical and fun with a wide variety from sporting activities, walking, fitness, trivia, and dance lessons to origami and demonstrations. We developed an immediate repour with Vincent the cruise director and enjoyed our short interactions and encounters with him and his crazy suits. Amenities: Tradewinds: I am not a shopper but there were stores available onboard for souvenirs, liqueur, and jewelry. Internet Café: I won 60 minutes of internet service but it was so slow it took 15 minutes to send an e-mail and I am still not sure it went through. The photo gallery was easily accessed and people were helpful. The photos were printed quickly. I opted to purchase a photo package and was overall happy with this decision. It’s much more affordable purchasing before the cruise and we just poised when the photographers were around rather than constantly having to say no to photographs. At the end of the cruise I sorted through the pictures and chose the ones I wanted. I was irritated that we posed for a photo in the Teppanyaki restaurant and they tried to sale the photo in a special cover with chopsticks. They would not include the photo in my package-again trying to up-sell. Spa: I did utilize the services of the spa and was pleased with the services. Christine is one of the therapist and I would definitely recommend her for massage therapy. At the end of each treatment there was the sales pitch to purchase the products, again with the up-sale. Ports, excursions, and lots of changes: I was disappointed after booking this cruise to receive notification from NCL that one of our ports was being changed from Roaten Honduras to Costa Maya Mexico. While I like both ports I was surprised at the change. Even more unexpected was an e-mail on March 16th for our April 8th sail date that cancelled one of our ports, Guatemala, completely. It also rearranged the remainder of our port days. The reason cited was for bunkering and evacuation Chute maintenance. I had been looking forward to seeing Guatemala so this was a definite disappointment. One would think that these routine activities would have been planned by NCL as part of setting the itinerary. These changes are what prompted me to be on the phone with NCL on multiple occasions with extended waiting periods to talk with the excursion staff. Since we had already booked excursions through the cruise line they had to be cancelled and refunded. For those ports where the date changed, the cruise line also cancelled the excursions and required rebooking rather than moving the reservation. The long waits for telephone assistance were aggravating and show a lack of concern for passengers once they are booked. Cozumel: We were originally scheduled to go to the mainland for an excursion. After hearing about explosives on the ferries we cancelled this excursion around the first part of March. NCL did not put out a statement or contact us about this. Other cruise lines seemed to be more pro-active. NCL did cancel all excursions going by ferry. I am guessing we would have learned about this the night before our port had we not been aware and made plans earlier. We opted for an excursion close to the cruise ship. Our excursion was scheduled later than arrival time so we had no wait to exit the ship. We walked off directly onto the pier and met our group at the end of the pier. We did the Salsa Salsa excursion which is a fun, silly way to enjoy a day. We were transported to a resort, greeted with margaritas and learned how to make 5 different types of salsa and two types of margaritas. We then learned a few steps of salsa dancing and were transported back to the pier. Costa Maya: We did a catamaran snorkel trip with a pirate crew. They did an excellent job with the right mix of entertainment, safety, and instruction. The sea was a bit rough and some were concerned about sea sickness. We had a few minutes of a bumpy ride but the snorkeling site was protected behind the reef. The rough surf did effect visibility. We were divided into three groups, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each person was given a new snorkel to keep. Each group had a guide who lead the snorkel and pointed out interesting flora and fauna. We saw many different types of fish, sting rays, shells and coral. There was a platform and stairs-ideal for anyone who might have difficulties with ladders. It was the easiest entry to a boat I have ever experienced. Cold beverages awaited us back on the boat. There is a lot to do at this port since it was built specifically for the cruise ships. One could easily spend the day browsing shops and participating in the activities offered here without going on an excursion. A short taxi will also take you into a picturesque little town right on the beach. Harvest Cay Belize: I was fortunate to be on the inaugural ship to this private island and looked forward to seeing how the landscape is maturing. It’s a beautiful location for those who want to lay around the pool or find a chair beach side. There are plenty of places to hang out. Getting off the ship here was a little chaotic. We had booked a wildlife boat tour and were in the first group to get off the ship. Many people were trying to get off early (wanting the best locations if I had to guess) so we moved with a crowd all the way to the excursion area. It would have been nice if the staff had taken those with early excursions off the ship before opening the flood gate of people. We had a very pleasant boat tour which included spotting manatees and a few other wildlife. We rode into the mangroves and learned about the ecology of the area. After our tour we had a cold beverage at one of the restaurants, toured the butterfly house and looked at the birds. We had booked parasailing for the afternoon but received a notice the evening before that it had been cancelled due to mechanical issues. It was a pleasant walk back to the ship because the crowds had dispersed. Columbia: This was my first trip to Columbia. The entrance coming into the harbor was well worth getting up early to see. We passed an old fort, small fishing boats and then the very modern city with skyscrapers appearing behind mountains before coming into clear view. We chose the walking tour of Cartagena as our tour. We loaded onto buses at the pier and drove first for a view and photo opportunities of the fort. It was a beautiful structure to see. The people selling items at the tourist areas were persistent, insistent, and relentless. Women in native attire would try to get you to pose for pictures by grabbing your arm and insist on payment. After only a few minutes I was ready to return to the bus. Next was the obligatory market stop where more people swarmed to sell us things. We also listened to a brief presentation on Columbian emeralds. Finally we got to the walking part of our tour. We walked a few blocks through the colonial part of Cartegena. There were a lot of people and more people selling. The architecture was beautiful. We were then taken to the gold museum which was very crowded and only given 10 minutes to view. It was a very quick walk through and more frustrating than enjoyable. I liked Columbia but not the aggression of the people selling trinkets. This tour was not a favorite. The group was too large to really hear the guide and it felt rushed. Panama Canal Transit: I have been to Panama and transited part of the canal before but I was still excited for this day. I woke up early to see the sea wall in Colon. I spent most of the day on our balcony watching our ship and others go through the locks, looked for familiar landmarks, observed the ship traffic, admired the scenery, and watched for wildlife on the shorelines. Port side definitely has more activity if you are transiting from Atlantic to Pacific. The transit took 8 and half hours before Panama City came into view and we sailed out into the Pacific. We took a right turn toward Costa Rica. It was odd to transverse the entire country of Panama without having a port call here. Costa Rica: Another excursion change received the night before our port. Our planned excursion by train, bus and boat had been cancelled. They had refunded our tour then booked us onto the boat tour. The reason again was mechanical issues. We were also rebooked to a tour time later than the original one we chose. Given that this was for wildlife viewing I would much rather have had the earlier time. The tour was good with a bus ride through the countryside where our guide told us about the country, its people and its landscape. Our driver stopped to show us items of interest like cashews growing on trees and iguanas sunning. The facilities before the bus trip were new and functional. We loaded onto a boat and headed out onto the river. Our guide and the boat captain immediately started spotting wildlife. We saw many birds including wood storks, several types of herons, egrets, cormorants, pelicans, king fishers, rosette spoonbills and song birds. We also saw several crocodiles both in and out of the water including the 15 foot long Osama Bin Laudon and Lady GaGa. Black and green iguanas were spotted near the water’s edge and Jesus Christ Lizards sunned on low branches. We took a side trip into the mangroves and all the way to the mouth of the river where it meets the Pacific Ocean. This trip definitely offers many opportunities to see wildlife. Nicaragua: This was not a smooth debarkation from ship. There were delays from the scheduled time because of getting the gangway down due to the tide. We met in the theatre and sat for almost an hour before the staff told us to head downstairs for our tour. At this point everyone on the ship was also trying to get off the ship and we bottlenecked in the hallways. I felt sorry for the people trying to get to their cabins through the crowds. Once off the ship the buses were waiting nearby. We did the old and new Lyon City Tours. This was a long tour taking close to 7 hours. The trip to Old Lyon gave us an opportunity to see the countryside and several volcanos including an active one that vented gases into the air. The ruins of the city were interesting but the excavation has barely been started. It sounds like there is much more to unearth. We had a delicious, authentic meal served buffet style in an open air restaurant before loading back on the bus and heading to the new city of Lyon. We drove through a few of the streets of this colonial style city and stopped at the square outside of the cathedral. We toured the cathedral and had the opportunity to climb to the roof for beautiful views and a unique perspective. The ship was waiting for our tour to return and we sailed shortly thereafter. Acapulco: The arrival into the harbor of Acapulco is very impressive. It is a beautiful port and they were certainly trying to make it appear welcome and safe. There was definitely a visible security presence with armed military on the pier as well as police. The US state department had issued a level 4 “Do not Travel” alert for this city so we chose to stay onboard the ship. I question NCL’s decision to port where there are so many safety concerns and I was surprised that many of my fellow passengers were not even aware that safety is a concern in this area. NCL did not acknowledge or address the safety issues while other cruise lines have stopped going to this port. Fellow passengers said they enjoyed the cliff divers and many noted a high level of police presence in the tourist areas. We would have liked to visit the port but did not think it worth the risk. Cabo San Lucas: This is another beautiful port to arrive with cliffs and the stone arch visible from the harbor. The contrast of the beautiful blue water to the brown desert and cliffs along the shore is striking. We had to anchor and tender into the port. There was a constant rocking of the tender which made the transition difficult for those who are unsteady. The crew was very cautious and helpful with those needing assistance. There are a lot of shops and restaurants at the pier and a very nice area for gathering groups for tours. We did the outback and camel ride which was a fantastic experience. We loaded onto a bus for a short trip out into the desert. We arrived at a ranch and were broken into small groups of no more than 14. Our guide, Ted, was knowledgeable and passionate about our having a good time. He started with an overview then nature walk along a canyon rim. We then climbed down into the canyon and got on our all-terrain truck for a ride the beach. Here we met, kissed and were photographed with Louis the Camel. Next we donned safety helmets, climbed to a platform and mounted camels where we did a loop along the beach. The area is gorgeous with the contrast of desert and ocean. The camel ride was fun. The animals were well tended and not over worked. We ended our tour with a fabulous lunch of authentic Mexican food including handmade tortillas and a tequila tasting. Los Angeles: This port was a different experience for a lot of reasons. We arrived at midnight. Given that this is the largest US shipping port it would have been wonderful to see the arrival in the daytime. There are shipping containers and cranes for as far as the eye can see. At 2:00 AM I was awakened (on the 10th floor mind you) by the men yelling who were bunkering down below. Bunkering is the transfer of gas/oil onto the ship. Why could this not be done during the day as not to disturb passengers? This was our first entry back into a US port and therefore we all, including crew, had to go through customs. Many people simply got off the ship, waited and then got back on board. The NCL port is actually in San Pedro which is a long way from the city of Los Angeles. We opted not to do an excursion here because the few offered were either transfers or bus tours. We had hoped to do the trolley of San Pedro but were told it wasn’t running by one of the employees working in the terminal. We discovered when we returned that it was indeed working. The terminal staff should be better informed. We took a taxi to Long Beach ($35.00) and walked around there. We saw the waterfront and the Queen Mary. Early in the day there was not much happening. By the time we decided to visit the Aquarium there were numerous school buses present so we did a little shopping and returned to the ship. Not a very exciting port stop. Sea Days: We had a number of sea days for a cruise of this duration. They were a welcome rest after multiple port days and they gave us the opportunity to really get acquainted with fellow passengers and the ship. Being onboard the ship forced use to slow down and relax. Our group is not sun worshippers so laying out on the deck was not part of our routine. We participated in some of the ship’s activities, visited with fellow passengers, played cards, read, napped, sat and watched the water, utilized the spa services, shopped, lingered at meals, enjoyed the entertainment and strolled the promenade. Seattle Debarkation: We arrived in Seattle at 7:00 AM. The approach into the city was beautiful. We started seeing land the evening before and it is another approach I wish we could have made during the day. We had obtained luggage tags for an 8:30 AM departure and had our suitcases outside before midnight the night before. We had time for one more breakfast and a few goodbyes in the Summer Palace. We were able to wait in our rooms until our luggage time/color was called. We joined others in the line off the ship. We zigged and zagged a little but the line kept moving. We were surprised that we did not have to go through another customs check. We were out on the curb by the taxis before 9:00 AM. Pros The Norwegian Pearl is a beautiful ship, the size is nice without being crowded or overwhelming. The crew on the ship was outstanding. The overall ports provided a nice variety. Assortment of activities offered on excursions in most ports. The transit of the Panama Canal is an amazing sight. Cons NCLs decision to change one port (Roaten) and cancel another (Guatemala) long after booking had occurred. NCL not addressing the safety issues in Cozumel until the cruise was under way (by cancelling excursions that used ferries). NCL did not address the safety issues in Acapulco despite a US State Department warning not to travel to this city. Many changes to booked excursions either by cancelling and or changing the times booked. At least 6 of 8 tours were cancelled or changed. The constant up-sell by the cruise line is tiresome. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
I wanted to go through the Panama Canal The food was not up to the level I have been use to it was just so so They ran out of items before we reached out destination which is unacceptable The officers were not very friendly they were not ... Read More
I wanted to go through the Panama Canal The food was not up to the level I have been use to it was just so so They ran out of items before we reached out destination which is unacceptable The officers were not very friendly they were not around much and when they were very sour faced I did not see the captain accept at picture time I have been on other cruise lines where officers and the captain were around and approachable Our cabin was neat and clean and well stocked but the lightning for doing your makeup was terrible It was a very tight squeeze between closet and bathroom and I wished I didn't always have to move the bed to see in full length mirror Dennis was great on the guitar and atrium bar was the best you could go there to meet friends as very central the trivia's should have been played up in sky lounge as there was never enough room to play for all the teams also you were not allowed to take snack food out of O'Sheenins which is crazy if you wanted to watch the movie Also popcorn machine during movie time would have been a great add Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
My life goal is to visit at least half of the countries of the world (98). When I saw this cruise advertised, it had four countries in Central American that I had never been to, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Early in 2018 (I ... Read More
My life goal is to visit at least half of the countries of the world (98). When I saw this cruise advertised, it had four countries in Central American that I had never been to, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Early in 2018 (I booked in August), prior to sailing we were told that Honduras was taken off the itinerary, then a few weeks later they decided to bypass Guatemala. In its place were two more stops in Mexico and one more sea day. I was very disappointed, had airlines scheduled and a hotel booked for a three day pre trip stay in New Orleans which would of cost me money if I cancelled the cruise. I decided to keep the trip thinking that it would be very picturesque to sail out of the “Big Easy” along the Mississippi into the Gulf. Wrong! The ship was more than four hours late leaving port after eight p.m. in the dark. Other than some light sources on the shore, we saw nothing. The first morning I woke up, I went into my bathroom to use the toilet. The configuration was such that the front of the seat was less than twelve inches from the wall. I will admit that I am 6’4” but the width of my backside was probably less than half the passengers on the ship. The point is, that to use that toilet, I had to sit “side saddle” which was very uncomfortable. I contacted the cruise staff who told me that there was no other place to move me to. In a little note they apologized to me, gave me a bottle of wine and a cheese plate (an effort to bung me up?). My inside room was the smallest I have ever encountered on a ship which was made even smaller by a bunk bed attached to the wall. It took me several days to realize a padded keg was a chair. Another disappointment was the constant “nickel and diming” that the ship was charging for everything. They even charged for a behind the scene tour aboard the ship, which I have done for free on two other ships. Their Cruise Director, Vincent was a voice that we heard way to often very often flogging money making scenarios from the ship in his loud shrill voice numerous times during the day for the entire cruise. Now for the good news, the lesser staff were fantastic including the porters, busboys, waiters, cleaners and all were super friendly. Definitely made my cruise much more enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Always wanted to do a cruise through the Panama Canal, from gulf side to Pacific ocean. Lots of ports for excursions. Was a great experience. Spent couple days in New Orleans before boarding ship for cruise. Also spent a couple of ... Read More
Always wanted to do a cruise through the Panama Canal, from gulf side to Pacific ocean. Lots of ports for excursions. Was a great experience. Spent couple days in New Orleans before boarding ship for cruise. Also spent a couple of days in Seattle before flying home. Checked off three items on our bucket list with this cruise. Over three hundred passengers from Australia. Several couples were doing a back to back and going on tho Alaska the following week. Entertainment was over the top. Usually most cruises have one or two good acts. This cruise, every act was over the top excellent. The group "UpTown" singers were the best. Their dance moves and singing was unbelievable. Their dancing routines was just short of a full out aerobic exercise. Twenty one day cruise sounds like a long time to spend on a ship,but the days actually flew by. There was always to do. If you are bored, it would be your own fault. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Been cruising for over 30 years. This was the first time on NCL and we took this cruise because of the "ports of call". First, two ports were cancelled and one was added before sailing. many things went wrong as soon as we ... Read More
Been cruising for over 30 years. This was the first time on NCL and we took this cruise because of the "ports of call". First, two ports were cancelled and one was added before sailing. many things went wrong as soon as we got underway. -Plumbing problems (2X) in the cabin, no cold water -Small light fell out of the ceiling -Pre-order of meals screwed up 3X. Request was for no salt. -Hall carpets needed cleaning, badly -Food was boring after a few days. The buffet was better towards the end of the trip but still only average. Most specialty items like lobster was missing, lots of cost cutting noted. -We and most everyone around us got sick with cold like symptoms. The last 2/3rds of the trip were spent just trying to come back to health. This ship is worse then most when it comes to sanitation. The hand sanitizers were at awkward locations to be most effective, often requiring to use handrails after applying but before you reached your table. -Workers were friendly but middle management left something to be desired. -Entertainment was weak. Ship did not have a feeling of being up to date. -Drinking seems to be the pastime of many and of course NCL encourages it with wild drink packages. -Gratuities are mandatory and they were raised recently. -And the problems go on and on...... My wife and I saw no reason to ever return to NCL again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, and along the way, we made stops at Cartagena, Columbia; Costa Rica; Leon, Nicaragua; Antigua, Guatemala, Acapulco, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Los Angeles and finally Seattle. We live ... Read More
We wanted to sail through the Panama Canal, and along the way, we made stops at Cartagena, Columbia; Costa Rica; Leon, Nicaragua; Antigua, Guatemala, Acapulco, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Los Angeles and finally Seattle. We live three hours from Seattle, and it was great not having to fly across the country again to get home. We loved Jim Badger's piano playing and jokes onboard each evening. We loved the shows and fine dining each evening. We loved the Shore Excursions at each port. Norwegian had a deal that made them somewhat reasonable. We so enjoyed our shore excursions to Cartagena and Antigua. They are both historic jewels. We were amazed at the Palace of Inquisition in Cartagena, and all the cobble-stoned streets in Antigua. The people in all the Central American countries are so poor. We bought souvenirs to help them out. It was an exciting trip, and the Panama Canal was a highlight of the entire 21 days onboard. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We did this cruise because of the ports of call. Left from new orleans and went to seattle. The ship is very nice and clean, room also very good. The crew was always happy and friendly. Food was better than expected. We missed two ... Read More
We did this cruise because of the ports of call. Left from new orleans and went to seattle. The ship is very nice and clean, room also very good. The crew was always happy and friendly. Food was better than expected. We missed two ports of call and were not told was not told why, this is one reason we chose this trip was for the ports of call. Smoking was really bad on the ship as they have a cigar room inside the ship bt the piano bar which was full of cig smokers who liked to hold the door wide open for a period on time and let all the smoke out into the bar. Also the casino let the smoke out at both ends and into the theatreall the was into the balcony. This will make us think twice to cruise with nicl again.We also liked the amount of bars and dining rooms. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Prior to our cruise we spent 4 days in New Orleans. Very fun city. Restaurants we would recommend are: The Joint (BBQ) Katies (one of the best meals I have ever had) and the Cafe Cakery for breakfast. We chose the cruise based on the ... Read More
Prior to our cruise we spent 4 days in New Orleans. Very fun city. Restaurants we would recommend are: The Joint (BBQ) Katies (one of the best meals I have ever had) and the Cafe Cakery for breakfast. We chose the cruise based on the itinerary through the Panama Canal. We enjoyed Belize and the private island. We were looking forward to Costa Rica and Guatemala that were also on the itinerary. We were disappointed when Guatemala was removed, and would have much rather they removed Nicaragua. We chose an inside room, because we do not spend time in our cabin. We like to be out and about, and the only thing we use our cabin for in sleeping, and showering. We have had balconies in the past, but by doing inside we can usually add one more cruise per year. NCL has a very easy embarkation process. You schedule a time, and you are on the ship in no time. We have learned to avoid the buffet. Go have lunch at O'Sheen's or the main dining room to avoid crowds. We found the entertainment on the ship to be fair. Some nights were good, and other were poor. Also disappointed in the cost of some of the ship activities. To play bingo was $50.00 and no one won the jackpot, except NCL. Dining in both main dining rooms were very good. We also were in all the speciality restaurants except La Cachina. I did not enjoy Moderno....way to much meat. The salad bar is excellent. Cagney's Steak house is very good. But in all honesty the steaks we had in the main dining room were just as good. I would like to see NCL change up the Buffet. It was the same all 21 days. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
We are a early 60's couple who booked the Panama Canal cruise for the third time. This time my mother, who just turned 90, came with us, wanting to see the new locks on the Canal. We love this itinerary because the 13 days is more ... Read More
We are a early 60's couple who booked the Panama Canal cruise for the third time. This time my mother, who just turned 90, came with us, wanting to see the new locks on the Canal. We love this itinerary because the 13 days is more relaxing than the usual 7-day cruises, it is a warm weather cruise and there are an almost equal number of port and sea days. This was our 10th Norwegian cruise; we have also cruised once on Crystal. We are unapologetic Norwegian ambassadors! Pre-Cruise Preparations - My husband has emphysema and travels with a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), and mom walks with a cane or a rolling walker. That said, traveling can be challenging in this situation. We contacted Norwegian's Access Desk to inform them that we would need 2 wheelchairs at embarkation and disembarkation. We also advised them that mom needs a low/no salt diet. The representative said that once on board we would be contactd to pre-order her meals. More on that under Dining. The airline also requires advance notification with doctor's signature that we are traveling with a POC, as well as the request for wheelchairs for distance. Travel to Embarkation - We flew United to NOLA on Good Friday. We decided to fold, duct tape and check the walker as luggage. It came through with no problem. The wheelchair porters/pushers were prompt and very helpful. The Airport Limosine driver went above and beyond fitting us and our three large, one medium, one carry-on, a POC and the walker in the Town Car (yes, we always manage to overpack!). New Orleans - We stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel, booked through our travel agent. It did not disappoint. The room included "Continental Breakfast" but we ordered a full breakfast and it was covered. We dined at Galatoire's in the French Quarter on Saturday night. Good food, but getting to the upstairs dining room was difficult for mom to walk all the way to the back of the restaurant through a crowded dining room, up the elevator, then back to the front dining room, then back again after dinner. We took a trip to Rouse's market to purchase 8 bottles of wine. Embarkation - We caught a taxi to the port for $7 per person. The taxi dropped us off at the terminal. After we unloaded all our luggage and the porter put it on his cart we found out we would have to walk a long hallway to get to an entrance that would have been closer, and no wheelchairs were available until after we went through security. It would have been better to go to the furthest entrance. We went to the head of the line as mom can not stand for longer than a few minutes without pain. The security agent got us an escort that took us through security quickly. We knew to hand carry our wine, and were directed to the corkage table to pay the $15/bottle corkage, and then to the section to wait for a wheelchair. We waited about 30 minutes for our turn to get 2 wheelchairs. They were very slow in coming. Eventually we got the wheelchairs, got checked in quickly, taken to the VIP lounge and on to the ship. Yay! The Ship - The Jewel was going into dry-dock immediately after our cruise. There was some wear and tear visible that I assume will be upgraded in dry-dock. The ship was clean and the crew was quite visible in cleaning. We had a 2-bedroom Haven Villa and mom was next door in a Haven Penthouse. The living room, bedroom and master bath are exactly the same in both cabins, but the balcony is 1-2 feet deeper in the 2-bedroom. The cabins are luxurious with wood paneling, queen bed in the master bedroom, lots of closet space and storage space in the master bedroom and bath. Minimal storage in the second bedroom. Hot water was slow in coming to the cabin, we had to run the shower to get it more quickly. The butler and steward were fine, though not impressive. We have had some that matched us much better and may have unfair expectations. Dining - We ate at five of the specialty restaurants and in Azura main dining room the rest of the nights. Le Bistro, Cagney's, Chin Chin, Mama's/La Cucina are always our favorites. We also ate at the Teppanyaki, which was better than the last time. Mom needed a low/no salt diet. We were not contacted as promised by the Access Desk rep, but the first night at Azura we asked about it and were introduced to one of our Vacation Heroes, Felicitas J. She was helpful, knowledgeable and a delight. She explained that mom could see the next night's menu and pre-order so sauces and dishes would be prepared with no salt. She also explained which restaurants prepared foods "a la minute" with low/no salt and which needed a pre-order. The result was that it worked extremely well and mom had minimal ankle swelling. We like Azura as it is midship and easy to get to from the Haven. Most of the time the food was varied, good, and well prepared. Ports - Cartagena - we didn't get off this time as we've been there twice before. Huatulco - rglcruise organized a tour with Adelino. He had a late model 13 passenger van and took us through Huatulco to Santa Maria. We walked through a portion of the town, had quesadillas with fresh made tortillas, and watched a carniceria wield his knife. He also told us the history of the area. We drove up into the mountains to a coffee plantation and small town. Adelino was great a communicating his love of his home nation and state. Puerto Vallarta - Just off the ship is a small area with shops to purchase souvenirs and the ever present Diamond International. Walmart is within walking distance from the port for those sundries you've run out of. Cabo San Lucas - This is a tender port. Lots of shopping and restaurants at the dock. Also, there are lots of opportunities to catch an independent operator for a tour of the area by boat. Disembarkation - We arranged with Virginia, the concierge, to have the wheelchairs pick us up. They came a little after the designated time, but then whisked us off very quickly.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
My wife and I looked forward to cruising the Panama Canal. We chose the NCL Jewel because my wife had never been to New Orleans and we figured we could kill two birds by sailing from there. We also wanted to try Freestyle Cruising since ... Read More
My wife and I looked forward to cruising the Panama Canal. We chose the NCL Jewel because my wife had never been to New Orleans and we figured we could kill two birds by sailing from there. We also wanted to try Freestyle Cruising since our previous cruises had on the more traditional RCCL line ships. Although the food in the premium restaurants we tried was very good, the main restaurants and buffet we re just mediocre. But it was about what we expected from a mid - grade cruise line. The mini suite was a little smaller than RCCL's but the balcony was just a bit larger so the room was very comparable. On board activities were about as expected and the shows were well done. One caveat - NCL nickel and dimes just about everything so be prepared to pay extra for nearly everything. The huge problem came about on the fourth day and it basically ruined the rest of the cruise for us. We were on the pool deck that morning and when we went back to our room there were crewmen in the next stateroom dressed in hazmat gear, including suits, head covers and respirators working on something in the room. I could see the cover from the side of the bathtub leaning against the wall in the hallway outside the room and also saw a crewman spraying something in the room. That process was partially repeated the following week - we saw more crewmen with respirators spraying something in that room. The night after the first incident, my wife and I had trouble sleeping because we were coughing almost constantly. These symptoms continued for the duration of the cruise. In fact we are still sick 3 days after disembarkation. After the second incident, I questioned someone at the Customer Service desk about what the crewmen were doing and why it appeared to affect our health. The woman called our room later with a story about them installing something. In full hasmat gear? I had the opportunity to talk to the room's occupants on the last day of the cruise. They were unaware of the crew's work in their room and the woman said she was suffering from the same ailment starting around the same time. Caveat Emptor! Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
Originally I was worried about the number of sea days debut b/c we were with friends we spent the afternoon playing cards on those days. The steward we had was excellent in taking care of our cabin. The gym could use a few more recumbent ... Read More
Originally I was worried about the number of sea days debut b/c we were with friends we spent the afternoon playing cards on those days. The steward we had was excellent in taking care of our cabin. The gym could use a few more recumbent bikes-- the exercise room stayed empty most of the time but the tread mills, elliptical machines and bikes stayed very busy. The food was the best. We ate at both the freestyle dining rooms -- Azure and Tsar's for dinner And the Cafe on deck 12 for breakfast and lunch. The choices were amazing and there were plenty of serving stations so there were virtually no lines. We were greeted regularly by the officers as they moved through the dining room. Our excursions were as advertised and went well. They were worth the money. One was cancelled in Puerto Vallarta b/c of lack of participation but there was room on another which turned out to be a lot of fun. We rode the camels in Cabo San Lucas and our guide was a scream. I loved it. The only issue we had was the shuttle to the airport. We had to wait an hour after disembarking for a bus-- there were several which filled up fast. We were told that there weren't enough buses available that day. Don't know if it was NCL or the bus company that messed up but next time we will take a taxi. The shuttle for 2 people was $30. No idea what a taxi would cost but there would be no wait. OVERALL, we had a wonderful trip. The passage thru the Panama Canal was exceptional. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We took this Panama Canal repositioning cruise from New Orleans to San Francisco. It was very relaxing and we loved the ports we stopped at. There were only 4 ports on this 15 day cruise--1 day was the Panama Canal. NCL is not a high ... Read More
We took this Panama Canal repositioning cruise from New Orleans to San Francisco. It was very relaxing and we loved the ports we stopped at. There were only 4 ports on this 15 day cruise--1 day was the Panama Canal. NCL is not a high class cruise line--the cruise itself was very casual--only one "formal" night as far as I could tell and that was barely advertised. The food on NCL is at the regular dining rooms is generally fair--the unlimited dining package is a great deal--and the food is excellent at the Cagneys steak house, Brazilian steak house, and French restaurant. As far as "fast food"--their Burgers and Pizza are lousy and there is the same menu daily at sit down breakfast and lunch--I shouldn't complain though--I still managed to gain an unacceptable amount of weight on the cruise. It's not a huge ship--there are 2 swimming pools on the Lido deck--have gotten used to hanging out at the back of the ship's pool on other lines and we missed that. Not a lot of indoor areas where you can sit and watch the view--also some of the indoor areas are designated concierge level areas only during certain hours--so indoor space is very limited. Not sure that I would do a colder weather cruise like Alaska on this ship. Casino was VERY friendly--there wasn't a huge crowd gambling and the pit bosses were very generous with buying drinks even though we weren't technically eligible point wise yet for that. The ship was scheduled to go into dry dock right after our cruise--but all facilities were open, clean and functional. Wouldn't have known that a dry dock was planned except that it was announced. Cruise critic activities were very nicely done on board--the meet and greet was well attended by officers and we had an active cabin crawl--we were even allowed access to the Haven Suite area. Had last taken an NCL cruise 2 years ago and since then they have had a major attitude adjustment. Have never in all my cruising experience of over 20 cruises been asked so many times how the cruise was going?, did I have any suggestions?, and what could they do to make the cruise better? After talking to the staff--they asked for our room number and we received chocolate covered strawberries (on more than one occasion). The staff is 100% committed to giving the guest a "dream vacation".   Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
This is my 6th cruise and 4th with NCL. We have sailed the beautiful Jewel-class Jewel before, and like the mid-sized ships with about 2,200 pax. Embarkation was easy, the lines moving smoothly beginning about 11 a.m. with eager ... Read More
This is my 6th cruise and 4th with NCL. We have sailed the beautiful Jewel-class Jewel before, and like the mid-sized ships with about 2,200 pax. Embarkation was easy, the lines moving smoothly beginning about 11 a.m. with eager vacationers allowed to board at noon. We need wheelchair assistance, and have found it is better to wait until closer to noon, when attendants and WCs are released to pick up guests. There was a special, shorter line for those using canes, walkers and rollators, which proved a big help. Our first lunch was in Tsar's main dining room, rather than braving the super busy Garden Cafe buffet on deck 12. Daniela proved the excellent service NCL is known for, and we noted a new luncheon menu in the past couple of months. Scallops, Caesar Salad and cheeseburgers proved tasty and filling as we waited for the announcement that cabins were now ready for us. Muster is a short process without need for life vests, and then it was time to be underway. Well, at least that is the information in the ship's Daily newsletter. We had plans to meet with others in our robust Cruise Critic roll call for a Sail Away party, and I was looking forward to getting some great shots from Port side as we slowly cruised past the French Quarter. In one of the Jewel's few 'oops' moments during our 13 night modified Panama Canal repositioning cruise, no one owned the PA to inform us that due to the double length of our cruise, from the Jewel's more typical 7 night Western Caribbean run, and with the addition of a 2 week dry dock now tacked onto the end, lots and lots and lots of provisions and building supplies would be needed to see us through. This delayed Sail Away by 4 or 5 hours beyond that posted...not a major disappointment, but one that could easily have been explained sooner rather than later. Our first of many Sea Days, the Group Event Coordinator had helped to set up our Meet & Greet, with at least 70 CC members in attendance. There was a full compliment of department managers, with Hotel Director Richard Janicki introducing the friendly officers and fielding some spirited Q&A with a bit of extra information about Jewel's planned dry dock. As several CC members in the know had speculated, Blue Lagoon would become transformed into the 24/7 Comfort food and bar, O'Sheehans, also taking over space from the starboard side of deck 8 mid ship Moderno's Brazilian Grill. Moderno's would move up to Deck 13, in the annex portion of Cagney's Steak House near the Star Bar. A well-needed facial recognition system was being installed in the Photo Department, so no more hunting and stooping and surveying thousands of photos for your own special bunch. It would also save on both chemicals, paper and so forth, a win-win situation all around! Besides the usual Dry Dock refurbishments, a special deck 15 penthouse of the Haven type, was being included, and we were all thrilled to be reassured that the Spinnaker Lounge with the great ceiling to floor Forward windows, would be retained. I'd asked for a special room set-up to better the interaction between roll call members and we also enjoyed light refreshments and the feedback that our opinions were valued. Janicki did remark, "We read Cruise Critic, but I must say sometimes reading a particular review I must wonder if we were on the same cruise as someone saying it was dreadful." We divided our meal time between the more opulent Tsar's and the smaller, more frentic Azura main dining rooms. The menus are the same as ones introduced in 2011, with one side being 'always available' standbys such as strip or rib eye steaks, burgers, baked chicken, salmon, lanmb shank, spring rolls, mushroom quesadillas, a variety of pastas and salads. Service continued above average throughout, and it was of interest to note a Surf & Turf night featured real Maine lobsters vs the wimpy rock sort previously offered. The noise level is increased in the more casual Azura, whose hot pink and orange color scheme create a different vibe than the cream, sage green and gold of Tsar's. The lowered ceiling also influences this and of note, the chairs in Azura's are rock hard and not comfortable at all, which should help ensure more rapid turnover of diners. We sometimes selected Garden Cafe buffet for a quick breakfast and tried the poolside Grill a couple times for burgers, very good hot dogs and more. A special Bavarian feast was held toward the end of our cruise, and Messiah Ritzinger's Free State of Bavaria touches could be seen through the variety of sausage, schnitzel, kraut and Bavarian cream pastries...very well done! We enjoyed Blue Lagoon, just a few steps from our cabin, for breakfast and lunch or late evening snacks. Besides the burgers and chicken wings, the fried fish and Chef Salad were good, not to mention the cheese cake and brownie sundae. It was always nice to be able to whisk covered dishes back to our digs, and the small refrigerator helped with any midnight munchies. We did not try room service or the option of the always available anywhere $5 pizza. We dined at several of the specialty/fee restaurants including Moderno's, Le Bistro, Chin Chin and Mama's/La Cucina. A favorite senior waiter, Sheddy, attended us at Moderno's and Cagney's, while another favorite Assistant MaitreD and also a special senior waiter, (Rizaldi), had us coming back to the Asian Fusion spot a second time for succulent lamb curry, broccoli beef, chow fun noodles, BBQ spareribs, deep fried calamari and the wonderful pancakes with bananas, caramel syrup and coconut ice cream. We used the Card Room and back portion of the buffet between meals for our group's Farkle games and variety of card games and enjoyed musical serenading in the Crystal Atrium and deck 6 lounge area outside Le Bistro. Several of the CD led audience participation game shows could be seen re-played on our 24" LCD TV, as well as a half dozen first run movies including Frozen, The Hobbit Part 2, Desolation of Smaug, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, Gravity and so on. Our cabin was located on deck 8 midship, a great location close to so much. Since the ship's tenders are strung up outside the windows here, the category is Oceanview Obstructed. Luckily the tender was strung several feet lower outside rooms 8100 and 8102, so that we had a good view, at least 60% at all times. Perhaps due to approaching dry dock, there were only 2 incidents of crew walking past our window, and no surprises or loud banging or maintenance overall. This accessible cabin has 36" no threshold outer and bathroom doors, with light switches and climiate control about 3 feet from the floor. Both the hanging rod in the closet and oversink mirror in the bathroom have easily grasped cords to lower them to wheelchair or scooter height, a definate plus. The room is about 20% larger than non-accessible sideways cabins, and the hallway on deck 9 actually is partially over these rooms; perhaps the dearth of small ones on the PC itinerary accounts for the fact there was little to no noise of running or stomping feet? We did need to call Guest Services desk several times during the cruise and the interaction was all right. Our immediate needs were attended to and we were able to get questions answered without making the trip down there again and again. We didn't attend any of the large production shows due to (chronic) health issues and decision to grab as much restful sleep as we could. Luckily, on NCL, there is never a need to do anything but exactly what we'd like...in that respect, our vacation was tailor-made to suit our interests and needs. The itinerary was changed as we would no longer be disembarking in Los Angeles, which was a big part of our choice in this cruise; we'd be just a short flight from our West Coast home. We also lost 2 ports, one of them the highly anticipated Costa Rican port, the other of less interest. This gave us more sea days and the choice of disembarking in either San Diego or San Francisco. NCL considered San Diego an additional port-true if you were taking the full 15 days, but not the case if this was your disembark point. We decided to take the shorter version since our nonrefundable plane tickets were at LAX. We now had a 4, rather than 2, day stay in Southern California, totaling 3 weeks in all. I think it would have been best with the original mix of port and sea days and the Los Angeles disembark, but the entire Jewel crew made us forget the small quibbles and feel pampered to the max. It also helped that we were traveling with such a wonderful bunch of CC members as well! Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
We recently went on a cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. We emarked at new Orleans, Went to Cartagena Columbia, Huatulco mexico, Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. And disembarked in San Diego California. The cruise staff were ... Read More
We recently went on a cruise on the Norwegian Jewel. We emarked at new Orleans, Went to Cartagena Columbia, Huatulco mexico, Puerto Vallarta Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. And disembarked in San Diego California. The cruise staff were wonderful. They did everything to accommodate your needs. No is not in their vocabulary unless it's impossible. The rooms were spacious. I thought the bathroom was a little cramped. But it's a cruise ship so I got used to it. It was easy to disembark at the ports. Norwegian does a great job making it easy for you yet going through the usual security checks necessary in today's world. The onboard entertainment was exceptional. However I felt they lacked a little in this department. Especially outside around the pool area. I would like to have heard more rock and soft rock music. The crowd's average age probably was 60 or more. So maybe that was the reason. My main complaint was the food. I personally am not into Indian or exotic type spicy foods. Most were Amercians onboard. I think it is wise to bait the hook to suit the fish. I love chocolate cake, but I wouldn't fish with it. You find the bait the fish like. The food needed improvement. Perhaps it was do to who the cook is. Seems they prepare what they like. Also the desserts were not especially good. Chocolate cake, Banana Cream Pie, apple pie, Brownies, creme Brulet and cookies were not there. The best food on the ship was the French Fries, and Vegetable egg rolls. Food needs improvement. I've been on three cruises. RC and Carnival and now Norwegian. and the food on the Norwegian Jewel was the worst. Not a fan of free style cruising. Often we would go to a restaurant and even though we were there first, It made no difference as tables were taken by others making reservations. So if everyone is making reservations you might as well have assigned seating. It kind of nullifies the idea of freestyle cruising come when you want. Read Less
Sail Date April 2014
I just returned from a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine. the cruise left New Orleans, was at sea for 2 days, then arrived at Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan. From there we sailed the new day to Belize. Our last port was Cozumel. Embarkation ... Read More
I just returned from a 7 day cruise on the Carnival Sunshine. the cruise left New Orleans, was at sea for 2 days, then arrived at Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan. From there we sailed the new day to Belize. Our last port was Cozumel. Embarkation was very easy and quick. It helped to be a Vifp member. To save time we took our own carry on's to our cabins. If you let the ship do it, it can take most of the day before you see you baggage out side your cabin. We ate first at the buffet, which was Ok, not great. To much fried foods. Good salad bar and a very good deli area. There is also a Asian buffet which was very good and an Italian lunch area which a waitress had to serve you. Dinner that evening was in the Sunshine dinning room. The first thing you'll notice is the excellent Matri D, who name is Ken. He is from Ireland. Each night at dinner he signs a Frank Sinatra song and does a great job of it. Then the dinner waiter all get together and sing a song. Very entertaining. Each night there are several offers on the menu that are the same, but each night there are 7 specials meals. I found all the dinners to be very good along with the service staff at our table. Each night in the "Liquid Lounge" there is a wonderful group of 7 performers who put on 5 different and very professional shows. About 15 songs a night, different themes and many costume changes. I do a lot of cruising and this group of 4 girls and 3 guys are one of the best I have seen on any cruise. The cruise director, who's name is Jamie Dee, is a delight. A wonderful personality, spirit and delivers the information about the cruise in a very timely manner. She's great! Each night there is dancing in several areas of the ship to different kinds of music. Choices were very good. For several nights there were also 4 comedians who were very funny. Their early shows are for family, but the late shows are rated XXX, but again very funny. The shows were packed each night. On the top deck of the ship are the pool areas, 2 areas serving hamburgers and taco's. There is also a basketball court, zip line, kids area and my favorite, 3 water slides. I was busy racing all the kids down the water slides during the day. The cruise stopped at 3 ports. i found the first 2 disappointing (Belize & Isla Roatan) It looked to me as if both ports and areas were built by Carnival. Some beaches and a small selection of stores to shop at. the 3rd port of Cozumel was the best stop. Lots to see and to do. Where the ship docks there is a area of stores and places to eat. But I suggest walking about 15 minutes to the newer area where there is the Hard Rock Cafe, Hooters lots of other places to eat and shops to look in. My cabin was a king size bed. Carnival only charged me for myself and had no single supplement charge. Carnival is doing this great thing for singles on many of their 2014 cruises. My only fault with this cruise was the cabin I had. It was on the 7th deck. The cabin door has some king of vent at the bottom. When people walk by the door it sounds loud and if their in my room. The room was 4 stories above the "Liquid Lounge" which meant music in my room until 1:00 AM. Not a good thing. And lastly, for the first 3 days the cabin toilet didn't work. I had to get some one from the shop to repair it several times a day. Finally on the 4th day of the cruise they got it to work right. I tried to change cabins, but was told the ship was sold out. For this inconvenience I was given to "free" drink coupons. One last item, this ship was formally called the 'Destiny". It was taken to Italy last fall and completely remodeled from top to bottom in just 49 days. They did a great job, even if my toilet wasn't working correctly. I did enjoy the cruise!!!!! Nice ship, great staff and wonderful weather every day. I would cruise again on it and do suggest you do also. Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This was my second cruise, my first being Alaska with Holland America back in 2000. Overall, I was thrilled with my experience on the Norwegian Spirit and I would definitely consider traveling with them again. We embarked in New Orleans, ... Read More
This was my second cruise, my first being Alaska with Holland America back in 2000. Overall, I was thrilled with my experience on the Norwegian Spirit and I would definitely consider traveling with them again. We embarked in New Orleans, and it was quick and painless. My only problem was that I discovered early in the morning on the day of our departure that the ticket packet mailed to me by Norwegian contained lots of supporting documents but no actual tickets. I had filed the packet away in my suitcase after I received it in the mail, assuming that it was complete. In retrospect, that was a dumb mistake on my part. On the morning of our cruise I was reviewing the information they sent me, noticed a curious lack of ticket-like documents, and called the 1-800 number. The Norwegian rep was rude and argued with me about the packet's cover letter. She insisted that the letter instructed me to download the tickets from the Norwegian website, but once I read the letter to her she had to concede that no web address was given. In fact, the packet's brochure began with the bold-faced words "This packet contains your tickets." Finally, I asked her to stop arguing with me and simply tell me how to solve the problem. She directed me to the appropriate web site, the receptionist at my hotel let me use her computer, and we proceeded to the ship with our tickets in hand! So, even if your letter doesn't tell you where to go online, check www.norwegian.com/edocs to download your ticket. Once we got to the port, the people were great and we were on the ship in no time. We stayed in a level CC stateroom (one with a picture window), and we were very happy with our accommodations. Nothing fancy, but plenty nice enough. We didn't spend a ton of time in our cabin anyway! Our stewards were very polite and efficient. We always had fresh ice, but we only got one towel animal in the whole week! Maybe the crew make more of an effort with those when they know there are kids in a cabin (no kids with us). The food was great. I am not a fan of buffets, but Raffles was fine for breakfast and great for a quick lunch. We ate in Windows and in the Garden room, which were both wonderful. My favorite meals were the mahi mahi at Windows and the duck a l'orange that I enjoyed at Le Bistro. Room service was only OK for breakfast (tiny portions and a very limited selection), but good for lunch. They will bring an excellent personal-size pizza to your room, which you'll appreciate very much after a day of hiking Mayan ruins in 90 degree heat! On my first day at sea, I enjoyed the 50 minute Swedish massage at the ship's spa. It was amazing, and very much up to snuff so long as you take into account that you're on a cruise ship and not a luxury resort. I lingered in the sauna afterwards, which was amazing. It's tucked out of the way so I was the only one to even walk by the door for over an hour, and the sauna has one wall made of windows so you have an amazing view of the ocean from there. The pool was nice - I spent an afternoon laying out. There were plenty of lounge chairs. My only complaint was that our cruise was at the beginning of Spring Break season, so all the hot tubs were jam packed with drunken 21 year olds. They loudly monopolized the hot tubs all day, every day. Norwegian probably can't do much about this, though. Our ports were great. We had a brief visit to Roatan, arriving at 4 pm and leaving at 8 pm. I participated in a dolphin encounter booked through the ship at Anthony's Key resort. It was absolutely amazing, and I highly recommend it. I booked two shore excursions in Santo Tomas. In the morning, we visited the Las Escobas waterfalls for a wonderful hike and swim. It was early, 8:30 am, so the heat hadn't set in yet and it was a very relaxing and scenic walk. In the afternoon, we did a tour to Livingston. It was eye-opening and fun, with great shopping and friendly locals. My only problem was the heat - a constant theme through the rest of our trip. Every day it was over 90 degrees with at least 90% humidity, and everywhere I went seemed to be short on shade or breezes. It was just hotter than I had expected. It made for less energy and a greater need to crash at the end of the day and go to bed early. In Belize, we visited Xunantunich. Although the site was amazing, I cannot recommend this tour. After 2 hours of driving clear across Belize to the ruin in a bus that looked fine but stank terribly (I determined after 1.5 hours that the air conditioning was leaking some gassy fume that was making me sick), we arrived at the site. Our guide led us to a small museum there and talked for about 20 minutes about the history of the place. Then, we approached the ruin. My friend and I were excited about climbing to the top, and given the heat we wanted to get started ASAP before we lost our energy. I asked the guide what time she wanted us to reconvene. She responded, "This is a guided tour and I have not released you yet." I was floored, but I apologized for misunderstanding. She then proceeded to essentially hold us captive in the sun for an HOUR AND A HALF expounding further on Mayan history. Of course, everyone who visits such a site is interested in its history, but this was really overkill! She then shocked our entire group when she "released" us for a meager FIFTEEN MINUTES of time for free exploration. Have you ever literally run up and then down a Mayan castle? I have! I invested my entire day at port in this excursion for 15 minutes of time to experience the ruin as I pleased. In Cozumel, I visited Tulum. It was gorgeous, and there is a great (but small and crowded) beach there. We had over an hour to explore on our own after the guided portion of our tour. I took photos of the ruins, dove in the ocean, went shopping and had time for an incredibly strong margarita before we were due back at the tour bus. The tour guide through Sun and Fun tours (booked through the ship) was Raoul. He was possibly the best tour guide I've ever had. He was knowledgeable, courteous and very funny. I can't recommend him highly enough! I used my cell phone to keep in touch with my boyfriend back home while I was on this cruise. There's great reception on the ship, but it's extremely expensive at $5/minute for T-Mobile customers. Instead, I called from the ports for an average of $1.50 to $2.99 per minute. It's amazing what starts to seem affordable when you're on a cruise! All of the ports had wonderful cell phone reception. I also used the ship's internet cafe, which was great. You can buy a package and get internet time for 40 cents per minute. I did not participate in many on-board activities because I was exhausted every night due to my active shore excursions. I did attend the Second City improv comedy show, which I loved. My friend participated in the Norwegian Spirit Idol competition, which was very well-attended and a lot of fun to watch. There were come talented singers on board! So far as the crew goes, 95% of them were wonderful. They were energetic, efficient, courteous and seemed to enjoy working for Norwegian. I spoke with several about working conditions on board and they all had positive things to say. This is in stark contrast to Holland America - the crew on that cruise told me freely that they were treated little better than slaves and I witnessed blatant mistreatment on several occasions there. It nearly put me off cruises altogether. But Norwegian seems to treats its people well, and I appreciate that. I do regret to report that 5% of the crew on the Norwegian Spirit were extremely rude to me. I wonder if this occurred because I look rather young. I am an attorney in my early 30s, but I was frequently mistaken for one of the aforementioned Spring Breakers by my fellow cruisers. I wonder if some of the crew made a similar assumption and felt comfortable disrespecting me as a result. Here are a few examples: ordering a latte at the cafe only to have the barista mutter "Jesus Christ" and roll his eyes before making my coffee, and having a photography staffer publicly ridicule me for asking for a photo cd. In the latter incident, the crew member involved decided to refuse to wait on me after I asked for a $15 photo cd instead of a $20 5x7 enlargement. He insisted that "the printer was asleep because it was a Saturday afternoon and he was too busy." No explanation as to why a 'printer' would need to be called in to burn a cd. It was clear that he was making it up just to give me a hard time. He kept rolling his eyes at me and making exasperated gestures toward the people in line behind me. He then said it was too late to give me any photos at all - no cds, no enlargements. No matter that he told the man in line in front of me to pick up his enlargements at 9 pm. I still don't understand why he was so rude - I was doing my best to be polite - but he ruined my final day on the cruise and made me feel horrible. Overall, Norwegian was great. I loved the ship, my cabin, the food, the spa, the ports and all but one of my shore excursions. I highly recommend this cruise, but if you're a younger adult be prepared to stand up for yourself with a few testy crew members. Read Less
Sail Date March 2008
The embarkation went fine - we arrived at the port by Taxi around 11:30 and had no problem getting on. We were on board within an hour and in the stateroom by 1:45. The room is nice and spacious. Really enjoyed the balcony. No need for ... Read More
The embarkation went fine - we arrived at the port by Taxi around 11:30 and had no problem getting on. We were on board within an hour and in the stateroom by 1:45. The room is nice and spacious. Really enjoyed the balcony. No need for bungie cord as the doors slide (unlike Carnival which open out). The bed was hard as expected, but our cabin steward put another duvet under the sheet which worked fine. I really like the layout of the ship. The entertainer in Henry's Pub was really good - sings great James Taylor and Clapton! We thought the Buffet was really good - not sure what all the fuss is about there. Do try the stir fry with the spicy sauce. We liked both Windows and Garden Restaurants. Also went to Cagney's and La Bistro and highly recommend both of these as well. We had a great time in the Casino - stay away from the "let it Ride Table" and stick to Black Jack. We did quite well there. The slots are pretty fair to if you know when to stop feeding them. I was not too crazy about the attitude of some of the staff, but everyone was polite for the most part. Our Room Steward (Angel) has very little personality and doesn't seem to like his job too much. The one thing I don't like about this ship is the only restaurant open was the Blue Lagoon - a counter in the hallway. They wont let you take food to go and the room service menu has very little on it. I liked the outdoor pizza place on Carnival much better. Don't expect to be entertained too much at the shows. The acrobat family is nice, but you kind of get tired of seeing them hold each other in the air. Second City was nothing to get worked up about either. We only did one NCL excursion - 2 tank dive with Anthony's Key Resort. It was OK, but they really rush you along. The other dives were booked with other agencies and went fantastic. I won't book with the cruise lines again. Beware, however, they will tender the NCL excursions before you can get off the ship - in Belize it was after 9 before we were allowed to leave. Disembarkation was very easy - we stalled as our flight left at 3pm but still got off at 10:30 without rushing. You could easily make a 12:00 flight. All in all, It was a relaxing time, but I prefer Carnival over NCL and will probably try other cruise lines before going back. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007

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