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219 Panama Canal & Central America Repositioning Cruise Reviews

We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the ... Read More
We had experienced a partial panama canal transit and decided we had to do a full transit. The workings of the locks is just fascinating if you've never been through it. It was just a relaxing day watching our ship travel through the locks and the gentleman who escorted us on the trip with his facts regarding the canal was very interesting. It's hard to believe in this day and time when something starts deteriorating it is torn down and built anew and these locks are over 100 years old and are still operating in their original fashion with the same wooden gates! Staff on board was very courteous and our room steward, Nyoman and Muss were fantastic. They usually had our room cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast in the morning and were always smiling and making sure that everything was satisfactory. Dining room staff was a little slow the first week, however, they soon learned our beverage of choice and had it waiting for us when we sat down. Menu choices were varied and could have had a little more regular items to choose from, but for the most part, the food was tasty and temperature appropriate. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Princess was doing the Panama canal ... we had been on the sister ship Ocean Princess, so were happy to go on the Pacific Princess. Loved the cruise....weather just o.k. service, food, entertainment great......except for the dining ... Read More
Princess was doing the Panama canal ... we had been on the sister ship Ocean Princess, so were happy to go on the Pacific Princess. Loved the cruise....weather just o.k. service, food, entertainment great......except for the dining room. We were told that princess had changed there dining hours to 5p.m. early and 7:15p.m. for late. Since we like early dining and felt 5 was too early, we chose 7:15..... SURPRISE......each ship can decide on their hours.......5:30 and 7:45. We tried late dining......still at the table at 9:30. We requested early seating, a large table and was given table 34. The next night there were 6 people at a table for 8 including us...and were told that no one was at the other 2seat the previous night. We requested that friends be put at our table and again was told no....the table was full....... we spend 10 nights alone at a table for 8. The Matre De Albert Noversa would walk by each night and ask the diners how everything was. He could see we were alone.....did he not think.....I should try to put them at another table. Or just to lazy or could care less... certainly Not doing his job. I put a note in the suggestion box on board. I HOPE SOMEONE READS IT and that it does not happen to another couple. Makes me question going on another Princess cruise. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average ... Read More
Panama Canal was on the bucket list, so we pulled the trigger. The price on the Volendam from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco was to good to pass up. This was a 17 day cruise in April so there were kids on board at all, and the average age of the cruisers was probably about 75. My wife and I are in our early 50’s so we were some of the youngest on board. We are very active so this review, especially the port stops is geared to the more active types. Volendam is now 20 years old and she shows her age a little bit but it is well taken care of and still very luxurious. It was below capacity (about 1200 passengers) so there were rarely lines anywhere and it is a very spacious considering it’s a small ship compared to most of the big beasts out on the Caribbean. There were plenty of activities on board to keep us busy on the sea days. America’s Test Kitchen was very cool and the EXC port talks and historical talks were fantastic. Pools and hot tubs were never crowded. Our room was an Outside View right on the promenade deck. We were right next to a door leading out to the wrap around promenade, so it was almost like having a balcony…. We loved the accessibility of the room to the walking deck. The had plenty of storage space even with all the clothes we brought for the 17 days. We used the $20 laundry bag service 1 time in the middle of the cruise. The bathroom had been remodeled and the new glass door shower was the largest we’ve ever had on a cruise ship and the temp and water pressure were always consistent. Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale took only about 20 minutes once we got to the terminal which was only a couple miles from the airport. Debarkation took about 30 minutes in SF. Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning was also quite spectacular. All in all, with ship, the canal, calm seas, and 9 port stops, it couldn’t have been better. Every part of the cruise exceeded our expectations. The food and service in main dining room was fantastic and even the buffet was quite good. Room service was also excellent, with a different towel animal every night! That’s 17 different animals…. Cartagena: We took a taxi to the old walled city and walked around for several hours. Beautiful architecture and very Caribbean looking. The port had a shop and a nice aviary for no charge with many parrots and other exotic birds and animals. Leave a half hour to explore this area. Panama Canal: Awesome piece of engineering and history. Very cool to see the lock systems and the many other big ships transiting the canal. Costa Rica: Did a HAL zipline excursion. The place was near the coastal town of Jaco and we rode an aerial tram to the top then zip lined our way down the mountain. There were reptile and butterfly displays at the base that were very interesting. Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife other than iguanas. Very fun tour though. Nicaragua: Took a peddle taxi tour of the little port town. The place was very poor, but our driver was very cool and spoke good English, so we learned a lot about the country and the politics. Not much to see, but made us appreciate what we have here at home. Guatemala: Took a HAL bus for a “on your own” tour of Antigua. It was about an hour bus ride through the countryside with guides giving some history of the area. Antigua itself was very pretty with many fabulous churches. We walked all over town and it was very nice. Puerto Chiapas: Took a HAL excursion to some Mayan ruins and then to a demonstration of how cocoa beans are grown and processed into chocolate. Nice tour but we thought a little over priced at $100 per person. Huatulco: Our favorite stop. Excellent swim beach right by the pier. We took a $5 taxi to Playa La Entrega a couple mile away and it was great. Excellent snorkeling and many restaurants right on the beach. We were there on a Sunday so many locals were there with us which actually made it more fun. The vendors pester the locals too….. Manzanillo: Ship docks right downtown. Lots of shops right there. We took a grueling hike up to the cross on the mountain to the right of town. We were hot and sweaty but the view was amazing. Puerto Vallarta: Did another zipline tour through HAL. This was a great excursion but only for the very physically fit. Right of the ship we boarded a little speed boat that whisked us about 30 minutes south to a bay where we switch to Unimogs to drive to the Zipline. Basically like an Army truck. Perfect for the crazy dirt road. Then after getting geared up, we rode mules up to the top of the mountain. And then it was more than just ziplines. We also repelled down a waterfall, did 2 giant waterslides, and then a new roller coaster zipline to end the tour. Very awesome!! This was our favorite zipline ever. Cabo San Lucas: Went parasailing then walked all over town. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended 21 days later in Seattle plus we got a very large stateroom #8140 w a wrap-around deck on the stern. The first day for embarkation we felt the cruise line was not organized and although our luggage was labeled "priority" it was the very last on - not that it mattered but what did is we kept wondering if it would show up at all. But note that the disembarkation was very well organized and fast. Holland America has figured out how to make money - we paid $150 for water, $300 for internet (it is just $150 if you stick to social media only) and they must have saved a lot by purchasing low quality food. The Gala Dinner with filet mignon and crab béarnaise was the worst with crab nearly too spoiled to serve a piece of meat that was not filet mignon but some grass-fed animal's "surprise." Some meals were good but spaced well apart and the Lido food began to taste the same no matter what you took. The crew was very well-trained and friendly. Our Neptune suite was ok but I do not believe this ship was updated in 2017 or 2018 as it was worn pretty well including our suite. The ports of call were good and although many were shipping ports, I understand it is hard to find dock space for a ship sized like Oosterdam. The people we encountered onshore were very friendly. We will use another cruise line for our next cruise maybe we just expected better like we got on the Ruby Princess last year. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we live in the Seattle area and love not having to deal with air travel at the conclusion, also because my husband can only walk with a walker. We were familiar with all the ports (only one tender port), and we like longer cruises. We booked the Signature Suite. We needed extra room for the walker and no accessible rooms were available. The first glitch we encountered was that there were only 3 people available to get the wheelchair passengers to their rooms so we waited an extra hour to board. Upon eventually arriving at our suite, we were distressed to find that they have scaled down their bathroom doors below standard size, so it isn't possible to get a standard sized walker through the door. He had to grasp the counter and walk the length of the room holding on to reach the toilet. There was a full sized bathtub--useless to us--and the shower was so small with only one grab bar that he could barely use it. It was just about impossible to shower without flooding the bathroom. After having paid a couple of thousand dollars extra for a suite, this was a disappointment. The balcony door is very heavy and the thresh-hold very high. The good: the showroom, The Main Stage, is great for the disabled; one could put another row of seats between the row of seats on the lower floor and access is great. They have UHD huge televisions in the staterooms and a fair assortment of late movies to choose from. However, we couldn't get enough volume to be able to understand the dialog in the movies, while on all other channels you could have blasted it high enough to hear for a half block in either direction. The Main Stage did blast all their shows that loud. We had to go through immigration twice and had a serious issue with getting wheelchair assistance to get on and off the ship. We were misinformed both times by Guest Services. Phone contact, and even personal contact with Guest Services was poor due to lack of fluent English on the part of staff and difficulty hearing them on the phone. We had a dinner in Canaletto's which wasn't any better than in the main dining room. We had lunch in the Pinnacle which was very good, except that they served instant coffee with our dessert. The "worker bees", as always on HAL are wonderful. Food was acceptable, if not great. Over all, I think many cruise lines are subtlety (sometimes not so subtlety) trying to discourage disabled passengers, while trying to appear welcoming for good public relations. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
The Island Princess is a great ship to find your way. we had some rough seas one day but we barely felt it. Embarkation went well and smoothly. we were welcomed on board and went to the atrium until the cabins were ready which was a ... Read More
The Island Princess is a great ship to find your way. we had some rough seas one day but we barely felt it. Embarkation went well and smoothly. we were welcomed on board and went to the atrium until the cabins were ready which was a wait of about 30 minutes. when we got to our cabin we found it spotless and our luggage was outside our door. We had a wonderful lunch in the main dining room. Muster was at 3:30 and I love that we no longer have to lug life vests. One thing I did't like was a lot of deck space was removed as was a show lounge so they could add more cabins to the ship. However, despite the higher number of passengers, the ship rarely felt crowded except during show times and many trivia games. Club class dining had impeccable service. Many of the meals were very good but sometimes they weren't. the quality of meat has gone down. We had the best cabin steward. He was like a ghost but had our cabin refreshed twice a day and happily fulfilled any requests. You have to be careful with the ratings on tours. One "Easy" tour had more walking than I could do and I ended up spending most of it on the bus. The tour desk wasn't very considerate of physically challenged people. Favorite ports included the Panama Canal and Fuerte Amador, Punta Arenas Costa Rica, Puerto Vallarta, San Francisco, and Victoria BC. in Huatulco, there was a horrendous walk from the ship and two three wheel scooters that you could squeeze three people in to get to the shops and tour buses. I think after four times through the canal, it will be a long time before i do this again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
I booked this adventure as it has been at the top of my vacation priorities for a long time. This 15 day transit of the new Panama Canal exceeded even my lofty expectations (I am a seasoned cruiser). The crew and staff of NCL`s Bliss made ... Read More
I booked this adventure as it has been at the top of my vacation priorities for a long time. This 15 day transit of the new Panama Canal exceeded even my lofty expectations (I am a seasoned cruiser). The crew and staff of NCL`s Bliss made every effort to ensure that the transit and the whole experience was exhilarating - and it was! The entire fifth day of the cruise was spent going through the canal - which took from about 7:00 A.M till close to 9:00 P.M. ; the weather was perfect and the excitement was shared by many of my fellow cruisers (most of which were transiting the new canal for the first time). There was even a guest lecturer on board who gave two lectures; one on the history of the canal and another on the conquering of yellow fever in Panama. This guest expert also narrated the crossing throughout the day. His anecdotes and color commentary greatly added to my enjoyment of the experience and appreciation of the new Panama Canal (opened in 2016). To commemorate the canal transit, the officers of the Bliss issued every guest a beautiful color certificate memorializing the trip, signed by the captain and included a glossy color certificate documenting the cruise and ports of call. These are genuine souvenirs worth framing and a very fitting commemoration of the adventure. One thing worth noting: during the time spent on the crossing, NCL facilitated guest access to the bow area (not usually accessible to guests) for viewing the canal locks and the tug. They also furnished refreshments and set up canopies to protect guests from the intense sun. A very nice touch. This viewing area at the bow on deck 8 allowed a great up close view of the tug guiding the ship and the operation of the locks that we could not have gotten from the observation area on deck 15 (a great area to view but deck 8`s observation area was much closer to “the action”). This special access was greatly appreciated and allowed me to get some great photos and video of the entire canal crossing Oh, I speculate that NCL booked this time slot so as to facilitate the best viewing (daylight) of the Panama Canal - again, my heartfelt thanks, NCL! You made the trip truly memorable !!! While the crossing was the highlight of my cruise, the rest of the trip was also magnificent. Sea days with first class entertainment and shore excursions that offered a sampling of the best that the port had to offer. Fandamtastic experience! Thanks to all on NCL Bliss! Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
It went through the "new panama canal". It was amazing to see and enjoy the passage. Other parts were not so amazing. The casino was the poorest we have ever seen at sea with very tight slots. Bingo was a joke they did ... Read More
It went through the "new panama canal". It was amazing to see and enjoy the passage. Other parts were not so amazing. The casino was the poorest we have ever seen at sea with very tight slots. Bingo was a joke they did not do a roll over and a last game grand prize winner. the real winner was norwegian. In place of over $5000 the final coverall got $1000,not bad, but not was expected. The ship is confusing to get around, all of the hot tubs have no shade so it's early morning or later at night. Entertainment was spotty, comedy was good , havana was good, magician was good, jersey boy's was a bust in my opinion, and the cavern was good. As for the food it was great, with the exception q which served some poor dry brisket. Would recommend gagneys and teppanyaki. Both were exceptional and worth the cost. Disembarkation was the worst experience of our 25 plus cruise's. This was not norwegians fault,it was cause by the port of los angeles. The most un organized mess i have ever encountered. Porters laughing at people in line waiting as they breezed by to a special line where they and their cruisers were they had no waiting saying for a few bucks you could be gone by now. Union i assume. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
The dining room and cabin steward were great. The ship just came out of dry dock and there were technical problems with the Movies at Sea on deck, that was a bit disappointing. Many workers came along on the first leg out of dry dock to ... Read More
The dining room and cabin steward were great. The ship just came out of dry dock and there were technical problems with the Movies at Sea on deck, that was a bit disappointing. Many workers came along on the first leg out of dry dock to finish up maintenance, no big deal - just something we noticed. The Panal Canel was everything we hoped for as this was our first time through the canel. The main dining room experience was great, our regular waiter and assistant waiter for dinner were excellent. The times we went to breakfast and lunch (anytime dining) was equally great. The buffet, or cafeteria as some call it was what you might expect from a cruise ship. My significant other requires gluten free food and I give Princess an A+++. The head waiter was very accommodating and even had the galley prepare special desserts for her (and other passengers) the following night for dinner. Awesome job! We didn't arrange any port excursions through Princess; therefore, no comments on those areas. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
It was our sewenth cruise with Norwegian. We were three times on Star, two times on Spirit, one time on Geteway , and this time on Gem. We decided for this cruise, because, after Geteway, we concluded, that we prefer smaller ships, and 19 ... Read More
It was our sewenth cruise with Norwegian. We were three times on Star, two times on Spirit, one time on Geteway , and this time on Gem. We decided for this cruise, because, after Geteway, we concluded, that we prefer smaller ships, and 19 days for the price we get, was a good deal. All the ports were very interesting. We were two cupels, and made private excursion, because we prefer to be independent. Embarkation was not so quick, like we used to have by Norwegian. Also we used to meet concierge in port. This time she wait on us in ship, colect all of us , toeld us where we can eat, where and when we can meet her.We used , to get more information first day from concierge. Food was very good , no complaint. A lot activites and , lot music everywhere on the ship. Fantastic atmosphere. Service very, very good. We spend a lot of time on 13 deck ,smoking area, and water Nikola was so nice, all the time with big smiling, made for us fantastic coctailes. Alltogether, this was fantastic cruise, and 19 days went so quick. Gem is beautiful ship, with fantastic stuf , from captain , who informed us daily about all interesting things for guests ,until our steward. Only our bathroom in caben disappointed us a little bit, and concierge was inapropierte. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
Panama Canal was on our Bucket list and with 19 days aboard the Gem, we couldn't resist. First a little information about us, I would consider us Newbies to cruising since we only sailed on NCL ( this was our 13th cruise ). NCL ... Read More
Panama Canal was on our Bucket list and with 19 days aboard the Gem, we couldn't resist. First a little information about us, I would consider us Newbies to cruising since we only sailed on NCL ( this was our 13th cruise ). NCL makes sense for us since they offer different ships/types and itineraries out of NYC. This was our 6th time aboard the Gem. Here are my random observations. We flew out to Vegas for a few days before the cruise, then an early Sunday morning flight into LAX. We took the NCL shuttle to the pier, had no issues in locating the reps. Short wait for the bus. Since it was Sunday morning the ride to the pier took about 30 mins. From the time we got off the bus to board the ship, it was less than 45 mins. Our cabin, 8604 ( type OA, ocean view ) was right down the hall from O'Sheehan's was available around 2 PM. We had issues with the shower drain backing up into the drain under the sink but it was finally corrected on the second day. Cabin Steward was excellent ( first cruise back from vacation ), and by the third day knew our routine. The ship was in great shape ( last dry dock 2015 ), all public areas were well kept. Maintenance and painting was observed daily. Only negative comment is for the railing on deck #13 near the basketball court. They used a 2x4 to replace the rail and it was a rough finish that could cause a splinter. We purchased a 6 meal plan and along with our 2 free meals ( Platinum perk ) we spent several nights at Cagney's. It was strange that on most nights it was almost empty. Our only complaint was that they changed the mac n cheese to Kraft, it was terrible. Food and service was top notch. We had two meals in LeBristo, service was exceptional but the food seemed to be off compared to our last cruise aboard the Breakaway. Taste was bland to me. We also had one meal in La Cucina, food was OK but I kept feeling like we are eating in the Buffet. Other nights were spent in Magenta, had no issues in getting a table if you arrived before 6pm. Had to laugh at the folks standing in line at the Grand Pacific, while there was none at Magenta. Can a guy get a hamburger? O'Sheehan's - burnt, every time. Topsiders - raw, most of the time. Before I forget, the crew, from the captain to washy washy girls, fantastic, one of the best if not the best. Bars - Great time, great bartenders ( Sherwin - Boom Boom at Spinnaker and Lennie \ crew at Shakers ). Never had to wait more than a few minutes before getting served. PAX, I was told the average age was 64 but some nights up in Spinnaker I thought it was a Holland America cruise. The entertainment at bar central ( Shakers ) was exceptional, from Leo to Vibe quartet to the Gem band. Only two main shows standout for me, the piano guy and that checkerboard guy. Everything else was average Cruise Director staff, have to say it, bad. Poor attendance / cancelled Bingo sessions. Announced that they had a $2000 dollar pull tab winner but kept selling out of the same box. Morning show was a joke, stopped watching by the third day. The cruise director was OK but the staff is a reflection of her. Ports of call. Mexico - Tender in on our first two stops, tender process was real slow on the first stop, Cabo. The second stop, Puerto Vallarta had a dock issue. Almost a two foot drop from the tender to the dock, those who had a mobility issues had problems. These two stops felt safe in both, just wander around. Manzanillo, stayed close to the ship. Puerto Quetzal - Guatemala and Corinto - Nicaragua as per the State Department warnings stayed real close to the ship. The visitor center ( new cruise terminal ? ) in Guatemala even had a guard tower, manned. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - Walked around the town in the morning and took an NCL excursion in the afternoon. Panama Canal, Transit - Exceptional performance by NCL. Cartagena, Columbia - Great place to visit except for the hawkers. Made it almost impossible to enjoy the city. Very pushing and relentless. Santa Marta, Columbia - container port, they could have skipped this port too. ABC islands - always a great, safe place to visit. Finally, Thank you to the CC members who attended the meet and mingle, slot pull, pub crawl, to the members who arranged shore excursions and the cruise T shirt Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
So first off, I’m the guy that brought the bike. I boarded the ship in New York on January 02nd and got off the ship February 15th 2019 in New York. This was my escape from wither in the north east and chance to explore several new ... Read More
So first off, I’m the guy that brought the bike. I boarded the ship in New York on January 02nd and got off the ship February 15th 2019 in New York. This was my escape from wither in the north east and chance to explore several new ports that I had not been to before and after this 44 day voyage I enjoyed this ship and it’s staff very much. I had a great and memorable experience from really every department onboard. Spending that much time on board the ship I think I really got to know the cruise director and recreation staff well. Some even remembered me from my previous September 2018 trip on this ship, or perhaps the bicycle helped them remember too. Security staff definitely remembered me and the bike from September. But I was really surprised with how many of the overall ships crew called me by my first name when just walking by even though I had very little interaction with them. For me, during the cruise I always kept in mind that for most of the staff on board they are here on a 6 month contract and even though they don’t have a day off and work around 10 hours or more a day, they still start every day as if their goal was to make sure that my trip was going as best as it could. I didn’t do any drinking or gambling and I think I booked a total of 0 shore excursions and purchased about the same amount of photos but I still had a great time. Yes, the bike played a huge roll too. Since there was a lot of overlap on the ports that we would be visiting, when in port, I treated the 1st leg (west bound journey) as an exploration trip and the east bound journey I applied what I learned and explored the port more efficiently. The bike also helped a lot. Regarding the bicycle, it’s a folding bike, (specifically a Citizen Miami). The bike retails new for $275.00 but I purchased off of craig’s list for $100. I upgraded the original seat to a gelled saddle and I also brought with me: a helmet with a GoPro, an air pump and lastly the padded seat underwear. I also know now that I should bring a bike tire repair kit too, however I was able to find a bike repair shop while we were in Santa Marta, Colombia that replaced the tube, tire and the shop had WiFi for a total of 16,000 Colombian Pesos (or $5.16 USD). While not in use the bike went under my bed, and I didn’t have to worry about checking in the bike at the airport as luggage since I was doing a round trip from NY. I walked the bike on board and there was no additional fee for bringing it. Yes I also received many offers from the crew about purchasing the bike from me. I can not put to words on how welcome the cruise ship staff made me feel while on this entire voyage, but it was really great. Every department did a fantastic job. I think security had the toughest roll as they get the least appreciation for keeping people safe especially as people were climbing over ropes, railings and each other during the panama canal transit which lasted about 5 hours. The cruise director staff came in a close 2nd as they have to keep everyone as happy as possible over the entire journey but in my opinion every crew member on board did a fantastic job. I enjoyed the food very much, but my problem is really with portion control. I felt that Breakfast in the grand pacific dining room was the right way to start my morning. Glen, the only female waitress on board named Glen is the best waiter on board this ship. In regards to the evening entertainment, I would try to go to both evening shows whenever possible but I would sit in 2 totally different areas in the theater which gave me a totally different perspective of the show. Special shout out from me is included to the sign language interpreter they had on board for the east bound (LA-NY) journey. While she wasn’t meant to be part of the entertainment she was both very entertaining, informative, educational and really added a layer to the show that I had never experienced before. I learned later that some times, like for the ventriloquist or comedian, a rehearsal performance is not available so the translation is just live action and there is no pause button available to look terms up. It was also really nice to talk and interact with the entertainers when they weren’t performing on stage. While the Gem’s cast performers can also be found working in places like the ship’s library, the guest performers were friendly and approachable in all areas of the ship like the gym, restaurants or even just random encounters in the elevators and hallways. Yes I also encountered people who were not enjoying the cruise, but from my perspective they were either asking for too much, just ignorant of the rules and policies, just totally missed stuff that was clearly listed in the daily schedule or just really novice cruise ship travellers (aka noobs). But yes I also had the upper had when it came to ports that we had visited before so I knew what to expect. I myself knew that I had to be a bother to the ship’s hotel director because I kept stopping by his office looking for his secretary’s signature for the ship’s scavenger hunt but kept running in to him instead. But he seemed ok with it or at least understanding and just kept telling me to keep trying to find her each time I visited. Lastly, I highly suggesting doing the behind the scenes tour for a great perspective on what goes on onboard and how and why things operate as they do. It’s free to do for platinum latitude members. Thank you very much for a very enjoyable voyage. I’m strongly considering doing this voyage again next year and I hope you next voyage on the Gem is just as enjoyable. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
The ship was generally in good shape but the stairs were not solid and sagged at times when you went up or down the stairs. We had a nice balcony cabin for overlooking the Panama Canal. It was mid ship and we were able to see the other ... Read More
The ship was generally in good shape but the stairs were not solid and sagged at times when you went up or down the stairs. We had a nice balcony cabin for overlooking the Panama Canal. It was mid ship and we were able to see the other ships going in the opposite direction. For most of the cruise the bathroom smelled from sewage. We had the hotel director's staff come and look at the issue. They eventually fixed the problem. There was no reason for us to keep going to Guest Services to complain about the problem. The food service at the seven seas was awful. The food arrived cold and once the food was delivered, the server did not come back to check on us. We never saw the head waiter. In the four seasons, the waiters were very attentive, the hot food came hot. In the buffet it was hard for us to usually find food that we could eat. The Indian food is too spicy. Most of the other items had pork or pork products in it and we do not eat pork. This included bacon in the mac and cheese, ham in the sour kraut. various ham sandwiches and bacon in the salads. Towards the end of the cruise, they were running out of food and the milk was spoiled, same for the yogurt and you needed to find a manager to get the spoiled products removed. The cruise director was hard to find, he was hard to understand at the main theater and P A system announcements. The production shows were good. The cruise director staff provided us with good games and trivia challenges but they reused a number of the questions over and over again. Besides that there was not much to do on sea days. For some of the ports, the length of time in port was too short to really enjoy the port. I don't understand why we stopped at some of the ports. They barely even has a choice of shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
We wanted to go thru the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles. We are diamond plus level cruisers and are supposed to be admitted to the concierge's lounge. We were forced to go to the diamond lounge or overflow lounge because ... Read More
We wanted to go thru the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles. We are diamond plus level cruisers and are supposed to be admitted to the concierge's lounge. We were forced to go to the diamond lounge or overflow lounge because they had too many pinnacles. This is the first time that we were ever excluded from this lounge. The Vision had just returned from dry dock and they had stripped all of the refrigerators from the lst three floors of the ship. Not good if you have 3 bottles of wine. There was a broken pipe and we had frigid air coming into the room for 12 hours. Then they plugged up the air vent and we had no air circulation for 24 hours. This was an inside cabin. One morning none of the toilets would flush. We had booked this room on board a ship and they neglected to mention that our room was directly below the centrum and we could not to sleep until 11:45 pm each night because of the loud music. We complained and the cruise director said that he did not think that the music was too loud, but he was not in our room. On the 3rd formal night none of the toilets would flush in the ladies room next to the main dining room so that women in formal clothes could not flush their toilets. On the departure day, we received no service in the dining room and had to eat cold eggs from the buffet line. They called groups one to ten all at once and then five minutes later called groups one to fifteen so that everyone was trying to leave the ship thru tight doorways all at once. They lost my luggage tag and it took 20 minutes before anyone would show me where the untagged luggage was. The bus to the airport did not leave until 10:00 am even though we were getting off the at 8:30 am. The bus driver had no idea where any of the airlines were located at LAX and we had to read the signs and tell him where to stop. This made the foreign guests very nervous. During the cruise the shore excursion group had people routinely waiting for 45 minutes to l hour before going out on the tours. We had to get up early, lose rest and then wait unnecessarily. We complained about the room and finally gave up getting a better room. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This cruise was a 'bucket list' vacation for us as was the Alaska cruise that we've done twice. We ALWAYS sail with Norwegian because of their 'free style cruising' in terms of dining experience. We prefer to not ... Read More
This cruise was a 'bucket list' vacation for us as was the Alaska cruise that we've done twice. We ALWAYS sail with Norwegian because of their 'free style cruising' in terms of dining experience. We prefer to not be tied to a specific time/table for dining and their specialty restaurants are very nice, particularly Cagney's and Moderno's. We were in one of the Haven suites, so were able to dine in these restaurants for all meals and never had to go to the 'buffet' dining. We had an outstanding concierge (Effern), butler(Camillia) and steward(Jieve) that saw to our every need and then some. No problems with embarkation/disembarkations, they were organized and orderly. This line caters more to an older crowd which is really to our liking, so not a lot of kids/young people running around. They offer certain packages like the drink & specialty restaurants that are worth the money to get full experience. The shows at night were very good with a nice variety of performances. Some of the excursions were rated a '2' on level of exertion that I thought should have been rated '3' as they involved a lot more walking up inclines and stairs than expected. The climate was extremely warm and humid (it's a rain forest) that was a little hard to take, but the Panama canal process was most interesting. We have advanced to platinum level cruising with Norwegian and don't plan to sail with anyone else; experiences have always been positive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
Bucket list Cruise. The Bliss exceeded all expectations. For a large ship no waits on dining. Lots of options. Local restaurant and sports bar we excellent. Great place to meet friends etc. gym was superb as was the spa. We bought the ... Read More
Bucket list Cruise. The Bliss exceeded all expectations. For a large ship no waits on dining. Lots of options. Local restaurant and sports bar we excellent. Great place to meet friends etc. gym was superb as was the spa. We bought the therapeutic spa package and used it daily. Observation deck superb. Shows Jersey Boys and Havana top notch. Matter of fact the Jersey Boy production was fast moving and had more songs than most productions. Bar staff and wait staff were superb. Loved the observation lounge. Staff couldn’t do enough to please us. Took Spanish classes. Lol. That was great. Had Guest lecture on the canal that was of tremendous value. Highly recommend this ship and this cruise. Only negative was photo packages are extremely expensive. They want you to buy packages instead of individual photos. We will definitely book this ship again. Another plus was the overall staff. All the best. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
This is a smokers alert- Norwegian Bliss Nov. 3rd Panama Canal cruise. Prior to booking I was advised I could smoke on Deck 17 at the Spice Bar, In the humidor lounge, and somewhere at the pool area. I smoke mini cigars which are ... Read More
This is a smokers alert- Norwegian Bliss Nov. 3rd Panama Canal cruise. Prior to booking I was advised I could smoke on Deck 17 at the Spice Bar, In the humidor lounge, and somewhere at the pool area. I smoke mini cigars which are slightly larger than a cigarette. Arrival at LAS airport and awaiting transfer (prepaid) of the shuttle. We waited and waited and after an hour finally saw a woman with a blue scarf (no signage just a blue scarf) a gentlemen advised me he too was waiting an that I should speak to the woman with the blue scarf. I was advised that we were waiting for one more couple and the shuttle bus had been called. An hour after that I was told there were more customers arriving on different flights and that the bus had been called. Three and a half hours later – you read that right – a bus finally arrived and we were told it would be about a thirty minute drive to the port. The ride was uneventful but the three and a half hour wait started telling me this isn't right. Chaos upon arrival- no one tells you what is going on. Where are the bags, do they take them, do I, or where to check in. Checking in wasn't bad except there is no information available. Cabin #14796, Balcony; OK room, shower could use an enlargement but was acceptable. Room was fine, midships, except for at night the band playing at the pool area was loud in the room. Cleaning staff was excellent, friendly, and always asking if there was anything he could do. “Z “ Bags don't arrive till late at night the first night- wasn't use to that type of service. This is probably due to it being a large ship with 4000 guests. With no luggage to unpack it was time for lunch and a snack. Learned where the Cafe is, front of ship. Had an acceptable meal and headed off for a smoke at the rear of the ship. It's a long walk when you are unfamiliar with the ship. You get used to it! Upon arrival I was advised that I could only smoke cigars in the Humidor. I promptly went to guest services and asked for a complete refund at the first port. After a discussion I was advised that I could also smoke at the Spice Bar on deck 17 by guest services but there is no smoking at the pool area. I thought I would be ok with that until the arrival at the spice bar located behind Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville. I asked for a Bailys coffee at the bar. No! They don't have coffee at the bar. They advised to go to Buffets and get a coffee and then bring it to the bar. (I should do that?) Yes! Drink in hand I was further told I could only smoke on the Starboard side of the ship in an area no bigger than 12' x 35'. I thought I would be ok with that until other smokers showed up. I went to sit at a small table approx 24” in diameter and there were about 5 tables there each with about 5 chairs at each. Note- when we started the first day there were three umbrellas in this area. Three days into the cruise there were only two umbrellas. There is a covered area in which to smoke approx 12'x20' the rest is open or semi covered by umbrellas. Note- remember there are 4000 people on this ship. Another problem is that the starboard side railing is covered by sheets of glass or plastic with spaces in between them so that wind blows extremely forceful through the slats. ( hmmmm- creating cigarette ash to blow off a lit cigarette....fire hazard....naaaahhhhh! This ship was designed for Alaska waters and I don't think it would be pleasant to smoke in a cold climate with no wind protection. At the table the four ashtrays on the table were full of cigarettes. I complained to guest services that I don't clean ashtrays- this was taken care of and was acceptable for the rest of the cruise with one exception which I'll mention later. It got crowded as people learned where you can smoke- Humidor, Spice and the CASINO!!! Casino- smoking of cigarettes is allowed. Cigars-NO. People complained that if you didn't have money in a machine you couldn't smoke.-I don't know! I do find it odd that you couldn't smoke in the casino if the casino was closed-all ashtrays removed while in ports after all it is a smoking area but I guess you have to pay money to smoke there. The spice area holds approx 40 people maximum and they couldn't open up the entire deck area for some unknown reason. Rumor was it's a rule-Captain doesn't like smokers- Seems to me the non smokers have numerous bars they can attend but smokers are herded to an area the size of a cabin. On top of that the non smokers utilized the smokers rest room- It was comical watching some of them hold their nose as they walked by to open the rest room door- PS there is a bathroom on the non smoking side but they didn't use that one!!! I think you get the idea so far. It is now standing room only. A person of authority assured me the reason for the small smoking area was to prevent fire hazards. A travel agent aboard stated that all cruise lines are doing away with smoking. Appears so! I would say it is a beautiful ship except for all the walking one has to do especially since the elevators are always on the wrong floor and when you do get one it was usually full- to the stariways. What I found odd was that since it is a new ship what was a lot of the paneling on the walls coming buckling- front of the Cave/Cavern by the humidor. In the humidor and numerous other places. I guess someone didn't tag out the ship before taking possession from the factory. Guest speaker for canal trip was good- however on his first day the theater was packed full. Went to the atrium and you have to hear people complaining at guest services a few feet away from the speaker----- this also works in reverse- speaking to guest services you can't hear employees due to they always have music or show going on in the atrium area. Need sound walls installed. At guest services I stated this noise wouldn't be a problem if the speaker was on the TV in the rooms. The next day it was on the TV- problem solved. Back to the cafe- another design flaw- no where near enough seats. You get your food in a line and people are picking a piece of food and tasting it in front of the serving area. I was shown an area that is not crowded. Get your food and take it to the table towards the pool area. Set your food down and go way back to get a beverage, etc. Food is edible but I noticed that the India cafe area is hardly used. Manhattan room- excellent service the first night- then it went downhill from slow to bad. Food quality was fine. No charge. La cucina Italian? I don't think so- no lasagna, no eggplant $$ Cagneys steakhouse excellent. $$ This was a repositioning cruise- the ports were the worst. We always docked in the commercial parts of the ports. They charge for a bus ride to the towns. Seems petty to me- I your taking me somewhere at least have some service available. Due to 4000 people NCL needs a lot of work in this area. If you can't handle it hire more people or get out of the business. Even people that paid for tours advised that it was so disorganized that they got refunds. NCL- this is not good business sense. At Puntenaras we had to pay $15 PP to get to town. The HAL docked about 100' from where our bus dropped us off. Hmmmmm! THE OTHER SHOE DROPS- So I finish dinner and go to smoke on deck 17 in what I was now calling the CAGE! I am told that the area is closing in 15 minutes for a special party. OK- where do I smoke! Told to go to deck 19 top of the ship behind to smokestacks. I go to deck 19- couldn't find an elevator with 19 on it but finally did – there is only one elevator to 19. Talk about an unsafe area to smoke- on deck 19 the wind is howling. There is no wind protection, the bar is closed, no ashtrays, and no cover-overhead. There is however an NCL rep standing there that didn't have a clue about anything. Back to guest services- The complaint is written down a refunds due. I had it with NCL.... I was told that the bar did open- it was too windy- and ash trays were on hand after my complaining. Should never have happened. None of this was in the brochure. I suggest that any smokers avoid this ship. I have numerous cruises with NCL and this one has caused me to seek other cruise lines. As for non smokers who like large crowds, lines at dining areas, unavailable show tickets, disorganization of the highest level from getting to the ship and from the ship, terrible fill in ports with no transportation unless you $$$$. I further suggest that NCL reads this article- It could help but then again, maybe not! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I chose this cruise as I had never been right through the Panama Canal & I wanted to experience NCL's latest ship. Leading up to the cruise we had a very active roll call which led to some of us meeting up the night before the ... Read More
I chose this cruise as I had never been right through the Panama Canal & I wanted to experience NCL's latest ship. Leading up to the cruise we had a very active roll call which led to some of us meeting up the night before the cruise at the San Pedro FIsh Market where we had a nice meal & got to know each other a bit. Some of us stayed at the Vagabond Hotel which was fine & very close to a McDonalds & a Taco place in case you couldn't get a seat for the free breakfast in the little room at the hotel. I took the free shuttle from the hotel at 10:30 & being platinum got onboard quite quickly. One thing is I didn't see where to get the boarding picture taken so couldn't do that. I did head for the space where they were signing people up for the cars, restaurants & shows. My Jersey Boys' reservation had been changed from Nov 14 to the 16th at 10:30 which wasn't going to work for me. I also booked Prohibition. I was finished early enough to meet the others at the MDR for lunch. I had my first of many tomato soup appetizers as I really love it. BTW the lunch menu is the same every day. Food: I found the meals onboard to be yummy! I tried most of the pay venues & really enjoyed them. The guac at Los Lobos was to die for! Our chef at Teppanyaki was very entertaining & the food good & plentiful. I had a lot of lunches & 1 breakfast at the Local & found the staff there to be very friendly & efficient & the food good too. I also stopped by for a late night snack of chicken wings, yum! It was a great place to sit & watch the big screen, in my case the Panama Canal passage, away from the chaos of the Observation Lounge or at the bow of the ship. Most mornings I ate at the MDR where I was "happy to share" so met lots of people. Entertainment: is great on NCL ships!! This was no different. I enjoyed Prohibition even though I'm not a drinker. I was okay with I Havana & loved Jersey Boys, which I'd seen before in Toronto & will see again there in March. The game shows are fun too but it's exasperating trying to get seating in the Atrium!! The comedians the first week I liked better than the ones at the end as I don't like the audience providing the laughs or demeaning remarks about other cruise lines which actually all performers did. I took part in the Progressive trivia which was run by Morne, a fun guy. We came in 3rd so that was nice. SIlas, the CD & Jacky his assistant were very good. I sometimes watched their morning show. The music in the Atrium by "Familiar Strangers" was very good. The Dancing with the Stars show is always a hoot & if you can't get a seat in the Atrium you can watch it on tv later. That reminds me the Panama Canal lecturer was good & also could be watched live on tv rather than trying to find a seat in the theatre. I watched for free a documentary I had wanted to see, called "Three Identical Strangers", a story of triplets separated at birth for a study!! It was so fascinating I watched it 3 times! I also paid to watch a movie called "Pick of the Litter" about training guide dogs Cabin: I had a studio cabin as usual but this one is different than those on the other new ships. The bed is a bit smaller which is fine as it gives more space to walk in & the addition of the virtual window is amazing!! So nice to see what's going on outside for a change! The solo host Rod arranged solo dinners but a bit too late (8:30) for my taste. He also reserved us great seats in the theater for shows, in front of the Haven ones! He took the group to other venues & had a schedule printed up for us to keep. The Lounge was beautiful & quite large but pretty noisy when the whole group was there. The coffee machine was great as usual & I think we had the only cookies available on the ship!! Excursions: There weren't a lot of them posted early as this cruise had 3 itinerary changes!! This led to my biggest problem on the cruise. We received a letter saying all cabins would receive $100 OBC for the disruption & when we boarded many studio people had only received $50. I went to Guest services twice about it, Stephanie, sort of the solo's leader, went to bat for me plus I emailed my TA & finally received the extra $50 during week 2. This begging for what was due me left a bad taste in my mouth but thankfully it was resolved. Don't know who came through for me in the end but if it was you Johnny, thanks! The only excursion I booked though NCL was the Easy Antigua one in Guatemala which was the only one I believe went there. It was an interesting place & the drive there long but interesting. We saw the effects of the volcano that had erupted in May killing 170 & making a mess of the countryside & the roads. We also were late getting back to the ship so I was glad to have done an NCL tour. In Ensenada I had booked through Ship Mate (SEG) for the 1st time & all went well. It was a lovely tour of 2 wineries with tasty nibbles & wine tastings & the drive there was beautiful. Mazatlan ~ here I took another SEG tour "Highlights with Lunch" which was really good too. During the free time in the city centre I got lost but the traffic policeman was helpful in me finding my van again. In the park I met a couple who had lived in a nearby city to me so it was nice to chat with them. On the bus I met another lovely couple who I ran into several times on the ship. The Cathedral there is beautiful & the market interesting. What do they do with all those chicken feet?!! The lunch by the water was yummy. In Costa Rica I joined a group formed through a CC member with Gio Tours & it was lovely too. We did the 8 in 1 tour but actually only did 7 things as traffic was bad that day, a Sunday, so skipped the tour of Puntarenas in order to be back onboard well in advance of sailing. Our guide was great as was the included meal. In beautiful Cartagena, a place I love & was there for the 3rd time, I finally got to tour with Dora the Explorer! It was a great tour that began at La Popa, a place I hadn't been the other times & offered a fantastic view of the City. It is SO HOT & humid there but the scenery is so lovely & the little zoo at the port cute. The Bliss itself is beautiful, quite like the Getaway, Breakaway, Epic etc but with the addition of the lovely Observation Lounge where there are 3 little buffet stations available, lovely seating with amazing views & some piano entertainment at night. The day of the crossing was terrible I heard but other than that it seems quite a nice, quiet spot & I imagine it's lovely for Alaska. The Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was well attended over, 200 people I believe, & the officers were well represented, we had nibbles, drinks & a band! Oh there were also 2 cakes!! It's always nice to meet people you've chatted with before the cruise. Nice job arranging that Stephanie! The group also had a slot pull & we played LCR on sea days, lots of fun!! Anyhow that's about all I remember. It was a lovely cruise & I'm so happy to have done it. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We choose this cruise because it was a new ship going through the new locks of the Panama Canal. The crew were excellent and the majority were happy and helpful. The cabin was fine, we had a mini suite which had a nice sized bathroom. ... Read More
We choose this cruise because it was a new ship going through the new locks of the Panama Canal. The crew were excellent and the majority were happy and helpful. The cabin was fine, we had a mini suite which had a nice sized bathroom. The ship is too open and very loud. The free restaurants very noisy because they are so open. The entertainment was good when you could get a seat. Having to book for shows was inconvenient. If you didn't book weeks or months before the cruise you didn't get in or you could get in a standby line. Several of the smaller venues seat less than a hundred people and when the ship hold over 4,000 your chances of getting in is nil. The no pay lunch restaurants don't change the menu so that gets old after a few days. Breakfast at the buffet is a disaster with way too many people and not enough space. The ship had to dock in commercial ports due to it's size and getting from the ship to the towns required busses and once again 4,000 people on our ship . The lines were long and the buses not up to what we are used to. We ended up being bussed to one tour destination in groups of four in taxis which took overall two hours and therefore shortened our tour considerably as we were the last to get there. They didn't utilize the theatre for enough activities and over used the atrium where there were way too many people and too much noise. If you went to a customer service desk, shore excursion desk etc which were all in the atrium area you couldn't hear anyone trying to help you because of the noise of the activity going on. Very bad planning. All in all we saw what we wanted going through the Panama Canal but I doubt Ill ever go on Norwegian again and I won't go on any of the mega ships again. Too many people, and having to book for average meals and entertainment just doesn't make for a relaxing holiday. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
NCL Bliss - Panama Canal - November 2018 - 14 Days We recently returned from a cruise aboard the NCL Bliss traveling to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama Canal & Cartagena, Columbia. We enjoyed the cruise a lot. This being a ... Read More
NCL Bliss - Panama Canal - November 2018 - 14 Days We recently returned from a cruise aboard the NCL Bliss traveling to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama Canal & Cartagena, Columbia. We enjoyed the cruise a lot. This being a two week cruise at the beginning of November there were probably only 20 kids on the ship in total and the average traveler age was probably 60. These factors did influence our experience significantly. There were some highlights and there were some disappointments. About us: We are mid 50's, have cruises 40+ times, were traveling with a group of 14, ages ranging from 50 to 85. Had never sailed on NCL. We booked a spa balcony stateroom, our rate included the unlimited beverage package and a dining package (we dined 9 nights in dining rooms with an additional cost(Specialty Dining), with a prepaid package for 8 of those nights) Dining Venues used: Manhattan, Savor, Taste, Tepannyaki, La Cucina, Le Bistro, Ocean Blue, Q, The Local, Garden Café, Los Lobos, Food Republic, Cagneys, Coco's, Margaritaville, Starbuck, The Bake Shop, and Dolce Gelato. Activities and entertainment we participated in: Cart track, both water slides, pools, spa thermal suite, massage, bowling, Jersey Boys, Havana, Happy Hour Prohibition, Beetles show, Comedy Social, and the Cavern Club. Highlights: Service was fantastic everywhere. There were times the front desk staff seemed uniformed about ports and times but other than that service around the ship was excellent, friendly and personable. Dining was excellent. This was influenced by our decision to eat as many meal as we did in the Specialty dining venues. Our experience in the main dining room, (Manhattan, Savor and Taste) were hit or miss. Breakfast was good in Savor and Taste but sometimes very slow. Service in the main dining rooms was okay, one night GREAT! Food has very mediocre most nights in the main dining rooms. Our best meals were in #1 Le Bistro, #2 La Cucina, #3 Cagneys (We did do Cagneys and La Cucina twice) We were disappointed with Ocean Blue, didn't think it warranted the extra cost. Coco's - we went for the staff and the fantastic treats! So friendly and so good! The entertainment - both the Jersey Boys and Havana we two of the best productions I have seen on a cruise ship and with 40+ cruises we have seen a lot of shows. Great energy, production, vocals! The ship is beautiful! Doesn't feel like a ship but more like a luxury resort. There are so many smaller venues that it makes it feel now so big. This is a BIG ship with 4000+ guests but spreads out the crowds fairly well, with a few exceptions. We were always able to find several deck chairs together but the decks were often full. The spa thermal suite is beautiful and a great place to relax! There is a therapy pool, hot tub, snow room, salt room, steam room, two saunas, heated lounges, showers, locker rooms with views of the ships wake, padded lounge chairs. The space is coed and is generally full of folks but never had an issue finding a place. Some folks do drop the things on a heated lounger and then go to other spaces. That did make it difficult to find available heated loungers at times. There are signs that give a max time for the loungers but folks seem to ignore that. Overall a fantastic venue. Our room included access to the venue and a location on the ship that is close which we did enjoy. Not sure I would pay for this this way in the future. Would probably purchase a regular balcony stateroom and then pay for the weekly pass to the thermal suite. There are, however, a limited number of passes available each week so you'd have to book that early on embarkation do to ensure you could get a pass. Could have been handled better: The Garden Café - the ships buffet does become very crowded. They have done a great job of spreading out the serving stations and there were seldom lines at the serving stations. But, getting a table was always difficult! The staff was fantastic at clearing table and were very efficient in getting tables turned! It didn't help that we were often looking for seats for 6 or 8 at a time. It seldom happened that we could find two tables together. Most of the time we split up into 4's and sat where we could find a seat. It seems peak hours could be supplemented by offering a full breakfast buffet in Margaritaville or another venue. There were light breakfast items served in Margaritaville and in the Observation Lounge but some further way to lighten the load in the Garden Café at peak hours would be really helpful. Another time that was horrible was on embarkation day lunch. Two other lunch options identified at the gangway could have minimized the horrible experience that that first meal was. Ports: Our ports were changed twice from the time we first booked our cruise. The last change eliminated Cabo San Lucas and replaced it with Ensenada. This change, the second change, was made right after final payments were required and therefore cancelation would require a penalty. The cruise line did provide a $100 ship board credit for the change, but those that have been to Ensenada know that it is not a port that should be on a 14 day itinerary where many passengers have paid in excess of $3500 per person. We made the best of it and found a San Diego company that took us wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe and had a fantastic time. The stop was then further challenged by the port call times. We were in port from 8:00am to 3:00 pm. However, that day was the day of time change due to daylight savings time and the ship choose not to change the time forward. Therefore our port time was 7:00am to 2:00pm in Ensenada. What is there to do at 7:00 am in Ensenada? Nothing! That felt a bit like smoke and mirrors. We only had one port where we were in port during a normal 8 hour window. Mazatlan, we were in port from 12:00 to 7:00pm. However, because you have make reservations for shows and dining in advance, made before the schedule change, the evening hours conflicted with a show. So we had 4 hours for that port. Costa Rica we docked in an industrial port that required a 35 minute shuttle ride to get to town. Holland America got to dock in town. With the changes to ports, the port times, and port locations, it didn't seem like NCL had the clout to get the preferred locations, ports or times or they hadn't don't the planning necessary early enough to do so. I would not do another NCL cruise to an itinerary where they weren't working a regular schedule. This in essence was a repositioning cruise for the ship, moving from summer in Alaska to winter in the Caribbean. These were port that, for this ship, they would only be visiting twice a year and they didn't have the on the ground infrastructure to accommodate a ship of this size. This could also be seen in the excursion offerings they had. Overall they were very limited and lacked in depth of experience. We sailed on Celebrity earlier this year from Chile through the Canal to Florida and the excursion offerings were much more extensive and interesting. As a result of this we booked all but one excursion on our own with private tour operators in the ports. But, if you were not comfortable doing this the ports would not have been a very good experience. Panama Canal Schedule: We asked three days before our canal crossing what the schedule would be and the front desk staff was very uninformed. He told us that we were scheduled to arrive at the canal between 3:00am and 6:00am. When I asked if we would be entering the locks or going through the first set of locks in the dark he said we could be but not to worry because the entire crossing would be a large part of the day. This was disappointing since the cruise lines itinerary indicated it would be daylight crossing. We asked again the night before and the front desk was still very vague. We were again told we would arrive at the Bridge of the Americas at around 3:00 am but they were unclear when we would enter the first lock. With the size of the ship we had to cross under the Bridge of the Americas at low tide which I understand that cruise line cannot control but will 4000+ passenger that paid for a panama canal cruise you would think they would have more definitive information. We ended up crossing under the Bridge of the Americas at 2:40am. I did make it out on deck just prior to passing under the bridge and it looked like there was only about 15 ft to spare. We had one member of our group that needed a place to sit to watch the crossing so I went to the observation lounge to sit in a seat for him until we starting entering the first lock. At 2:50 am there was a full row of people already at the windows, many of which spent the night in a chair to get a good seat. At 5:00 am, still dark, we moved forward toward the first set of locks. I called other members of our group and the one showed up for his seat at 5:30 and the rest of us headed to the bow of the ship to watch. The canal crossing was very interesting. Given the size of the ship we transited through the new panama canal locks. By the time we entered the third lock in the pacific side set of locks the crowd had thinned out and from that time on you could find a place at a rail or anywhere around the ship. We watched from the stern on deck 8, the rail on deck 7, the rail on deck 19, the bow, the waterfront on deck 8 and the observation lounge. There was narration that was happening during the day but there where many of the deck areas where you couldn’t hear the narration. Margaritaville: This is fantastic venue but few people ate there. The most I saw during our cruise was three tables at one time. We ate here once and the food was good but didn't feel like it was worth $14.95 per person more than a meal in the buffet, the local or the dining rooms. One of us had a burger and one fish and chips. The food was good and the setting is nice but I think it just costs too much. I bet they would grow their business exponentially if they lowered the price to $7.95 Reservations: Reservations are required to soooo many things on this ship. I was very proactive and made dining and show reservations as soon as they were available in advance of our cruise. That was very difficult with a group of 14!!!! Finally got help from some in the groups department which was greatly appreciated. Even with reservations if you wanted good seats you needed to show up for shows an hour in advance. There were always standby line available and usually folks in those lines got in but you would sit in the back or have to look around a pole. I think a key reason we had a great time on this cruise is that we knew what could about what to expect or we were willing to be flexible with those things we couldn't arrange in advance. There are a lot of opportunities to spend extra money on this ship, gelato, bowling, go carts, shows (Happy Hour Prohibition, included drinks), Starbucks, chocolates, cookies..... but we knew that and did the things we wanted to...the moto was "We're on Vacation!" This is beautiful ship with more things to do and experience that you can do in a week or even two weeks. They have put together a fantastic staff that is eager to serve and are so gracious. I did say a few times, and I have 4 kids that are now in their 20's, I'm not sure I would want to be on the ship during a normal peak travel week with 1000 kids on board. You'd wait in line for the water slides, and the ice cream machine in the buffet, you'd have a hard time getting a reservation for the go carts and laser tag and the buffet would be even more congested. I liked being the Kid on the ship! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We chose this ship because we wanted to go the Panama Canal for years now and finally decided to take the plunge. NCL is the best cruise line out there and decided the Bliss was how we were going to do it. Ship is amazing and the crew ... Read More
We chose this ship because we wanted to go the Panama Canal for years now and finally decided to take the plunge. NCL is the best cruise line out there and decided the Bliss was how we were going to do it. Ship is amazing and the crew was phoenominal. We will never cruise with any other cruise line. Saw Prohibition. I was worried because I am not a hard liquor drinker but what the give you at the show was great. Not too strong. Not too weak. Also booked the Vibe. It’s the only way to go if you like to sunbathe. Quiet and you never have to hunt for a lawn chair but there are limited passes so book as soon as you get on board. Food out of this world. We ate mostly at the non specialty restaurants but were lucky enough to be invited to the Haven one night for dinner again unbelievably good. Just made platinum. Next stop platinum plus. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
It’s all about connections isn’t it? Whether it’s Danijel at Le Bistro, or Scott at Cagney’s, or Emelie and Mihai at the Manhattan they make you feel special. Like a VIP with each encounter! And the YUMMY YUMMY for your TUMMY ... Read More
It’s all about connections isn’t it? Whether it’s Danijel at Le Bistro, or Scott at Cagney’s, or Emelie and Mihai at the Manhattan they make you feel special. Like a VIP with each encounter! And the YUMMY YUMMY for your TUMMY bakery clones (twins) made our day, EVERYDAY of the Cruise! We wouldn’t change a single thing! Fantastic 14 days that we wish lasted longer. The NCL Bliss is flawless! Perfection at sea! The 15th deck is unbelievable! The food choices are fantastic! Entertainment is out of this world! The crew is the hardest working anywhere! Pilinda at the Atrium bar is so funny and nice. She’s our favorite! The places to “get lost” and just enjoy the ocean air are to numerous to count. The pools always have music and fun stuff going on. Simply a wonderful way to relax and sit back and get spoiled. NCL is the best! Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
I have cruised with Norwegian in the past. I like their "Freestyle" format. There is no set dining time, but you may make reservations for most of the restaurants. The buffets are more than enough to keep you satisfied, but ... Read More
I have cruised with Norwegian in the past. I like their "Freestyle" format. There is no set dining time, but you may make reservations for most of the restaurants. The buffets are more than enough to keep you satisfied, but the "Pub" and dining halls are complementary and a nice change. This cruise was more sea days than port days due to a storm, 5 ports for a 14 day cruise, we had to miss Cabo, but of all the ports we were scheduled for, it was the one I was least likely to get much from. Public area seating was generally good, a couple of activities underestimated the passenger response, but they made adjustments for later activities. I took an inside cabin of the smaller size, mid ship on deck 8. It was just about right for me and my wife, a third person (in the bunk) would have been too much for the size of the cabin. It IS possible to take the cruise and not spend any money on board, if you don't drink alcohol or soda. But you are likely to want to at least get laundry done ($20 for a bag full) and maybe get a souvenir mug with an alcoholic beverage. If you do drink, do the math and figure if the beverage pass is really worth it for you, you have to buy the package for all of the people in your party even if only one of you intends on using it. I, for one, couldn't consume enough liquor to justify the full price of the pass, but YMMV. Hotel staff are great, my cabin attendant was friendly and called me by name every time we met. Room maintenance was prompt and unobtrusive when needed. Entertainment staff was attentive and made it a point to remember you and greet you with a smile.The free activities I attended were craft oriented and included origami, napkin folding, and paper crafts.They also had a couple of liquor "Classes" that you could purchase and listen to a discussion of whisky or bourbon while sampling the wares. I only took one shore excursion but was very happy with it. There was some kind of delay in departure, it didn't affect our port calls, but it did seem to upset some of the passengers, our rooms were available when expected. When boarding in San Diego, the terminal was serving 2 ships at the same time and apparently a bag ended up on the wrong ship and the queues were long. Due to rough seas (4-6 foot swells) at a tendering port, our shore time was delayed from 10 AM until 1 PM, the captain made arrangements to delay departure to allow for more time on shore and for the excursions to have enough time to fulfill their expectations. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
Amazing opportunity to cruise through the Panama Canal. Great job by everyone on board. The bartenders were oustanding as well as the waiters and maitredee. From the time we placed our feet on the deck until we left the crew made sure to ... Read More
Amazing opportunity to cruise through the Panama Canal. Great job by everyone on board. The bartenders were oustanding as well as the waiters and maitredee. From the time we placed our feet on the deck until we left the crew made sure to create a wnderful experience. The loss of one of our shore excursions was made up by the great service from the staff. The entertainment was first class from Peter at the piano to the many great shows in the theatre. We were kept well informed with a daily handout that kept us busy for the day. Once in the canal, we were provided with commentary that was very informative. My wife enjoyed the shopping experiences especially the opportunity to win great prizes. The transfer to shore was also handled in a safe yet curteous manner. Too bad both the entry and exit from the ship was horrible. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
This was my 23rd cruise (mostly on NCL) and my 2nd cruise on the Pearl, and my background as a former Flight Attendant with American Airlines during the 70’s-90’s (back when it was Fun to fly and I had hair…) when I worked First ... Read More
This was my 23rd cruise (mostly on NCL) and my 2nd cruise on the Pearl, and my background as a former Flight Attendant with American Airlines during the 70’s-90’s (back when it was Fun to fly and I had hair…) when I worked First Class, it provides a unique perspective. Our 1st cruise on the Pearl was to Alaska Labor Day week 2017. We booked this cruise shortly thereafter. I was also the CC Coordinator on both Pearl cruises, we had over 70+ couples who joined us on this San Diego - Tampa cruise via the Panama Canal. Staff Officer/Hotel Director Cary (previous experience was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Director in NYC) is the only NCL Hotel Director that hosts an end of cruise meeting with myself and other CC members that would like to speak to the senior staff. I interacted with many passengers during this 2 week cruise regarding their experiences which enabled me to share some comments/feedback to the Pearl Staff - in addition to my own observations. I won’t be commenting on the day to day of what we did/eat/excursions, etc., but rather comment on our overall experience. I must say that NCL has improved greatly over the past few years and their FreeStyle is refreshing from some of the other cruise lines offerings. The main dining rooms to the specialty restaurants are indeed a treat. Never did we find a menu that was boring or repetitive during our 2 weeks on board, nor were we served anything that wasn’t fresh and tasty. I can’t say that about some of the finer restaurants in America. Even if NCL didn’t have any specialty restaurants, the Main Dining rooms would be superb. But, the specialty restaurants do add a unique experience in ambiance and taste, so if you would like a special evening, you can’t go wrong with whichever one(s) you chose to try. The Pearls staff are top notch, to say the least. The Captain (airplane or ship) sets the tone for the crew and it shows. I observed Officers picking up garbage on the pool deck, and other Officers rearranging lounge chairs in the clubs. The crew observes this so they in turn go the extra mile to serve us. Like I mentioned previously, NCL has risen in the ranks these past few years in my book and I can’t say enough good things about their staff. From the Cabin Stewards/Stewardess’, Pool Bar Servers to our Wait Staff and Bus Boys to the crew that we never see. As the CC Coordinator for this particular cruise, we organized a Halloween Costume Pub Crawl after we left Cartagena, Columbia. We had a lot of CC participants and as a bonus, the Pearl hosted a Haunted House in the Bliss Lounge. That was a fun memorable evening for all. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise! The Cruise Director and staff did a marvelous job of keeping us entertained for many sea days. NCL’s entertainment was top notch, plus a seasoned speaker/expert on the Panama Canal. Yes, we are booking with NCL again and the Pearl in particular. To me, that is the best write up/endorsement that I can make. Thank you NCL Pearl for being the ultimate Vacation Hero! Read Less
Sail Date October 2018

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