My wife and I have taken two additional cruises on Princess, and with us taking our son (15 yo) with us, we wanted one that had a more kid friendly environment (arcade, wall-climbing, slides, and a club for his age (Entourage)) and others ... Read More
My wife and I have taken two additional cruises on Princess, and with us taking our son (15 yo) with us, we wanted one that had a more kid friendly environment (arcade, wall-climbing, slides, and a club for his age (Entourage)) and others who had taken Norwegian recommended them as a kid friendly company. Check in at Miami was great. We had a small amount of waiting time, but once we passed through, we had a great time touring the ship to locate where things were at. The layout of the ship was significantly different than the other Princess ships we had been on. I wasn't sure how I was going to like the layout, which in my opinion, never did grow on me.
We arrived at the boat at 11 am. Once we got access to our room at 1pm, it was nicely set up, about what we expected with a Balcony room. Our bags arrived shortly there after. However, not all of our bags arrived. We went to Guest Services to locate them, and they could not find them. We proposed the idea that they may have been placed in my fathers room. They called his room and verified that the bags were placed in the wrong room. Upon finding the bags, I verified that the tags put on the bags were identified to my room, solidifying the conclusion that the staff had made a mistake with our bags.
On board activities fill up fast, and being as some of them need to be made when you arrive, it should be on your list of things to do as soon as you get onboard. There is difficulty on setting up reservations when you don't know your schedule 3 or 4 days in the future. When the daily schedule does come out every evening, it may require you to shuffle your schedule to meet obligations on the cruise. That part was very irritating.
Our first show reservation did not go as planned. We had "Burn the Floor" scheduled on the first evening, but when we made it to our room, we found out that our reservation was moved to the next night at a different time, requiring us to shuffle our evening as we already had a dinner planned with family. We had to leave the restaurant early to make it to the show. When we arrived to our reservation at 7:27 pm for a 7:30 pm show, we were told our reservations that we made months in advance, which was changed to the following evening, had been given away to others as we didn't arrive 10 minutes prior to the show start. We were told it was standing room only. The Box Office staff were very unhelpful and rude, and asked us to leave the Theater. We did not know about the 10 minute requirement, which made us reschedule the show 5 days later. The mobile app and NCL.com doesn't mention the 10 minute requirement as well.
Our first excursion port was in Roatan, Honduras. Roatan seemed very cluttered and not very picturesque. We bought the Ultimate Big French Key excursion. The excursion included either a snorkeling or boat tour. We decided to do the snorkeling. My wife an I wanted to document some pictures underwater, so we bought one of the phone bag/selfie sticks onboard for $40. When we bought it, I was skeptical on its protection of the phone in water. We all jumped into the water, and my wife told me the phone had come off the stick and fell into the water down to the bottom. We told the tour guide and he managed to dive down ~50 ft and retrieved my wife's brand new iPhone 11 Pro from the reef. We never expected him to do that, and this impressed us greatly. The phone bag maintained the seal from water and protected my wife's phone from water. The tour guide received a great tip from that. Once we returned to the beach, we relaxed for another couple of hours and the food was great. Overall, the excursion was great, and the tour guides turned our crappy vacation into a great one. We would definitely recommend this excursion to others.
The next day, we went to Harvest Caye, Belize. It sounds like a legit name, however, this is just a name for Norwegian's private island. You don't actually get to see Belize's mainland. That being said, my family purchased the Villa's for $700 a pop. I was skeptical on the quality for the price. We arrived to the Villa by cart, and found a beautiful room and our own private beach and amenities. This part surpassed my initial thought. It was definitely a nice experience, but I don't think it is worth the $700 as you still have to buy your own drinks and food on top of it. Even though the island is owned by Norwegian and we had the beverage/alcohol/food packages, everything you buy is for an additional cost. We did the paddleboat excursion, which was far more activity than we expected, but it was good for the $29 my wife and I paid as a whole, not individually. Next up, we had a parasailing excursion at 1pm. The staff were very helpful and nice. When we got out to the parasailing site, we were told that it was cancelled due to inclimate weather (lightning). We were bummed that it was cancelled, but we knew we were getting our money back. We had a nice relaxing part of the day. Our concierge assigned to our Villa heard about the excursion cancellation and expressed sorrow. However, later in the day at 3pm she came and told us there were openings for the parasailing, which we capitalized on. The excursion went well, and my wife has a newfound likeness toward parasailing. Overall, a very good day in Harvest Caye. Would definitely recommend the parasailing and the Villa. Paddleboat maybe not as much.
Next up, Costa Maya. Back in 2003, my wife and I took our honeymoon and this place had just opened up. We did not have a very good experience and were dreading visiting this place again. This time we decided to take the Maya Waterpark excursion. Upon arriving at the meeting area, the area is much bigger and full of more activities than we remember. There is a dolphin adventure, more places to eat and drink, and more shops to shop in. The meeting area was difficult to locate, but we found it. We took the bus to the park and went in. The park looks bigger than it actually is. The park has a large man made Mayan temple to which all of the water slides are attached at different levels. They also have zip lines over the park, but we didn't do that. The bad part, they only have 2 elevators for the multitude of floors. making elevator wait times bad. The alternative is to climb the stairs to the level you want. Of the slides we went on, they were very good. We did get tired of climbing stairs, so we went to their lazy river which was very nice, with the exception of another day of inclimate weather (rain/lightning). We didn't spend much time at the park due to the weather, but we felt we got our money's worth and we returned to the main area of Costa Maya. We walked around a bit and returned to the ship a little early. Overall, a nice day and the area is significant improvement from what we experienced in 2003. Excursion is worth the time and money, as long as the weather plays nice.
Final excursion port, Cozumel, Mexico. In the past, this had become my wife's favorite port due to the activities and the shopping. We decided to do the Xel-ha all-inclusive water park. This was scheduled in advance for $129 a person. All three of us were booked. This excursion was different than the others, as we had to meet up in the Breakaway Theater where other excursions made us meet up on the pier. We didn't understand that part. It wasted a lot of our time. It was at this point that we found out we had to go to the mainland for the excursion. Once our group was called, we exited the ship and made our way to the ferry, which was about a 40 minute ride to the mainland to Playa del Carmen. Once we arrived, we had to find the right tour. Once we found it, we waited in line about 20 minutes before we started to mobilize. We moved further up into a shopping center, where again, we waitied about another 15 minutes. More time lost. We mobilized once again to walk to the bus which was to take us to the park. We boarded the bus and rode it for another 35 to 40 minutes to reach the park. Keep in mind, our day started at 7:50 am in the theater. We arrived at the park at 11am and were told we had to meet up at 2:30pm to leave for the ship. This was only allowing us 3 and a half hours for an all-inlcusive excursion! The tour guide told us we couldn't use our sunblock due to natural concerns in their park, so we had to buy theirs which was a small aerosol spray for $17. It was very expensive. We felt rushed through the park. The food and drinks were very good. The river tube and snorkeling were fun, what we had of it. We met up at 2:30pm to leave at the entrance, where we waited another 20 minutes for everyone to arrive. We took the bus and the ferry back to Cozumel and arrived 15 minutes behind schedule. Guess what though? No shopping. My wife was very upset about the excursion and the time wasted which we could have used to buy gifts for others. We would definitely not recommend this excursion to others. This is something best for an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen and not for Cruise takers. There is just not enough time to get all you want done with the transit times being so long. For a place we looked into visiting once again, it turned to be a complete disappointment.
Upon arrival back at the ship at 4:45 pm, many of the Xel-ha excursion proceeded to the Guest Services desk as the Shore Excursion desk was vacant. Guest Services told us that there was nothing they could do because it fell on the Shore Excursion desk, which wasn't going to be manned until 6pm. Many of us were upset. Guest Services would not get someone from Shore Excursions to alleviate our concerns. It seemed as if they were hoping we would go back to our room and cool down and forget about going to the Shore Excursion desk as a group. My wife caught one of the Officer's attention which happened to be the General Manager. We expressed our unhappiness, and he called the Shore Excursion manager up to the desk. The General Manager remained until the Shore Excursion manager arrived. As a group, we expressed our concerns and unhappiness to the Shore Excursion manager. He looked into it, and we did receive half of our money back from the excursion.
Now the overall cruise comments.
Food at the specialty restaurants is exceptional. Food as the Main Dining Rooms (Manhattan, Savor, and Taste) can take quite a long time with larger groups. We had a party of twelve, and our dinners were taking on average about 2 hours. When we had a party of three, we were finished within an hour. I understand it will take a little more time and coordination with the larger party, but it was an extra hour. When we did eat at Margaritaville, my wife's chicken had an unexpected bone in it. Other than that, Margaritaville was great. Garden Cafe Buffet has a great selection of food, but the quality is noticeable when compared to the other restaurants.
Onboard shows were great. had a good time at each one we went to (Burn the Floor, Rock of Ages, and Wine Lovers). They also had a "Deal or No Deal" show frequently during the cruise. It was a good time. Every ticket is $25 and lasts for that days show in the Atrium. Even though you may not be called up to the front, you still play along and have a potential to win something. A couple of nights we went to Syd Norman's Pour House. If you like Rock music, that is the place to go. Good atmosphere and great music. We did do the Skyy Ice bar. For $15 a person, you effectively go into a freezer, have a couple of included drinks with ice sculptures around you and leave. Not a bad experience for the cost. Some subtle things were different when compared to our previous cruises with Princess. At no time during this Norwegian cruise did we have animals made out of towels or mints on the pillows as we did with Princess. Pools and jacuzzis close at 10pm. At that time, nets are put up, preventing access until the next morning. Kind of irritating as that is the perfect time to relax after a busy day of activities.
Now the conclusion. All we have to compare it with are those we took with Princess. We did have a good time and the days were busy with activities. The beverage and food packages assisted in maintaining the cost low, but there is still some money to be spent even though everything was prearranged before the cruise began. At the end, we ended spending an additional $300 which is quite low. With the experiences we had, my wife and I would not recommend Norwegian to others, and will more than likely go back to Princess Cruises. Read Less