Wanted to do the Panama Canal, and the bonus of Costa Rica was a big plus. Been on a couple of cruises and lines, so wanted to try something different. The included 5 'free' perks was a draw as well, especially the $99 airfare. ... Read More
Wanted to do the Panama Canal, and the bonus of Costa Rica was a big plus. Been on a couple of cruises and lines, so wanted to try something different. The included 5 'free' perks was a draw as well, especially the $99 airfare. The trip started with a red-eye across the US, and a connecting flight to Ft Lauderdale, tiring, but expected. Then the trouble started.
The ground transportation at Ft Lauderdale to the Miami cruise terminal was a cluster and a half; 3 or 4 different people directing groups this way and that to different buses, and ended up with them yelling at each other in front of the customers when one group of 10 people were told to get on a bus in front of another 10 who were waiting with another "guide" for that very same bus; they're were way to many chiefs and not enough workers for the contracted transportation company. Eventually we got on a bus after waiting for the sporadic transportation.
Then we arrived at the Miami cruise terminal. The porters didn't know any correct information, but their hands were immediately out to collect tips to move bags 10 feet from the bus to a cart. The security staff had people waiting in the heat, no lines were moving, and even when they did start, it was also a cluster, only one screening line open, one woman working her butt off trying to get the trays from behind the scanners out to the front, while three male co-workers joking and laughing but not doing anything. Once we got past the "security," getting our cabin cards and from there onto the ship was efficient.
After that, during the two weeks, the ship itself was spectacular, cabin was beautiful, attendant was great, entertainment was non-stop, and crew was always pleasant, Cruise Director "Dan-Dan" and staff were energizer bunnies, (even when things got rough - more on that later), and the Cruise Critic bunch was an extra blast of fun as well. Dinners at the "extra" dining rooms were spectacular, on par with the expectations of other cruise lines; but food in the buffet and main dining rooms was consistently bland, nothing spectacular at all (it looked good, but then there was just no taste, and no variety). It was funny that the only standout was some Indian food on one small corner of the buffet, which itself wasn't very good or the crepe station opposite it. The rest of the many stations were all identical food, and not super appealing; I've paid $9.99 for better buffets all over the world. But the crew were working their butts off to keep it stocked and clean though. The save was "The Local" a 24 hour spot, food was consistently good, and basically comfort food. Specialty Mojitos and staff at the Sugarcane bar were outstanding, and the rest of the bars were good as well, the frozen drinks were better at the poolside bar, when the machine was working.
When we stopped at our first destination, the Bahamas private island, the weather turned, so they had to cancel right as we arrived. Understandable, but this was not a good thing as they had already canceled the planned port of Costa Rica and substituted Acapulco, which has a currently Level 4 advisory from the US State Dept that states "U.S. government employees may not travel to the entire state of Guerrero, including Acapulco," due to the fact that armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers. So Norwegian is getting some negative feedback for no decent communication on why Costa Rica was canceled, especially since 'currently' the Feb 2020 Panama Canal crossings still show this itinerary. So we had many extra days at sea, with no effort for compensation. I'm sure the casino, gift shops, and 'extra' cost amenities were happy to increase Norwegians compensation while customers needed to do something new after being stuck out at sea for extra days, but then had to pay extra for it.
The Panama Canal was mainly why we booked this cruise, and it lived up to the expectations, although waiting for low tide to get under the Bridge of the Americas was an interesting hiccup.
None of the ship organized shore excursions were especially great or cheap, but the $50 refund (per cabin) and guarantee of the ship not leaving was the only reason why we used them, as there were plenty of options to book ahead of time or right there on the pier.
Colombia was interesting, but the panhandlers were on an extra level of intrusive and persistent.
Guatemala was very informative, and the coffee plantation was great. The pier was really good, with a zoo and nice facilities.
Acapulco was not scary, but we didn't wander away more than 3 or 4 blocks from the pier for due diligence reasons.
Mazatlan was interesting, the scheduled excursion was not exactly what was described and the "guide" was full of himself, but because of the weather hampering what we had planned, the director was nice enough to give us the privilege of releasing hatched baby leatherback sea turtles from a sanctuary into the pacific ocean.
Planned Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas excursions got canceled because I got sick and just stayed in the room and on the toilet for about 36 hours (IBS). The shore excursions desk took care of it and we weren't charged, even though it was within the 48 hour window. I recovered enough by Cabo to go to Cabo Wabo and had a great meal there. It was after we left Cabo that the Captain explained that a Norovirus outbreak had occurred and they were implementing US CDC controls to prevent any more occurrences. I didn't get it luckily, but that would have wiped me out on top of my IBS symptoms. But they didn't explain how many people were sick, and now the news is speculating between 100 and 300 guests, some having to be taken off by medical personnel when we got back in to port, but we didn't find out about this until after we were off the ship back in Los Angeles.
The last sea day was fun, as the Cruise Critic bunch had a bar crawl and poker run and slot pull, and we had a blast.
Disembarkation in Los Angeles was a disaster. The terminal staff directing people randomly in different directions, sick people collapsing in line, only a few customs officers to handle the thousands of people to get checked off, giant lines snaking this way and that, no bathrooms or water, no AED (a man complained about chest pains) or wheelchairs, and then the fire department showed up to take care of the really sick that were pulled off to the side, being glared at by the port police like they were trying to smuggle stuff in their weakened states. Then when we finally got out of that mess, the bus transportation folks were just as discombobulated. We got told to walk down the line (with all our luggage) of 25 buses to get ours, only to be told when we got there, our bus had already left, and we had to go back to the beginning. LA was as woefully unprepared as Miami was.
The cruise itself was great, but I wouldn't do it again without a dining package, a drink package, and a CC role call. And not if its one of the first times a ship this size has hit a port, as both Miami and LA cruise terminals were understaffed, unprepared, unprofessional and uncooperative, additionally, Norwegian has got to work on the port services people, as both of the transportation companies were not professional at all, staffed by people that didn't really know how to handle situations or in some cases really didn't seem to care or understand what was going on, nobody was in charge. Read Less