This was a long-planned “bucket list” cruise and did not disappoint. The overall shipboard experience was everything we had hoped for and more. The itinerary, with multiple sea days and the Canal itself being the crown jewel, was the ... Read More
This was a long-planned “bucket list” cruise and did not disappoint. The overall shipboard experience was everything we had hoped for and more. The itinerary, with multiple sea days and the Canal itself being the crown jewel, was the reason for the cruise and was thoroughly enjoyed.
We had arranged for transportation from LAX airport to San Pedro pier through NCL and this was handled very smoothly. NCL personnel greeted us in the baggage claim area and escorted us to our bus that delivered us to the NCL embarkation area. NCL embarkation staff were friendly, patient and courteous and had the process well organized.
Once aboard we were directed to our correct deck and our Stateroom Steward "Barnard" appeared and greeted us by name & taught us how to navigate to our stateroom using the swimming fish pattern in the hallway carpet as well as the door color (blue = starboard; red = port). (See below for further cabin information.)
The night before the BIG day the Captain advised us we would be approaching the canal at 5:00 AM and entering the first lock at 7:00 AM. I was excited and couldn’t sleep so I was on deck and established myself at the rail on deck 13 at 3:00 AM and didn’t leave my spot until we completed our passage through the first set of locks. There was ample opportunity through the day to experience the rest of the locks from different perspectives as we did a “do it yourself” lunch room service (from the Garden buffet) on our balcony and later viewed the scenery from the Deck 8 area, which was only open to passengers during canal transit. The approach to the canal in the dark was eerily beautiful as we passed tankers and cargo ships lined up waiting their turn. We were very fortunate to have an exceptionally mild 82 degree F day! The history of the Canal narration provided by the Captain as well as the ongoing narration through the day provided by a local expert as we passed the landmarks and through the locks were very informative and much appreciated.
Our sea-days were busy with on board activities and we thoroughly enjoyed our chosen Shore Excursions, Luxury Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas and Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour in Cartegena Colombia. We were big fans of Bingo and Trivia as well as kick-back time at the pool. We found the Sugarcane Mojito Bar to be a small, quiet, out-of-the-way lounge where we were able to meet and converse with interesting fellow cruisers. Sky High was another favorite hangout although usually a little more noisy (in a fun way – think sing-alongs!!). The "Behind the Scenes" excursion of the workings of the ship’s galley, laundry, stores/provisions, waste management and showroom props and dressing room areas was an especially enjoyable & memorable tour. We were impressed with the hard working people who prepare the food, wash the dishes, launder the sheets, towels, napkins, tablecloths, staff uniforms, passenger laundry, etc, those who manage the proper storage of supplies and food, and those who assure that our ship is in compliance with environmental and governmental regulations in management of our water treatment and waste products.
Shipboard internet was slow at best. The quality of assistance at the Internet Café was inconsistent. Our experience was that the i-phone 8 did not work well with the unlimited WiFi package. This might be a good time to unplug.
The pool area tier design provides plenty of lounges for sunbathing, but shady lounge areas were usually at a premium. A pool towel is provided for each person in your cabin and can be exchanged freely for a fresh towel with no charge at the pool. Extra towels are available, if needed, at the pool for a charge. Poolside lunch was either basic hamburgers/hot dogs from the poolside grill or we could bring our buffet plate to the available poolside tables. The poolside bar had walk-up as well as roaming waiter service.
We found the food to be very good in most restaurants and were very impressed with the quality of the food as well as the ambiance and service in the (complimentary) main dining rooms (Versailles & Aqua). Other complimentary options were Ginza Japanese, O'Sheehan's Bar & Grill and the Garden Buffet - all were good. Although we were impressed with our dinner at the specialty restaurant Le Bistro, Cagney's Steakhouse outshone them all. The food, service and ambiance were outstanding. La Cucina, the Italian specialty restaurant, was a disappointment. We found that restaurant to be totally devoid of any Italian atmosphere and we might just as well have been dining at Italian night in the Garden buffet. The food was “just OK” and our wait-staff lacked the ability to correctly pronounce the Italian dishes or to understand our order when the dishes were pronounced to them. The bare, cafeteria-style tables crammed side-by-side were uncomfortable. A few red & white checkered tablecloths, candles (even simulated) on the tables & overhead Italian music would go a long way toward creating a little ambiance. Although this was a great disappointment for a “specialty” restaurant, it did not detract from our overall enjoyment of the entirety of the cruise.
We were impressed by the universally friendly, hardworking and courteous staff from “Happy Happy Washie Washie” Hannah who greeted us daily at the buffet with her ever present bottle of hand sanitizer to the line chefs, bartenders, bus personnel, janitorial staff, Cruise Director’s staff, Shore Excursion staff, Security staff, Guest Services staff, and the hardworking people who make all the behind the scenes magic happen.
There was always some kind of entertainment in the showroom from vocalists, comedians, magicians, production shows. We especially enjoyed the comedian Brad Mastrangelo who did completely differently shows on two separate nights .
There were few children on our cruise and those we did see were well behaved and always well supervised.
Our cruise conditions were extremely smooth for the first 10 days to the point that we commented more than once that it didn't even feel like we were on a ship. We became very aware we were on a ship on Day 13 as we left Cartegena and crossed the Caribbean sea toward Miami. Although some outdoor activities had to be restricted and some passengers felt the effects, we felt fine and took advantage of the opportunity to explore areas of the ship we hadn't seen yet such as the library and the meeting rooms and to take in a movie.
Disembarkation was a smooth process for us as we had again booked transportation through NCL from the pier to Ft Lauderdale airport. Disembarkation is done by groups designated by colors. Since our flight was scheduled at 5 PM we were one of the last groups to disembark and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at poolside. Once our color was called it was a stress-free walk into the terminal where we claimed our luggage, cleared customs and proceeded to meet our bus to the airport. All along the way cheerful and courteous personnel were available to facilitate the process.
I would be thrilled to take this cruise again, especially at this time of year (February 1-15) due to the mild temps and dry weather. Read Less